A Travellerspoint blog





HYMN: Come down, O love divine

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us pray.
O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light rises up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what you would have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in your light we may see light, and in your straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Almighty God, we entrust all who are dear to us to your never-failing care and love, for this life and the life to come, knowing that you art doing for them better things than we can desire or pray for; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O God, whose glory fills the whole creation, and whose presence we find wherever we go: Preserve those who travel; surround them with your loving care; protect them from every danger; and bring them in safety to their journey's end; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Psalm 16:5-11

O LORD, you are my portion and my cup;
it is you who uphold my lot.
My boundaries enclose a pleasant land;
indeed, I have a goodly heritage.
I will bless the LORD who gives me counsel;
my heart teaches me, night after night.
I have set the LORD always before me;
because he is at my right hand I shall not fall.
My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices;
my body also shall rest in hope.
For you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor let your holy one see the Pit.
You will show me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy, and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore

The Holy Gospel

A Reading from the Gospel of John

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above.” The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? ‘Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you* do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (3:1-17)

A Reflection The Reverend William J. Eakins

John 3:16. Have you seen this Biblical citation printed on billboard and bumper stickers? Or in tiny letters under Tim Tebow’s eyes? John 3:16 has been printed on refrigerator magnets and notepaper and lapel pins. We have heard it again this morning: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.”

I understand the desire to simplify religion. We human beings want to know God, but we are presented with theology which is often incomprehensible to us and peppered with words like ‘redemption’ which aren’t easily defined, and our Scriptures are filled with stories that are often ambiguous or confusing. So we try to sum it all up in neat packages like John 3:16. However, that familiar verse is but the capsulized version of a deep and rich record of salvation history that can’t be summarized in one Bible verse because God’s great love story can’t be shrunk down small enough to fit.

The incident in this morning’s Gospel is actually Jesus’ attempt to tell a man named Nicodemus that same truth: that the life of faith cannot be reduced to an instruction manual with easy to follow directions. Nicodemus is a Pharisee, a religious scholar who says, in effect, “My people are impressed by your signs, Jesus, and we want to know more. You heal the sick and cast out demons and inspire faith, but look at you – your feet are dusty, you have no place to lay your head, no office, no school, no scribes to record your teachings. What’s going on here?”

And Jesus answers Nicodemus and says that these signs are only signposts and that Nicodemus – and you and I – will never see beyond the signposts, will never see the Kingdom of heaven unless we are born again.

“How can this be, Lord?” “How can anyone be born again?” Nicodemus asks, and Jesus takes him on. “You, a teacher of Israel, do not understand this? Come on, Nicodemus, you know what I am talking about.” and despite Nicodemus’s fussing over the physiology of it all, I think he did know what Jesus meant, because we all know that rebirth means radical, fundamental change. and we all know that rebirth is what we need and rebirth is what this world needs because God’s Kingdom seems pretty far away from a world at war, a world of division, a world of need and needy hearts.

Nicodemus, like all of us, knew the cost of change and the pain of starting over again. When Nicodemus asks, “How can anyone be born again,” he is uttering the heart cry of humanity. We want to change; we want to be different. and we don’t know how. Jesus says we don’t have to know how. We don’t have to do anything but know that we want to change, that we need God’s help to change – and God will do the rest. Jesus continued: “I am speaking of a spiritual birth, Nicodemus. All you have to do is get yourself in the way of the Spirit. Like the wind, the Spirit may caress you or blow you away; you may be cooled or heated, bent to the ground or blown off your feet.” You need to let it happen and see where the Spirit leads you.”

Like modern fundamentalists, Nicodemus was looking for a simple answer and a short one. What Jesus gave him was short but not all that simple. He said that we must be born again and again and again and again. We must be born from above in each situation, in each relationship, before each issue. Even disciples must become disciples again and again. Faith is alive; it grows and regresses; it is never static. We are born again each time we let the wind of the Spirit blow us open.

