Things I Re-Learned While in Asia (Part 3)
Lisa Allgood, Executive Presbyter
God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature so they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, and, yes, Earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.” God created human beings; He created them godlike, Reflecting God’s nature. He created them male and female…
– Genesis 1:26-28 (Message)
”Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is within you”.
– Luke 17:20-21
Well, perhaps two different parts of Asia this time, because Israel isn’t exactly Asia per se, although officially on the Asian continent… but there’s a Vietnamese connection, too.
During COVID I was on a zoom call with some mid-council colleagues, and one pastor – American by birth, Korean by heritage – had as his background a stunning set of stained glass windows; he was in a church in NY. When I commented on them, he replied “well, yeah, they’re beautiful, but that white Jesus…”
I asked him had he ever been to Nazareth. He replied no – so I told him of the mosaics and paintings in the Church of the Annunciation there, donated by a number of countries, each representing the Mother and Child in their native way. The first mosaic below is from Cameroon; the second from Japan.
We chatted as a group after that – yes, Jesus as a man was a dark-skinned Middle Eastern Jew. We all know that. He wasn’t even a “Christian”. But Jesus as God? Jesus as God is all of us. God is man and woman, white and Asian, black and indigenous, tattooed and not… Each culture sees that and honors that. For the Kingdom of God is within us. Not selected ones of us – all that God has created, which is everything and everyone. And that each culture represents that Jesus which is with them.
We chatted about how we will never look someone in the eye who does not have the spark of the Creator, and will always look someone in the eye to whom we must speak Gospel.
And so Samson, the pastor, shook his head and said – “I need to re-look at these windows.”
I was reminded of that conversation in Vietnam. The Phat Diem Cathedral near Hanoi not only has Vietnamese architecture, but paintings depicting the conversion of Vietnamese to Christianity after the French missionaries came in. Most impressive is a painting of the refusal of three martyrs to step over a cross and renounce their conversion. It’s powerful and stunning in so many ways, and reminded me that in Vietnam, God – is Vietnamese.
I’ve seen this is so many places as I’ve traveled. My favorite was the Cathedral Basilica in Cuzco, Peru – after conquering the Incans, tearing down their temples and repurposing (poorly) the stone to build the cathedral, in 1753 Marcos Zapata painted Jesus and the twelve apostles gathered around a table preparing for the Last Supper. On the table before Jesus is the Peruvian national dish – gui. Guinea Pig. It’s in the cathedral.
We carry the Kingdom within us. And the Kingdom is in everyone, for God tells us we are all made in the image of God. I love that Genesis also says that God made us to “reflect God’s nature” – some days, in some people as well as within myself, that’s hard to find. But friends, take heart. Look for that image in everyone, as you see them, as you honor them – for in doing so you honor God. And that realization might just soften us all to be more open to God’s Will for all His people.