Vicar’s New Year Message 2012

Vicar’s New Year Message 2012

 Have you heard about the man who moved into a retirement community to spend the rest of his life there? It wasn’t long until he had made a number of friends among the other residents. There was one lady he was especially attracted to, and she was attracted to him, also. So they spent a lot of time together. Finally one evening he proposed, asking her to marry him. The next morning he woke up remembering his proposal, but he couldn’t remember her answer. So he went to her and said, “I’m really embarrassed. I proposed to you last night but I can’t remember if you said ‘yes’ or ‘no.’” “Oh, thank goodness!” She replied. “I remember saying ‘yes’ but I couldn’t remember who asked me.”

 Sometimes I feel that way about New Year’s resolutions. I tell myself, “This year I’m going to exercise regularly and lose weight. I’m going to do all kinds of things to improve myself physically and spiritually.” But then somehow I forget. Maybe you have that problem too?

 Just the other day, I saw my wife Haidee and the kids planting coins around the house, on the door steps and elsewhere. She brought some fruits all in a round shape. I asked her, “What fortune would New Year give?” She replied, “Shssss, be quite, it will give us luck.”

I am always fascinated by our own traditional belief but I am not always impressed with the outcome. For year after year, it all comes back with the same ritual.

So this year, I have a suggestion for a New Year’s resolution that we ought to be able to remember and do. Let’s promise ourselves and God that we will make a change for the better:

1. Develop a positive attitude toward the church and your community by sharing your Time, Talents and Love. In your passion to make a difference, always remember to give thanks to God who made things possible.

2·  Display a positive attitude toward others through your compassion and by sharing your blessings to bless others who are in need especially the poor, the oppressed, the destitute, the lowly, the unloved and the forgotten people in our society.

3·  Develop a positive outlook toward life by doing things that are pleasing in the eyes of God, your country, your neighbor, your family and yourself. Never forget that you are a part of God’s Ecology of Nature. Be active in preserving those which are good around us and be mindful to the needs and presence of the rest of God’s creation.

 

Now when we all do these, remember to smile, for such facial expression is so contagious to connect one person to another that will bring life to our family and community.

Please know that you are all loved and that you all have special place in my heart. I ask you to do the same to those whom you meet, work and live with.

A blessed New Year to all!!!

 

The Rev. Leonard B. Oakes

 

 

“Seven O’clock News”

                                                         Christmas Day

                                                    “Seven O’clock News”

                                                  The Rev. Leonard B. Oakes                                 

                                                                     HCSM

Merry Christmas!! Have you had a wonderful Christmas Eve with your family? Last night’s Christmas Eve celebration here at church was a meaningful one for those who came. At 7:00 o’clock, the Pageant casts were ready and eager to show what they had been practicing for weeks. Everyone greeted each other merry Christmas. Hugs and kisses here and there. Then we arrived at the Eucharist where we sang silent night. That song sung by the community still rings in my ears, and the wonderful feeling of togetherness is still warm in my heart.

Every Christmas time, I remember a song from Simon and Garfunkel as I sing most of their songs, but this one caught my attention on the reality behind a wonderful song called “Seven O’clock News / Silent Night.” It begins with the beautiful tones of “Silent Night” being played on a piano as Simon and Garfunkel sing. But very slowly and barely heard, the sound of a reporter reporting the news comes in. At first it is in the background but then by the end you can’t hear the song and all you hear is the news reports about Vietnam, riots, unrest, murder and poverty.

At 7 O’clock this morning, I was reminded of the tragedy in the southern part of the Philippines brought by typhoon Sendong which left thousands of families homeless and thousands dead and missing. There is yet a miracle that we can do while we sing our Silent Night, amidst the news and the mess and the unplanned events.   God is calling us to extend the miracle of giving to those who are now having no inn to knock on, a roof and water and blankets to have. The Diocese of Cagayan De Oro, of the Philippine Independent Church who is full communion with the Episcopal Church in the USA is appealing for our help. Whatever miracle we can share is our message of Christmas to the world.

You know sometimes we get lost among the candles and decorations and angels singing. All seems so bright and wonderful in the Christmas season. “All is calm, all is bright” and we forget. We forget the real world, the place beyond the carols where people are sick and in pain and emotionally distressed. People who lost their homes and those who are about to lose them; mothers who just lost their babies and love ones.

Preachers focus on God coming into the world. We tell of and sing of angels from the realms of glory coming to earth. We speak of the Son of God the King of Kings coming from heaven to earth. We paint idealized images of Mary and Joseph and babe lying is a manger amidst the friendly beasts. And angels hover over their heads while shepherds and wise men come to worship a child as the anointed one of God. But we get lost in the story and forget that Jesus came in to the world. He came into a real world, a world full of poverty and injustice, a world full of sin and sickness and death. He came into a real world not some idealized image of the world. He became a part of a world of darkness and pain. He came in the midst of chaos and selfishness. He came where people were caught unaware.

