28 September 2015

Eve: Naked

And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:25)

I'm all dressed up,
wearing my finest -
I've made myself pretty for you.
I've put my best dress on
and done myself up,
want to look perfect
and beautiful,
impeccable -
to make you fall for me
all over again.

But what is beneath
all the nice, fancy clothes?
Is it not my fear
that you wouldn't care
the way that you do
if you really knew
what I'm hiding beneath?
I hide my imperfections,
cover them up,
veiled and robed,
masked from view.
I want to be perfect
but I hide myself -
my thoughts, my feelings,
opinions you might not like,
things I'm afraid will put you off -
I hide myself
beneath a fine façade,
afraid, ashamed,
not trusting you enough.

But I don't want this anymore.

I want
to take off all these clothes,
to strip naked
and stand before you
just as I am,
with every blemish,
every mistake,
every feeling and thought
laid bare before you.
I'll pull off this dishonesty
and show you every part of me.
I want to be naked,
no longer ashamed.


[20. December 2012]

(I did not really write this from Eve's perspective, but am still adding it to the "Eve" set because it's based on stuff I learnt from Gen 2)

Original commentary from 2012:
I've been trying to write this for WEEKS; maybe God wanted me to be personally confronted with the issue a bit more before writing this.

The way I understand Genesis 2:25 is that Adam and Eve had nothing to hide from each other. Not just physically but also when it comes to being honest, talking to each other about things, not hiding things from each other. Honesty and communication are really important in a relationship. (Look who's talking. = = This is something I desperately need to work on, which is the reason why I wrote this...)

And isn't it interesting: we tend to make ourselves especially pretty when meeting someone, make sure we're well dressed for a date, put more effort into personal appearance than usual, and show our best side. (I know I get really uptight about not saying / doing anything that might bother him...) But shouldn't we actually be showing our true selves? Be honest?

Another poem based on Genesis 2:18-25 is Helper.
Recently I discovered how interesting and inspiring and awesome that text is. :D I think it says a LOT about relationships and marriage.

Picture: detail from "Garden of Earthly Delights" by Hieronymus Bosch.

23 September 2015

Martha: Aber auch jetzt noch

Johannes 11

Herr, warum
warst du nicht hier?
Wärst du hier gewesen,
mein Bruder wäre nicht gestorben.
Hast du ihn nicht geliebt
als deinen guten Freund?

Herr, warum
warst du nicht hier?
Wärst du hier gewesen,
hättest du ihn heilen können.
Hast du nicht Blinde geheilt,
Lahme aufgerichtet?
Hast du nicht
durch eine Berührung,
durch ein einziges Wort,
sogar aus Distanz
Menschen geheilt?

Herr, warum
hast du uns diesmal
nicht geholfen –
deinen eng geliebten Freunden,
die dich innig lieben?
Bedeuten wir dir nichts?

Herr, warum?

Aber auch jetzt noch
glaube ich.

Ich glaube,
auch wenn ich jetzt nicht schaue.
Ich glaube,
auch wenn ich nicht bekomme
was ich erwartet hab.
Ich glaube,
denn was wirklich zählt,
ist nicht was du für mich leistest,
oder der Nutzen, den ich von dir zieh –
ich brauch alleine DICH.

Du bist
die Auferstehung und das Leben.
Du bist
mehr als Mittel zu meinen Zielen.
Du bist
mehr als Erfüller meiner Wünsche.
Du bist
der Messias,
der Sohn Gottes.

Ja, auch jetzt noch
glaube ich.


[17. September 2015]

Habe am letzten Sonntag (20.9.) über Joh 11 gepredigt und das Gedicht in die Predigt integriert (deshalb existiert überhaupt eine deutsche Fassung, weil ich sonst nicht so motiviert bin, zu übersetzen!).

Hauptaussage der Predigt: Jesus "gibt" uns nicht einfach, was wir brauchen, sondern er ist was wir brauchen. Gott erhört unsere Gebete, nicht weil er verpflichtet ist, uns zu geben was wir wollen, sondern weil er uns liebt und gerne erhört. Was wichtig ist, ist nicht was wir bekommen (denn das erfüllt nicht), sondern ist die Beziehung zu Gott!

Gott muss nicht "liefern"; er ist nicht unser Dienstleister, sondern unser Herr und König. Sein Wille geschehe! Und möge unser Glaube so stark sein wie der Glaube der Martha, die auch mitten in der Enttäuschung nicht von Jesus lässt und ihn als Messias bekennt.

18 September 2015

Martha: But Even Now

John 11

Lord, why
were you not here?
Had you been here,
my brother would not be dead.
Did you not love him
as your dear friend?

