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Taken from UnitingWorld and the UCA Assembly’s staff worship on Tuesday 16 Feb

By Rev Dr Ji Zhang, UnitingWorld’s Manager, Church Partnership –Asia

 Luke 13:31-35

At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

The passage above is located in the passion narrative of Jesus in Luke’s gospel. In the early passage, we read the story of the Fig Tree. It is the story about a tree no longer bearing fruit. It needs to be cut down, but the farmer wants to give it another year, another chance to revive it back to life. This story symbolises the judgment of God.

Then in Luke 13:11-13 we read another story, the healing of the crippled woman. After 18 years of suffering, she has finally gained strength to stand up and walk.  Confidence returns to her too.

When we read the stories together, we begin to see a pattern. On the one hand, it is the external journey of Jesus confronting authority – even the King. On the other hand, it is his internal journey in which Jesus becomes increasingly obedient to God’s calling – leading him to his journey to the Cross.

Our reading today begins with a warning from the Pharisees. “Herod wants to kill you”. Herod is the King, and his desire to kill Jesus was disclosed at the time of Jesus’ birth. He wants to kill Jesus, and his will is based not on any real threat, but his inert fear.

Jesus replied to the Pharisees: “Tell that fox, I am casting out demons and performing cures today, and tomorrow, and on the third day I will finish my work”. This saying about his three-day work points to the future of his passion: death and resurrection in three days. The work that Jesus wants to do is more than healing of the sick; he wants to cast out demons in that culture, perform cures in that kingdom of fear governed by Herod.

When I read this passage, three words kept emerging in my mind: “Let Them Stay”. In the last few weeks, churches in Australia have begun to evoke an ancient tradition called Sanctuary. “Let Them Stay” is about letting love surround people who are living in fear.

In the second week of Lent, the biblical teaching shows us a paradox. On the one hand, the external journey unfolds a discourse in which Jesus confronts the authorities and speaks of the kingdom of God arriving. On the other hand, his internal journey goes deeper and deeper into the realm of obedience. In the public discourse of “Let Them Stay” we see this paradox. The external confrontation is against the fear of refugees in Australia by offering the church as a place of protection and home. Internally we as Christians also weigh the risk of such action with our discipleship, and follow the commandment to love our neighbours.

In 1989, I came to Australia with one suitcase, U$110 in my pocket, and a half year visa in my passport. It took me 6 years to convince the immigration department to recognise me, and a whole group of us, as refugees. I understand what it is to be in need and how difficult is to live in fear and uncertainty. The cost for me was high – I did not see my family for 11 years.

My own experience in Australia tells me that there was a pair of invisible hands trying to push me away. “When will you go home?” people in factories and my church and the university asked me. Those pushing hands, even though invisible, centrainly felt, pushing me away.

How different were these moments compared with my experience in America? In my first month in Boston, the Dean of Students came to ask me: “Do you want to stay?”

In 2008, I visited Port Arthur in Tasmania. Even in such a beautiful place, I felt so wrong. The pristine beauty had been used to lock people up in isolation. The stone buildings, the burnt church, the green land, and the blue sea – to me it seemed a restless place. There are restless souls here, and they are still crying out for justice, or perhaps for what must sometimes have been a disproportionate punishment.

Looking back to that experience, I felt, as if those restless souls were still haunting this culture today. As if, this country would require an exorcism. But one thing is certain – we need to lay this restlessness to rest – in peace.

 “Let Them Stay” is such an act. It turns “when do you go home?” into “do you want to stay?” The three-word phrase is a defence for powerless people. It calls people into action to surround these people with love. As Jesus put it; “I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings”.

The three-word phrase internally cuts right into the soul of this young nation. Externally it performs a healing in the form of driving out people’s fear. They form a shape of “X”, and this is the symbol of our Lenten journey.

Lift high this cross, because it roots out a sin “Go back to where you come from”. Lift high this cross, because it cases out the demon that is inflicting power over the powerless. Lift high this cross, because it shines a light into everyone’s heart with love. Lift high this cross, because it opens a window for us to see the truth. Suffering is not overcome by power. The answer to suffering is compassion and love.

There is a danger ahead. We know that. Luke’s gospel tells us: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!” Jesus inner strength for overcoming the external danger was obedience. Indeed, this Christological paradox reaches to the climax on the cross. On the cross, Jesus did not save himself nor did he free himself from humiliation. On the cross, his obedience becomes total surrender – Let God be God.

Fellow Christians, this is our Lenten paradox. We engage the external journey of truth telling against the self-fulfilling prophecy of this government. Meanwhile we count the cost of discipleship. The passion narrative of Jesus unfolds into his obedience to God’s calling, and in that calling we let God be God.

Last week we marked our head with ashes. Today we mark this “X” on our hearts. We pray Luke’s ancient prayer with anticipation. “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord”.


Luke 13:31-35

 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Dear friends,

Greetings from the NCCK.

