Good morning. My name is Robert Vun. I am the Canon Missioner of St Paul’s Cathedral. It is good to be back with you for our weekly podcast devotion after almost two months of absence. I pray that you had a good Christmas and New Year break. Whether you are joining us for the first time or had been with us some time now – I warmly welcome you to this short time of reflection.
Here we are in the beginning of another year and it seems that the COVID-19 situation has not changed much. The uncertainty of when and where this virus may strike again continues to unsettle to many people in this new year.
This is the time when the foundation of our worldview and values are tested. The question on the meaning and worth of life begging for an answer from within us. When uncertainty surrounds us, then we need to come back to the overall certainty of eternity.
Like the chorus which says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.” Our loving Father and Almighty God is also the steadfast certainty of our lives.
With that in mind, let us turn to God in prayer. This is a prayer said in the early Church period.
Let us pray:
O God, Who art the unsearchable abyss of peace, the ineffable sea of love, the fountain of blessings, and the bestower of affection, Who sendest peace to those that receive it; open to us this day the sea of Thy love, and water us with the plenteous streams from the riches of Thy grace.
Make us children of quietness, and heirs of peace. Enkindle in us the fire of Thy love; sow in us Thy fear; strengthen our weakness by Thy power; bind us closely to Thee and to each other in one firm bond of unity; for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Prayer of the Week
Fifth Sunday After Epiphany
Father of all, who gave your only-begotten Son to take upon himself the form of a servant and to be obedient even to death on a cross: give us the same mind that was in Christ Jesus, that, sharing in his humility, we may come to be with him in his glory; where he 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 25:14-30.
Parable of the Talents
14 “For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. (a talent was worth about 20 years of a day labourer’s wage.) 16 Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. 17 In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. 18 But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 “Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 “Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 “And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ 26 “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. 27 Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. 28 Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’ 29 “For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. 30 Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
I AM A “B-MINUS” STUDENT
Some years ago, a church member who was still studying in University phoned me said, “I go a D and three Cs for my exams.” My heart sank. I thought to myself, “Oh no, she will be so disappointed. What shall I say to her.” After a very brief period of silence of figuring what to say, I blurted out… “Well, at least you passed all your exams.” Sensing something was amiss, she replied, “I scored a Distinction and three Credits!” With a great sigh of relief, I exclaimed, “That’s wonderful! What great news! Congratulations and praise the Lord!”
You see, I was thinking of the marking system when I was in theological College. We were marked with “A” “B” “C” or “D”. “A” being distinction and “D” being fail. A “C” means one barely pass.
My cousin who is two years older than me and whom I grew up with was in the same class with me for the four years of our theological studies in Singapore. While he was consistently an “A+” student, I for my part would be jumping up and down with joy if I got a “B-”. He outshone me academically by many a country mile. In later years, he also immensely outshone me in becoming the Diocesan Bishop of Sabah.
It is one of the greatest and most difficult life-lesson. I needed to learn my place in God’s kingdom and what God has given me to serve Him as His steward. My struggle was trying not to compare myself with my cousin who seems so successful in everyone’s eyes. I seemed to be always in his shadow and constantly the bridesmaid, but never the bride.
I have to learn that my one talent given me is just as important to our master as my cousin’s five talents. I needed to use whatever I have been given to serve Him because that is what and why He entrusted me with it.
Our master is fair to give to us all unequally. He knows our capabilities and capacities and give us accordingly. Whatever given to us is best suited for us and for our best. We on our part, are to be faithful in discharging our entrusted duties.
Two lessons we all must learn. First, never to compare. If we do, we will either be prideful because we think we are better than others. Or, we will be dispirited because we think we are not good enough. Both attitudes are spiritual killers.
Second, always be contented. The almighty God who is our loving Father will always give us what is best for us. Be contented with that you have and also be contented with what you do not have. What you have is meant to be yours and what you do not have is not meant for you. Serve God with all that you have. Love God for all that you do not have. Remember, godliness with contentment is great gain.
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.
Go out into the world in peace, and in Christ’s name be –
the humble who make others proud
the poor who have riches to share
the weak who help others be strong
the empty who overflow with loving kindness.
And the largess of the love of God,
and the treasure of the grace of Christ Jesus,
and the buoyant health of the Holy Spirit
will be with you now and forever. Amen. 
Thank you for sharing this first reflection for the year with me. May you continue to walk faithfully with Him as He leads you with his goodness and lovingkindness following you.
Till next week, rejoice often. Do good. Love outrageously. Enjoy life. Praise God. Amen. Goodbye.
 Prayers of the Early Church; J Manning Potts (Ed.) The Upper Room, Nashville, Tennessee. 1953. (p.15.)
 Jon Humphries, Prayers that Unite