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Resurrection and Social Work

Resurrection has been considered the cornerstone of Christian faith. Inexhaustible commentaries have been done about its relevance to our lives with particular emphasis on respective areas or angles.

Two years ago, while still in the process of resolving the ambivalence in my life’s experiences brought about by critical health condition partly because of my voluntary work, I poured out my thoughts and emotion on blogs to fight depression. In one of my blogs, I viewed resurrection through the eyes of volunteerism. I want to share the following article that was first published as Resurrection: A pay back? on PADAYON: Our Life Journey and Ezine Articles. I changed the title to Resurrection and Social Work in my belief that Social Work is more than a profession. It is a vocation which is akin to volunteerism.

Let me propose this angle in addition to the unlimited significance of the resurrection of Jesus. Viewing resurrection as a reward to the greatest volunteer the world ever had. A precedence that may inspire millions of nameless volunteers worldwide. No matter how unsolicited this inspirational piece appears to some, though. Others may dislike this proposal. Volunteers will even protest the title. But certainly majority will agree with the claim that Jesus is the greatest volunteer. So, let’s start from this commonality and settle the differences later in this article.

Biblical writers have various description of the voluntary act of Jesus. But I like the Pauline version in Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV): “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!”

The Gospel records instances when Jesus insists on undergoing the voluntary process despite the supposed favor from people who know him as the messiah. When John the Baptist appears reluctant to perform the baptism ritual, Jesus prevails on him: “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matthew 4:14-15)

Many times, Jesus rebukes his disciples in their actuations to seek redress to injustice and discrimination against his dignity. Unwelcome in his attempt to bridge the gap between warring cultures, he suffers discrimination in one Samaritan village. When James and John insinuate punishment to the humiliating experience, Jesus forbids them. (Luke 9:51-55). Jesus calmly tells Peter to hold peace, in the latter’s attempt to fight back against the savagery of his captors: “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53)

He washes his disciple’s feet at the height of leadership struggle position during the last supper. The lobbying of both John and James and their mother for position in the kingdom might have sparked the internal conflict. Hence, nobody appears willing to do the menial t ask which earlier they enjoy taking turns. Jesus volunteers.

Jesus consistently exemplifies the spirit of volunteerism in his lifestyle and teachings. He voluntarily follows all the requirements of the law, although in some instances, he deliberately skirt man -made unreasonable insertion and imposition to the requirements of God. He successfully passes the final challenge in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Those interested to join the National Volunteers Summit may visit this link

Those are interested to join the National Volunteers Summit may visit this link

Subsequently, the divine justice expedites the awarding ceremony for the greatest volunteer in the world. St. Paul beautifully uses this clincher to the narrative of Jesus voluntary act: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11)

I am not advocating pay back mentality. Jesus even issues a strange rebuke to the perpetrators and perpetuators of this kind of mentality in Luke 14:12- 14. “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Social Work students of Central Philippine University pose for posterity after the forum on volunteerism sponsored by the Department of Social and Iloilo Coalition of NGOs and POs (ICON). An umbrella network of volunteers and development advocates, ICON allocates a day for volunteerism endeavors in the week-long celebration of NGO- PO Week in Iloilo.

Certainly, volunteers do not expect rewards. The last parable in the Gospel of Matthew (25:31-46) confirms this with the scenario of great surprises. In the final end, during the awarding ceremony, as the chaff is separated from the grain, sheep and goat divided, the result is beyond expectation. But volunteers receive their awards.

True, volunteers do not expect awards. But who can question God’s divine justice to recompense the faithful? Is there something wrong in viewing resurrection as a payback for volunteerism?



