My sabbatical begins
The sabbatical has finally begun. First of April came and went without event. Lurking underneath was an anxiety that the chairman of the Board would call me –Pastor, I am sorry but it was all an April Fool’s prank. Report to work tomorrow. But that did not happen, and I am still pinching myself.
The last time I had a sabbatical was for three months and it was about eleven years ago. At that time, I had served in the same church for close to 20 years. No complaints from me as there are pastors who have never had a sabbatical. And there are those who had a sabbatical every six years. Comparing my situation with other pastors will only make me glad or sad. I would rather not compare and be grateful and contented with what I am blessed with.
Eugene Peterson, well known pastor, lecturer and writer about spiritual formation and prayer, wrote in one of his books, that sabbatical is “the biblically based provision for restoration. When the farmer’s field is depleted, it is given a sabbatical – after years of planting and harvesting, it is left alone for a year so that the nutrients can build up in it. When people in ministry are depleted, they also are given a sabbatical – time apart for the recovery of spiritual and creative energies.” For some years now I have been feeling the need for spiritual replenishment. This morning, on the Lord’s day, I woke up praying- Lord heal whatever brokenness You find in me. I commit the whole six months to You and trust You to order my steps and restore me fully in spirit, soul and body.
Visit to church nearby my home
This was my first Sunday. Community of Praise Baptist Church is nearby my home and their worship service starts at 10am. My wife came with me as we had to hurry off to Yip’s 50th birthday lunch in Sentosa. The worship hall was gorgeous. The decor was tastefully done and I could see that they were willing to spare little expense to do the hall up. It looked like it had a seating capacity of about 500. The songs were familiar and I asked the Lord to minister and speak to me. A song touched me, encouraging me to trust Him to accomplish His purposes in me through this sabbatical. That was a good start, to start receiving at the first service of the sabbatical.
A few faces were familiar to me. I saw Jackie and pastor Bernie – both of whom I am acquainted with from a prayer retreat I attended last November. And there was Dave Tang who sits on the CRMS board and the senior pastor Rev George Butron who together with other pastors were attending a Focused Leaders Network facilitated by the CRMS founder James Creasman, former Anglican Archbishop Moses Tay, pastor Walter Lim of Grace II and myself.
The congregation were mainly folks in their 40’s and 50’s, as their young people, the Mandarin speaking and the children were worshipping simultaneously in other halls nearby. There were quite a number of Caucasians in the congregation and a surprisingly wonderful mix of different races. The Chinese formed the majority but there were quite a number of Indians, Filippinos and other folks too. It reminded me of Pentecost at Azusa Street. The Spirit brings people of all races and status and marks it with His kind of love.
George Butron’s sermon
George Butron taught from Nehemiah chapter one, the beginning of a series of messages. Detailing the historical and cultural background without boring the audience, he taught the Word, reading often from the text. It was obvious he loved the Word and that shone through. Near the end, he got on fire and the temperature in the congregation went up. From informing the mind earlier, he was now warming our hearts as he poured out his heartfelt convictions about what he saw God doing in the church and what he believed God was about to do. You could say he started with teaching and ended up prophesying. Black preachers call it celebration.
The insight I took home was about how Nehemiah mirrored the Holy Spirit’s ministry in our lives. Just as Nehemiah rebuilt the broken walls of Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit wants to rebuild our lives on the inside. That was the pivot on which the sermon’s effectiveness rested on. It resonated with me because of what I prayed in the morning. At the end of the sermon, I whispered to the Lord – I trust You to rebuild the broken walls during the sabbatical.
Long walks resume
My wife and I resumed the long walks and the usual Saturday treks. These have been laid off for quite a few months. So while the early morning Saturday trek up Bukit Timah Hill was cancelled because it rained, my wife and I went with Linda Teo, Tan and Christine in the evening. The hills are alive with the sound of music, and I do hear them when I trek. And it always feels good, yes priceless, when after an hour and a half of trekking up stairs and slopes, you walk down the tar and cement main road to the rangers’ station at the foot. There are other places I would like to trek during my sabbatical: Pulau Ubin, Sungei Buloh, Sentosa, MacRitchie, some parts of the city, and some hills like Belumut in Kluang.
Off to Kuala Lumpur
This Friday, I ride First Coach from Novena at 9.30am and will be in Kuala Lumpur for about ten days. Do my MTh(Ed) module under Perry Shaw whose lectures are about “Building Formative Faith Communities”- it may not appeal to you but just the title makes me salivate. Of course “ lim kopi” with some New Covenant Church friends like Pastor Peter and Simon and whoever is free. Preach there on Sunday morning. Possibly a peek at Stillhaventfound’s girlfriend. Maybe he’ll change his blog name now that he has found. Maybe attend Roger Sapp’s healing seminar. Quite a few maybes. And finally, a visit to an old friend, Mrs Ang, as we affectionately call her, who had ministered many times to our church in the past. Looking forward to this trip.