Newtown, Parkland, Buffalo, Uvalde. When is "Enough is Enough!" We have another pandemic in America. It is the pandemic of gun violence and mass shootings. I've marched locally before but this time I felt led to make the long journey to Washington, DC last Saturday for the March for Our Lives rally. Congress this very week is in the process of negotiating and passing the most significant gun safety legislation in decades. Pray that our leaders will wake up and do their job – protect the health and safety of its citizens and indeed our children.
It's a four-hour drive from northern NJ and thankfully I had my church friend, Brian, to join me and make quite a day of it. The drive down went smoothly, non-stop but we got lost on foot, misinterpreting Google maps. There were probably some 5000 at the Washington monument with about a dozen speakers from Manuel Oliver (father of a Parkland victim), David Hogg (survivor of Parkland and co-founder of MFOL), the mayor of DC to Randi Weingarten (President of the AFT). One of the most interesting things at the rally were the many signs and posters (see below). At the midpoint, they asked for a moment of silence for the victims of Uvalde. As we bowed our heads in prayer, I heard a faint loud voice way up front shouting something. I looked up to see a stream of people running for their lives out to our right. Then all of a sudden people in front of Brian and I started running back toward us away from the front. I looked around and didn't see anything wondering why all the people were running. I turned myself getting ready to depart but then a stage person shouted in the mic "Stop Running!" and everyone calmed down and returned to the rally. It was quite unnerving but apparently some people thought the guy shouting said "I have a gun" and ran, creating panic and fear. Six people were injured and a Florida man was arrested. The event continued with stirring speeches from David Hogg and Randi Weingarten. A young lady named X Gonzalez (also a Parkland survivor) was among the last speakers; her speech was also rather "x-rated." The event ended but to our surprise, there was no actual "march."
One may ask, what good attending such a rally will do? Well, for one thing it will raise the profile of public anger against gun violence in the country and put public pressure on our leaders to act. In a democracy, elected officials do and must listen to the people and the voters. Secondly, it also spreads and expands the movement to more people. When David Hogg spoke, he asked everyone to text "next" to 954-954 for next steps to get involved like contacting your senator. Like any not-for-profit or advocacy organization, they also requested money and it's important to give to causes you believe in even if you can't attend these rallies. For the full live video streaming, click here.
While we were in DC, we decided to do some sight-seeing. I was here last year for the Chinese American WWII Recognition Ceremony and got a new appreciation of all that our nation's capital offers. We thought about visiting the Museum of the Bible and the Spy Museum but all tickets were sold out. Still, there was plenty to do and that we did. The rally ended around 2:30 pm and we tried to get into the Museum of African American History and Culture but all the tickets had been given out already. All the Smithsonian Museums and the Zoo in DC are free but timed-entry tickets are still needed for the African American museum and the Zoo. So, we visited the National Museum of American History nearby. After that, we saw the WWII Memorial, Lincoln Memorial and Vietnam Memorial. My older brother Peter actually served in Vietnam but unfortunately died of an accident after returning home from the war. Btw, you may be interested to learn that Congress and President Biden just passed into law a commission to study the possibility of creating a National Museum of Asian Pacific American History and Culture in Washington DC!
Brian wanted to visit the Jefferson Memorial but I had my doubts as it is a long way by foot across the Tidal Basin. We did it anyway (see pictures above), had a nice late dinner and headed back to Jersey. All in all, it was a long, tiring but good day in our nation's capital. We're actually planning a trip next summer to DC for the Museum of the Bible and more. Wanna join us?
Last Saturday, May 14th, I attended the Walk of Faith event in Chinatown (NYC) sponsored by the God Squad (67th Precinct Clergy Council) and the NYCAAPIC (New York Coalition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Churches). I did this partly out of conviction and partly out of guilt. In the end, it just turned out to be fun. This event was a unity walk of faith and prayer between AAPI and Black churches something which is greatly needed as the two communities are fairly often in conflict with each other.
The weather cleared up nicely and I found parking easy enough around Seward Park, the meeting point. I drove in from NJ where I live. I would say some fifty to a hundred people were there including quite a bit of local media. I met a young lady from Voice of America in DC. After some prayer, introductions and speeches, we started the walk stopping at about five different locations for prayer and reflection. As we walked, one pastor led a chant, "Love God … love our neighbor." The first stop was quite emotional as it was near a memorial in honor of Christina Yuna Lee, who was stabbed to death inside her Manhattan Chinatown apartment. A student from NYU led the prayer with tears and moved us all. The next stop was very interesting because it was at a 3-story wall mural painted on the wall of the New York Chinese Alliance Church facing Delancey St. I had not seen nor heard of this before. It is probably the largest AAPI mural in the city. Pastor Steve Ko, whose wedding I attended years ago, came out and gave us some words of encouragement along with other pastors. The third stop was prayer at the Bowery Mission after which I had to leave the walk and retrieve my car to park in another location. So, I missed the fourth and last stop at the AAPI Yarn Mural of Stand, Speak, Shape. Miracle of all miracles, I found a parking spot right on Hester St., half a block from OCM, the final stop for a luncheon fellowship. I started using the ParkNYC parking app on my iPhone recently and although it doesn't always work, it is good and more convenient than feeding the meter with coins you don't have. It was $4 per hour or $10.50 for two. I paid for one. The lunch was a blessing especially after walking around town a lot. There were more introductions and sharing. Some local politicians were there including State Senator John Liu.
