Helping the “hidden needy”

Helping the “hidden needy”

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All 2018 March Vicar Writes

25 March 2018 | Vicar Writes

Helping the “hidden needy”

By Terry Wong

In this Year of Prayer, the Cathedral has a theme that resonates with many of us and it is this - ‘Pursuing the Heart of God’. And what, we may well ask, is upon the heart of God?

We have many thoughts and suggestions in this direction, amongst which are: to seek God more intimately in closet prayer, secret devotion, corporate prayer, the study of His Word etc. These are foundational disciplines and we need to encourage each other to return to the heart of God in this way.

But may I suggest that there is another aspect to pursuing the heart of God: it is to pursue His passion for the lost, the poor and needy, the helpless and the hopeless in our land. As we sing in the song Hosanna, “break my heart for what break Yours.”

In the Old Testament, we see God’s heart for the poor, the needy, the orphans, the widows and the foreigners of the land (see Exod 22:26-27;
Lev 19:9-10; Deut 14:28-29; Deut 24:10-22). Besides the call to hear and obey God’s commandments and to walk in the fear of the LORD, here is a clear call to care for and love people.

Repeatedly, the prophets denounced the callousness of the Israelites in their treatment of the poor and the destitute. And judgment came upon them in their refusal to heed God’s call to repent and to do what is right and just. 

Micah 6:8 sums it well: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Having shared this, we do know that helping the poor is sometimes not as straightforward as it may seem. Who are the poor? At the lawn, last Sunday,  a man accosted a clergyman for money.  He was able-bodied and spoke well in English. Should the clergy give him any money?  Some of you who have been long in this Cathedral, would have experienced such a situation.  Should we give money to anyone who asks us for it? Our pastors are often in this quandary.

Who are the poor in Singapore and how can we help them? In the orderly and pristine city of Singapore, the needy are often hidden in nicely-painted HDB blocks. We need to seek out the “hidden needy.” 

In Singapore, the Cathedral does a good work to uplift the less-privileged and to help the needy. CITY Community Services befriends and cares for disadvantaged children in schools,  the Mobile Medical Service to the Community reaches out to vulnerable groups such as foreign workers and the elderly, and the Cathedral Home for the Aged is a home for elderly women without families or whose families are not able to care for them. These are excellent ministries and I would urge more of you to step up to help in person or to support the work financially.

We will still need to attend to the needy in our midst, worshipping with us as well as to those who walk into our premises to ask for help.  An able and dedicated team of members is needed for this work which entails keeping the principles of compassion and the perimeters of the ministry.  This work will be time-consuming and it will overlap with our counselling ministry, but this is a much-needed step up for our church.  I believe that some of you have the experience, heart and time to serve in this area. If you can help with this or the other ministries mentioned above, please email Adeline Hee at  missions@cathedral.org.sg or phone 63376104 ext 133.

18 March 2018 | Vicar Writes

A House of Prayer for All Nations

By Terry Wong

And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.  And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” Mark 11:15-17

An interesting question was asked at the last AGM. Why do we allow buying and selling in the church when Jesus did not allow for that in the temple? This is a case in point where Scripture needs to be read and understood carefully so that it can guide us in a correct way. 

We start with the context. Pilgrims from afar, both Jews and proselytes (Gentile believers), will come to the temple in Jerusalem to worship on major feasts days. Pigeons and other animals used for sacrifices will be sold and this also explains the need for money-changers. On the surface, this seemed reasonable as a service was being provided. 

Jesus angrily overturned the tables and drove out the animals with a whip. The reasons can be inferred from his quotation of Scripture: “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” This is taken from Isaiah 56:1-7, and I quote a part: And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, ... these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.

The “den of robbers” may suggest that foreigners were taken advantage of through overpriced merchandise and unfair exchange rates. Even more importantly, the outer courts were areas where Gentiles were allowed to gather to worship. Those areas had become crowded out and its sense of sacred space was lost by both the presence of these activities and the way they were conducted. Instead of being a house of prayer for all nations, foreigners were being taken advantage of and their rights compromised.

In the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), this incident was the final reason for the religious authorities to kill Jesus.His consistent teaching and ministry to the religious outcasts of his day and his rebuke of the religious authorities finally led Him to the cross.

We can see from here the message that these passages carry for the Church. For we too can easily forget that the Church exists for all. Foreign worshippers have full rights to worship at His house. And they should never be taken advantage of. This is one reason why it grieved our hearts when we heard that a Korean tourist lost her bag with her passport and all when she left them behind momentarily and went up for communion. This can happen to anyone of course, and we remind all to be careful and watchful.

