Saturday, May 21, 2016

Jesus is going, who is arriving? By PasDoc Neki Soriano

Text: John 16:12-15
 "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
Theme: Trinity Sunday

Good morning. I am happy to share with you the good news this Sunday morning.

Katatapos lang po ng election and we have a new leader and President. Did you vote for our new president? Do you like our new leader? Aalis na si PNoy? Mas magaling ba ang papalit sa kanya? Maitutuloy ba nya ang mga pagbabago o babalik tayo sa dati at lalong masisira? Katatapos lang ng General Conference ng UMC. We have new leaders in our church as well. In other churches, they have new pastors and deaconess, because we are an itinerant church. There is a reason why we do that. Other leaders will leave and go. People tell me, our strategy is not good. Who will take charge of the position left by our previous leaders? Who will take the lead if the leaders are gone? How will the Church survive? Who will help us in times of trouble? The relationship between the leader and members will be broken. Who will pray for us if we get sick? Who will heal us if we need spiritual healing? Who will correct us? How are we going to be forgiven if we commit mistakes? How are we going to be saved from our sins? You see, the problem becomes that people have become dependent on the person who leads them. The church has become pastor-driven or leader-driven. Kung ano lang yung sinabi ng pastor o ng lay leader, yun na. Worst, they even worship the leader instead of God. Kaya kapag nawala na yung leader, wala na rin silang magawa. I tell them, you have to read the Bible and you have to understand our faith so that you will appreciate why we are an itinerant church. Why are we not scared if we have new leaders or even if people come and go?
Today is Trinity Sunday and I found it very important for us to look into this very important doctrine in our church even as we look into our church leadership concerns. Why do we celebrate Trinity Sunday? We celebrate Trinity Sunday to commemorate the reality that we believe in a Triune God, The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit. There is only One God, but Three Persons with One essence. That is the mystery of God. It is a mystery that the human mind cannot totally comprehend. Our words will never be enough to describe this mystery about God. Some theologians have tried to explain it like the three phases of water – steam, liquid and ice but they are all water. Some theologians have tried to explain it like a guitar chord where you press different strings but get only one chord. Other theologians have tried to explain it like a soft drink, you drink in a bottle or you drink from a can but all you get is the same Coke soft drink. It will never be enough how we describe the trinity. But we must remember that there are three persons at work here = God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, even though they are three, they are of one essence for there is only one God. They are together since the beginning of time. They are equal yet they can emphasize one over the other. They work in unity. God the Father is working through the Son Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. We see this in verse 14 and 15 when Jesus said, “He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is also of the Son and this he also shares with the Holy Spirit. They are of the same essence as a Triune God.”
This is what we read this morning. Jesus was about to go back to the Father. But Jesus will not be really gone, he said, as the Holy Spirit will be with the disciples. God is still with them.
LISTEN my dear brothers and sisters. Jesus is leaving his disciples. They thought they are going to be alone by themselves. Jesus is moving out. Who will lead them now? Who will help them? Who will continue the work? This is the questions the disciples ask that we continue to ask today. But Jesus already gave his answer. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit will be with us. That is Awesome.
The good news my dear Brothers and Sisters, is that the same Holy Spirit that Jesus promised to the disciples is still here with us in the Church. The same Holy Spirit with the disciples is with us. God is with us. Even if Jesus went back to the Father, God is still with us through the Holy Spirit.
Now, what does it mean that the Holy Spirit is with us? It does not mean that everything will be perfect. It does not mean that there will not be any problems. We will experience difficulty just as the disciples did. Jesus said in verses before that they will do to you what they did to me. So the disciples will be persecuted. They will have conflicts. They will encounter problems, the same things that we may be experiencing today. But the reality that we have a triune God, the Holy Spirit is with us therefore God is still with us.
