Pastoral Perspectives

How is 2020 Going For You?

Wildfires, street protest to COVID-19 is an understatement to say that 2020 is “written off.” While it has been tough, it does not mean that we should overlook the good moments that this year has brought us. On my personal reflection, I summarize 2020 with this acronym KISS. (Keep ISimple and Safe)

Just last Sunday, I shared that I was preaching my first sermon to the congregation as Advent is the beginning of a new Church year and at the same time it was my last sermon to the Church as the year 2020 is drawing to a close. It is kind of paradoxical and this is true too of the COVID 19 pandemic. This crisis brought down the economies of the world. Who would have imagined that pilots would not be able to fly, planes would be grounded, tourism coming to a standstill and doors to churches and places of worship would be shut?

I heard some older generations lamenting that in their years as a believer, they cannot imagine that churches will shut their doors. As I look back, the world indeed has been very, very sick. The many events happening prior to COVID is very much ego-centric. An elder recently shared in a morning leadership prayer meeting I attended mentioned that EGO means Edging God Out. I am sure you will agree with me that “self” is the biggest barrier in our life. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Psalm 20:7

Gerald Weston observed “What is happening in our world? How is it that individuals are filled with so much hatred that they purposefully rundown innocent men, women, and children to somehow advance their perverse agendas? Why are we seeing a rise in anarchistic violence—hooded hoodlums smashing windows, setting fires, and overturning cars?” What is becoming of our world? I empathize with the young generations in the Street protest in Hong Kong, not knowing when it will end, then there is the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, igniting the world. Weston continues, “Ethnic and racial hatred blinds the eyes. People say and do things to others that they would otherwise not say and do, if they were acting while guided by proper moral reasoning. Sometimes the hatred is racial in nature—other times it is ethnic, tribal, or religious. Let’s be honest. Our world is broken. Universities have been taken over by very illiberal secularists who preach a message of political correctness, while encouraging reactionary intolerance of anything outside of this agenda. The world have become so divided that there is now no room for compromise, even on issues where we could agree.” This is true also within the churches and denominations.

How is 2020 going for you? I see this as God’s sovereignty. He is still in control. It is almost like the year of Jubilee where everything is reset to a common playing field. It is more than just a year of repayment or cancellation of debts. This is God’s economy of providing a way out. This is liberating in the protection for the marginalised. This is also a legal system to prevent bankruptcy and to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor. Some have said that the year 2020 is “written off”; 2020 is a goner! The jubilee year, if put into practice, should help to remove inequalities in society and give a new start to those who have become poor and lost their land or even their freedom.

2020 for me is – before God presses the reset button, it has to begin with us to be re-awakened to our faith and beliefs. I shared in my last sermon on the “Gift of Love” that people today are not acquainted very much with the Gospel according to Matthew, Mark or Luke, or John, but everyone is somewhere reading the Gospel according to You. If they cannot read it clearly, it is because there is not much manifestation of the love of God in your life as a Christian. 2020 helped me to rethink Church and family. The COVID pandemic brings us back to the Acts 2 church with no frails and fancies of lights and instruments in worship. I can now better understand Paul, even when he was either imprisoned or under house arrest continued in his worship of the Lord. In the normalcy of life before the COVID, some of us in the same family attends different churches but with the lock-down, it forces families to get together, renew the bond though I know some of us still log in to other online churches and worship from your own screen. My encouragement to you is to rethink family life. Bring down the EGO otherwise you’ll be “Edging God Out” of your family equation.

KISS is the key. When churches reopened, many still have not awakened to give thanks but murmur like Miriam to Moses, “we cannot sing, what’s the point of gathering?”. I think we have gotten it all wrong. Can’t the deaf and dumb, the blind and the lame too praise the Lord? This reminded me of a passage from Luke 19:10, Jesus, the Creator of all things was making His final triumphant entry into Jerusalem before He was to give His life for sinful mankind. If the disciples remain silent, the stones will cry out the praises of Jesus instead. But whichever Jesus meant, it is clear that He affirms the peoples’ praises over the Pharisees’ objections. God is going to be praised one way or another. And if we keep quiet, the rocks will cry out.

This week, I was reminded at a staff devotion from John 6:4 – 14 on the feeding of the 5,000. From my observations, Jesus had a mega-church meeting that day with 5,000 people and yet when it comes to the time of feeding, Luke 9:15 tells us that they were arranged in groups of 50s (nothing magical about this number). To me this is Keeping ISimple and Safe, within logistical management. Before the curtain to 2020 draws to a close, let us take stock of our life and count the many blessings that God has done. One take home lesson from the devotion was that if we look at the problem of feeding the 5,000, it is too big for us to manage but when we focus on Jesus, then there is no problem too big that He cannot handle. How is 2020 going for you?

Pastor Cheng Huat (Non-resident Missionary to SQ)

December 13, 2020