God’s wind blows where it will. We can hide from it or be changed by it, but change is risky. I know a young woman who is taking that risk. Haunted by the dark secrets of her past, she is bringing them into the light and challenging their power over her. I know a young man who was a medical student but was more interested in saving minds than bodies, so he left his studies and disappointed his father and is now directing a program for inner city youth, happier than he has ever been before. I know an alcoholic woman well on in years who was blown over by the wind of the Spirit to seek sobriety.

And on today, St. Patrick’s Day, we remember a young boy captured by Isiah marauders and brought as a slave to Ireland. After some years he managed to escape back to Britain but later in life, Patrick felt God’s Spirit urging him to return across the sea to preach the gospel to his former captors. The result was the conversion of Ireland. And we have just left Vietnam, a country whose people have decided to look forward and not backward, to put their talent and energy into growth and not into retaliation for the wars that have devastated them. Finally, Friday’s murderous attacks on Muslim worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand, reminds us of the evil that can infect our minds and our hearts when they are not open to God’s spirit of peace and love.

Not all of us are called to leave what we are doing and make a radical change, but we are called. Jesus calls each of us from our darkness to feel the holy wind on our faces and be washed with living water. and you know what – the Silver Whisper is not a bad place to do just that, to take the time to look at where we are and where we want to go, to make an inward journey while we are on this outward journey, to be ready to give up old assumptions and prejudices, and to trust in Jesus’ promise that he was sent so that we might not perish but have eternal life.

The Prayers

Gracious God you sent your Son to live among us so that we might have abundant life in him and see that things which were cast down are being raised up and things which had grown old are being made new. Give us faith that our prayers do not go unheard.

We pray for the nations of the world for we are one family sharing one planet. Give us compassionate hearts; make us good stewards of the earth; bless our leaders with wisdom to work together for all people.
Lord of love, hear our prayer.

We pray for the sick and the sorrowing, for the unemployed and the underemployed, for the fearful and the imprisoned. Heal and sustain them with your presence and open our hearts to serve their needs. Lord of love, hear our prayer.

We pray for those who mourn and those who have died, remembering the victims of the Ethiopian plane crash.
Lord of love, hear our prayer.

Loving God, we pray for all who have been killed and wounded by acts of violence. We entrust to your loving care the Muslim communities in New Zealand and throughout your world. Protect them from despair, from discrimination, and from a desire for revenge. Guard and guide the police and intelligence services and governments with wisdom and means to keep our world safe. Lord of love, hear our prayer.

To our prayers we add our thanks for the joys that abound, for the privilege of travel, for the birth of children and grandchildren, for new birth in each of our lives. Lord of love, hear our prayer.

Summing up all our petitions and all our thanksgivings, we pray in the words Jesus taught us:

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name
Thy Kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil
For thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

The Blessing

Life is short and we have little time to gladden the hearts of those who travel the way with us. So, be swift to love and make haste to be kind….and may the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you now and always. Amen.

HYMN: Lord, dismiss us with thy blessing

Officiants: The Reverend Hope H. Eakins, The Reverend William J. Eakins
Music: Alex Manev
Altar Guild: Jane Kline, Directress, Jill Ingram
Usher: Doug Kline

Expected time of next service: Sunday, March 24 at 9:15 am

Posted by HopeEakins 20:30 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)


A street food experience

85 °F
View Bill and Hope 2019 on HopeEakins's travel map.

Part of the commotion on Saigon’s streets is due to the numerous food vendors and cooks that line the pavements. In corners, next to lamp poles, in shelters made of parked bikes, people squat or sit on little stools and cook mammoth pots of soup and noodles and rice. They cook over fires made in hollow logs and tin cans – or with electricity through wires plugged into utility poles. Vietnamese legs seem significantly more flexible than American ones. Not only the cooks but their customers bend and crouch effortlessly and seem to occupy much less space than one would think.

We left early this morning to walk through areas filled with neighborhood cooks and customers having breakfast at their “spots.” We walked through food markets filled with vendors scaling fish and chopping pig’s tails and sorting lotus seeds. One woman was an artist at preparing pineapple. Our guide spoke proudly of the Vietnamese culture and cuisine and how nothing is considered inedible. They eat insects and rats, snake and dog, ears and feet. Pig placenta (bottom of first photo below) is a particular - and expensive - delicacy. The cuisine strives to balance yin and yang (we’re a little confused about what is hot and what is cool), and a medicinal value is attributed to most foods. We were party to an English conversation between a Japanese guest and a Vietnamese tour guide about which plant leaves make you poo-poo and which make you pee-pee. She purchased a large bag of the former.

