July 6, 2009

No East or West?

            Over the next three weeks faculty members and students will be traveling to Hong Kong, Thailand, and Myanmar. Other faculty colleagues have recently been in the Philippines and Israel, which means that our concern for global Christianity is being embodied over the course of the summer. We are grateful for this opportunity to stretch the arms of Central Seminary in order to embrace the world. We believe it will be transformative as we seek to learn the ways of Christ that are practiced in different contexts.

            In our worship we intone the hymn “In Christ There is No East or West”—and this is true, to a certain extent. When we circumnavigate the globe, we know that West blends into East, and East lights the way West. Only arbitrary demarcations like the “international date line,” which falls roughly down the middle of the Pacific Ocean, distinguish geographical boundaries. More important, we know that in Christ, we find unity of faith and hope and love; “all Christly souls are one in him.” This does not mean, however, that we cease to reflect the beauty of being eastern or western in identity and orientation, nor that our cultural perspectives are not integral when we are made new in Christ. We remain Thai; we remain Chinese; we remain American; yet we are transformed into living icons of Christ.

            This coming Sunday I will preach at the Maitrichit Chinese Baptist Church in Bangkok, a large Swatow congregation with far reaching ministries. The name of the church means literally “united hearts”—which is a good description of the purpose of our journey. We want to unite our hearts with sisters and brothers from Southeast Asia and learn from them how to be faithful amidst competing religious claims. We want to learn how they have experienced the power of Christ’s resurrection in bringing new life in their context. We want to unite our hearts with theirs as we explore how God’s Spirit is moving throughout the world, summoning persons to faith in Jesus.

            We will have the privilege of celebrating the doctoral achievement of Thawesak Mahachavaroj, a distinguished Christian businessman, while there. He is both a leader in the Maitrichit Church and the Church of Christ in Thailand, the major national church organization in Thailand. Further, he is a respected lay preacher in Thai and Chinese churches--and around the world. East and West will meet in worship, at meals, and in rich conversations. We will be one as the Spirit functions as the “ground of meeting” where we recognize our kinship as God’s beloved.

            Molly T. Marshall

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