How the Appreciative Inquiry works in our organization

Our experience can attest to the relevance of the Appreciative Inquiry. In the previous post I mentioned about the lecture of Bro. Andrew Escuban, area manager of the Share An Opportunity (SAO) at that time, to the board of trustees of the Convention Baptist Ministers Association (CBMA). We requested him to facilitate the initial stages in our Strategic Planning session after the lecture as we tried to internalize the concept, principles, process. Using the guide questions, we started the first activity of the 4-D cycle, i.e. Discover. We shared the best practices and positive experiences including what we valued most in the organization. Answers were written in meta cards, posted on the board and clustered later after discussion. It was an inspiring experience as there were no wrong answers.

Then, we proceeded to the next step – Dream for the association in coming three to five years. Similar process in stage one was done after each has done respective share. From the product of the first two stages, we were led to the next step. i.e. Design. Here, we spent some time in consolidating our answers into provocative statements. It was on this stage when we decided to end the session and scheduled another meeting to resume the process. This is another plus factor for the Appreciative Inquiry. It is flexible and not so taxing or burdensome. We enjoyed the process.

Having internalized the process, we took responsibility of the succeeding sessions and repeated the process in expanded group involving the committee members and chapter presidents. We also incorporated the inputs from consultations and informal talks with pastors. Until finally, we have presented the draft plan to the general assembly before the formulation of the final vision- mission statement and thrusts of the association. An in unconventional way, I formulated acronyms for an easy recall of the aforementioned areas.

For the first time in history or second time if records deceived us, we have set a direction for our organization. We know it is not the ideal but it is the best we ever have. Thereafter, we made breakthroughs as the members support become constant for they have shared ownership of the vision-mission and thrust as these represent their aspirations.

Approved during the May 2005 Assembly, the following vision-mission statement was affirmed during the 2008 General Assembly

Vision: An organization committed to God’s calling of fostering mutual relationship and Solidarity towards Holistic ministry, Abundant life and Responsible stewardship (SHARE).

Mission: Holistic Enhancement of the Life of Pastors (HELP) characterized by exemplary obedience to Mission, ever conscious of their Identity as servants of God, skillful in Networking and partnership for Integral and integrated Services among themselves and towards Total ministry with Enabling skills in Resource generation and other mobilization endeavors (MINISTER).

MINISTER also serves as the paradigm framework of the Association’s program thrusts, as follows: Ministerial identity; Institute, Networking, Integrated services, Spirituality, Team work, Entrepreneurship, Resource management.

Under the slogan SHARE, HELP, MINISTER, our association has soared to unprecedented heights. Summing up the vision-mission statement and paradigm thrusts, the slogan captured the ideas, needs, aspirations, of pastors. It has provided the direction of the association which broke the cyclic tradition and set the foundation for continuity.

Next post: How Appreciative Inquiry works in the Department of Social Work.

Ruptured Rapture Prediction

Article first published as Ruptured Rapture Prediction on Blogcritics.

No, I am not referring to the much-publicized prediction of engineer-turned-evangelist Harold Camping, which flopped last Saturday. Neither do I intend to rub salt in the wounded spirit of his followers who spent hard-earned resources for the cause. While some ridiculed them, I still have high regard for people who dared to give all for a cause. Fanatic, naive, misled, misguided, blinded, or whatever adjectives we wish to use to describe them, they have done their share for the love of the gospel. Who knows, perhaps there were hearts renewed, lives changed through their perceived naïveté or fanaticism. Even just seeds planted, or souls led to the doorstep of salvation which later will enter into the gates of heaven.

I can still recall the prelude to my conversion. How I responded to the altar call of an evangelist after he preached the gospel and warned us of the urgency of making the decision at that moment. Seconds later would be too late. It was motivated, as it is for some, by fear of the apocalypse and eschatological perils of the unsaved, factual or exaggerated. Regardless of the motivation, that was instrumental to the real conversion and transformation which follow after a long, painful process.

Yes, I am writing on a different subject, although not totally unrelated. A different ruptured rapture experience. Ironically, I refer to myself – the quenched excitement for my 57th birthday celebration. Having been under medication for a health condition for more than a year, I had high hopes of receiving my long-requested gift from God – full recovery for my birthday celebration on May 27.

