Lent Day 25 | John 12

Today’s reading: John 12

OpeningLord, I pray that you remove all distractions and allow us to focus on what you have to say to us. I pray that you point us to things in our lives that are relevant to John 12 as we read and meditate on it together.

ReflectionIn John 11, Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead – and in response to this, the Jewish high priests began plotting to kill Jesus. In John 12, Jesus prepares for and informs his disciples and other followers of his coming death. When Jesus first predicts his death, he tells his disciples, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels – a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who are nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me (v. 24-26).”

Jesus says that when a kernel of wheat dies, it produces a plentiful harvest of new lives. We often have to risk our security and status in order to allow other communities to have life. In the context of the greater Asian American Christian community, defending LGBTQ folx and calling out anti-blackness and complacency with white supremacy can leave us ostracized by our families, friends, and ethnic and faith communities. In the context of American society, simply standing up for our identities as Asian Americans and advocating for other people of color can put our jobs, our social standing, or even our lives at risk. In many ways, we have to die to our communities and to the world around us in order to fight for justice for ourselves and other marginalized groups. We have to die so that these communities can obtain their rights and live fully and freely.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about Dr. Eugene Gu, the Asian-American doctor who went viral for tweeting a picture of himself taking a knee against police brutality and white supremacy. The picture shows him in his scrubs and lab coat at his workplace, kneeling with his fist raised. His caption read, “I’m an Asian-American doctor and today I #TakeTheKnee to fight white supremacy.” After tweeting this, Dr. Gu began receiving death threats. A mother of one of his patients saw his post, wouldn’t allow Gu to care for her son, and complained to the hospital about his actions. After this, Gu was placed on administrative leave and is currently on probation. According to his recent tweets, he is trying to find a more inclusive workplace, but is struggling to find a hospital that will hire him because of his recent controversies.

The consequences of fighting for justice as Asian-Americans are real. None of us are immune to them – not even doctors with groundbreaking research findings and degrees from elite schools. The model minority status is a myth because it is taken away from us the moment we speak out against the system that gave it to us in the first place. For some Asian-Americans, buying into the model minority myth is a way of playing it safe, but Jesus says that heaven isn’t for people who play it safe.

ClosingGod’s Kingdom consists of people who are willing to lay down their lives for the sake of their brothers and sisters. The rewards this world has to offer are temporary, but giving up those rewards for the sake of empowering other communities has an everlasting impact.

Created by: Nikki Manderico
About the author: Hi! I’m a first-generation Filipinx-American born and raised in Durham, North Carolina. I’m currently studying Computer Science and Statistics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where I am involved in the Asian Students Association, Kasama, and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. You can probably catch me in some performing arts center crying at a musical theatre performance and buying a keychain at intermission to add to my ever growing collection.


Image by: Sheri Park
Sheri Park is an interdisciplinary visual artist, with a focus on video & performance. She completed her undergraduate degree from Union College in 2013, and her Certificate in Theology and Art from Fuller Seminary in 2015. When she’s not making art or at her graphic design job, she enjoys making breakfast, reading, and watching ducks by the lake with her husband in Fremont, California.

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REORIENT: home is where?
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Lent Day 24 | John 11:45-57

Today’s reading: John 11:45-57

OpeningJesus, even your enemies prophesied of your death, and that you would gather the scattered peoples of God into one. Yet, they were oblivious to your plans. Would you give us eyes to see the beautiful new things you’re doing?

ReflectionAs you read the passage, picture yourself standing in the council room. People are giving testimony that Jesus has just raised a man from the dead amidst cries of “that’s impossible” and proclamations of a Messiah. Caiaphas makes the bold declaration that it’s time to have Jesus killed, but not everyone shares that fervor. What kind of whispers echo through the room? What hopes and fears does the debate unearth in those present?

Imagine, later, being in the Jerusalem crowd during the cleansing. The Pharisees have called for Jesus’ capture. What fears do people around you have, whether they believe that Jesus is the Messiah or not?

A Landscape of Fear.
Everyone is afraid. Throughout Israel, Roman occupation has brought much hardship: Herod’s infanticide, strong handed taxation, and now, the consequences of a Messiah figure coming through the land and proclaiming the forgiveness of sin. The Jewish political and religious leaders fear what could happen “if everyone believes,” because the appearance of the Messiah means freedom from oppression. If their Roman occupiers hear word of a revolution, the Pharisees fear that they might “come and take away our temple and our nation.”

It’s easy to portray them as selfishly holding onto their own power, but more difficult to empathize with that fear. They only want what they think is best for their people by being mediators to the Roman occupiers and holding onto their particular understanding of Judaism however they can.  Out of a desire to protect their people from even harsher occupation, they only see one way out: to kill the source of all of this fear and unrest, Jesus himself.

