We end the week with an uncomfortable escalation of new Covid 19 cases in Malaysia which had prompted the church to go into a limited mode service for this past two weeks and from today onwards we will cease physical worship services on Sundays and only have the services on line at our website. There have been lots of fear and anxiety going around even amongst church members hence I felt that we need to address some of the spiritual challenges and opportunities this crisis brings to us today.
There was a very timely article in Christianity Today written by a young medical student by the name of Emily Yang at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai who is also a student of theology. Emily reminds us of the great reformer Martin Luther’s response to deadly Bubonic plague of Europe which had killed of half the population of Europe 200 years before it reemerged in Whittenburg Luther’s home town in 1527 and threatened the lives of the people there. Luther brought up two main issues.
Firstly, he wrote that anyone who stands in a relationship of service to another has a vocational commitment not to flee. Those in ministry, he wrote, “must remain steadfast before the peril of death.”
He reminds us of what our Lord said in the judgment of Matthew 25:35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’
We , in Kuala Lumpur stand in service to one another, some are doctors, nurses, policemen, restauranters, motorcyclists who deliver food panda. We do not live for ourselves but for service to one another and in the face of danger this is when our faith is truly tested. We can retreat in fear cower at home paralysed by what could happen to us or we can continue to serve each other in the community as this is our divine calling.
Secondly ,Luther points out that “ All of us, have the responsibility of warding off this poison the best of our ability because God has commanded us to care for the body.” He defends public health measures such as quarantines and seeking medical attention when available. In fact,Luther proposes that not to do so is to act recklessly. Just as God has gifted humans with their bodies, so too he has gifted the medicines of the earth. So as a church we of all people are to value social responsibility which is why we are to sanitize our hands, practice social distancing and follow all the preventative measures our government has instituted. As a church we are putting all our services on line at the website and cancelled Sunday School for the next two weeks as well to limit crowding which we believe is the socially responsible course of action. We will of course continue monitoring the situation and will advise you via this website as to when normal church activities may resume.
In Hebrews 10: 24 the author of Hebrews writes “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
It is in the meeting and sharing with each other that will serve to unite us as a church and provide that vital fellowship that nourishes our spiritual growth. For this reason, I feel it is imperative that for those of us who do not come to the large Sunday service gathering to please attend at least a life group near you during the week. We have a Life group going on either at the homes at a location near you or even in church, almost every day of the week. Please take the time off to pop in to any of these groups and they will be glad to have you fellowship with them. The locations and times of all the groups are on this special page in our website please call and be part of our body life, do not stay isolated during this time of crisis. Small group gatherings are not a problem in epidemics.
For those of you who cannot go to a Life group to be ministered to , there is a telephone hotline and an email where you can contact us at church and we will assign a pastor or church leader to minister to you or visit you in your time of need. The number is on this web site as well.
The work of God’s kingdom goes on at an even more intense pace during crisis times like these and hence we would encourage all of us to continue to give towards the work of the church. Those with on line banking facilities please use the Duit Now option and enter our church code which is BT 76 and continue to faithfully support this vital work. More specific details of how to do is already on this website , just follow the instructions. Those of us who do not have on line banking may give at the local life group near you or drop it off at the church office during office hours.
In times of danger and uncertainty, it is essential for us a church to unite and rise up to meet the challenge.
Whilst a certain pastor of a mega-church in Singapore was recently praising God that in His church there was not a single person with Covid19, we could say the same, but it would be a premature and a naive over simplification of how our God works in a crisis. In a similarly disappointing turn of events the Greek Orthodox Church in Greece itself whilst following the usual governmental response of social distancing contradicted itself by insisting that the communicants of their Holy Communion all share the same spoon or chalice for the wine. It was cast as a matter of faith. An anonymous Wuhan pastor wrote recently that “[Christ’s] peace is not to remove us from disaster and death, but rather to have peace in the midst of disaster and death, because Christ has already overcome these things.” That is our victory. We of all people in Subang Jaya as in Wuhan need to understand that for us death does not have the last word for us. We are to live responsibly neither to cower in fear nor to tempt fate by over simplistic gestures of faith.
Finally, it is in times like these that our friends and family will need to see and feel the authenticity of our faith. It is in times like these ,that the gospel and the people of the gospel will shine like the city on the hill. This is not the time to hide the light under a bushel it is the time to show that Jesus makes a difference. You may be in contact with a relative or a friend who is feeling lost and anxious and it is precisely in times like these that they might be open to coming to hear the gospel at our up coming Alpha 17 program starting on the 1st of April. Bring them along.
There was a huge pagan shrine in the city of Caesaria in Matthew 16 and Peter had just declared to Jesus that He was Christ the Son of the Living God. In verse 18 it reads “ And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." The rock he was referring to was Peter’s declaration of who Jesus was....Christ the Son of the living God. That is all we need to know, that is all we need to have in our lives. The gates of hell, the threat of pandemic and paralysing shadow of fear shall not prevail against the church of the Son of the living God let us rise up and unite to truly experience these words as a living reality.
Dr Peter Ng