Serendipity & Occasions
3 days before Christmas last year, i was invited by the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) to the South and Southeast Asian Consultation: Churches response to human sexuality and gender diversity in Bangalore in February this year.
i lamented half jokingly to myself that i keep getting invited overseas to talk about how the Church should relate to LGBTQ people, and yet, in Singapore where i call home, i am almost useless.
Then two weeks before the consultation in Bangalore, almost like an answer to my “complaint,” i received an invitation to speak to the Methodist pastors here in Singapore for their monthly meeting in September (earlier this month).
i had long forgotten all the small details given the 7 months between receiving the invitation and the actual meeting. It was when i was preparing for the meeting, just around the 6th anniversary of my ordination, that i had several epiphanies.
It has been 14 years since Rev Yap Kim Hao first wrote to the Straits Times in support of LGBTQ people. i first met him when he preached at Kampong Kapor Methodist Church on 10 August 2003 with Jerry Siah. We learned about him preaching there through Eileena Lee who posted it on SiGNeL.@Clarence Singam-Zhou had invited him to dinner via email, and Jerry and i were there to meet Rev Yap in person. A few days later, we had dinner at Imperial Herbal at Seah Street (Peter Goh, Cyrus Ho, Clarence Singam-Zhou were amongst the 9 of us there if i recall correctly). After the dinner (which i think is the Inquisition), we invited Rev Yap to preach at our first service at Utterly Art on 14 Sep 2003. He delivered his sermon “Doing a New Thing” – and today i marvel at the unfolding of events that led us here.
In a way, after 14 years, things have come a full circle. At the meeting with the Methodist pastors on 12 September 2017, i had many emotions running beneath the surface. i remember the feelings many of us had when a Methodist pastor used the word “Abomination” during the Q&A session in one of the public lectures we hosted. It was like a knife cutting across many of our hearts that day. i doubt that pastor realised the hurt he was inflicting, and in some way i have returned to share that experience so that pastors would know what kind of harm they can inflict on LGBTQ people. We may not agree on many things, but i hope it is the beginning of how we can relate to one another in love, regardless.
What Rev Yap preached 14 years ago in his sermon “Doing A New Thing” still rings true:
“The point I want to emphasize here is that God is at work. God is at work still. But the traditional image of God is that God is the Creator of the universe has finished the work and now sits back and allow it to run its course. Occasionally God may intervene and come to earth to respond to the prayer requests of the faithful and help them. Another traditional view is that God is all-powerful and God alone is doing everything and even allow evil and suffering of the people for a purpose that we cannot fully comprehend.. There is yet another traditional concept of God who is related to all that is good is engaged in spiritual warfare now with Satan who is the cause of all that is evil in this world. Our understanding of the nature of God determines how we view the world and God’s relationship to it. On the occasion when Jesus healed the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethsaida on the Sabbath, he was criticized by the Jews for breaking the Sabbath law through this act of healing. It was recorded in the Gospel of John that Jesus answered them: “My Father is working still and I am working.”
Yes, we want to affirm that God to whom we worship is God who is at work throughout his created world and beyond and it is still working among us. Because God is working we like Jesus must be working too. In obedience we are called to work as if everything depends upon us and pray as if everything depends upon God. God continues to work out God’s purposes for creation in us, around us, through us and in spite of us. In the struggles in life we cannot just say that we lay our burdens on the feet of God and let God take over. In our prayers we cannot just tell God to do what we wish for and then just wait for it to happen. At all times and in all situations we have to make ourselves available to work with God in doing the new thing.”