Monday, December 23, 2019

Two Important Things to Know on the Advent Schedule in Santiago UMC

There are 2 things you need to remember during the Advent Season when you are in Santiago City, Isabela. Here are the 2 things:

1. The Santiago Central UMC has usually 2 services during the Advent Season. It has a Simbang Gabi which is usually 6PM and then the Morning Watch which is usually at 5:30 AM. 

2. The last Simbang Gabi on the 24th of December is usually a family service. They encourage every family to have their own family devotion. A liturgy guide is usually given.

This year, I was tasked to be the speaker in one of the Morning Watch. The theme assigned to me was "In the depth of brokeness, pardon and reconciliation."

Below is a very short excerpt of the sermon.

"The Gospel Text is from Luke 2. The theme ofr this year's Simbang Gabi is "In the depth of brokenness, pardon and reconciliation." The title of this sermon is "More than forgiveness, reconcile."

I am a medical doctor and I usually bring bad news to my patients. But today, I am happy to share with you the good news of Jesus.

The Gospel of Luke we read is focused on Christ as the Savior. This is a unique message in this book.
Luke was written to include the Gentiles. It tells them about this reconciling God.

Who is this reconciling God?

 -   In the Luasanne Document on Reconciliation from Duke Divinity School, the Jewish concept of reconciliation encompasses two intersectional expressions: a vertical reconciliation with God and a horizontal reconciliation with other people.

o   The dichotomy between the sacred and the profane created a gulf which separated humanity from God.

o   Rituals such as offerings for atonement, through which the profanity was removed, played an important part in restoring the relationship between God and Israel.

o   In the prophetic tradition listening to the voice of God, as revealed by the prophets, became the means through which Israel could reconcile with God. 

o   If we look at the Greco-Roman and the Old Testament understandings of reconciliation it was ascertained that actions like prayers, healings, giving sacrifices, sharing meals and exchanges occurred in both. The Gospel of Luke uses these images to illustrate the reconciliation between God and men.

§  In the Jewish world priests and prophets were mediating agents on behalf of the people, whereas in the Greco-Roman world the mediating agents were primarily the priests.

§  In Greco-Roman society, the gods themselves acted as mediating agents. The motivations for reconciliation were also similar.

o   Luke speaks about reconciliation even though he does not use the common Greek terms for reconciliation. The chapter also focused on Jesus’ enactments of reconciliation through the healing of those with leprosy.

o   Mission reconcilatio is the mission of God.

o   God’s reconciling mission does not happen in a separate vacuum or in the spiritual domain only. It is ingrained in the world we live and the people we live with. It is present in our homes, in our workplace, in school, in our church, in the society, in the government, in this world.

o   Relationships are not just defined by the present situation but also by the history of the past. The hurt and the trauma that led to conflict and war must be remembered in memory.

o   When Christians are passive bystanders and refuse to become constructive agents of reconciliation amidst such divisions and destructive conflicts, we are guilty of withholding love to a neighbor, the love of God is not manifested in our lives, and we give life to a defective gospel.

o   Every act seeking reconciliation, no matter how small, matters greatly to God. The scope of reconciliation runs from healing in one person’s life, to two individuals overcoming animosities, to nations and long-divided peoples seeking to do so.

o   Christ calls for far more than admitting guilt, but deep contrition, and a costliness and depth to healing broken relationships which goes far beyond tolerance or peaceful coexistence. This witness begins at home.

o   For the church to make peace, she herself must embody God’s peace as a living sign of God’s reconciled community. Baptism identifies believers as one church family, the body of Christ. Within their families, local churches, and the larger Christian family and our tragic divisions, Christians are called to a special witness of fidelity, sacrificial love, boundary crossing, and common prayer, seeking to heal conflicts following our Lord’s words in Matthew 18:15-20.

o   Biblical reconciliation also leads Christians beyond church circles to vigorously analyze, engage, and influence our local communities, nations, and world as witnesses for reconciliation and just community. Without sacrificing our Christian convictions, we should seek to partner creatively with people of good will to promote peace, including with people of other faiths. At the heart of the church’s public engagement is a prophetic responsibility to call political authorities to account.