A Spring of Hope.
Jesus, meanwhile, has disappeared from the public eye. In his retreat, the Jews, now gathered in Jerusalem for ceremonial cleansing, wonder about his actions and how he will respond to such a public threat on his life.

This isn’t the first time the Pharisees have challenged him. They’ve sent soldiers to arrest him, questioned his teachings openly, and even questioned the source of his powers. But now, the situation has escalated and their fear blinds them to the way people respond to Jesus’ message of healing and hope.

They miss out on the way that message spreads through the people, even as Jesus waits in hiding. It is a message of a new kind of freedom, not just from occupation, but of their burdens, infirmities, and sins. The Pharisees seek to protect their people from the suffering that comes with revolution, but Jesus brings a miraculous revolution that’s worth suffering for.

The Pharisees are afraid, and it’s hard to blame them. God is asking of them everything–risk their sense of identity and belonging, their ability to protect their people and their status. They say no because they’re afraid of what might happen–that the Romans will come and take everything away. But Jesus does not bring genocide and erasure. Jesus only heals, and uncovers, and makes whole. He does this in an unexpected way. He invites people into a transformative relationship that can challenge their personal and political identity–an identity that can change one’s understanding of God and orthodoxy or change one’s allegiance from nations and empires to the Kingdom of God.

ClosingWe walk with a fragmented set of identities and allegiances through fearful landscapes–ones filled with frustration, rejection, and violence. Yet, Jesus asks his believers to come to him for healing, uncovering, and wholeness.

In what ways do you see your identity being transformed and your allegiances being shifted as Jesus heals you? How can we be open to the newness that Jesus is bringing instead?

Created by: R.A.B.

Image by: Hisu Lee

Lent Day 23 | John 11:1-44

Today’s reading: John 11:1-44

ReflectionWe are in a peculiar state. We are already redeemed, but we are not yet living in a redeemed heaven and earth. This peculiar state is one of tension: we are uncomfortable in this world with its lies, injustice, hate, sickness, and death. Yet we also hope for a redemption that “wipes every tear” (Rev. 21:4). One way Christians have taken our future hope is solely to wait for the future, but that passive approach does not consider that we can also be active in the present while maintaining faith and hope.

Here are few of my musings on being active in the present.

1. Divine intervention

I believe that God intervenes. It is always surprising and unexpected. But it is not always as spectacular. The first miracle in John’s gospel is the water turning into wine, and the miracles gradually become more surprising. Jesus raising Lazarus is the penultimate miracle before the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection. I don’t think it is normative; most do not rise from the dead. However, I still believe that God works in the world but the world is replete with mystery.

I am reminded of my bold requests for Jesus to heal my wife from cancer. I am reminded by his silence and my perception of his absence. I hoped until the last day that he would come, and I even prayed, “I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask,” and I prayed that he would ask. I did not get to see a resurrection. I’m in the “already, but not yet.” The messiness, confusion, and grieving that death bring keeps me thinking, “If only you were here.”

2. Compassion

“Jesus wept.” (11:35).

Suffering is not a part of God’s intended order, and neither is healing a sign of a “proper” faith. In fact, God hates suffering. Jesus wept here for his friend. Sometimes we need to shut up and just sit and weep with those who hurt. There is no better way to understand grief than being present both within yourself and with those in mourning.

3. Request boldly

After Jesus hears about Lazarus’ illness, Jesus stays two days longer before heading towards Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Mary and Martha, while appreciative of Jesus’ eventual coming, were already mourning Lazarus’ death. Their love and faith in Jesus had not diminished: “if you had been here, my brother would not have died….” (11:21). We see in the story that the delay “is for God’s glory so that God’s Son is glorified through it.” (11:4,40). I find this lesson frustrating; we often do not get to witness the glory.

Even still, there is power in requesting boldly. The past few days I counted 17 times I requested something or someone requested something from me. Some were simple such as passing the salt or asking for a ride. Others required more effort, but most of the requests were fulfilled. Consider how you feel when you receive a request, even from a stranger. There is a pull to answer it, and depending on the relationship the pull is stronger. This is not to say that God answers all requests, or that God simply answers, “yes, no, or not yet”; there are too many variables. But we can ask boldly as Martha did, “I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (11:22). Although she did not understand what would happen (11:24), she was confident in whom she was requesting. Her request became an opportunity to participate with Jesus: to peek behind a stone of the miraculous and witness God’s plan. I have many unanswered requests, but I continue to pray that God will give us bread rather than a stone. (Matt. 7:9)

4. Mystery

One thing this season of my life has shown is that the Christian life is full of mystery. Easy answers often miss the full data of what God is like, what life is like, and the limited view of our perspectives. However, what has also happened is that some things have become clearer, like the utter importance of hope. The hope that comes with being active in our compassionate presence, the hope for divine intervention, and the hope of Jesus’ resurrection and the mystery it can bring to all.

