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Lenten Reflection: Feb. 20

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Today’s texts: Ezekiel 39:21-29; Philippians 4:10-20; John 17:20-26

A major Nor’Easter snowstorm hit hard on the East Coast over the weekend.  As I looked out from my kitchen window, I saw mixtures of flaky snow come down hard and heavy in all directions. Blankets of overnight snow covered cars, trees, streets and rooftops. This blemish of white snow has stretched from block to block and from one neighborhood to another. Within twenty-four hours, the whole eastern region was showered with a historic winter blizzard.

The snow covered rooftops to street surfaces everywhere, and created a magnificent winter picture!  The scene reminded me of the purity and tranquility of God’s creation.   That all things were created for good and all people should respect and be faithful to the creativity of the Spirit.  Unfortunately, things did not turn out as good or as pure as God had created them.  As for the people of Israel, their unfaithfulness created a blanket of sins instead of a blanket of snow.  They had worked against the Spirit instead of working with the Spirit.

In the Old Testament, God being solemn and stern took things seriously.  He hid His face from the people whom He had loved and trusted.  God declared clearly to His people that they were His people and He, the Lord was their God.  They were to listen and follow, otherwise, they would regret.  The people of Israel had learned a big lesson when God turned around and showed His merciful love.  Though God hid His face; He never abandoned from His people!   He allowed the people of Israel and likewise us, to make mistakes and learn from them.

As a child that grew up in a large Chinese family, I experienced the strong sternness of my parents.  Before I became Christian, my mother who carried most of the expectations of household discipline and cultural values always reminded me and my siblings how important it was to respect and honor our ancestors.  On every first day of the month (according to the Chinese Lunar calendar) she would go to the Buddhist temple and would take me or one of my siblings along with her. She offered incense and fruits and repeatedly reminded us that we must respect our ancestors faithfully so that our family would prosper. If we didn’t follow these traditions, we would be condemned, punished and that would be sinful.  I lived with the fear and sternness of my mother’s values until I found the forgiving God. Today, as a faithful Christian experiencing God differently each day, I have not abandoned the cultural values that my mother taught me. Rather, I honor and am proud of what she taught me and I truly believe that the God who transcends cultures and time is the One who lives in cultures and time.

After the blizzard snowstorm, people started emerging on their driveways and sidewalks to remove the snow piles.  Snowplow trucks everywhere returned to clear the roads. Cars and delivery trucks appeared on the roads and “life” proceeded as business as usual.  As for the people of Israel, the lesson of iniquity came like a snowstorm. Their transgressions were so bad that they were held as captives because of them until God returned and “normalize” everything.

Is your life going through a snowstorm or a blizzard right now?  Is your cultural value being shaken or held captive because of uncertainty of identity?  How would you like God to return and make things “normal” for you?

Rev. Florence Li is the national coordinator for Intercultural Ministries, Asian churches strategist for the National Ministries of the American Baptist Churches, U.S.A. [http://nationalministries.org/] She works with the Intercultural Ministries Team to strengthen the diversity of denomination families. She identifies emerging leaders and provides resources to pastors of Asian churches and brings them together through conferences and other local, regional and denominational events. Li also serves on the denomination Burma Refugees Task Force to strategize ministry needs for local churches and regions that are impacted by newly arrived Burma refugees from Thailand and Malaysia.

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