As I said in my last post, the “circuit breaker” stay home stay safe season has compelled me to learn the skill of self-recording using my smartphone, of talking to an empty room, of editing and using igtv, the relatively new video platform of Instagram, which allows a maximum of 10 mins per video for ordinary members. The above is the first of a series on Working From Home. It relates my experience of W.F.H.
There was no choice. I had to learn fast how to record my sermons.
First, I had to buy the wireless mic, and the adapter cable for the phone. Then I had to recorded my Sunday sermons with my wife’s help and the media team leader’s advice via whatsapp video calls.
My Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is proving to be an asset. Its video is top quality for 5 minutes and 10 minutes for the best settings. But even the third best setting is sufficient to give more than 45 minutes of good quality video for the Sunday online service via YouTube.
It felt stressful to do this. Lots of unknown areas. Lots of experimenting and going back and forth with Zephaniah. Stressful also to talk in front of a phone camera and an empty hall. Had to rehearse the script. Had to remember the main points and ideas. It all adds to the stress.
It was strangely satisfying to see myself on screen. I used to hate to watch videos of myself preaching. Interestingly, it was not as painful this time round watching myself on TV preach to myself in the living room. I am becoming comfortable with the way I appear on video, and I feel immense satisfaction that it was recorded using a Note 9, and desk tripod, and wireless mic.
Of course the media team did a lot of editing. That is something I hope to learn in the near future.
The pandemic has forced this on me and my staff. They too are learning to record their own sermons and sending them to the editing team.
The members are beneficiaries. Shorter, sharper, clearer sermons, and therefore services, every Sunday.
Most Protestants do not know bother meditating on Holy Saturday. Who would blame them? As a pastor I myself hardly taught about it, or even thought about it. It is exposure to contemplative spirituality that led me to discern a rich vein of golden truths hidden in the tomb.
The waiting in the tomb speaks to me in so many ways. It tells me that many periods in life can be like being in the uncertain tomb, between the certainties of death and resurrection. To the disciples who followed Jesus it was certainly a period of anxiety, confusion, ambiguity, and the humiliation of not knowing what to do. There are times of transitions in our life when this is exactly how we feel too. We do not know for certain how things will pan out. Will I be able to get a job after the pandemic? Will I lose my current job?
We do learn however that we need to do during this time of uncertainty is WAIT. Waiting patiently is not exactly a Millenial’s favourite thing to do. For that matter, nobody of any age likes to wait. But this stillness, silence and waiting in the tomb is exactly what God is inviting us to do. For in that waiting will be birthed forth and formed the new you that will be able to cope, enjoy, endure and triumph over what is NEXT.
Which is what this period of ‘circuit breaker’ seems to be all about. We are in our homely tombs. We feel uncertain as the daily number of covid-19 cases increases rather than decreases. Its been five days and uncertainty still prevails. It is clear we need to be more strict and careful with our social distancing. But what happens next nobody can be sure, although the graph should show a downward curve by the end of the one month of tempered lock down. We are in the in between period, the liminal space of neither here nor there, or not knowing what or how, of seeing through a glass darkly. We will learn that God’s delay is not denial, and his silence is not abandonment.
Jesus stayed still, silent and waited as the dead would. But in his faith perfected by suffering, he knew that the Father, in due time would come to rescue him from the grip of death, and breathe in him the resurrection life of eternal power. We too will need to exercise a faith that after we die in the Lord, there will be a resurrection of the dead from the graves and columbariums and the seas and the earth, and it will be a resurrection unto life, not condemnation or judgment.
This Holy Saturday, my daughter in law, Ping, organized and led a seder passover meal, a Christian version. It brought together four households via WhatsApp video call. We got the bread, grapejuice, some bitter stuff (wasabi, or herbs), a candle. We gave parts to everyone, including our grandchildren, and went through the script patiently. How wonderful for family to be together in this way – pondering over the great escape from the angel of death through the Blood of the Lamb applied on the doorposts of every believing familiy! This is good preparation for the Lord’s Table on Easter Sunday tomorrow.
This has been an eventful week. The rolling out of the “circuit breaker” to halt the Covid 19 from spreading further in Singapore had commenced. On Tuesday, most businesses and offices closed or began operations from homes. On Wednesday, all the schools began online lessons. On Thursday I fetched my daughter home from a hotel in Orchard Road. She had spent 14 days there in isolation because she flew in from the United States. That very afternoon, I rehearsed and then had my Easter sermon pre-recorded together with the Holy Communion. And today is Good Friday. I went to the Teban Market to buy back nasi lemak and bread and eggs, while my wife bought vegetables in a rush. She said, It’s like Chinese New Year Eve, nobody bothers even though the price of vegetables have gone up. What a long week it had been! I felt relieved the recording had been done. I now hope the media team will give it an editing makeover, and enhance what was done using my son’s Fuji camera, and Zephaniah’s Rode wireless mic. I was anxious about how I was going to figure it our by myself. I was tempted to ask my niece Bethany over to help since she’s 10 minutes drive away, and she is from the media team. However, I was reminded by concerned people that this is contrary to the spirit of what the government is seeking to do – strict social distancing. I tried to rationalize things, Isn’t preaching an essential service that calms and strengthens people’s faith and give hope? After a struggle, I decided to err on the safe side. In the end, God worked all things for good, and my daughter after her release from quarantine, and a video call with Zeph, our media team head, provided the know-how to video my sermon and the Holy Communion for Easter Sunday’s online worship experience.