Created by: Joe Lee
About the author: Born and raised in LA. Teach philosophy at a community college in Madison, WI.


Image by: Hannah Yoon
About the artist: Hannah Yoon is a freelance photographer/photojournalist based in Ontario. She focuses on issues revolving around race and identity.

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Lent Day 22 | Selah!

Today’s reading: Isaiah 41:18-20


Weeping into Praise
We were fallen from the very the start
And we will stumble til the end
We store up gold to fill our empty hearts
Our kingdoms rise to fall again

All our sin and all our suffering
Before your feet we lay
Let your glory fill the darkness and
Turn our weeping into praise

Verse 2
You call us close and yet we choose to run
And wonder how we fell so far
And still we call to you when troubles come
And still you hold us in your arms

All our sin and all our suffering
Before your feet we lay
Let your glory fill the darkness and
Turn our weeping into praise

Verse 3
One day all our bones return to dust
We all will take a final breath
we may weep for now but still we trust
that you, our king, have conquered death

All our sin and all our suffering
Before your feet we lay
Let your glory fill the darkness and
Turn our weeping into praise

Music by: Tim Ouyang

Lent Day 21 | John 10

Today’s reading: John 10

OpeningAllow us to see the familiar anew.
To approach your Word as if for the first time.
As we hold our past experience,
hold our current state,
hold our future paths,
That you might speak clearly into the wholeness of who we are across time
and to see what you’ve been doing in our lives anew.

ReflectionI have never enjoyed the notion that I was to aspire to become like a sheep. Even people in Jesus’s time thought he was crazy to suggest such a notion.

Quiet. Obedient. Harmless. Sheep give me the impression that they can be treated in every which way, but aren’t strong enough or bright enough to have a say about it, while at the mercy of stronger animals and a hopefully brighter shepherd. Sheep are powerless and this does not comfort me.

I’m reminded of how Asian Americans are considered the “sheep” of American society. The spirit animal of the model minority myth. Here in the U.S., Asian Americans have permission, not privilege, to access the benefits of white supremacy so long as it is convenient to those higher up in the racial pecking order.

Once, we were a yellow peril stealing jobs from white Americans after they had taken advantage of cheap Asian labor to replace slaves. Once, the Chinese were propaganda-painted as valued citizens because the U.S. was allied with China during World War II, while Japanese Americans were thrown into concentration camps despite government research proving they would not betray their home. Today, we are a model minority applauded for our assimilation, only to widen the gap between us and other people groups of color, obstructing efforts toward building solidarity. And I will not be surprised when public narrative turns on Korean Americans should North Korea and the U.S. ever go to war.

White supremacy too easily betrays its fictional and mercenary nature when it comes to Asian Americans, because throughout history, what our race means has swung back and forth so many times at power’s pleasure. In listening to white supremacy, we as sheep have become weaponized.

Perhaps we are listening to the wrong voice. The wrong shepherd.

Then there is Jesus, a Son of God who calls himself the Lamb of God. And in claiming that he is a lamb, Jesus did the most powerful act we could ever know: he gave his life for the restoration of everything. God’s known strategy is to wield incredible power through lambs – nobodies, outcasts, and a bastard son of a single mother from a nowhere town.

A lamb means something different to God and this changes things for me. The world names me as a sheep, but there is power in us to achieve greater things beyond ourselves.

And I have already seen glimpses of this power. In my parents privately laying down their lives for me and my brother, giving up their dreams that we might have a chance at our own. In Fred Korematsu risking his life and name by going up against the U.S. itself, as he protested the incarceration of his people. And I trust this power is in me. The lamb is victorious, but it’s a power that comes from death and sacrifice. I can only hope to cultivate courage for the small and big moments when powers collide and use the fodder of my life to fight back.

What opportunities are in store – to be quiet to God’s voice, obedient to the notion that we are all truly created equal and sacred, and far from harmless, wreak some havoc to realize heaven on earth. May the world never underestimate a lamb again.

ClosingHow are you uniquely positioned to challenge what the world thinks of a lamb – of you – and redefine that in your context?

Created by: Sarah Park
About the author: Sarah Park is a freelance writer based in the San Francisco area and an editor for Inheritance Magazine. Her work focuses on the cultivating cross-racial dialogue with a Christian faith orientation.

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Image by: Kyle Keali’i Apuna