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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.”
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.
The covid 19 virus has had a significant impact on the churches in Singapore. Every church had to make adjustments to its programmes. The Roman Catholic Church suspended its masses shortly after the government activated the DORSCON orange alert. So did charismatic megachurches like FCBC and City Harvest Church, as well as a large Presbyterian church. This is besides the two other churches that the Ministry of Health intervened in, and suspended its services, because of the infection cluster among its members.
However, for most other denominations and independent churches, the essential worship service continued, and other peripheral services, events, and programs were cancelled or postponed.
Various precautionary steps were initiated in most churches: temperature readings, attendance taking, handwave instead of handshakes, more hygienic ways of delivering Holy Communion, shorter services, dismissal and dispersion of members after service, and live streaming of services for members who opt to stay home.
This meant more stress on the pastors as the dilemma of decision making in the midst of DORSCON orange was a tug of war: to continue with services might be misconstrued as a lack of prudence and sensitivity; and to suspend the services may be perceived as a lack of faith in God.
Thankfully I have a pastoral team to work with and to discern the best decision to go with at each point in time. In addition, I have good pastor friends from other churches, and we share notes about the decisions we were making. Finally, the church I serve is a part of two larger network of churches: the Love Singapore movement, and the National Council of Churches of Singapore. We take to heart their advice. These support systems helped to take the stress off me, and in the end our group discernment led to a decision to go ahead with the services, doing live streaming of the services, and encouraging our parents with young children, and the Pioneer generation to stay home, if they wished to.
The staff also had to plan for continuity in case the covid 19 hit the church. So we formed two teams, worked from home, and we tried using Zoom, a software for group meetings via internet video conferencing. The first time we used it, it took us 45 minutes just to get all seven of us on the screen. It was an interesting experience. One thing noticeably different was that I had to consciously concentrate and listen. We also interupted each other less and listened better. The Bible injunction to “Be slow to speak and quick to listen” became a reality!
I worked more from home and this gave me more time for prayer, reflection and reading. A prophetic word from Tan Gee Paw, the man who spearheaded the cleanup of Singapore River, stated that God had pressed the PAUSE button for China and for the church too. PAUSE to halt mindless pursuit of wealth and pleasure, to pray and listen to God. I believe God is squeezing good out of evil, and my prayer is that more of God’s people will spend more time seeking the Lord in prayer than they had before.
There are many reasons to be thankful in the midst of walking in the valley of the shadow of death. There may be fear, anxiety and even panic, but these should reveal something about disordered values in our life, and an invitation from God to take an inward journey that will hopefully free us to be all God wants us to be.
I felt inspired when I saw members still attending worship services with increased earnestness in their singing and praying.
I feel thankful that we have a government that is organized and efficient.
I feel God’s hand is on this nation in the midst of the covid 19. May it bring a greater clarity to all Singaporeans that a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions, power, honour, or achievements. Life can be unpredictably short and we need Jesus Christ to be Lord of our life more than anything else.
I am unsure what happened but my blog, which had been down for three months, is now restored. This is not the first time my blog had been hijacked and used to re-direct traffic elsewhere. I am thankful that Vee my friend managed to get it up and running again. Thank you Lord.
Praying that it will be stable and safe. I will use a complicated password. Hope this helps.
My heart is full and lots have happened in my soul. I have a lot to write but this is still a test post. The enforced silence has increased my desire to write. Looking forward.
One of my goals in November is to work on physical fitness.
It is no surprise then that I have gone hiking more this month than the whole year (not counting the camino walks) put together. It has been a challenge initially but once you build a momentum you simply carry on in the motivation generated by previous exercises.
This is rainy season so more than once the weather played me out. It said rain; I stayed home, but there was no rain. I have since removed the weather forecast link from the home screen. I will depend on what I see in the sky.
When it rained, I either took to the gym or the pool or to cycling the Jurong Lakes.
I am encouraged that pants that were tight before my sabbatical were now fitting. Well, we are now near the end of November and to some extent I am on track to getting healthier.
I am also enjoying my meditations on the Song of Songs, taking my time to savour, imagine, the love songs-poems. Not rushing but relishing. Not analyzing but allowing the words, phrases and lyrics to be woven into the fabric of my soul. May my love for God deepen as I dwell on His love. Amen.