The disciples looked up to Jesus as their leader. They did only according to the teachings of Jesus. Jesus helped them when they are in trouble; remember the storm in the sea. When they have problems, they go to Jesus for troubleshooting. Remember the 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes. But when Jesus left, the disciples felt that they will not have somebody to help them and guide them. But Jesus even said that it is to their advantage that Jesus will leave because it makes room for the Spirit to fill the space.
When a leader leaves, we allow the Holy Spirit to move and use another one and fill the gathered body. A new leader filled with the Holy Spirit will be able to guide us, while the entire body will also be filled by the Holy Spirit to follow God’s direction. Ang tanong mga kapatid, are we filled by the Holy Spirit? Did you allow the Holy Spirit to guide you or you rejected it dahil natatakot kayo? Bata pa kasi ako, hindi ko kasi alam yan, hindi ko man napag aralan yan, ganito ganyan lang kasi ako. If you are led by the Holy Spirit, you can do it.
I would like to share an experience I had in one Sunday School in QC UMC. The Sunday School Teachers there were big time lay leaders and veteran teachers. But one Sunday, they were not available because all of them attended a church conference. Who will lead the Sunday School? Or cancel na lang muna? Andoon na kami lahat, but there was no Sunday School teacher. Nagtuturuan na sila kung sino ang maglead. And then, out of nowhere, a young adult guy stood up and said he felt he was led by the Holy Spirit to facilitate the Bible Study. So we started in prayer and we read the passage and we had some discussions. It was a very lively and dynamic Bible Study and we felt so blessed after that because we were led by the Holy Spirit.
Filled by the Holy Spirit. I would like to highlight THREE things what it means that the Holy Spirit is working in us.
First, the spirit of Christ is in the church, even if someone leaves, the spirit of Christ remains. This is an important understanding for us United Methodist. God is in the church. God is residing in this church. People do not own the church. Pastors do not own the church. The chairperson does not own the church. Kaya nga, even if people live, God will still be present in the church. God will use someboy else to be the instrument of the Holy Spirit. Somebody can fill up that position and the spirit will ready to fill them up. I saw that here in Spring of Life. Minsan, I was looking at the children because there were so many of them. My kids asked if Kuya Marvin will teach them. But Marvin was not available that day. I do not know if somebody else prepared a lesson for the children, so I just told my kids to go at the back of the church, get the Bible Story and wait for me. And then when I went at the back to teach them, some of the youth are already leading the kids. I think sila Yana  yun at sila Mark. Kahit wala yung assinged makapagturo ng Sunday School, somebody else will take that lead with the leading of the Holy Spirit. That is how powerful the Holy Spirit works in us.
Second, the spirit of truth resides not in a single person; it resides in the gathered body. God is everywhere but God’s presence can be truly felt in the gathering of the people. Kaya, never say that I can worship God in my room or in my car or all by myself because God is in our midst if we gather. So, please gather together as one body. Come to church or it will not be a body. Jesus said, whenever two or three is gathered in my name, I am with them. Dumarating si Hesus if we gather together. So gather as often as you can, in Bible Studies, in Fellowships, even when you are eating. Do not eat all by yourself. Call other people and then pray together. When you read the Bible, gather together. And when you gather, feel the presence of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit in your midst. Be filled by the power of the Holy Spirit. Whenever you gather together, make sure you are all filled with the Holy Spirit. Bakit? This leads us to #3..
Third, the leader of every gathered body is Jesus Christ, not the person per se. The same is true in our church bodies. Our congregation is not led by the lay leaders, the pastor, the church workers or any person per se. Jesus is the leader of the congregation. The leadership position belongs to Jesus. Say “OUR LEADER IS JESUS.” That is the reason why we United Methodist do not get weary or troubled even if we have different pastors in our church. Because we still have the same leader. That is also the reason that even if we do not like the person in the position, we remain in the church because our leader is the same. Our understanding of the Triune God, the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit guides us in how we work as a church. It is very important in our understanding that we see God as our leader and not the person in front of you. That is why, do not criticize the person, that person represents Jesus. Instead, recognize the presence of Jesus in that person. Respect that person just as you would show respect to Jesus, even if you do not like the person or disagree with his/her thoughts. We are but instruments of the Holy Spirit but remember, we will not feel the presence of Holy Spirit if we do not allow the Holy Spirit to be in us.