Lunch was at Ngon, an elegant restaurant that houses many “upscale” street vendors under one stunning roof. We loved sitting down at a table in a beautiful space. Before serving the bountiful meal, the waiter asked if any of us were vegetarians – a surprising number of heads nodded yes!!

Posted by HopeEakins 20:23 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Good Evening, Saigon

A taste of the town

sunny 98 °F
View Bill and Hope 2019 on HopeEakins's travel map.

During WWII, the Majestic Hotel was the headquarters of the Japanese Imperial Army. During the Vietnam War (here called the American War), the Majestic was a center for foreign correspondents and espionage agents. Tonight, we found it a magnificent place for drinks and a traditional music and dance show. As the lights twinkled below us and the heat rose, we sat in refreshing breezes, watched young women interpret the Dance of Spring and heard ancient native instruments keep the rhythm. Shown below are a bamboo xylophone (can't get this video to upload - sorry) and another percussion device that consists of stones that puff up a lot of dust when they are struck with hammers. Yes, those items that look like green baguettes are actually flat stones bathed in green light.

Next to the Mandarine restaurant where we heard a string trio dressed in black tie play a classical repertoire! The Vietnamese menu (see below) was modified for Westerners, so the sauces were more bean-based than fish-based, and it was both beautiful and delicious. The Vietnamese are real foodies and they love to share meals.

Posted by HopeEakins 05:31 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Ho Chi Minh City

Looking forward not back

90 °F
View Bill and Hope 2019 on HopeEakins's travel map.

We sailed up the Saigon River as the sun rose, docking in the center of the city. What an incredible place this is. Interesting tall buildings are under construction, signs of growth and creativity but thanks to an Aeronautics Board height restriction, the skyline is not crowded,. Gracious plazas and parks surround the beautiful Opera House and City Hall (behind Ho Chi Minh in the photo of Hope below), and the mammoth subway construction project is moving apace in the center of main arteries, but without much traffic interruption. Actually, nothing could disrupt the traffic in this place! Waves of motor scooters just keep moving, as there are few traffic lights. The bikes move in phalanxes because the roads are very wide. Everyone wears a helmet and almost everyone wears a mask. [In China and Japan, people wear disposable white masks; here they wear colored or patterned fabric masks.] We were counseled to wait until there was a break in the traffic (hah! – never found one of those) and then step out smartly and cross six or eight lanes, never wavering, never changing pace. The drivers would avoid us, they said, if the drivers could predict where we would be. On our first practice run, an elderly Vietnamese man grabbed us and pulled us out of harm’s way and then escorted us through the maze and around the corners, never letting go of our hands until we were on the sidewalk again.

Because the bridge of Bill’s eyeglasses had broken, we went off to a mall filled with high-end shops. There, OwnDay Opticians examined the sunglasses, extra glasses, and the broken glasses we brought, and said they could switch the lenses around and put the new prescription lenses into an old frame ... and they did it in a few minutes and didn’t charge us. We like these people a LOT. Then an excellent mani-pedi (this is, after all, the center of nail spa-dom) and a shopping spree at Ben Tanh Market where we found the coffee beans chosen by civets (see Bali blog) and acquired some to bring home to those of you who asked for it. Our coffee salesman is posed in front of the stuffed civet below.

Finally, we had a late lunch on the rooftop of the Rex Hotel, noted for being the place where the US Military Command held their daily conference. Now 44 years after the “American War” as they call it, the Vietnamese look hopefully forward, welcoming US visitors without anger or resentment. Gosh, we know places where they hold grudges for generations.

Note: the temp has risen 60 degrees (from the 40's to the 90's) in the last week of our travels! Our coats (and Hope's long underwear) are in the back of the closet. We are wearing shorts not coats.


Posted by HopeEakins 04:01 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

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