Beyond just the way space is used are the wider principles of how we see the Christian faith. Passages such as this and other teachings of Jesus elsewhere (e.g. the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20) have driven the Church into cross-cultural Missions and stopped her from being confined to a single or local culture. 

The Church has not read this as a prohibition of selling and buying on church grounds. Many churches, here and all over the world have book stores, restaurants and cafes catering to the need for Christian resources and refreshments. In SAC, we have kept the worship spaces sacred but have opened our grounds for varied uses, including allowing for the gathering of foreigners. This issue will be discussed at the next Town Hall Meeting and we appreciate your feedback and thoughts.

11 March 2018 | Vicar Writes

The Vision Comes from Us

By Terry Wong

We were richly blessed by Michael Card’s ministry last weekend. He teaches and sings Scriptures in a very rich way. I trust that those who attended (and invited a friend or two) have been blessed and inspired. Indeed, in our spiritual journey, there are songs which accompany us in the same way that some of the psalms did for Jewish pilgrims. Some of us who grew up with Card’s music can testify to the power of some of his songs for our own journeys. If all goes well, we hope to have him back in the fourth quarter of 2019.

The Watoto Children’s Choir is also visiting the Cathedral on the third week of this month. As always, everything has a place and purpose. We are heartened by the way the Myanmar Service has responded and they are expecting a good crowd in their Watoto evangelistic concert next Sunday (18th March). Now, how about the Cathedral one on 20th March? Do invite a friend!

The response to the current run of Alpha Course has been overwhelming. We ran out of food as the team did not expect that many walk-in visitors. The Prayer Halls are maxed out. This is a good problem to have. Pray for the guests.

The weekday Lent Mid-day Prayers is seeing a steady number gathering to pray. It is a far cry from participation in our morning or evening prayers where more often than not, it is only the prayer leader there.

Reflecting on all these events, as always, it is about either helping unbelievers to know or believers to grow in the Lord.

Someone asked me recently a series of questions on the vision of the Cafe. I will give an answer which may sound surprising. The Cafe team has no vision except one - making a very good cup of coffee and to do so consistently. This is what they were charged with when they first started. Now, it is cathedral members like me and you who have a vision to reach out, for whom the Cafe is but one more avenue that we can use.
 
If you line up all the events, courses, facilities, ministries and even our weekend Services on one side, they are really just tools and avenues. They have no life on their own. “Vision” does not reside within them. Whether they are good or not so good, it really depends on us! It is we who use them for a greater purpose. If you are reaching out to someone, praying for a Christian to have a spiritual breakthrough, concerned that your fellow Connect group members are growing, then you will see that there is so much in SAC which can help you to do so. Without such a vision or passion, then all these are irrelevant and merely events that keep the Cathedral wheels turning.

May everything in SAC be used with purpose by a people concerned for the Gospel and His glory.

4 March 2018 | Vicar Writes

The Four Verbs: Isaiah 55:6-9

By Terry Wong
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Seek, call, forsake and return - these early verbs which formed my Christian vocabulary during my spiritual infancy years - have stayed with me in my 42 years of journeying with Christ. They continue to mark the fact that I am always dependent on my Saviour and Father. I can never wean off this dependence. Nor should I ever try.

Though I know Him, I still seek Him daily. For wisdom in ever changing situations. For truth, as my heart is often deceptive and leads me in wrong directions.

Though I know by faith that He is near me, I still call out to Him. For at times, it feels as if He is far away. Even at times when I know He is near; when only a whisper will do; I still cry out. It may be fear or panic. I am only human. And yes, He is divine. I know He can never be deafened. And He will understand. He will not think me a coward.     

At my baptism and many other altar calls, I have laid down my rights. For countless times, I have sung “I surrender all.” And yet it seems like I still cling on to some things, behavior patterns, irrational fears and so on. I may have forsaken but still need to forsake again. I have let go. But still, today and tomorrow and the day after, I need to keep letting go.

I am home. I know it. I should never need to return. But as we sing in the hymn Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing:

“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love.”

And so, I return, and return and return again.

Each time, He abundantly pardons. His ways are higher than mine. He does not think the way humans do.

Thankfully.


Special note:
As a part of his Lent discipline, the Vicar has been writing meditations daily based on one of the lectionary readings of the day.

The meditations can be accessed from the SAC App's Lectionary Readings section. It is also posted at http://pastoralviews.blogspot.sg

For members who prefer hard copies, please contact Jowenna (jowenna@cathedral.org.sg, tel: 63376104 or leave a note at the welcome desk).