Not knowing what to expect but doing my part to demonstrate some solidarity and unity with others, this Walk of Faith turned out to be more of a blessing than I thought. Walking around Chinatown like that was a surreal experience (I usually drive around). I met some old friends and made some new ones. I was able to park without much difficulty. I saw things I'd never seen before. The weather was fine. We even got some press because there was a brief mention of the Walk on 1010 Wins Sunday morning. Reminds me of the Scripture: "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matt. 6:33 NIV). There will be more Walks of Faith, the next one to be in Brooklyn. Will you join me?
This blog has been a long time coming but back in September, I was blessed with the honor of a lifetime. My sisters, my good friend Aaron and I traveled to Washington, DC to receive the Congressional Gold Medal in honor of our father's military service as Chinese Americans in World War II. In 2018, Congress passed a law that all Chinese Americans who served in WWII would be recognized with the Congressional Gold Medal. About 20,000 of them served in all branches of the military including Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Army Air Force and Coast Guard including women! Only 40% of them were actual citizens. My father enlisted in the US Army, PFC in the 749th Tank Battalion and served in France, Belgium and Germany including the D-Day invasion. My only regret is that he did not live to know about and receive the medal himself.
The event in DC was the National Recognition Ceremony but there will be a Regional Gold Medal Presentation Ceremony for NY and NJ on Saturday, December 18th at the Sun Yat-Sen MIddle School, 100 Hester St. NYC. Details and register here. I registered for Session 3 at 4:30 pm.
The National Event included a tour of the Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday which was amazing. I had never been there and got to see the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Here's a link to a Youtube video about the tomb and why you never mess with the guard. It was also a blessing meeting other families like a couple whose husband is an epidemiologist from California also named "Milton."
Of course, the big day was Thursday which was the Awards Ceremony, dinner and gala held at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington. It was the honor of a lifetime to be part of this historic event in Chinese American history. Our story is part of the American story. Here's a picture of me with the Ed Gor, the National Director of the Chinese American WWII Recognition Project. Many thanks to him. He gave a quite emotional testimony on a previous occasion of why he led this project as a civilian! Here's the link. To God be the glory.
For more information and details, go the the website of the Chinese American WWII Veterans Recognition Project at www.caww2.org .
Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. (John 19:34 NIV)
Over two decades ago, when I was a young pastor, I remember distinctly choosing my very first series of sermons to preach on: the Gospel of John. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my home church, The Life Christian Church, had decided to study John for its first trimester this year in 2021. Likewise, I was privileged to lead my TLCC Scripture Study LIFE group on Wednesday evenings through the gospel chapter by chapter from February to June with some very eager Bible students. I was pleasantly surprised because this gave me the opportunity to come back to this portion of Scripture and "read the Bible again for the first time" as Marcus Borg would say.
When I preached through John the first time, my standard commentaries back then were the likes of Leon Morris, Don Carson, F. F. Bruce and Merrill Tenney (in the EBC first edition). The first thing you will notice is that the commentaries today are thicker and longer. Among the best commentaries recommended by Don Carson in his latest (2013) New Testament Commentary Survey are J. Ramsay Michaels' at about 1000 pages and Craig Keener's at about 1600 pages (in two volumes total). At church, Pastor Terry Smith was using Frederick Dale Bruner's commentary at about 1200 pages. My colleague, Max Lee at North Park Seminary, recommended Marianne Meye Thompson which was the most recent of the bunch but the shortest at about 500 pages.
It was in one of our Bible studies, that someone asked what is the meaning of the "flow of blood and water" in Jn. 19:34? We didn't really have time to address it then so I have taken the time to address it here on my blog with a view towards examining what the various commentaries have to say.
Of course, the context is the death of Jesus on the cross. He had already died upon uttering the final words, "It is finished." The Jews of the day in honoring Jewish custom asked Pilate to remove the bodies of the men from their crosses before the Sabbath which was even a special Sabbath for Passover week. In order to do this, the Romans would often break the legs of the victims to hasten their demise. They called this procedure crurifragium. After breaking the legs of the two men beside Jesus, they came upon him only to observe that he was already dead and therefore did not need to have his legs broken and then we have our verse in question. It is important to note that this flow of blood and water was unusual in some sense and must have had great meaning for John for he immediately writes: "The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true" (John 19:35 NIV). Western readers tend to focus on the materialistic aspects of the scene. The NIV Study Bible, for example, comments that the flow of blood and water is: "The result of the spear piercing the pericardium (the sac that surrounds the heart) and the heart itself." But isn't John's statement more than an observation of anatomy and physiology?
Here come the commentaries! Of the recent ones mentioned, Keener's is the earliest published in 2003. He argues on the basis of the powerful use of and imagery of water in the gospel of John, that the water symbolizes the gift of the Holy Spirit promised in Jn. 7:37-39:
It is a bit ironic that at least on this particular passage (Jn. 19:34), the best and fullest commentary of the four happens to be Bruner's. Don Carson rather pan's his work as "uneven" and exegetically weak (in his NTCS). And he does have some rather extreme translations like:
So, what is the meaning of the flow of blood and water in Jn. 19:34? In my estimation, it makes sense to tie this to 1 Jn. 4 and John's emphasis on the real humanity and real death of Jesus on the cross. But the fourth gospel is also a spiritual gospel and the most theological of all. From the beginning, we hear Jesus say "Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days." (Jn. 2:19) referring to his body. The blood and water must also signify something else. The blood most certainly symbolizes his death and the water most probably the Holy Spirit á la Keener. The sacramental interpretation fits nicely and neatly (communion and baptism) but nothing in the context would necessarily trigger such an association.