Sunday, March 6, 2011

             On Februrary 27th Sunday, Dr. Anna Ma Say Pa, ex Principal of Myanma Institute of Theology came to give a message at Philadelphia Burmese Baptist Church and Rev. Florence Li of American Baptist Home Mission Sociaties of ABC USA gave a DVD presentation on America For Christ "Mission Moment" and conducted Holy Communion at the end of the service.
             Below is the full text of the message given by Dr. Anna Ma Say Pa ;


Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed. “Genesis 12:1-3

All of us adults here had to get on a plane to get to where we are now. When we got to the airport we had to find our destination and plane that would take us to our destination. None of us set out from our place of origin not knowing where we would be going. If someone had said to us, “Pack your bags and just get up and go,” we’d say “Wait a minute, where is it I am supposed to go?” But this man Abraham and his
wife Sarah, never said a word when Go said, “Go …. Leave.” They just got up and went.

This was God’s call this was God’s commission. This call and commission was based on God’s promise, “I will make you a great nation. I will make you a great name. I will make you a blessing to the nations.”


When you left your country you left behind many things. Thramu Emerald just before she left said, “Aunty. Here are some song books for the students and this is the MIT blue school longyi for you to wear.” Abraham left behind his gods, his country, his home and his family. Before you can make a new beginning you have to leave things, ideas, ways of doing things behind. Burmese people are happy go lucky people and it is said of Karens “Pwa kanyaw aw mee aw mee.” We have to leave this complacency, this acceptance of things as they are, to our karma, luck. Another thing we need to leave is our narrow nationalism, “My race, my people alone.” Our eyes must widen, our hearts open and our arms encompass other people. That brings us to the second point.


Abraham and Sarah carried many things from home with them. One of which was the practice of hospitality, the openness to embrace the stranger and the neighbor. On a very hot day Abraham sat at the entrance of his tent. He sees three strangers. We notice the actions of Abraham – he runs, bows to the ground, he says that if he has found favor that they should drink a little water, wash their feet, rest awhile, let bread be brought. When the three strangers agrees he hastens into the tent and tells Sarah to make cakes quickly He runs to the herd and takes a calf, tender and good and gave it to a servant to prepare it. Then he set a bountiful meal in front of his guests.

This is a true picture of true Asian hospitality. Once, I followed Thra Ah Bay of Kalaw church to a Palaung village. It was a long way up and down mountains. We finally reached the village. Most of the people were working in the tea plantations. We were really hungry and thirsty. We saw a small hut and were resting when the husband and wife came back. Immediately they boiled hot water and gave us refreshing cups of tea. They then roasted taro. That taro was the most delicious I have ever eaten.

This welcome and openness of home and heart to all people is something Abraham brought from home. We do not exclude but we embrace people who are not like us, people with whom we do not get along, people of different colors, religions, ideologies, classes.

Abraham himself was a stranger in a strange land. Although God brought him to Canaan the only plot of land was the cave of Machpelah where he buried Sarah. Yet even as a stranger or because he was a stranger Abraham was welcoming and open to the stranger.

In the olden days those who came to America from Europe by boat saw the Statue of Liberty that welcomed them. However, the African Americans were brought to America as slaves. You must know the story of black slavery to understand the meaning of embrace and exclusion. Blacks were totally outside of society. Segregation divided black from white. Fifty years ago blacks could not go to white schools or worship in white churches or if they did worship had to sit in the balcony. Thirty years ago when I was studying in Princeton, when our group of doctoral students wanted to go to a restaurant in the white part of Trenton we could not go because one of us was Black.

There is still discrimination and prejudice in America. We ourselves must break down these walls that divide us. As we have been welcomed and experienced hospitality we also must welcome and share hospitality. This brings us to our third and last point. How can we be mediators of blessing to our families, communities in which we live? Once again let us turn to Abraham.


After the heavy meal, the three men set off for Sodom. Then the story takes a strange turn. One of the strangers is God and God thinks “As Abraham is my chosen, shall I not tell him what I will do to Sodom and Gomorrah?” So God reveals to Abraham that they are on the way to judge Sodom and Gomorrah. Then Abraham begins to ask God to reconsider, “If there are 50 righteous men will you not will you destroy,?” Abraham is able to get God to promise not to destroy the two cities if there are 10 righteous men. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah are sinful, they are Canaanites apart from Lot and his family, they worship El, Baal and Astarte. Yet Abraham is full of love and concern for these people. He begs for their lives.

The churches are existing to proclaim God’s good news of love and mercy. The churches are mediators of God’s blessings to the people in the community. You might think “WE are only a small church. What can we do? It is enough that we minister to each other.” But it was when Israel was in exile in Bab ylon that God put God’s spirit on them and said “I have called you my servant to be alight to the nations and to bring justice and peace.” It is the servant people that will be the bearers of good news, the mediators of God’s blessing to the nations.

When I was a young girl I went to a youth camp in Maymyo. One morning we had to go for an excursion and had to go by truck. The driver helped us get on the bus and after he helped me up he said, “This is a Karen girl. I know by the Karen feet.” Karens are a mountain climbing people. We have mountain climbing legs. The Bible says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of peace,” (Isaiah 54:1). Karen missionaries went to Chin, Kachin, Lahu and others to tell about God’s love. They had beautiful feet.

One evening in my last year at High School I went to a friend’s party. I met a young boy there and I invited him to come to my church, Immanuel Baptist Church. Peter Cooper became involved with the youth activities through the youth pastor, David Young, and the pastor, Rev. Russell Brown. He became a Christian, pastor at Union Baptist Church in Taunggyi, Alhambra Baptist Church in Los Angeles and later lecturer at Nawng Nan Kachin Theological Seminary. It started with one invitation. That is what you can do. Tell others about Jesus. Live a life that tells other how joyful it is to know Jesus.

Jesus tells us of the Banquet where all are invited. As we come to the Lord’s Supper we are reminded that this is the Lord’s table, that there are others who are to be welcomed here. As mediators of God blessings to all people let’s start by saying to friends and neighbors, “Leave, come and know Jesus.”

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