Lord, why
were you not here?
Had you been here,
you could have healed him.
Did you not heal the blind
and help the lame?
Did you not heal
through one touch,
through one word,
from a distance?

Lord, why
did you not help us
this time?
The close friends you love
and who deeply love you -
did it mean nothing to you?

Lord, why?

But even now
I believe.

I believe
although I do not see.
I believe
although I don't receive
what I expected to.
I believe
because what counts
is not what you can give to me,
or what I can get out of you -
all I need is YOU.

You are
the resurrection and the life.
You are
more than the means to my own ends.
You are
more than the provider of all I desire.
You are
the Messiah,
the Son of God.

Yes, even now
I believe.


[18. September 2015]

To be honest: this came into existence within something like 2-5 minutes, as part of my sermon preparation for this coming Sunday. ^^; I will be preaching about John 11 (in particular Martha's meeting with Jesus), and it really helps me structure my thoughts to put them in poem form first. So here's the general gist of my (as yet not-quite-existent-yet) sermon.

Jesus, known far and wide as a miracle healer, could have healed Lazarus. He could even have done so from a distance (as he had done in two other cases - the Centurion's slave and the Kanaanite woman's possessed daughter). But he did not. When the news of Lazarus' sickness reached him, Jesus even hung around longer where he was (v.6)!! How might Mary and Martha have felt about that?! Was he forsaking them? I tried to reflect that a bit here.

I find the conversation between Martha and Jesus really powerful. Martha comes straight out with the reproach: "If you had been here, my brother would not have died." (v.21) But then she adds this bit: "But even now..." She still believes that God hears prayer. I don't necessarily read an expectation of Lazarus' resurrection into that. What she's saying is: even though she did not get what she hoped for, she has not stopped believing in God, she has not stopped trusting and loving Jesus. And even if Lazarus only comes back to life at the end of time (v.24), she still holds on to Jesus, and it is enough for her.

Then Jesus says: "I am the resurrection and the life." The phrase I AM is very important in the Gospel of John. Again and again, Jesus makes "I am" statements. I am the door; I am the bread of life; I am the way, the truth and the life. "I AM" - what this shows me is that more important than what Jesus does for us, more important than the things we get from Jesus, is who He is, Himself, His person. In the Gospel of John, the person of Jesus is very important. Jesus is the one who shows us God the Father. As the Word who was with God before anything else was, He knows the Father perfectly. By knowing Jesus, we know the Father.

Jesus does not just "give" us what we need. He Himself IS what we need. As the one who hears and answers prayer, He is more than a power that can fulfill our wishes and demands. I learnt this especially the last time I was back home in Taiwan and saw the way the idols are worshipped there. The natural human way to go about prayer is to bring demands to a god and expect the god to "deliver". In Taiwan, if a god does not deliver, he/she gets "starved" (no sacrifices) or sometimes even beaten or thrown away. Because the god is not "doing his job" if he does not do what you asked him to (especially since the sacrifice is already something like an "advance payment" and the god owes you). With Jesus, it is not like that. Jesus does not have to "deliver". He is our Lord and King, not our "service provider"; it's not my will and my wishes that count, but His. And sometimes His plan may be completely different. But because we know God's character and know that He is good and faithful, we can trust Him with whatever He gives us - even if it's not what we really wanted or expected (as in Martha's case).

Martha makes a great big confession at the end of her conversation with Jesus (v.27). She actually says exactly what Peter said where he confessed that Jesus is the Son of God (literally the same thing)! Martha has understood. She has recognised who Jesus is - and that in the midst of mourning her brother, in the midst of not really understanding why Jesus was not around when she wanted Him to be, and before she even knows that Jesus is going to raise Lazarus back to life. She believes in who Jesus IS, before He has done anything for her.

- Do we want Jesus for the benefits He brings us, or do we want Him for who He is?
- Do we love a significant other for the benefts he/she brings us, or do we love him/her for who he/she is?
- Do we want to be loved for the benefits we bring others, or for who we are?

There's another poem about Martha right here.

[Es gibt eine deutsche Übersetzung dieses Gedichts, coming soon...]

Picture by Duccio di Buoninsegna

16 September 2015

Priscilla: One Flesh

Acts 18

You left your home
and I left mine,
beginning something new.
We met, we loved -
hands intertwined,
which fingers are yours,
which fingers are mine?
Now I belong to you
and you belong to me,
no longer I,
no longer you,
but one.

not only to delight in one another
or in this feeling that awakes
each time I know you're mine.

not only to fill the gap
of longing in my heart
that needs another.

not only for the lives
this union will produce,
little Yous and little Mes.

not only to live side-by-side,
you with your cares,
I with mine.