Reconcile with who?

-          - Reconcile with God, self, others and nature

-          - John Wesley approached a holistic salvation in the work of Christ. God is reconciling the world in a holistic way.

Who is this forgiving God?

-        - In the essay “Forgiveness in the Gospel of Luke” written in 2009 (retrieved Luke tells of 28 stories about forgiveness. It also emphasized that “Forgiveness is God’s action through Jesus of Nazareth.” It said that this is a scandal in Luke’s gospel. When Jesus forgives a paralyzed man, Jesus’ detractors accuse him of blasphemy for daring to assume the prerogative of God (Luke 5:21). His banquet companions are dismayed by his evident presumption: “Who is this who even forgives sins?” (Luke 7:49).

-     - Forgiveness is God’s gift to all humankind. God offers forgiveness without restriction to the entire human family. Luke’s story of God’s forgiveness begins in Jerusalem (see Luke 1 and Acts 2) with Jewish people. Even here, however, the picture is a universal one, since the Jews gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost come “from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5). It is back to these nations, the Gentiles, that the word of God’s forgiveness is ultimately destined in Luke/Acts."


   The sermon message was very intentional to encourage the listeners that this Advent season, we must not only forgive but reconcile with those we have quarrel with. The example of God, who did not only forgave us but also reconciled humanity to Him, was to be followed.

W  Whenever, you are in Santiago City dring the Advent season. Choose a time, when to worship with the people called United Methodists.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Four Things to Know about Vesper Service in North QC District

We were looking for a Vesper Service in the North Quezon City District. I know of several big churches in the area but I am not sure which one has a Vesper Service. So here are four things to know about Vesper Services in QCPACE:
  1. We used to attend the Vesper Service in Lagro UMC and we were planning to attend that. As we were on our way avoiding traffic along SM Fairview, we were informed that Lagro UMC have moved the schedule earlier at 4PM, so we missed it already. The schedule would not be suitable for many who has 6:00 PM as the preferred time but it may work for others. Anyway, it was still early 6 PM so my family was trying to find a nearby church in the area. 
  2. Leave for church early. I tried driving around the city but traffic was terrible with all the MRT construction along Commonwealth Ave. I even got stuck along Zabarte trying to get to Deparo UMC. i had to turn around anticipating that I won't make it to 6:30 to any Vesper service if I stay in that road. 
  3. By God's grace, we received a text that Fairview Park UMC has Vesper at 6:30 PM. I turned around back to Commonwealth Ave. The church may not be along the main highways but it is really accessible. If you commute, you just drop at FCM along Fairview Road and take a tricycle that will bring you to the church. If you are driving from the South, it is easy to follow the church signs. From Commonwealth Ave take a left at Regalado Avenue with the Caltex Station as your marker. Turn right at Dahlia St. when you see Jollibee at the corner. Take another left in Lila St. with the Petron Gas station as your marker. And you will see the sign going to the Fairview Park UMC around 100 meters later.
  4. Church service starts on time. Don't be late.

For those who prefers to worship at night. Here is a place to go in Quezon City. The people called United Methodist in this church are very warm and welcoming.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Three Things to Love about Child Friendly Worship Services in Isabela

I have always advocated for the inclusion of children in the worship service. The worship is not exclusive for adults only. Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (Matthew 19:14 NIV) That is why I love attending worship services in Isabela because they are intentional in being inclusive of children. Here are three things I love about our Child-Friendly Worship Services:

  1. One of the Methodist tradition I appreciate is allowing the children to take part in the Lord's Supper. In fact, children are called first to take the Holy Communion before the adults. 
  2. Another thing that I truly appreciate is the participation of the children in the litrugy. These churches make sure that during the worship service, the kids are part of the Litrugy with their participation in the lighting of candles and opening of the Bible. These seems a small task but this ritual is very formative and sends a strong message on the role of children in worship. I especially admire churches that have included children and junior youth in the choir.
  3. Another thing that I love about churches is the importance given to the growth and development of children. While there is Sunday School, it is important to have a dedicated time for children during worship even with a simple prayer time for them. The churches here in Isabela have Children's moments for teaching kids about the Lectionary Readings at least once a month or have a prayer time for chldren alternatively. 

