Appreciation Sunday for Cell Leaders

Praying for the cell leaders
Praying for the cell leaders

Today’s Sunday Worship Service was devoted to encouraging and affirming and blessing our cell leaders for their works of faith, attitude of hope and love for God’s people. We had a meaningful, wonderful and inspiring morning. These were some of the things we did:

  • We let everyone know that we were going to appreciate the the cell leaders and reaffirm the importance of cells in spirituality.
  • The 25 minute sermon on Matthew 6:34 was a word in season for the cell leaders and members. A sermon about the purpose of cell groups is so hackneyed we decided not to do it. Ps Thomas spoke on “Living in the Present”, an exhortation to live fully in the present, and not to be stuck in the past, or to live in anxiety about the future.
  • A new member, Suling, shared with the congregation her thoughts about why the cell group was so beneficial for her growth.
  • Our youth worker Ethel Cannon-Shin shared how the new commandment of Jesus in John 13:34,35 should be the bedrock of the cell and how participation in a cell provides community.
  • We showed a video that stitched together every cell groups’ words of appreciation for their cell leaders. This was a clincher and it affirmed and energised every the cell leader.
  • We called all the cell leaders out to the front and asked all the cell members to gather around them and pray for them. Each cell leader received a gift of appreciation.
  • We had some special light refreshments: ang ku kueh, with a tortoise impressed upon the cake, to symbolise longevity. We do hope the cell leaders will be sustained by the grace of God, and the support of the cell core team, and will continue serving and leading for many years.

Cell appreciation from Tom Cannon on Vimeo.

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Testing, Testing

5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming towards him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, ‘It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!’ (John 6:5-7 NIV)

When we are faced with a challenge what would be our response? Would it be one of faith, hope and love? Or would our response be one of fear, despair or indifference? What would be your internal and spontaneous response when faced with a challenge?

The company announces that your department will be affected by a restructuring exercise. The Polyclinic suddenly urges you to immediately go to the Accident and Emergency Department of a general hospital. Your daughter has sent hundreds of resumes to secure a job but all were unsuccessful.  You have been praying for a loved one to be cured of a serious illness for some months but the latest check-up showed that his condition was getting worse.

What is your response to these challenges? One of faith or fear? One of hope or despair? One of love or cold indifference? God is testing you because he has hopes that you have it in you to respond with faith, hope or love. When you respond with faith, hope or love, it pleases the Lord and puts a smile on his face. It gives him great pleasure and joy.

Philip was put to the test by the Lord. There are thousands of hungry folks here. “Philip how can we feed these people?” Philips reasoned and very rational response was, “No way we can feed them. We don’t have the finances. Why even six months’ salary could only put a mouthful in each of their mouths!”

Jesus knew he would do a miracle of multiplication. However, he always wanted his friends involved in his kingdom miracles and work. He had hoped that since Philip had seen the miracle of the supply of the wine he would say something like, “Lord you supplied wine supernaturally. Surely you can supply food supernaturally too!” But Philip did not say that, to the Lord’s disappointment. He relied on his own understanding and on what he saw and calculated. “No way Lord, we do not have the budget to take care of their needs.”

“Oh Philip, how long must I be with you guys. How many miracles must I do to show you my power and love? O you of little faith!” Did these thoughts flash through Jesus mind?

Thank you, Philip. You are not alone. We identify with you. I and many like me would respond as you have responded. We think in very human terms: by what our senses tell us. We are greatly limited by our lack of faith and imagination. We are too practical and realistic to imagine a solution that the faith of Jesus had actually grasped.

Lord increase my faith. Your ways are higher than my ways. When I am faced with challenges and limitations and impossibilities, help me to believe, to have hope, and to love. I want to bring a smile on your face, and great wonder in your eyes.

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Aaron Lee and Namiko Chan Takahashi: Caring for Culture

Expanding the vision

I was looking for someone who could expand the congregation’s vision of how God is present and active in the creative arts to reveal His glory and power. I found such a person in Aaron Lee, an award-winning poet, bi-vocational pastor-lawyer, and a leader in the arts ministry. I first got to know him through Facebook. Later I got to know his wife, Namiko Chan– again on Facebook, and found out she was an award-winning portrait artist, and a Hula dance teacher. They are together the founders of Laniakea Culture Collective.

Made-in-the-Image-300x193

Aaron Lee and Kenny Chee
Aaron Lee and Kenny Chee

Sunday sermon: Made in the Image of the Master Artist

I invited them to take the Sunday morning message and the afternoon workshop. Aaron preached a message of how we are made in the image of the Master Artist and how we needed to submit to the ongoing work of the Master Artist as He shaped our broken lives into something glorious. The masterly and creative and precise use of words and videos were evident in his sermon. After all what do you expect from a wordsmith?

Kit Chan: I should have recognised her

I thought one of his guests looked like Kit Chan but she did not look like the glamourous Kit Chan seen on TV and the news. I could now see why the Jews had missed the Messiah – they had misconceptions of what the Messiah would be and do. The congregation was as clueless about her identity. And I lost a chance to get a picture with her.

Presenting a gift to the host (Photo: Lynne)
Presenting a gift to the host (Photo: Lynne)

 

The ho'okupu (token of honour)
The ho’okupu (token of honour)
Inside the wonderful gift: five stones (a reminder to "play")
Inside the wonderful gift: five stones (a reminder to “play”)

A creative gift

After lunch, Aaron and Namiko-Chan began their workshop with an interesting piece of Hawaiian culture. They presented a makana (gift, or ho’okupu “token of honour”) to the host, WRPF church, represented by my wife and I.  It looked like banana leaves and flowers tied with straws. It was actually lovingly made the night before with ti leaves and some flowers. Inside the leaves were five stones – a reminder to actively “play” throughout our lives.

Beng Choo and Deborah dancing
Beng Choo and Deborah dancing the prayer song (Photo: Aaron)
Namiko hulas to the prayer song. You could feel the presence of God as she moved with grace
Namiko hulas to the prayer song. You could feel the presence of God as she moved with grace (Photo: Aaron)

Enthralled by their stories

Then they shared their journey in the arts. The congregation was enthralled by their stories of how they were called and mentored into their ministry in the creative arts. Namiko’s story of how the Lord led her into learning the hula from a Hawaiian master, and how God used their 10,000 Profiles project to serve the orang asli were reminders of how God leads and uses us with our unique gift-sets.

During the workshop, Namiko got the whole congregation involved in expressing a prayer song in movements of our hands and arms. Then she gave her hula dance interpretation of the same song: it was anointed and captivating. I sensed the presence of the Lord conveyed through the dance.

Creative journalling

After a short break, Aaron gave us some tips on creative journaling. Doodling is one the interesting items on his list. There is hope for those who dislike writing. They can doodle! We ended with an open-ended exercise in journaling, a fitting closure to the workshop. For some, their journey has begun with this workshop, I hope.

After the meeting, people were still interacting with Aaron and Namiko.
After the meeting, people were still interacting with Aaron and Namiko.

Mind the gap

One takeaway for me was Aaron’s portrayal of the challenging gap of a lack of mutual acceptance and appreciation between the church and creative artists. Will creative out-of-the-box artists feel comfortable in a church that values respectability, conformity and acceptability? What would it take for a church to be more friendly for people of the creative arts to thrive in the church community?

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