I tried to use the teleprompter on iPad but somehow it showed too clearly on camera that my eyes were leering off-centre. So I discarded that and held and referred to my sermon notes on my iPad. I hope it turns out okay. We started taping at about 5pm using the light from the windows, the ceiling light, and a table lamp. By the time we taped the Holy Communion, the room had darkened and we had a good laugh. We would need great editing from the media team, or maybe a miracle, for this home-made stuff to be usable on Sunday. It was a good experience.
THE LORD IS RISEN INDEED!
My friend Koh Seng Chor, a retired pastor, sent me this lovely piece of timeless wisdom from Reformation giant, Martin Luther, who in dealing with The Black Death plague, wrote these wise words that can help inform a Christian response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence.
If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others.
If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above.
See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”
(Luther’s Works Volume 43 p. 132)
The WHO has declared covid 19 a world pandemic. It is spreading around the world at an alarming rate. World wide emergency cabinet meetings and health orgainizations task forces have been trying to formulate plans to contain and defeat this invisible and clever enemy.
Over in Singapore there is a calm confidence. Yes years ago there was a panic when SARS hit our shores and we scrambled like crazy. When SARS ended there were reviews, evalutions and detailed contingency plans laid in case of another epidemic. This fine tuned plan is being implemented today. Kudos to the civil service and the government.
Together with the WHO announcement, came a speech from our Prime Minister. It was reassuring to hear from him. The thing that struck me as a pastor was his mention that religious meeting need to be shortened and the size of meetings reduced.
Pondering over this, it seems that this could be a good time for the church, steeped in tradition, and entrenched in a fixed way of dong things, to do a review and consider changes. Changes is difficult for church leaders and members. However, when something considered potentially life-threatening stares you and your family in the face, you would actually welcome change or at least accept that it is necessary.
To illustrate how difficult it is for the church to change its way of congregating or worshipping. What if we tell all church members to meet in homes in groups no larger than 20 people, on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday watching a pre-recorded service or live stream? And that would substitute for the Worship Service. Tradition will cry out, Can the Eucharist be conducted at home? Pragmatism will query, How do we collect the offerings? Will there be a drop in finances? Parents will plead, What will we do with our children without Sunday School or children’s church? Small churches will cry out, We don’t have media expertise to do pre-recorded services or live streaming?
Changes are difficult, but if the church is willing to steer a steady and determined course and discern what is best in its context, and make necessary changes, that church will be all the better and stronger after the changes.
The mustard seed must welcome change in its form to grow into a tree, and the leaven must create disruption and ferment in the flour, and change the flour’s constitution for it to become baked bread.
I would be happy to hear your comments or suggestions of how we should co-operate with government advisories like the one issued by the Prime Minister.
I received this prophecy about the Wuhan virus (now called covid 19)and judged it a valid and significant word from the Lord.
Tan Gee Paw was a civil servant who took charge of the clean up of the Singapore River. More importantly he is a man of God who followed and served Christ faithfully and humbly with a local Methodist Church, and Full Gospel Businessmen Fellowship International. He is known to be a preacher that speaks God’s word without fear nor favour, all the time with humility and the fear of the Lord.
This prophecy from him about the Wuhan virus when it first spread in January 2020 is something we should heed, in my humble opinion.
THE WORD OF THE LORD THAT CAME TO ME ON THURSDAY 6TH FEB 2020: THE WUHAN VIRUS
China and the whole world are gripped by the outbreak of the Wuhan virus with city lock downs in many parts of China and the closing of borders with China by many countries in the late afternoon of 6th February 2020. I went to MacRitchie Reservoir Park to spend a quiet time before dinner. As I sat on the bench in communion with the Lord, I asked a silent question, ‘Lord, what is the meaning of this outbreak?’ I was taken aback by a clear answer from the Lord, saying, ‘I have pressed the pause button on China.’
My immediate reaction was, ‘Lord, if you have pressed the pause button on China, then you have also pressed the pause button on all surrounding countries affiliated with China, including Singapore’.
As the message was so clear, I walked back to my car in deep silence. As I drove home, I turned on the radio (93.8) to hear the 5.30pm news. One of the news items shook me up. The radio announcer read out ‘China has pressed the pause button and postponed its annual National Peoples Congress, the top policy making body.’ The very words ‘pressed the pause button’ was read out! I listened again to the 6 pm news, and the same words were repeated.
MESSAGE TO THE CHURCHES:
The Lord has pressed the pause button not only for China but also the church in Asia. It is time for us to pause, be quiet and spend time with Him. We must pause to listen to Him, for time is fast running on.
TAN GEE PAW
The church in Singapore is like the Ephesus church in the messages to the seven churches in the Revelation. We are known for our deeds, our activity, hard work, and orthodoxy. But the one thing we lack is the most important: ‘You have forsaken the love you had at first’ (Rev 2:4 NIV). This pause has caused many churches to shut down many of its programs, for some churches even its services. It is exactly as the prophecy revealed. The PAUSE button has been pressed. We therefore need to take heed to the response God expects from his church, the Bride of Christ. We are to quiet down before Him in prayer and seek His face in prayer. When we do this we would be a better equipped and empowered people. Time spent with the Lord will be more profitable than a thousand cancelled events and programs driven by mere human effort and wisdom.
God in His wisdom can make good come out of evil. This is God’s mercy. Let us pray.