You left your home
and I left mine.
God brought us together,
and we are one.
Now I belong to you
and you belong to me,
sharing more than our bodies
and more than our home:
sharing one calling,
sharing life.

let us pursue one goal,
and help each other draw the yoke,
for two are better than one.

let us run this race,
support each other when we fall
and pick each other up.

let us serve the Lord,
unite our strengths
and work for Him.

let us walk this road,
of one flesh
and of one mind.
No longer I,
no longer you,
but one
in Christ.


[September 2013]

So... a single girl tries to write about marriage... heh ^^;

Recently I heard that there are Christians (including pastors) in China who have difficulties in their marriage because many Christian women are married to non-Christian men (in case you did not know: more women than men are Christians in China). That makes it hard to really live marriage as partnership, supporting each other. Hearing that I decided to write Priscilla's poem - because Priscilla is an example of a woman in the Bible who worked together with her husband, so much so that they are always mentioned together (and what's really interesing is that she's even mentioned first, as though she were the one "wearing the trousers" in that relationship haha)
Anyway PRAY for those marriages in China plz~

Genesis 2:24 - Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
We once had to discuss this in Greek class (because Jesus also quotes it once in the NT). What does "one flesh" mean? To me the thought of "belonging to each other" is a very beautiful one. I once read somewhere that becoming one flesh means no longer being two individuals, but becoming like "one person". Which is why Jesus uses this verse against divorce. Being "one person" to me means sharing absolutely everything, sharing your body (1 Cor 7:4), but also not just living next to each other but caring for each other's well-being and each others wishes and dreams.
And yes, sharing absolutely everything can be a bit of a freaky thought, which is why I think marriage (i.e. total commitment) is important. You need to really be able to trust each other. You make yourself extremely vulnerable - and for this to be fair, both have to do this, and be faithful, and commit. It might be really scary, and I think many people nowadays prefer just living together because really "becoming one" and sharing everything is a very risky thing and demands all of you. But I think there's more potential in hurting each other if we do not open up to each other this way, and I think we totally miss the point and purpose of sex if we do not fully commit, if we only "become one" physically and forget about the rest. I think sex without commitment, and without the total sharing of becoming one, is ultimately damaging, and not fair to the other person or to yourself.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 - Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
I just discovered this verse as a perfect verse for describing marriage as partnership. It's more than just "being in love", it's about really sharing each other's goals and dreams and supporting each other. Not just a selfish thing all about "my feelings" (because feelings go away after a while, believe it or not, and that fact is NOT a reason to divorce and find someone else) but about the other, and about working together for each other.

2 Corinthians 6:14 - Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.
I picked up the "yoke" image. The way I understand this is: it's better to have the same goal. A non-Christian will not have the same ultimate goal / aim as a Christian. That will really hamper partnership. This is not saying that non-Christians are somehow "inferior", but that it will cause difficulty in marriage because you will not be working for the same end. If your aim is to glorify God with your life, and your husband does not care, it will be hard to reconcile the wishes of your husband and the wishes of God. I think one can even get that among Christians!! So check what your guy's (or girl's) life aims are, and see if they are compatible with yours, otherwise it will only cause you dilemmas later.

Oh yes and the "fingers" bit I "borrowed" from Thomas Hardy; I'm reading Tess of the d'Urbervilles and after she and Angel get married that image comes up, which I find really beautiful although in the book the one-ness did not last very long... very good book btw.

Picture by Marc Chagall

13 September 2015

Eve: Bitter Fruit

Genesis 4:1-16

Only now do I taste
the full bitterness
of the fruit that I chose.
Only now do I feel
the full consequence
brought not only on myself
but those I love.

What could I have done?
What did I do wrong?
Why is my son a murderer,
why is my son his victim?
Why must I see repeated
in the lives of my children
the same mistakes I made?

O if only
I had been struck dead
the moment I reached out
and sealed all our fates.
O if only
You had put an end
before this began.
O cruel mercy
to grant us life
and let us watch
as we destroy it.

Only now do I taste
the full bitterness
of the fruit that smelled so sweet.
Only now do I feel
the disappointment you felt,
that cold, cruel pain
as you watched your children
destroy each other and themselves
and fall.

O God, if only
it were me, buried first -
the natural order of things.
How can a mother
bury her child?
How can she banish his brother?
Is this how you felt
as you sent us away,
sent us away to our deaths?

O cruel mercy
to grant us life,
to grant us children
and take them away.
O bitter fruit
that festers and grows
and spreads its roots,
breaking apart
all bonds of love.

Now brother kills brother
as mother weeps,
cast out from paradise
all over again.