As the North launched a satellite, Kwangmyongsung-4 on Feb. 7, the Korean peninsula is being seized by furious waves again. In response to the nuclear test and satellite launch, the South and the US decided to deploy the THAAD and establish a MD system on the Korean soil. In a grave and surprising move, the South decided yesterday to close down Gaesung Industrial Complex, “the only remaining link that binds the North and South together.” Furthermore, the ruling party, Saenuri, is pushing an Anti-Terrorism Act which will certainly restrict people’s freedom and human rights.

We are having a week-long holiday, but in consideration of the gravity of the situation, the Reunification Comm. had an emergency online discussion and issued the following statement. We appeal to the international society including the ecumenical community that only dialogues and negotiations can resolve the present crisis.

In Christ,



Concerning North Korea’s Launch of Kwangmyongsong-4

The Reconciliation and Reunification Committee of the National Council of Churches (NCCK) expresses a deep regret on North Korea’s launch of Kwangmyongsong-4 on February 7 as it will heighten on the Korean soil the arms race among super powers and eventually threaten peace and stability in North East Asia. We are also greatly concerned that in the present situation the South and the US are jumping into the decision to deploy on the Korean peninsula the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and establish a KOR-US-JAPAN Missile Defense system in response to the launch of Kwangmyuongsung-4 earth observation satellite.

  1. We oppose the deployment of THAAD on the Korean peninsula.

The THAAD deployment will only increase the possibility of military conflict and clash beyond the Korean peninsula, in the entire North East Asia region. China and Russia are strongly opposing the THAAD deployment with the possible establishment of KOR-US-JAPAN Missile Defense system that will follow after. The THAAD deployment will aggravate a new Cold War between KOR-US-JAPAN and China-Russia, at the same time as it may offer a beginning that will lead the whole region to war. The painful experience of the Korean War has taught us that peace and stability in the Korean peninsula cannot be achieved by force. Hence we ask that both the South and the US immediately cancel the decision to deploy the THAAD and begin dialogue with the North, China and Russia for denuclearization as well as a long-lasting peace system on the Korean peninsula.

  1. We pose a fundamental question about the international society’s additional sanctions against the North.

The international society along with the UN immediately declared additional harsh sanctions against the North in reaction to the satellite launch. However the international society has to acknowledge that North Korea as a sovereign state has the right to launch satellites that are not equipped with nuclear warheads. Additionally it cannot be denied that the international society’s sanctions and pressures on the North have not created fundamental solutions and that they have rather aggravated the “vicious cycle of confrontation.” Therefore we appeal to the UN and the international society that it is not sanctions and confrontations but dialogues and negotiations, understanding and tolerance that will prevent total collapse.

  1. We urge Park Geun Hye’s administration to stop the attempt to pass the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Despite the fact that it has been publicly acknowledged that terror can be sufficiently prevented with the existing organizations and laws, the Park administration is attempting to pass the Anti-Terrorism Act using the North’s nuclear tests and satellite launch as pretexts. If the Anti-Terrorism Act, which is currently being pushed by the government and the ruling party, is enacted and implemented, absolute power will be centered on the National Intelligence Service and our society will face a non-democratic reality in which people experience severe restriction of their freedom and rights in the consolidation of the government’s power. With a warning that the Anti-Terrorism Act will heavily damage the healthy development of democracy, we urge the government and the ruling party to stop using the current North situation as a pretext to pass the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Peace on the Korean peninsula and stability in the North East Asia cannot be achieved through an arms race. Only dialogues, negotiations, understanding and tolerance will pave way for peace and reunification.

February 8, 2016

Kim Young Ju, General Secretary, NCCK

Noh Jung Sun, Chair of Reconciliation and Reunification, NCCK

Please see below for an official Statement from our partner, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea about the agreement between the foreign ministers of the Republic of Korea and Japan on the Japanese military sexual slavery issue

Crimes against humanity cannot be a subject in diplomatic negotiations!
Invalidate the agreement made by the Korea-Japan foreign ministers on December 28th 2015!