Such expectation is not without basis. Conditions have been favorable for its realization. There is considerable progress no matter how slow. I have been faithful in taking my medication, except when resources were occasionally drained. Religiously I watch my diet, and perform my daily walking exercise and other health-related activities with few lapses. My inner self has been subdued to wait patiently for the Lord. Negative thoughts are controlled, other mental baggage and emotions unloaded, liberally forgiving even the seemingly unforgivable.

Like a student trying hard to maintain passing grades until graduation, I had been expecting to get the reward on my birthday. But two weeks before the expected day, the progress was reversed. Triggered by a negligible lapse, I almost returned to the start when my blood pressure shot up. The progress and hopes almost came to naught.

The expected rapture-like experience was ruptured. Hurt, I geared for an argument with God in the early morning of my birthday. However, flashbacks of past memories dominated my thoughts. The pictures of my mother’s story concerning the circumstances of my birth played before me, followed by my father’s image – then my brothers and our only sister, and soon my wife, kids, and significant people who have influenced my life – until my mind was flooded with beautiful memories of past events and people I have worked with in development work and pastoral ministry, my colleagues in social work, and even those people I hurt and those who have wronged me, sans the ill feelings.

Overwhelmed by the grace of God for making me survive any storm in life, I almost cried. Subdued, I could only say, “Thank you for everything. And sorry for my unbelief, for my doubt, for complaining, for failing to fully appreciate what you have done to me. At times, blaming you. How glad I would be to receive complete healing as a birthday gift. If not, however, I know you will give it to me in the fullness of time.”

After meditation and breakfast, I was inspired to draft this article. I alternately worked on it, responded to birthday greetings on social networks, and read news online. At times, I checked updates on Harold Camping’s followers’ reaction to their ruptured rapture prediction. There appears to be a similarity in our experience: the peril of confining God in our human timetable.

Jesus the Christ:Model of Spirituality and Volunteerism

Article first published as Jesus the Christ: Model of Spirituality and Volunteerism on Blogcritics.

Contrary to the popular belief, Jesus never introduced religion but a model of relationship. It is summed up in the greatest commandment: Love God and fellow human as one’s self.

This vertical and horizontal relationship is the essence of Lord’s Prayer. The first part pertains to relationship with divine while the last, with humanity. “Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven”. The use of plural words in the prayer – our, we, us– reveals the inclusiveness of Jesus in relationship.

Obviously, Jesus advocates spirituality, not religion. For religion promotes belief in various forms including rituals, dogmas, and creeds. Spirituality, on the other hand, espouses relationship of human person to something or someone who transcends themselves. This type of spirituality has twofold dimensions – personal and social or communal.

Similarly, Jesus has never skipped the voluntary process despite the supposed favor from people who know his real status. He prevails on John the Baptist when the latter appears reluctant to perform the required ritual. Jesus even rebukes disciples in their vindictive actuation against discriminatory treatments. Humiliated in an attempt to bridge the gap between warring cultures in one Samaritan village, he rules out retaliation as insinuated by James and John. He calmly tells Peter to hold peace, when fighting back against the savagery of his captors. Despite having in his disposal legions of angels to protect when needed.

Jesus washes the disciple’s feet at the height of leadership struggle during the last supper. The lobbying of both John and James and their mother for position in the kingdom might have sparked the internal conflict. Hence, nobody appears willing to do the menial task which earlier they enjoy taking turns. Jesus volunteers.

Jesus consistently exemplifies spirituality and volunteerism in his lifestyle and teachings, even in death. He voluntarily follows all the requirements of the law, although he deliberately skirts man -made unreasonable insertion and imposition to the requirements of God. He successfully passes the final challenge in the Garden of Gethsemane, on the way to the cross.

