During my time at Westminster College I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to visit cathedrals and abbeys in the UK and slightly further afield. Each time I stepped into a sacred sanctuary, I was awed just merely by the space I was in. Be it the Liverpool Cathedral (largest in the UK and 5th largest in the world) or the world renown St. Peter’s basilica, I felt so puny standing in that large space, and to think that God cannot even be contained by it because he holds the world in his hands, I wondered to myself: ‘Who am I that God should be mindful of me, that He should call me His beloved?’ I was humbled!
I marvelled at the effort the people of old put into the construction of each house of worship. They spared no efforts in ensuring that the exterior was architecturally impressive and the interior was equally inspiring – multi-coloured stained glass windows, gigantic sculptures of angels and saints, decorations unique of the Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance periods, and sometimes a far too complicated altar for the naked eye to behold. The high ceilings were painted with biblical stories or adorned with glittering ornaments and I saw one where there was a combination of golden trimmings, colourful paintings and even marble sculptures scrutinising us from above. Even the floors of the nave were lined with mosaic tiles to form exquisite patterns of various kinds. Standing in those sacred spaces, I was able to catch a glimpse of the glory and mystery of God.
What motivated such opulence, especially for those churches in Rome? Was it fired by political and social motives when Christianity became the official religion throughout the Roman Empire? Or was it a deliberate move by both the political and spiritual leaders of those days to build for the glory of God and to give the people a sense of His majesty and mystery? If it was indeed the latter, then the royal waste of resources was justified! I understand that sometimes it took a few generations of people to complete the construction. Those who started the building project did not have a chance to see the finished product; they only saw it from a distance, and by faith they plodded on. I see some parallel in us who are involved in the building of the church, the Body of Christ. Very often, we do not have the privilege to see the end product too, yet we labour on, having the faith that God will continue the work long after we have gone because He is the main builder, and He neither slumbers nor sleeps; we are but His privileged co-workers.
The feeling of awe is ironically mixed with a feeling of sadness. These days, the huge church buildings are filled more with tourists than worshippers. What was it like in the past? Were the churches packed with people? Presently, services are still conducted but worshippers gather in smaller chapels built into the sides of the nave. How wonderful it will be if the naves are filled with worshippers once again instead of curious tourists who are enthusiastically clicking away at their cameras even when sometimes there are signs everywhere that forbid such disturbances.
Revival can only come if God’s people are prepared to obey the Great Commission and preach the Word in season and out of season yet doing it in a respectful way. I have attended churches in Cambridge and London where the people of God take the Gospel and the preaching of it seriously and these are the ones that are thriving, serving as strong beacons of light in an increasingly secular and liberal society. The mystery of Christ has already been revealed and we need to be faithful in preaching the good news without compromising its truths. Let us follow the example of Paul who had asked the Colossians to pray for him, for both the opportunity and the clarity to proclaim the gospel (Colossians 4.3-4). At the same time, we need to conduct our lives and our speech wisely (v5-6). Let our lives manifest a powerful and attractive testimony and our speech be flavoured with much grace as we seek to present the gospel. We cannot shun difficult apologetic issues but we need not be antagonistic. We cannot remain silent but we need not be rude. We cannot go with the flow of what unbelievers think of Jesus but we need not be aggressive. I am so encouraged to hear that in the recent church camp, a similar exhortation in this direction was given, and that you have also worked very hard to make our first Alpha Introduction Dinner a success.
On another note, I have decided to return earlier than scheduled. I am on the last lap of my studies – the writing of my dissertation. I think it would be nice to spend the last part of my Sabbatical with my family, and at the same time do some research among the people in True Way. Thank God for technology, I am able to communicate with my supervisor through emails and Skype and have until the end of September to submit the dissertation. There is much to write about on my journey through the different seasons of the year in UK and I believe in the near future, as and when relevant, you will hear pieces of that journey as I interact with you. The Lord has been very good. Even in the 11th hour, I experienced His goodness all over again. I was entitled to 35kg of baggage on my return flight, an extra of 15kg because I had a letter from my college to say that I was a student returning to my home country for good. However, that was still way below the 67.5kg that I had accumulated. A friend of mine would be returning to Singapore next week. Initially, the plan was for him to help me bring back some of my stuff, and if that was too much for him to handle, he would pass on the balance to another friend who is returning in October. In the wee hours of the morning of the day of my departure (I was to depart in the evening), he realised that his girlfriend’s family was on the same flight as me (they had come up to attend her graduation), and because they are frequent flyers, as a family they were entitled to 105kg of baggage allowance. So later in the day, I met up with them at the airport and we checked in our luggage together and I was able to bring everything back without incurring additional costs! Isn’t our God amazing? All praise and thanks be to Him!
Pastor Kien Seng
July 7, 2013