People come and go, but the church will go on. People taking the leadership role may change but God is still our leader. Jesus left, but the Holy Spirit led the church forward. The gathered church will go on as long as the Holy Spirit is with them. God did not leave. God is still there, still here. The same Holy Spirit that led the disciples will lead the church forward. The same Holy Spirit during the biblical times is here with us today. That is the good news my dear brothers and sisters, that the Holy Spirit is with us today. God the Father is here with us today, Jesus the Son is here with us today, the Holy Spirit is here with us today – the Triune God is here with us today. Are you willing to be filled by the Holy Spirit? Are you willing to be God’s instrument in the church? In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Wesley is for health promotion and disease prevention

John Wesley wrote Primitiv Physiq to teach people how to address their own health. The people during his time cannot access the health services available, either it is too expensive or it is not available. After several hundred of years, the same health problem exists. John Wesley conceptualized a solution to the problem. He understood the role of the church in addressing the health issues of the people. Today, we need to revisit and claim the heritage that made the people called Methodists relevant in the transformation of the society. In this paper, I will argue that the writing of Primitive is John Wesley's desire for the church to have a health ministry focused on health promotion and disease prevention.

1 - Sin and Sickness
2 - The Air we breathe
3 - The Passions
4 - The food we eat
5 - The things we do
6 - Prayer

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Labor Day: I'm thinking of all workers who died because of AIDS

Is there a connect between faith, HIV and the working class? This becomes a problem if the church does not know the answer.

Jesus is an advocate for the working class. If the church is the body of Christ, the church must stand as the advocate for the working class in our present time. The church is ministering to the needs of the working class by specifically looking at their health condition. But the current state of our health system puts the working class at a disadvantage. Lack of services, lack of health human resource, no equipments, inaccessibility, high prices, and many more makes health unavailable to the working class, especially the most vulnerable. One of the vulnerable groups are the people living with HIV and AIDS. But what does the church know about HIV and AIDS?

For two years now, the Visayas Health Ministry on HIV and AIDS have been conducting HIV Awareness in local churches as a starting point of the health ministry of the body of Christ. One of the goals is to increase the knowledge of the church about HIV and AIDS towards SSDDIM reduction and holistic salvation. 

Our yearly evaluation showed, around 79.40% of all participants from the 9 activities surveyed had an increased in knowledge about HIV after undergoing the HIV Awareness Workshop through the SAVE approach. Divided into the different sub-groups: 92.56% of youth had increased knowledge, 68.68% of women also had increased knowledge while only 62.96% of clergy had increase in knowledge about HIV after the SAVE Workshops. It is noted that the HIV Awareness workshops were successful in increasing the knowledge on HIV of its participants.

The evaluation of the HIV Awareness Workshop activities of VisHMHA in 2015 through the SAVE Approach showed success of the program. A sample population of all the participants was tested to assess the program. The program used the validated HIV-KQ-18 questionnaire by Carey and Schroder (2002).

Forty correspondents before the workshops were surveyed:
  • -        The correct knowledge of the participants about HIV is only 53.78%.
  • -        82.50% of the participants think that "All pregnant women infected with HIV will have babies born with AIDS."
  • -        80% of the participants wrongly believe that "Pulling out the penis before a man climaxes keeps a woman from getting HIV during sex."
  • -        90% of the participants know that it is not true that "A person can get HIV by sharing a glass of water with someone with HIV."

The HIV Awareness Workshops has increased the knowledge of the correspondents by 11%. After the workshops:
  • -        The correct knowledge of all the participants about HIV is 64.33%.
  • -        There was an increase in the HIV knowledge of the participants of the workshops.
  • -        The HIV Awareness Workshops through SAVE approach is an effective intervention to increase the knowledge of churches towards decreasing SSDDIM.
  • -        There is a need to continue the gains on HIV Awareness.

The next thrust of the program is to build HIV-competent local churches in the Visayas region. By building these competent churches, we hope to strengthen the body of Christ as an able advocate for the working class.