There, Jesus affirms his willingness to sacrifice, wrestling with his humanity vis-a-vis the divine mandate. As recorded in the gospel, the scene in the garden portrays the last struggle. Jesus pours out his innermost thoughts and feelings. Reviewing the justice requirements and redemption scheme, he attempts to argue for other alternatives apart from the cup of suffering and death

No wonder, the divine justice expedites resurrection as award for the greatest volunteer in the world. Had his professed adherents religiously follow suit, the world could have been a better place to live in.

The Unlimited Christ

The Christendom has capped its Lenten observance last Sunday with a bang- the Resurrection! But the perennial bias on Passion and Death is glaring. As it were, little emphasis is given to the resurrection which is supposedly the cornerstone of faith. The passion, and subsequent death of Jesus, has been misconstrued as the key to salvation and living. Apart from Christmas, it is the most celebrated event in Christianity. No wonder, days after the celebration believers appear to go back to Passion scenario in their living. The power of the resurrected Christ has not engulfed the lifestyle of many followers. Indeed, the vestiges of the colonial past with the embedment of the virtue of suffering in the psyche of the people.

It should be emphasized that the cross is only part of the womb- to- the- tomb painful experiences of Jesus. The passion and death is the culmination of all his sufferings. Hence, the old rugged cross is not the only thing we must cherish and exchange someday with a crown. Our salvation is not the product of the suffering of Jesus just on the cross. It is the totality of the life of Jesus, exemplifying the love of God for humanity, capped by the resurrection.

From conception, he has already foretaste the cruel world system. The intrigues his earthly family encounters due to the controversial pregnancy prior to marriage. At birth, he has been exposed to vulnerable condition of the poorest of the poor, being born in a manager. His childhood experience is colored with the uncertain life of refugees to escape the persecution. Likewise, he has to adjust to the internal struggle in family relationship, as well as the immediate social environment as he keeps up the ideal living, even going against the norms.

Prior to his public ministry, he has to undergo the process of immersion. Living in a depressed community, he has seen the hypocrisy of leaders in the socio-cultural, economic and political structures. Their wanton disregard of the avowed mission to serve the people as ordained by God. How corruption and abuse of power has encroached the ideal immunity of the religious establishment. How religion has been used for business and profit. Yes, he has witness how leaders enrich themselves at the expense of the people they are supposed to develop.

Jesus also knows the struggle of well meaning people in the government and other sectors including revolutionary forces in effecting change. Their two pronged vulnerabilities- stereotype from victims and antagonism from the mainstream perpetrators. Aware of their conviction, he includes some of them in the core of his disciples, mainly composed of representatives from the basic masses.

It is in this context that our observance of religious events or even public holiday should be done in the totality of the life of the honoree. It’s unfortunate that Christians have become selective in remembering the life of Jesus. The other aspects of Jesus life are seemingly neglected, especially his manhood. Some sociologists and theologians view this as manifestation of cultural distortion or vested interests. We love to think of the baby Jesus and Crucified Christ. Their images evoke compassion. More importantly, less threatening as they reflect innocence and helplessness. But we are uncomfortable of the adult Jesus who confronts everyone without fear or favor, even turning the tables of those who make business out of religion. It seems, we want to evade the Jesus who challenges us to follow his example in service.

As one clergy observes, almost all church members can easily recite John 3:16. Indeed, it is comforting to know that God loves us so much to the extent of giving His only Son for us. But many do not know what is 1 John 3:16. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

Many Christians limit themselves to be mere recipients of the love of God. No wonder they fail to experience the power of the Resurrected Christ. The unlimited power which sustains the faithful followers who dare to follow his model of service at all costs.

Development vis-vis- the Lord’s Prayer

I have learned from the study of Social Work the three development objectives, namely: (1) increase the availability and widen the distribution  of basic life sustaining goods such as food, shelter, health, and protection; (2) raise  levels of living including, in addition to higher incomes, the provision of  more jobs, better education,  and greater attention to cultural and humanistic values, all of which will serve, not only to enhance material well-being but also to generate greater individual and national self-esteem; (3) expand the range of economic  and social choice to individuals and nations by freeing them from  servitude and dependence, not only in  relation to other people and nation-states but also to the forces of ignorance and human misery.