Santiago Central United Methodist Church is one of the churches in Isabela that has continued this practice of allowing kids to take part in the Lord's Supper and giving them a space in worship. If you want to bring your kids during the First Sunday of the Month for Holy Communion, they have 2 worship services in the morning (7 AM and 9 AM) and another Vesper Service in the afternoon at 6 PM.

Santiago Central UMC is located along Abuag St in downtown Santiago City.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

3 Things to Know about Wesleyan Heritage in Surigao City

There is no United Methodist Church in Surigao City. Do not worry. You will still not miss your worship service when you visit this region. There are many Protestant churches in this area that shares a Wesleyan heritage with the United Methodist Church. So here are three things to remember about our Wesleyan heritage:

  1. We share a lot of common things with other faith denominations that share our Wesleyan heritage. That includes the liturgy, the hymns, and even the church architecture all feels familiar. You won't feel like a stranger when you visit other denominations that share our heritage. 
  2. The closest church with a Wesleyan heritage is the United Church of Chirst in the Philippines that shares a rich history with the United Methodist Church in the Philippines. In fact, they have close historical ties with the Methodist Church and the United Bretheren as part of the merging churches that formed the UCCP in 1948. 
  3. We can participate in their sacrament of Holy Communion. When we were in Surigao, we had our worship service with the United Church of Christ in the Philippines as we also celebrated the marriage of my brother in the same church. The co-celebrant of the communion was shared between the clergy of the UMC and the UCCP. As our Wesleyan heriate, the table of the Lord is open for all those who believe in Christ as divine Lord and Savior. The worship service was such a blessing. It helped that the congregation was very helpful and welcoming too.

The UCCP in Surigao is a big church with the first floor serving as a school with multipurpose classrooms. The second floor is the sanctuary which is beautifully designed to host more than a hundred worshippers.

The United Church of Christ in the Philippines in Surigao is located along Narciso St., Downtown Surigao City.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Five Tips for a Family Trip in Boracay

“Every good gift, every perfect gift, comes from above. These gifts come down from the Father, the creator of the heavenly lights, in whose character there is no change at all.” — James 1:17

I always believed that birthdays should be clebrated because they are gifts from God. So, I celebrated by 40th birthday in Boracay with my family. To make it more interesting, my birthday was designed to be a family friendly getaway. We looked for a United Methodist Church in Boracay Island but there was none. The closest is in Ibajay, Aklan. There is a Roman Catholic Church in the island and it is accessible by their e-trike and you can always consider it attending an ecumenical worship. Never miss a worship on a Sunday. So my family made sure we went to a worship service on a Sunday morning. Family matters and so does family worship. 

Here are 5 tips for a family friendly trip to Boracay:

Tip #1: Go on a landtrip or take the ferry. 

Tip #2: Book ahead on your hotel before you travel. You can do it online.

Tip#3: Choose a hotel in Station 2. It's closer to everything "relatively."

Tip#4: Go "island hopping." There are other beach activities, but this one is a must.

Tip#5: Eat in an all you can restaurant at least once. Especially on your 40th birthday. 

If you are coming from Iloilo or just want to visit the nearest UMC in the area, the UMC in Ibajay is just a little less than an hour away. It is just along the highway and a walking distance from the town market. You may even stay there for a night as most churchworkers and visitors drop by at the church and its multipurpose building. 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Five things to do when you visit Tuguegarao City Central UMC

I usually visit Tuguegarao City because it is the homeplace of my wife. My family usually spends the summer here. The city has still that old city feel whenever you go to the downtown area. But the landscape is changing with new buildings and large malls in the new busy districts of the busy. Even the landmark Tuguegarao Central United Methodist Church along Bonifacio St. is having a facelift. But never miss the other things that make your Tuguegarao visit memorable.

