Walking On Egg Shells?
Any attempt to thank our staff and members for serving is akin to walking on eggshells: as some are bound to be missed out. And so, sometimes pastors like to apply Jesus’ teaching on the parable of the unworthy servants:
"So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’
This is indeed convenient (!) even if questionable, as an imposition on anyone, unless it is from the Lord Himself. This principle may have undergirded my attitude towards serving in the church since I became a Christian at 13. I was actively serving in many areas, from ushering to playing the bass guitar in the worship team. I served on many committees, served as a worship-leader, sung in choirs (I am a very average singer!), served in many mission trips from the rural town of Mentakab (Pahang, West Malaysia) to the rural islands of Riau, travelling on a boat, served in newsletters/magazine teams and rather disastrously, even taught in a Sunday school class of small children! It was years into being a Pastor that I discovered that I could cook and that opened another door for serving, often behind the scenes.
The unique thing was the fact that it was drummed into us ( and many of my fellow Christians of that generation) that it is a privilege to serve in church. We were certainly no “strawberry generation.” Like "Gurkha soldiers" of the church, we were very hardy: we could take unfair criticisms, handled appreciation-deprivation work and served faithfully even if no one noticed. We stood up to a lot of imperfections in the church, knowing full well that we were very imperfect sinners; saved by His grace. We were easily contented, deeply loyal and never thought of changing church when troubles brewed or when we got hurt. In fact, we were trained to "ask not what the church can do for you, but what you can do for the church” (this is not from the Bible but paraphrased from J.F. Kennedy!). rather be anonymous, if you please.
In fact, when I came to Singapore for my studies, this was the same attitude I carried into the church I attended. It was a very small Anglican congregation then at St John's - St Margaret’s Church (1985) and by the second Sunday, they had put me up to play the guitar for the worship team! I became a parish worker in 1986, and a clergyman of the Anglican Church in 1992. So you can see, I have been stuck in a one-job-one-employer-one company ever since. In my entire life, I had only one job interview. How unexciting, right?
Now, this is just me and I am not asking you to do the same, though I trust it may encourage you somewhat. This idea will, of course, need to be balanced by many other teachings of Jesus and the Bible about the need for thanksgiving and giving honour where it is due. In fact, we are told again and again, that there will be heavenly rewards for faithfulness, of crowns and acclamations, such as “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” I’m sure we would all look forward to that!
I did say at the start that we do have a list of people to thank. After the intense Bicentennial Services, a bumper Courier issue built on historical research, additional Bicentennial display panels at the linkway, a fantastic turn out at the efficiently organised Myanmar COH outreach, we know that many have been hard at work. Christmas is not even over yet and we still have some significant events in the lineup.
However, I have conveniently found an excuse to say that I am running out of space. I shall lift my feet off the eggshells of personal acknowledgements in public and say: you know who you are...
and He knows! I shall indeed thank the Lord for every remembrance of you (Philippians 1:3).
Have a blessed Christmas! (Signing off as a grateful Vicar and feeling relief!)