In the Telegraph newspaper, Martin Beckford, editor on religious affairs reported the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams defending his comment on Christmas reality, “Have a messy Christmas.” “It is not worth worrying about trying to have a perfect Christmas” The Archbishop said, “as even the events of the nativity story were unplanned.” Dr Rowan Williams said further that many families start each Christmas season with good intentions, such as writing cards weeks in advance and arranging every detail of the turkey dinner. But their preparations often descend into “the usual mess” and a “last-minute panic”, with the problems made worse this year in many homes by worries about how to pay for it all.

The Archbishop, reassured listeners that it is unnecessary to strive for a perfect Christmas, as Mary and Joseph themselves were in the midst of chaos when Jesus was born.  “The story of the first Christmas is the story of a series of completely unplanned, messy events – a surprise pregnancy, an unexpected journey that’s got to be made, a complete muddle over the hotel accommodation when you get there…Not exactly a perfect holiday.”

He went on: “It tells us something really vital. We try to plan all this stuff and stay in charge, and too often we think that unless we can cook the perfect dinner, plan the perfect wedding, organize the perfect Christmas, we somehow don’t really count or we can’t hold our heads up.”

 While I agree with the Archbishop’s intention, I would say that in the Filipino and Latino community, we do Christmas celebrations amidst hardship but do not worry about how to pay it all. It has become a culture among these people to share whatever there is available; food, Lechon, going from house to house. What mostly matters is the miracle of sharing the spirit of giving, loving and being one community. Although Archbishop’s comment “it is unnecessary to strive for a perfect Christmas” do not necessarily share my view,  I say it is necessary for us to strive for a better Christmas and be reminded of something or someone expected to come and make it better every time we do them. Otherwise Advent season becomes unnecessary to prepare. It becomes a reminder for us to do just like in the Eucharist when Jesus said, “Do this as often as you can, in remembrance of me” The Christmas story has to be made alive every so often to remind us our preparation for the second coming of Christ and be always on the tract of the miracle of sharing the spirit of love and giving in the here and now.

Let us not forget the angels and that some saw a miracle. Common everyday real world shepherd trying to feed their families left the flocks in the field to see the thing that the angels told them about. And let’s remember how they went and told everyone all that they had seen and heard. And it says that people were amazed. Even Mary pondered these things in her heart. Of course they were amazed. It isn’t everyday that you hear angels and see light from heaven and find God lying in a manger crying. This is not real world stuff. This is something from another dimension and other realm. And so all were amazed at what the shepherds told them. Jesus came to bring life and light for all people. Santo Nino the baby Jesus is in our hearts and in this community bringing light and life to all.

We will sing silent night at the Eucharist and conclude with go tell it on the mountain as we walk into the reality of seven o’clock news every day.

May you all have a blessed Christmas and a joyous New Year!!!

Amen.

Do you feel what I feel?

Fourth Sunday in Advent

 “Do you feel what I feel?”

Luke 1: 26-38

 The Rev. Leonard B. Oakes

Good morning!! What a lovely smiles you all have today. I ask you extend that smile to the person next and around you for today is the sunday of Love.

Today is the last Sunday in advent, 6 more days, 6 more days and it’s Christmas!!! Do you feel it? Do you feel what I feel? What have you been preparing for? What have you been in search of? Is it going to be the same old Christmas day or is it going to be something new, joyful and loving this time around?

 We have been preparing for this time from the beginning of our birth, did you realize that? However old you are now, the love of God has been made alive every year, every advent of another year God blesses us with another life. We are now approaching the end of the cycle to start anew. A cycle that we kept celebrating until that time comes where our Lord Jesus Christ promised to return.

 You see, God has created all things good around us. We are part of the ecology of nature God has created. We are dependent from each other. We can’t separate ourselves from the rest of creation otherwise we destroy the whole cycle of life God has entrusted us to take care.

 This is a time for us to keep still, just like the rest of the members of the ecology of nature who would spend time to rest, to draw inward energy for the coming season. Let us learn from them, learn to be quite and listen to the voice of God who is calling us to listen to ourselves and the rest of His creation, for the coming of God’s Son in upon us. Do you feel it? Do you feel what I feel? We cannot feel it unless we slow down, be in silence and listen to the voice of God. Be still like the little seed nurturing that which is growing until it spreads its leaves and branches ready to bear fruit in summer.

 
The Hindu philosopher and polymath, Rabindranath Tagore wrote these wonderful words:
 
“Silence my soul, these trees are prayers. I asked the tree, “tell me about God”; then it blossomed.” 
 
When we allow ourselves to calm down, be quite and still, we begin to communicate clearly with God and from that connection, we are re-energized and begin to bloom and be a blessing to others. We’ve got to feel it. Do you feel what I feel?
 
Mary learned a lot from her experience with the angel Gabriel in the Gospel according to Luke. The angel said, “Greetings, favored one, the Lord is with you!”  “OK?” Mary may have said as initial reaction. But she was more perplexed and questioned the impossibility of the greeting she just heard when the angel told her that she will bear a son whose kingdom will have no end.” One may not be able to paint the facial expression of Mary when she heard this. She said, “What? How can this be since I am a virgin?” Mary is confused. If someone tells you this, would you believe? What would you do? Mary said, “Here I am, let it be with me according to your word.”  Mary listened. She learned to be in silence and allowed her heart and ears to listen to the voice of God. She trusted the voice of the angel to be the word of God and because of the trust and faith of Mary; she is hailed as the favored one. Let us follow the example of Mary. Let us also trust in God. Even when it is difficult to trust others, even when others try to take Christmas away from us because it does not give them any sense, let us pray for them so that we may become a beacon of change and agents of God’s love.
 
