Weekly Reflection (30 November 2020)
A very good Advent morning to you. I trust that you had a good week. Once again, it is a pleasure to spend a few minutes with you. A very warm welcome to you whether you are joining us for the first time or has been with us for some time now.
Isn’t it wonderful that on the first Sunday of our Christian calendar, our Cathedral is able to opens its doors for worshippers to physically come inside to worship. This is so exciting and such a blessing – as we had not been able to do this since March. Please come and join us in the Wednesday Lunchtime Eucharist or Sunday Services when you can. Go into St Paul’s Cathedral’s website and book a seat through the Trybooking app. The other way is to call the Cathedral’s Office on this number: 9365 4333. We look forward to see you in person soon.
Let us remember each other in our prayers. Let us also be keep safe and healthy. I will now pray a prayer of St Ignatius of Loyola. It is a beautiful prayer that I feel may sum up our responses in living for God under these challenging times.
Let us pray:
Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
To give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds,
To toil and not to seek for rest, To labour and not to ask for reward,
Save that of knowing that I do your will. Amen.
Prayer of the Week
First Sunday of Advent
Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness and put on the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came among us in great humility, that on the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
This morning, our Bible Reading is taken from Matthew 9:35-38.
35 Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. 36 Seeing the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then He *said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore, plead with the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”
Banana Skin For Lunch
Today I will continue to share about God’s grace and mercy that He had lavished on me. My last sharing was about God teaching me how to sing while washing the toilets in Theological School.
You would remember that our theological College in Singapore existed by faith. We were totally depended on donations from individuals and churches to survive. This means that many of the lecturers were missionaries that were supported by their sending churches. Naturally, one of the groups they established for the students was the “Student Missionary Fellowship.” Its purpose is to encourage students to think about, understand, and consider mission work.
Students organised self-funded mission teams to go out far and near every Semester break. I was drawn to this Fellowship and joined it on my first year of College. Each Semester break we would go on a short-term mission trip up to West Malaysia.
At the end of 1980, we organised a month-long trip to India to work with Operation Mobilisation land teams. Some of you might be familiar with the educational ships – “Logos” and “Doulos”. These ships belong to the sea wing of this same organisation.
We landed in Mumbai (known as Bombay then) at 3.00 am on a cold December morning. In our drive from the airport into the city, I saw that for kilometres, all the walkways were full of sleeping people. My first thought was that there must have been an earthquake and the people were sleeping out for fear of the buildings collapsing.
The truth of the matter was that there were thousands upon thousands of people sleeping on the streets every night because they were homeless. That was my first encounter with abject poverty. Later, we were assigned to teams with Indian nationals. We were not allowed to use our own pocket money since our Indian brothers did not have any. The leaders did not want disparity to disunite our teams.
My team was tasked with holding evangelistic meetings on street corners and schools. We were also to sell Christian literature. From these sales, we could only use a specified tiny amount of money each day for food. We ate at the cheapest place and to keep the cost down, meat was only allowed for one meal once a week.
Soon my stomach reacted adversely to the diet. Within a few days into the month, I could only eat bananas and drink tea (called “Chai”) and nothing else. I had them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Wherever we went, crowds of children would follow us begging for money. We were told never to give them money or else we will be swarmed.
The children were so hungry that as soon as we had our bananas and threw the skins to the ground, there would be a mad scramble to grab and eat them. That was my rude shock to their sad state of affair. Here am I, I thought I ONLY had bananas and chai for my meals. For them, they consider it fortunate to have a banana skin for lunch! My worst day is significantly much better than their best of days.
It is no understatement to say that Indian trip was the eye-opener to the world of poverty and a watershed to my burden for missions. Jesus’ heart must be breaking to see our broken and suffering world. He has commissioned you and I to be his messengers of His good news of abundant life.
For the poor in India back then, their physical need was great. But their spiritual need was even greater. We are called to the bearer of Jesus’ love for them – physically and spiritually.
For this Indian experience, I lost more than seven kilos. But more importantly, I gained an appreciation of the enormity and urgency of Jesus call, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore, plead with the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”
What do you say to Jesus’ invitation?
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 love of God be the passion in your heart.
The joy of God your strength when times are hard.
The presence of God a peace that overflows.
The Word of God the seed that you might sow. Amen[i]
Thank you for sharing this time with me. May God’s good news saturate your life that it oozes out to bless all. Look after yourself and keep safe. Bring a smile to someone’s face this week.
Till next Monday then, rejoice often. Do good. Love outrageously. Enjoy life. Praise God. Amen. Goodbye.
[i] Copyright © John Birch, 2016.