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11 December 2016 | Vicar Writes

About Thanksgiving and Renewal

By Terry Wong

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

As the year ends, you will be hearing sermons on thanksgiving. What does this word mean? Even our Holy Communion, sometimes called eucharisteuo, came from the word “thanksgiving” in Greek.  

To be thankful as Christians is to acknowledge what God is doing. This is why an attitude of thanksgiving is an essential part of being a Christian and one reason why it is all over the Scriptures. We have to admit that in our younger Asian societies of migrants, where we have brought with us an ethos of survival (and thus competition), thanksgiving is not the most natural of our traits. 

I am not always thankful but I should be. Coming as a “migrant” to Singapore with only one bag in hand in 1984, I can still remember how lonely and homesick I felt in my first Christmas here. The blinking lights were decking the hostel building and synchronising to some carols. It was a setup to induce homesick feelings. 

I could never imagine then that I would be where I am today, family and church-wise. That Singapore can be truly my home in every sense of the word. I should be very thankful to the Lord for Hismany blessings. 

You remember the hymn “Count your blessings?” Try counting and naming your blessings. You need to be intentional but it is well worth the effort. It will change your perspective. 

Associated with thanksgiving is a spirit of encouragement and affirmation. If we can see what God is doing today and through others, it changes our perspective of people, the church and what we see around us. 

Being a young society, there is also a lack of confidence in our roots. We are not strong in humanities either (theology being  a part of that), being a largely technical society (and yes, just memorise Scriptures!) , we are not as confident when it comes to renewal, returning to first principles and thinking out of the box. And so, we blindly copy traditions and practices that have been handed down to us, often without understanding why. 

Coming down to what we do as Anglicans here in SAC, here is where in this “new season,” we need prayerful conversations on the “hows and whats” (and even whens!) of our Services. I think a lot of what we are doing, and also carry on conversations with those who are studied in liturgy and theology. No, we are not headed for some radical changes but tweaks are to be expected as even liturgy itself is dynamic and in need of renewal with the passage of time. 

In being thankful and affirming, we see what the Father is doing in our midst and align ourselves to His purpose. 

That said, it is not always possible to do things perfectly. There are so many different parties working together to ensure every service runs
well but these coordinations are not always perfect. I can still recall in a Good Friday Service in my previous parish where the preacher, who was supposed to do 3 short meditations decided to do three full length sermons instead, even though he has been carefully briefed. The Choir director was on the brink of a nervous breakdown, and seated with me on stage kept gesturing for me to do something. I sat calmly and put on a brave front, knowing that there is not much I could do to hold back the over-enthusiastic preacher. The service has to go on even if its length is not welcome. 

And so,  I here end with the oft quoted line from the movie Hotel Marigold: “Everything will be alright in the end so if it is not alright it is not the end.” 

Indeed, let’s learn to give thanks in everything!


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