Pastoral Perspectives

Ordinary Time

We are still in the season of Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar, a period between Pentecost (the descent of the Holy Spirit) and the following Advent. This period focuses on the life of the early Church, a growing and vibrant Church that was centred on Worship, Word and Witness. The Gospel was preached; people were delivered from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light; love was shown in practical ways as they shared their possessions with one another so that no one lacked anything; they gathered for worship; they participated in the Lord’s Supper; they had fellowship meals. The Church grew in breadth and depth. That is why the colour for this season is green which represents growth.

For the other seasons of the Church Calendar, they serve as a reminder of what has already taken place – the 1st coming and birth of Christ, his ministry, his death and resurrection, his ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Ordinary Time which began with the early Church will stretch all the way till Christ’s 2nd coming. It is therefore not just a season for us to remember the past; we ourselves are right now living in Ordinary Time! Just as God worked mightily in the lives of the early Christians, the extraordinary God continues to work in us and in the Church throughout this whole long season of Ordinary Time so that the Bride can eventually be presented to her Master without spot or blemish. We are living in exciting times because we are living in light of Christ’s resurrection. We have been crucified and raised with Christ; we are a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come. Emmanuel – God is with us; his Spirit lives within us – we are energised by his love, enabled to withstand sin and empowered for mission. All these happen in our everyday lives, indeed, during the commonplace days of our year. This is discipleship in Ordinary Time.

Part of the discipleship process is to be able to see the fingerprints of the extraordinary God in our ordinary events. Take a peek into a day of my life – Tuesday, 6 October 2015. I woke up at 6.30 am, a gift of another new day. I was able to get out of bed, which meant that the muscles in my body were working. There was an earlier time when those muscles were stiff and getting out of bed was such a pain because if I didn’t do it properly, spasm would kick in. So much effort was needed to dress, to brush my teeth, to wash myself. How often I took these basic abilities for granted. I repented. I felt thankful.

I boarded the east-west MRT train that would bring me to church. Although I stay in Pasir Ris, it is not always that I can find a seat. For that particular morning, there were a few. I quickly settled into one of them. Very soon, the train pulled away. The cabin was surprisingly quiet even though it was crowded. Everyone was so engrossed with their own gadgets that other than the background sound of the wheels running along the track and the occasional announcement when the train approached a station, there was a welcoming silence. I prayed. I remembered the sick. And for that time of communion with God and with those whom I was praying for, I was thankful.

The staff met for devotion. It’s an every Tuesday affair. A song that we sang right at the start brought me encouragement: ‘Be still and know that I am God’. My mind was preoccupied with a particular issue and it was comforting to know that God is sovereign; he is in control and he is able to work out his good purposes. I could therefore find rest for my soul in God alone. The pastoral meeting thereafter was focused on ‘work’ – receiving feedback for the sermon that I preached the previous Sunday, going through the preaching calendar for 2016, going through the list of people whom we should visit and the list of people attending membership class, tying down details for the following Sunday, etc. I enjoyed the conversations. Our gifts complemented each other; we spoke the truth in love although it could hurt at times; we shared our frustrations and gave each other a listening ear. We elicited feedback, contributed suggestions, clarified confusion. We prayed for each other. We served among friends. I was thankful.

In the afternoon, while I was typing away this perspective, I received a call from Ai Tin. Although Gracia had missed the deadline for university bursary application (she was late by two months), the administration was kind enough to accommodate her late submission. I would need to produce an income slip as soon as possible to show proof of my salary. I was wondering how to go about it when I remembered that at the start of the year, I had received a letter from the Session Clerk, stating my increment as well as the revised salary. I was so glad that the letter was properly filed up and could be easily retrieved so that I didn’t have to spend additional effort to churn out yet another letter. I was thankful.

I was thinking ill of someone throughout the day. I knew it was not right but my mind kept playing back what happened a few days ago. I knew I should not judge; I should show patience; I might even be in the wrong. I tried hard to focus on what I was doing, the work at hand. It was not healthy that I kept mulling over the matter. I had to resist those vindictive thoughts each time they popped up. The Spirit of God alerted me and enabled me. I was thankful.

I met Rev Kim, Ps Mayuree’s husband, towards the end of the day. He is serving in Trinity Christian Center as a pastor to the Thai congregation there. He shared with me that there was so much for him to learn from the way Trinity built up their cell groups and how he hoped to adapt their processes to build up the Thai congregation there. Given his stature and his experience in the mission field, he could have adopted a been-there-done-that attitude, yet he is ever so willing to learn from others, many of whom are much younger than him. I was very encouraged by his humility and I told him so. I hope my words of affirmation would have encouraged him too. I was thankful for such an encounter.

Fast forward, I ate dinner at home with Ai Tin and Gavriel – porridge with dishes, yum yum. After dinner, I played with Gavriel for a while on the snake and ladder that he had designed, and then read the Bible with him, using the CEF materials which he had received during the recent English Presbytery Retreat – it was on the miracle of feeding the five thousand. Later, as I was lying down, I thought of my home and loved ones, food on the table, conversations around the table, opportunity to disciple Gavriel, a comfortable bed that I could rest my head on, and a peaceful and safe place for me to tune out. I was thankful.

You would have realised that that Tuesday was pretty ordinary, but I saw God’s fingerprints everywhere and I was grateful. Throughout the day, I was practising the presence of God which is a way of living into a deeper awareness of God’s activity in my life. It is about intentionally and habitually turning my heart or attention towards God. The Psalmist says: ‘Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!’ (Ps 105.4) You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy’ (Ps 16.11a). Perhaps as we become more aware of God’s actions in our lives, we can recognise the extraordinariness of our ordinary time.

Rev Lee Kien Seng

October 11, 2015