On December 28th 2015, the foreign ministers of Korea and Japan announced an agreement that declares a ‘final irreversible’ resolution to the Japanese military sexual slavery issue. The Presbyterian Church of the Republic of Korea that has been praying for the realization of God’s justice on this land is paying attention not only to problems of the agreement itself but also to attitudes of each government official involved in this issue. We believe that the agreement per se has obvious problems, and considering the attitude of each government’s officials, it is very dubious whether they had any sincerity in resolving the problem. We hereby point out, once again, the problems of the agreement and strongly declare that the agreement must be invalidated immediately. Firstly, the agreement reached by the foreign ministers of Korea and Japan on the Japanese military sexual slavery issue does not reflect the position of the victims at all. The recovery of damage should be done by having damage results removed and remedied as much as possible to relieve the pain of victims, realizing justice, and of course the restoration process should fulfill the needs and requirements of the victims as well as assuring compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and prevention of reoccurrence. These are conditions that international norms ask for as damage recovery. The key factor for the damage recovery shall be based on securing justice based on human dignity. However, since the agreement made between Korea-Japan foreign ministers neither meet such expectations nor reflect the opinions of victims, it is just a misleading agreement. Secondly, the Japanese military sexual slavery issue is a universal problem, which cannot be addressed through bilateral diplomatic negotiations. Over the last century when Korea was marred by Japanese imperialism and colonialism and wars, there were serious crimes committed by the government against humanity, which attracted significant attention from the international society. The Japanese military sexual slavery is the most representative example that drastically shows the pain of the people sacrificed by state violence during the time of imperialism, and at the same time, a horrible anti-human crime that should not have been performed by and to humans, and therefore we, as a civilized society, should face up to this issue. The resolution of the wartime sexual slavery issue has a significant meaning by which the level of ethical contemplation of humanity can be measured. In this regard, it is truly outrageous to think a ‘final irreversible’ resolution can even be possible through this kind of agreement between foreign ministers of both countries without any procedures to restore damage and to secure justice.

Thirdly, the agreement of Korea-Japan foreign ministers on the Japanese military sexual slavery is an extension of the inconclusive post-war settlement in East Asia, and it becomes an obstacle to establishing peace in the East Asia region. This time, the diplomatic agreement was hastily reached against the backdrop of the U.S. strategic intention, that the U.S. confirmed, to have ironed out conflicts between Korea and Japan as soon as possible to build up the East Asian order based on the alliances among Korea, the U.S. and Japan. History remembers that the war crimes that should have been settled in the Tokyo trials of 1945 and the San Francisco treaty of 1952 were covered up by the dynamics of interventional politics led by the U.S. The heritage of miserable history and uncleared past is lingering in East Asia and this agreement is part of such history. Diplomatic agreements not achieved in the course of securing human dignity and realizing justice but made to attain strategic interests will end up with nothing but conceiving more injustice and conflicts. There is a growing concern that the hidden intention of the U.S. and Japanese governments forced the Korean government to agree with this settlement, but what makes it even more deplorable is the inconsiderate attitude of our government following their request.

Fourthly, no provisions in regard to the Japanese government, a de facto party of responsibility, expressing responsibility for the Japanese military sexual slavery are included in the Korea-Japan foreign ministers’ agreement. The Japanese government had revealed its advanced historical perception in terms of colonial ruling and wars by clarifying the subjects, responsibilities and victims in the Kono discourse(1993), Murayama discourse(1995), the joint statement issued by Kim, Dea-jung and Obuchi(1998) and Kan discourse(2010) that have represented the official position of the Japanese government. Meanwhile, the Abe discourse on August 14th 2015 articulated the regression of historical awareness of this country by avoiding targeting the responsible subjects, and such a position has been reiterated in this agreement. Thus, the Japanese government keeps emphasizing that the Japanese military sexual slavery issue is terminated, not showing any sincerity in a responsible manner.

Fifthly, the girl of peace statue, established by the citizens hoping to remember this history, shall not be a subject of diplomatic negotiations. It is a major delusion if they think that the historical truth being remembered by specific people and throughout history can be erased by diplomatic negotiations between countries. They should realize that an attempt at wiping out the memory will be a way to prove how shameless they are, turning away their face from the truth. A person who shuts his eyes to the past will become blind and cannot see the present, and oblivion is a way to slavery but memory is a mysterious salvation. The Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea makes a clear announcement that the agreement made by the Korean and Japanese foreign ministers on December 28th 2015 must be invalidated. The Japanese military sexual slavery issue has no ‘final irreversible’ resolution. The only matter that should be destroyed ‘finally irreversibly’ is the agreement made between Korea-Japan foreign ministers, which is irrelevant to human dignity and spirit of justice. The Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea emphasizes that we need to deal with this issue as a matter of responsibility for historical crimes from the perspective of justice that has been consistently underlined in the Bible. The key point of the justice mentioned in the Bible is to achieve wholeness of the relationship between God and humans, and to express that wholeness, achieving wholeness of the relationship between humans is required. The wholeness of human relations depends on whether the socially vulnerable people and the most desperate people are able to keep their dignity and life. It is about fulfilling the requirements of human rights and justice and this is a viewpoint of universal human rights and justice from which we need to deal with the Japanese military sexual slavery issue. It stringently asks us to make perpetrators take responsibility while entailing efforts to restore damage. As long as these conditions are not satisfied, there is no ‘final irreversible’ resolution. The Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea will pay attention to the resolving process of this issue along with fellow believers all around the world, and dedicate ourselves to find a way for fundamental resolution.

January 14th 2016

Rev. Choi, Bu-ok, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian

Church in the Republic of Korea

Rev. Kim, Kyung-ho, Chairperson of the Church and Society Committee of the

General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea

For more information see Coalition Declaration Feb 16 and Letter of Demands to the Japanese Government Feb 16