When Bishop Dave invited/challenged me to not rely too heavily upon verbal reflection during my sabbatical (because it is something with which I am well versed) but to engage the rhythms of the experiences with all my senses, that sounded like a healthy challenge. As it turned out, leaving the words behind has hardly been a challenge at all. So often, I was not able to find any words for the flood of images that filled my senses. For example, on Friday, March 31st, when I went to visit a prominent Taoist temple in Hualien, Taiwan during the week I was on my own there, I expected I might find a number of people praying towards statues of various gods. I had already seen this in other temples. But as I turned the last corner to approach the entrance of this temple, I was immediately confronted with fireworks right there on the street, as if they had waited for my arrival to start the some major event! When the bright flashes, loud explosions and thick smoke subsided, I heard the drums and saw the procession of people carrying ritual objects I did not recognize. They wore costumes suggesting they were dragons or gods.
“What in the world is this?! What on earth is going on here?! What does it mean?” I finally thought I was beginning to understand a bit about Taiwanese folk religion and what people were doing in the temples. Now, once again, I had no answers, no words of explanation, only wonderings, confusion, and noticings. Of course, as I was standing on the side of the street watching (and then recording the brief video above), I almost got hit by one car and then two motorcycles (yet again) because I still didn’t understand the unwritten rules and rhythms of traffic patterns there. Such unexpected encounters were a daily occurrence during my travels. I know many of you who have traveled to cultures different from your own will be able to relate to this.
During my final week of sabbatical this past week, I had the opportunity to go on a retreat for some quiet reflection to slow down and begin to let it all sink in. For most of that retreat time I had no cell phone access and no internet. I had the gift of time to begin to sit with and unpack all that I am so grateful to have been able to experience in these past three months of sabbatical and week of vacation. I had already begun to prayerfully look ahead to the lectionary Bible passages on those Sundays when I will be preaching from now through the end of August (May 15 & 29, June 12, July 10 & 31, August 14 & 21). As I looked at those texts, I could quickly identify one (if not three or five) possible stories from my sabbatical travels that could play a helpful role in each of those sermons.
With the gift of time, the words are slowly returning. Finding words for some of those experiences in those sermons should be a way to hold myself accountable to continuing to both integrate and share more of what I experienced in those weeks. I am hopeful that this and some other presentations and drum circles I will offer might offer the St. Andrew Lutheran, Portland Taiwan Lutheran and EcoFaith Recovery communities the opportunity to not only learn how the sabbatical affected me but to garner any wisdom the people and places I encountered might have to offer to us here in Portland and Beaverton. If you can’t be present for those sermons or presentations, you can trust I will post the reflections from each of those offerings here on this blog. I look forward to sharing more about the witness of indigenous peoples I was blessed to meet (including the Tao people of Orchid Island, Bunnun and Siraya people of Taiwan and the Hani rice terrace farmers of Yunnan China), the witness of the prophetic Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, my traveling companions, the many languages of Taiwan, welcoming the foreigner (me), and probably some embarrassing moments along the way, while still leaving space for whatever specific Gospel message may arise in response to the events of that particular week.
My first opportunity will be on Sunday, May 15th when the St. Andrew Lutheran, Beaverton and Portland Taiwan Lutheran congregations will share a single joint worship service at 10:00 a.m. A healthy draft of that sermon came to me during the retreat, and the illustrations that day will focus more heavily upon what I learned about Pentecost as a result of visiting Taiwan with members of the Portland Taiwan Lutheran Church.
One of the things that
I simply have not had enough opportunity to write about is the incredible experience of traveling in Taiwan for a week with Pastor Joe Chang and his brother. Pastor Joe serves as the pastor of the Portland Taiwan Lutheran Church. This trip to Taiwan never would have taken place were it not for him. In advance of the Pentecost celebration, here are a few of my favorite photos of the time Janet and I spent with Pastor Joe, his brother, and some of his dear friends. We shall see how many of these photos, among others, I am able to work into the slide show to accompany the sermon for May 15th!
+ + +
I would be delighted to receive your response to this blog or anything else you are learning related to the theme of “Returning to the Rhythms of God” at RhythmsOfGod@gmail.com. I will begin reading a couple of those emails per day beginning May 10, 2016 as part of my daily devotion time as I begin integrating what you and I have learned into my daily ministry with St. Andrew Lutheran Church and EcoFaith Recovery. In the meantime, if you are also willing to share your reflections with the larger St. Andrew or EcoFaith communities, please copy
SabbaticalTeam@gmail.com and/or Office@ecofaithrecovery.org on your emails to me. To subscribe to receive the next blog post delivered to your email box, simply enter your email address into the box near the upper right corner of this website page. Thanks for your prayers, love, and support!