I am both and more

I am far more “hetro” than “mono”

I am no more either West or East

Yet a product of both and more

I am Pentecostal and Catholic

Yet can we really be otherwise?

With my whole body

I praise the Lord

Speaking in tongues

Yet love doing so

Through well written litanies.

On the earth I am a stranger

A migrant and foreigner

Yet building altars

On the way

The reasons I am preferentially pro-migrant, pro-refugee, pro-racial minority, pro-cultural/racial diversity, pro-whole world, and very anti-nationalist spirit—

Is that I’ve lived almost half life abroad from my homeland,

Have experienced what it means to be a racial minority,

And am part of a cross-national/racial/cultural marriage.

I thus detest xenophobia (“fear of strangers”) in all its forms.

 

The Bible characters I thus identify most with, are people like

Abraham, Moses, Ruth, Ezekiel, and the apostle Paul.

Like them, I have lived in tents,

Walked the desert paths,

And built altars in many foreign lands.

So the biblical metaphors that describe me are those of

Alien status,

Pilgrimage,

Sojourning,

And foreigner.

 

The biblical practices I value most are

Hospitality,

Breaking bread with others,

And embracing otherness.

 

Yet I believe—

All these themes describe what Christian faith is all about:

Learning to enjoy, learn, and receive from one another,

The many tongues of Pentecost.

This is the mystery of the Gospel:

That we who are different and many, learn through the Spirit of fellowship—

How to embrace one another as one new humanity, on the way to new creation.

 

Perhaps for me, the most formative Pentecostal theologian on me remains, Walter Hollenweger, father of the modern critical Pentecostal theological tradition, and early articulator of the Pentecostal giftedness towards “oral theology and liturgy.” Hollenweger was also a poet. One of my favourite pieces from him, is the “Prayer of the Frog.” For the frog is an “in-between” creature: home in two worlds, yet not fully belonging to either world. Both worlds function as a liminal threshold— to somewhere else, a place better than either, yet built on the best of both worlds.

“Prayer of the Frog,” by Walter Hollenweger.

“Sometimes, I feel like a frog,

Happy in the waterpond—

until I run out of air and creep on land.

Happy in the fresh air,

until my skins hurts in the glaring sun and I plunge back into the water.

O God,

Why did you make me an in-between creature, neither fish nor fowl?

Why am I not a flamingo, or an eagle or a mighty roaring lion?

Just a frog?

You did not ask me whether I wanted to be a frog,

Nor whether I wanted to be at all,

Nor did my parents ask me.

So, I am, what I am, an in-between being.

When I am with the feminists they call me “macho”

because I want to pray “Our Father.”

When I am with the pacifists they call me a war-monger

because I do not believe that the abolishment of the Swiss Army serves world peace.

When I am with the military they call me a pacifist

because I find it a scandal how we treat the conscientious objectors.

When I am with the Christians, they say I am not a Christian

because I find many of their convictions superfluous.
When I am with the Non-Christians the say I am a Christian

because I believe in Jesus Christ.

When I am with the progressives they say I am conservative

because I do not know how to re-organize world trade justly.

When I am with the rich people they say I am a leftist

because I expect them to share their riches.

When I am with the Catholics they say that I am a Protestant

because I do not believe in the infallibility of the pope.

When I am with the Protestants they say I am a Catholic

because I like the Catholic liturgy.

When I am with the Ecumenists they say that I am a Pentecostal

because I would like to see more of the Spirit in the ecumenical movement.

When I am with the Pentecostals they say I am an ecumenist

because I am convinced that they need the ecumenical movement.

When I am with the critical exegetes they call me “pious”

because God sometimes speaks to me in Scripture.

When I with the uncritical Bible readers they say that I do not believe in the Bible

because I do not accept their facile interpretations.

 

O God, you alone know what I am.

Help me to believe that this is enough.

You made me an in-between being so that I can be an evangelist.

But God it is a tough job.

Sometimes I am confused and terrified.

Strengthen my faith so that I am

A cheerful in-between creature, a happy frog.

From Pentecostalism: Origins and Developments Worldwide (1997).

 

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