Weekly Reflection (7th September 2020)
Good morning. As we welcome in the spring this week, we can praise God that the weather has slowly been getting warmer and God has kept us safe and protected our loved ones these few months. Most of all we can praise God for the renewal of life seen in the ever-increasing blooms of beautiful flowers and new shoots in the garden.
I am delighted to be back with you again this morning. I find our time together very rewarding as I search God’s storehouse for something I have learned and then share with you. There are so many wonderful truths to learn from our gracious Father that it never ceases to amaze me how rich and delightful He is.
We thank God that the number of COVID-19 cases in Victoria is continuing its downward trend. We pray that the numbers will come down more so we can reach Victoria’s COVID Normal by the end of the year. Let us continue to look to our loving heavenly Father for his grace and mercy upon us. Let me pray this prayer taken from the 1604 Book of Common Prayer.
Let us pray:
O LORD God, who hast wounded us for our sins, and consumed us for our transgressions, by thy late heavy and dreadful visitation; and now, in the midst of judgement remembering mercy, hast redeemed our souls from the jaws of death; We offer unto thy fatherly goodness ourselves, our souls and bodies which thou hast delivered, to be a living sacrifice unto thee, always praising and magnifying thy mercies in the midst of thy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.[i]
The Prayer of the Week
Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost
O God, you know us to be set in the midst of so many and so great dangers that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright: grant to us such strength and protection as may support us in all dangers and carry us through all temptations; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
O God, without you we are not able to please you: mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
James 5:13-18 (The Prayer of Faith)
13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 5 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. 17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
Last Saturday was my 38th Anniversary of my ordination as a Priest in the Church of God. Reflecting back to my many years of ministry, the persistent theme has been and still is the grace of God. I am ever grateful to God for his grace throughout my life – indeed even long before I was born.
In the coming weeks, I hope to share with you glimpses of my life where I have noticed the amazing hand of our gracious God actively at work.
Let me start with Dad’s mum. By the time I knew her, she was in her sixties. My earliest memory of Grandma’s bedroom was a huge black bible on her desk with a magnifying glass on top of it all the time. Being at a curious age, we children opened her bible and saw that it was not written in Roman or Chinese script but a curly type akin to Arabic. She told us that it was not Arabic but a phonetic script in Hakka (a Chinese dialect). To our amazement she read the Bible to us in Hakka! We noticed that the Bible was well-worn and copiously underlined. What little formal education she had, she more than made it up by her faith in God and his Word.
Grandma’s father was an itinerant evangelist in China. He supported himself and his family practicing as an herbalist. Grandma thus acquired some knowledge from her father and used it to heal many people.
My uncle related to me an event during Second World War where food was very scarce and medicine was non-existent. Folks would come to her for healing. She would pick plants of medicinal value as and when she comes across them in the fields and dry them in the attic of their hut.
Whenever she has a patient, she would go her attic and with much prayers pick out her meagre assortment of dried herbs for the patient. It seemed to Grandad that they are very much the same herbs being dispensed whatever the sickness was. Grandad would often say, “My dear, one day you are going to kill someone with your herbs.”
One day, Grandad noticed a man coming through the cornfield towards their hut. Because the corn was shoulder high, he could recognise the man who had come a few days earlier to seek help for his very sick wife. My Grandma as usual had given him some very similar herbs to bring home for his wife. To Grandad’s trepidation, this man seems to be in a hurry. Grandad called out to Grandma and said, “Look, someone is coming to complain about you killing his wife.”
As the man drew close to the hut, they noticed that he had a chicken in his hands. Note that a chicken at that time of near famine was hugely priced and a rare treat. He profusely thanked my Grandma for saving his wife’s life and brought the chicken as a special gift of thanksgiving. I believed it was not really the herbs that healed her but more my Grandma’s prayers.
In her later life, Grandma would get up at 4.30 every morning to pray for her five sons. She would pray that they would know, love and serve Jesus Christ. Indeed, all but one of them was a practicing Christian then. She never saw her prayers answered in her life, but after her death, one by one they turn to the Lord. Three became Lay Ministers who looked after Churches and actively preached wherever they can. Today, only one son has yet to come to know Jesus.
I believed she also prayed for her grandchildren too as three of us became Anglican Priests with one becoming a Diocesan Bishop. Today, most of her grand and great-grand children are serving as leaders, ministers, Sunday School teachers and a whole host of ministry.
Grandma was the spiritual matriarch of the family. She taught me to memorise the Lord’s Prayer in Hakka when I was only three. She taught us to say our prayers in the morning, before meals and before going to bed. She organised for regular home visits where we grandchildren can listen to Bible stories and learn Bible songs and pray. She was pivotal in keeping us all following Jesus.
Grandma truly epitomises James 5:5,16 which say, “And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up… The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
Thank God for my grandma.
If you would like to know how she looked like when I was a few months old in her arms, you can see it in the “Reflections” section of the Cathedral’s website.
The Morning Collect
Eternal God and Father, by whose power we are created and by whose love we are redeemed: guide and strengthen us by your Spirit, that we may give ourselves to your service, and live this day in love to one another and to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
May the Lord bless us and keep us; the Lord make his face to shine upon us, and be gracious to us; the Lord lift up his countenance upon us, and give us peace. Amen.[ii]
Thank you for listening to my testimony about my grandma. May we take this week to strengthen our prayer life in this time of restrictions. I look forward to our meeting here again next Monday. In the meantime, rejoice often. Do good. Love outrageously. Enjoy life. Praise God. God blessings be upon you and your loved ones this day and forever more. Amen. Goodbye.
[i] Thanksgiving for Deliverance from the Plague, or Other Common Sickness. Book of Common Prayer (1604)
[ii] Numbers 6:24-26