Here are five things you should try in Tuguegarao City:

  1. Try the Pansit Batil Patong. There are pansiteria offering this speciality in almost every corner of the City. But I would recommend the one near the airport. 
  2. Try the Kalesa. Unlike in Manila, the kalesa is still available as a common mode of transport. Each kalesa can seat 2 to 3 individuals. Maybe 4 if there are kids.
  3. This is tricylce city. Avoid the word "Capacity" though. The word means you pay for the whole cost of fare if the tricycle was full capacity of passengers. 
  4. Chicharabao. Visit the Lighthouse cooperative in downtown Tuguegarao for the best tasting and quality products of carabeef and chicharon carabao. 
  5. Worship at Tuguegarao Central UMC, one of the landmark of the city. This church has been home to several weddings, baptisms and other memorable events for many Cagayanons. There are four worship services in this church. The first is at 6:30 AM with the Ibanag Service followed by the 8:30 Service of the Ilocano then followed by the 10:30 English Service. There is a Vesper Service at 5:30 PM. 
Photo Credit: Google Maps
While the church is building a new sanctuary, the services are currently held a few blocks away at the Methodist Christian School of Tuguegarao located along del Rosario St. near Univesity of Cagayan Valley in College Avenue. Parking space is available at John Wesley College which is a few blocks away from the church. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Don't miss out these 3 things in Olango Island

I was excited to go to Olango Island in Cebu. I have been there before to see the Bird Sanctuary. But there are more to that that makes me want to go back. We went to visit a small congregation in the island. The church organized a revival worship. Together with us were some Christian friends from Michigan. It was a great experience to be in the island already, it was much more inspiring to meet the people called United Methodists in Olango Island.

Here are the three things that you must do so you will not miss out when you visit Olango Island:

1. Try eating the local seafoods. You may have eaten shells before but you will never forget how the taste of the spider shells from Olango. They are freshly harvested everyday. No, they are not your typical shells sold in the market. It was only here that I tasted those kind of shells and it was delicious. You have to eat it with your bare hands. Then partner that with the healthy seaweeds dipped in vinegar. Yummyyy... Then, partner your sumptous meal with a fresh buko juice picked straight from the coconut tree. You will love it. 

2. Bring your sunglasses. The island feel is awesome. It is February and the weather is unusually cold. It goes as low as 15 degress Celsius if you are in the city. But the island offers a different feel. The warm wind that blows from the sea is a welcome atmosphere. During the boat ride going to the Island, enjoy the seabreeze that is so relaxing especially in the afternoon. We took the tricycle to go inside the island village. Since the church was located inside the village, we had to walk around the houses. The morning heat of the sun is a welcome touch of the tropical paradise. You can never get enough of it.

3. Worship with the locals. The people there are amazing. We know that Filipinos are friendly. But the faith of the people in Olango Island are inspiring. They live in an almost isolated island with few people among them yet their faith is that of a thousand. When we worshiped and gave praised to God in their little church, as if a thousand people were with us. Their zeal and passion to glorify God with all the bounty that they have in the island reminds you the joy in the simplicity of life. It reminds me of the Gospel of Matthew 6, "Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.... Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Four Things to Remember if in Baguio on a weekend

We attended the Business Building Seminar in Baguio on a Saturday. The next day is Sunday, so we went to visit the United Methodist Church in Baguio City.

In case you are there on a weekend, here are four things to remember:

1. The church is right across Bagiuo General Hospital along the Palispis Highway. So when giving directions to the taxi, you gan use BGH as a landmark of where you are going. It is just right at the junction of the flyover.

2. Worship starts at 10:30 AM. They start on time so it will be wise to come around 10 minutes earlier. I also appreciate the Children's time they had during the worship service.

3. Parking is available infront of the church. However, parking can get full fast. You can park also at the side street but this can also be limited. When you are bringing your own vehicle, I suggest you come early so you can get an available slot. 

4. Church service finishes at lunch. You can have the whole afternoon to visit other tourist spots. We went to spend the afternoon in BenCab Musuem. It was a great experience for the kids to get exposed to the modern arts of BenCab and the masters. The place is also a mountain resort. The fresh air and the beautiful garden can be very calming. It is a good escape from the busy hustle of the city.