[12. - 13. September 2015]

I was looking for another picture when I stumbled over "The First Mourning" by William-Adophe Bouguereau (above), depicting Adam and Eve mourning the death of Abel, who was killed by his brother Cain. I had never before thought of the story of Cain and Abel from the point of view of their parents. Adam and Eve lost both sons in one go: one was killed, the other fled. Like all parents, they probably did not expect their children to die before they did. The death of Abel was the first death. I had not realised that before.

I'm not one to put all the blame on Eve when talking about the "Fall of Man". Kierkegaard made some good points about the fall, namely that it's not just something "historical" that happened way back, but something that happens again in each of us. So my sin is not Eve's fault, but my own, because I fell my own fall.
In this poem I did want to think about what might be going through Eve's head, though. She would probably have felt a lot of guilt ("What did I do wrong, for my son to turn out a killer? Is there not something I could have / should have done that would have prevented it?"), and felt more acutely than before the consequence of the fall, since it affected not just herself and Adam, but her children.

The way I view the fall, it is primarily a break in relationship (more than a rule being broken): Adam and Eve started to distrust God, and as a consequence ended up distrusting each other and blaming each other. The break in relationship with God leads to a break in relationship with other people. And that is what we see in Cain and Abel's case... If Adam and Eve viewed eating the fruit as a sort of "bid for freedom" (free to do what they like / take what they like), that sort of selfish freedom led to Cain feeling he need not be his "brother's keeper". Sin destroys relationships, brings distrust and jealousy. It completely broke up the first family!

True reconciliation is only found in Jesus, who restores human relationships to what they ought to be: accepting each other, loving each other, forgiving each other. I believe ideally the church should be the place where we relate to each other as we should, not destroying each other anymore, or through our selfishness hurting others in our own bid for freedom...

Picture by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

05 September 2015

Junia: Hidden

Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. (Romans 16:7)

Give me no fame, o Lord.
I need no glory, no applause,
for what good is it?

let me stay hidden,
like foundations underground,
like the backstage hands,
like wallpaper no one sees
until it is missed.

Unseen, unnamed,
melting into the background,
hidden from view
but nonetheless there,
like the spices in a curry,
like stitches in embroidery,
like the threads of a rope.

Let me work in patience
for love alone,
in the shadows, unnoticed,
holding the strings.
Let me do what is needed,
though none know my name,
though no one says "thanks",
though I am ignored.

I will be satisfied,
for I seek no renown,
and my work is for you
and for your eyes alone.


[20.6. - 20.7.2012]

Ever tried reading through the "greetings" at the end of a Pauline letter? All those names... can one learn anything out of texts like that?! I think the greetings show us quite a few interesting things. They show us the relationship ties between early Christians, how they worked together and supported each other. Also, they give us a small glimpse into the kind of things Paul's addressees were up to. For instance, we find out a lot about women in ministry. People who skip the greetings don't realise that women were active in ministry in Paul's day, and Paul supported them (despite those famous "women be silent" texts which people like to quote at me when I say I'm going to be a pastor, heh...).

In Romans 16, we read about Phoebe, a female deacon (and deacons were people like Stephen and Philipp who did quite a bit of preaching and evangelising). Phoebe was involved in ministry in a way certain Christians say women shouldn't be (read Phoebe's poem here). Romans 16 also mentions a couple, Prisca and Aquila, who are mentioned together as working together with Paul for the church. Plus, Prisca is mentioned before her husband, which I believe shows she definitely was not a subdued little wife letting her husband do everything. They were a team, in ministry together.

And then we have Andronicus and Junia in Romans 16:7. This verse has an interesting story because, due to Greek grammar confusion, some people translated (female) Junia as (male) "Junias". Might also have ideological reasons because no way could there have been a female apostle! Or?! The word "apostle" has two uses in the New Testament. Often it is applied only to the 12 selected by Jesus. However, Paul also uses it to describe his own role, which gives the word a broader application. "Apostle" comes from the verb "apostello" which means "to send". In this way it means someone sent by God (not only the 12 disciples who were close to Jesus). The word "apostle" does, however, carry quite "high" connotations. And here we have a woman apostle, Junia! Why not?

I wrote this poem thinking of the many women working in the background, not fully recognised because they are women and because of the belief that women can't take on a full ministry. In the 19th century, people were still fighting over whether women should be allowed to be missionaries / evangelists at all, because "women are not supposed to teach men", or because "women should put their family first". People have told me that it's wrong for me to become a pastor, because women should not take leadership positions and whatnot. People have mistranslated Romans 16:7 and hidden Junia for centuries, and I think some would still rather have "Junias" than Junia, because they don't want to let the Bible change their theology. But it's all right - because we don't need to be acknowledged by people in order to serve God.

Picture shows (from left to right): Andronicus, Athanasius (an important saint in the Orthodox Church), and Junia.