Today, we’ve lighted the candle of love to remind us that God is love that he sent His son for us that we might once again, be one with him. We thank God for the hope he gives us, for the peace he bestows, for the joy he pours into our hearts, and for the love that redeems us and shows us the way.
 
My loving friends in Christ let us be reminded that love is the most important part of the Christmas story. Love is why Christ came here in the first place. It is the love of God that brings us the hope and the peace and the joy that we need. And it is our love for one another in Christ’s name – that makes Christmas worthwhile. Let us be forgiving. Think about the life after our earthly life; think about where we would be when the end of our world comes. Let bitterness leave us and love abides instead. For what profits a person if he or she has everything but losses her soul before God because he or she does not know love? Let us not forget that we are ever walking in the eyes of God and whatever we do that sets us apart from loving each other is also separating us from His Love. Let not the remaining days of our lives fall into the pit of destruction. Love is the reason why we are living, let us give Love a place in our hearts and let harmony prevail.
 
In the movie based on Charles Dicken’s novel Oliver, there was this young boy living in an orphanage who got caught up with an unruly gang of thieves led by an evil old man. On one of the scenes, this boy was thrown into the dungeon and witnessed the cruelty of the evil old man when he witnessed children being starved to death and longing for care and love. My heart began to shrink when he started singing this song:
 
Where is love? Does it fall from skies above? Is it underneath the willow tree that I’ve been dreaming of? Where is she? Who I close my eyes to see? Will I ever know the sweet “hello” that’s only meant for me? Who can say where she may hide? Must I travel far and wide? ‘Til I am beside the someone who I can mean something to …Where…? Where is love?

 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, as you finish your preparations for Christmas and getting ready to welcome our Lord Jesus Christ in your heart, Think of all the children in the world longing for love, longing for you to reach out to them and make them feel loved. Our very own Lyle Richardson has an orphanage in Russia. Share your gifts to those children this Christmas. Hold on to your children so close as if you don’t want to let go. Make them feel loved. Listen to their cry and let your heart guide them.

 
Remember our elders this Christmas, those who are lonely and isolated. They long for our presence. They miss the very moments we are now enjoying. Feel them, feel their needs. Do you feel it? Do you feel what I feel? Do you hear what I hear? I hear God telling us, “Greetings, favored ones, the Lord is with you! Listen! Love is all around you, share them to others.”
 
When we listen, may we say, “Here I am, let it be with me according to your word.” Amen.

Filipino American Christianity

Book Forum & Prayer Rally

FILIPINO AMERICAN CHRISTIANITY

Like Milkfish in Brackish Water

                                               The Rev. Dr. Winfred Vergara

                                          Missioner for Asiamerica Ministry

                                                 The Episcopal Church

       Invites you to take part in a symposium about how this resource  

          can help you understand and do Filipino American Ministry

 

                                                     Who can attend:

            Invited Clergy and Lay leaders of any Religious Affiliation

        serving or interested to learn about Filipino Community building

                         When: January 27-28, 2012 at 12 Noon to 12 noon 

Filipino American Ministry Presentation and Open Prayer Rally

                                        On January 27 at 6:30 PM.

                                               (Dinner Provided)

                Where: Holy Child & St. Martin’s Episcopal Church

                              777 Southgate Ave, Daly City, CA 94015

    Contact: (650) 991-1560 or email revleonardoakes@gmail.com

Participants coming from distant places may be eligible for free Hotel accomodation only

 

 (Excerpts from the Introduction)

This book presents a re-thinking and re-visioning of Filipino ministry in the context of multi-ethnic, multicultural American Church and Society. It narrates the salient points in Filipino American history, cultures and traditions. It discusses the various issues in theology, evangelism, church planting, Christian formation and discipleship. Most of all it urges the American Church to welcome and celebrate Filam Ministry and to give it the attention it deserves.

 

Why does Filipino American Ministry deserve attention? Filipinos are some of the earliest, largest, most educated and upwardly mobile immigrant groups to settle in America. There is a special relationship between the Philippines and the United States that dates back at the turn of the 20th century when America, still emerging as the world’s superpower, took Philippines under the shadow of its wings. Filipino American culture is unique in the sense of its interconnectedness. Philippine geography is in the Asia but its base culture and traditions are markedly multicultural, with dominant Spanish and North American influences.

 

How will Filipino American Ministry express itself in the 21st century? In looking for images, I thought about the milkfish.  Called “bangus” in Tagalog, the milkfish can survive in fresh water and in salty water but it thrives best in brackish water.  As servant of Christianity, Filam Ministry must learn from the ways of the milkfish.  It must learn to take this ministry of “both and,” the gift of prophetic accommodation. Filam Clergy and Faithful must become a ministers of reconciliation, a ministry bestowed by the Master-Fisherman who wishes all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the Truth.