The  three core values of development by Michael Todaro have enriched my understanding of development. Foremost, is  Life Sustenance. It is the ability to provide basic necessities. A basic function of all economic activity, therefore,  is to provide as many people as possible with the means of overcoming the helplessness and misery arising from lack of food,  shelter, health, and protection.

Self Esteem is next, which connotes being a person with a sense of self-worth and self-respect, of not being used by others for their own needs.  All people and societies seek some basic form of self-esteem. Call it by other name, authenticity, identity, dignity, respect, honor or  recognition, the essence is still the same. Its nature and form  may vary from society, and from one culture to another.

The last is Freedom from Servitude. It means the ability to choose.  This refers to the fundamental sense of freedom or emancipation from alienating conditions  of life. It covers  freedom from the societal servitude of men to nature, ignorance, other men, misery, institutions, and dogmatic beliefs.  Freedom also involves the expanded  range of choices and their members together with the  minimization of external constraint in the pursuit of some of social goals, which we  call ‘development’.

I have always associated these  core values with the  Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:7-13, as referred to traditionally. Although, in the biblical  context, the real Lord’s Prayer is found in John 17.  What was recorded in the gospel of Matthew is a standard prayer. A model prayer, which if analyzed in the context of our discussion, a prayer for development.

There are two parts of this prayer which  summarize  the commandments and reflective of the model of relationship. The First Part pertains to our Relationship with God:

Our Father, who art   in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

The second part is model of relationship  with humanity which comprises the  three core values of development.

Give us this day our daily bread connotes the first core value, i.e. life sustenance.

Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Whether it is a literal debt or sin as some suggest, the implication here is self-esteem. Because a person who commits sin or is burdened by debts, loses some kind of self-esteem.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil is akin to  freedom from servitude.

The spirit of EDSA lives on! (last of the series)

Its cathartic power continues to provide relief and refreshes hope. The over arching and encompassing spirit cannot and will never be domesticated. Its mystery remains unspoiled, not completely unfold. Mystery remains unspoiled, not completely unfold.

Twenty five years after, the mystery of EDSA has not been fully unfold. Analysts from various socio-political persuasions attempted to explain the event. Some had to come up with new concepts as EDSA Revolution departed from any of the standard categories. While new testimonies from living participants came out every year, they just shed light to understand the pattern of events and contributing factors. But the mystery still remains. EDSA bloodless Revolution defied logic..

For how can one explains this phenomenon: “When guns and tanks of a dictator melted before the flowers held out by priests and nuns, by millionaires’ sons and squatters’ daughters, by ordinary men and women and by young and old alike; when… a new day was ushered in by ordinary Filipino common tao who rose to heroic heights that won the admiration of the whole world…” The quoted description was that of Jorge Lorredo, Jr. in his article “Four Days that changed History” published in Bulletin Today exactly 25 years ago, as cited by Douglas J. Elwood in his book, Philippine Revolution 1986.

Incidentally, I saw the book few days ago while cleaning my shelve. It was given as graduation gift from the College of Theology, Central Philippine University in March 1990. I was supposed to graduate in 1984 but decide to stop schooling to work fulltime in people’s struggle. Visit my other blog.

“The hand of God was there…” was the explanation of the late Dr. Quintin Doromal, former PCCG commissioner & president of Siliman University. Quoted by his friend Douglas Elwood in the book, Doromal, an Ilonggo leader, was a witness to the event, having joined his old friend Fidel Ramos at Camp Crame and stayed there with him throughout those critical anxious hours. Indeed, God acts through people, as surely as he speaks through people, and that he uses the sometimes complex interconnection of human forces to serve his larger purposes…