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Free Community Church Dedication Service

Date: 13/07/2014/Speaker: Mark Chia & AJ

Community by Mark Chia

Once upon a time, there was a little church in a faraway land. Though it was small, it did many, many amazing things. It was an army of a hundred, that moved like an army of ten thousand. Their numbers were small, but their dreams were big. And many great mountains were moved through their efforts. Even people from distant lands near and far heard of their feats. No doubt they got into trouble. Lots and lots of trouble. Good trouble, of course. Those were good times, exciting times of change.

But there was just one small problem: this little church, this bandwagon of oddballs weren’t really good at loving themselves, or others. Ever so often, a fair amount of drama would erupt. Egos were bruised, hearts were broken and many people left. But in its darkest moments, something happening. No one was really sure why or how or even noticed it coming, whether it was a blessing or a curse, but a shroud of magical silence slowly but surely fell upon the church. For many years, the people of this little church did not utter a single word. But in that silence, that meditative, hypnotic silence, they
began to listen again. They began to see themselves again, and each other. The little people of this little church started to learn see their belovedness and the process of healing began and she began to speak again.

You are that church. You are that little church that has gone through many years of silence, of learning how to be with yourself, to see your belovedness, to love, to forgive, and to celebrate each other. But what now? Having accomplished a dramatic move to One Commonwealth, is this the end of the story, happily ever after? Far from it. We are here today called to continue this story, this story of love.

To borrow the words of Henri Nouwen, “If you know you are the beloved, and if you keep forgiving those with whom you form community and does it mean to minister? What does it mean to be in ministry? Now ministry is a loaded word. When we say ministry, ever so often, it is the policies and programmes, the numbers and the Key Performance Indicators that come to mind, and in some cases, profits too. And it is no wonder sometimes in churches, we have such talk as ‘wah that ministry doing so well hor!’ or ‘er I think our ministry huh, dying ah?’ Recently someone recalling the old days of Safehaven told me, ‘wah you’re doing a XX ah?’ Far from it.

The mark of a successful ministry is that it continues to minister when you are gone, even if no one remembers you started it. We plant the seed and make the tree grow – one day, no one will ever know who planted the tree. But we take comfort in the fruit of the tree, and the shade it provides to the poor wanderer who enters our midst. So my prayer for FCC is, that now that we have gone through the journey we have, let ministry – regardless of which – be none of that. My prayer is, that for our next chapter in OCW, may ministry always be an act of love, an expression of love.

And how should we love? Far from being touchy feely, the ministry of Jesus is dirty and messy, just as how Jesus washed the feet of the disciples. It must be, for it to be healing. Jesus is where there is pain and loss, and that’s a dirty place. And our ministry, regardless of which ministry we’re in, calls us to be with others, to enable others and to locate the divine even in the midst of pain. So it is not about the music alone, but about whether the music helps move people into their pain and joy, and help them ‘see’ God. Nor is it about the prayer or the monthly women’s activities, no is it the number of dirty hands activities, how many house’s we’ve painted or how many food packs were distributed. The big question is, when we minister, are we courageously journeying with those who suffer, in their suffering, and in the midst of their suffering, experience the gratefulness of knowing that God was there, s/he was always there.

Yesterday some of us were at IMH for a volunteers induction, which included spending about 30 minutes, speaking with the in-patients. I have to admit that I was actually a little apprehensive. I was told it would be depressing, and frankly after hearing that, a part of me wanted to back out. But you can’t back out when you’re the one who dragging people all the way to buangkok! And I’m glad we went ahead. I’m glad I had the chance to journey with, even for a short while with a lady, who spent 30 minutes singing to me again and again, ‘how deep is your love?’ Yes, when we do not have a deep sense of our
belovedness, how can we journey with those who suffer? How can we locate the hidden-ness of God that moves through the human experience.

Just as Jesus’ ministry was a journey into the human experience of joy and suffering, so too are we called to enter this journey with those whom we serve, whether with music, prayer, teaching, bonding, community service. We are called to dirty our hands in love. Which can’t be done if we don’t have a deep faith in our belovedness, or receive nourishment by being imperfectly loved and forgiven by those around us. As we minister, it is not the doing (even though there is a lot to do), but the loving.

And the loving means entering into the suffering of others. This is what it means to minister. Where you play for the band, or pray in church, or serve the women, whether you lead a cell, or whether you serve the wider community beyond the immediate space of FCC. But when you have developed the discipline to be silent, to hear the voice of God, when you honour your own humanity in relationship in community, only then will we be ready to minister. We will be ready to say, I see you. I see the divine in you. So let us dedicate our church to be that loving community, a community of believers who love themselves, who love each other, and who can’t help but love with those suffer.

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So are we ready to write the next chapter of our story in One Commonwealth? by AJ

Hello church. I’m AJ. You don’t see me usually up here, cuz I’m always hidden behind the drums haha. No hiding today! Even the pulpit is transparent. So if I say something that doesn’t make sense, please bare with me. After all it is my first time up here.

Look at the person next to you. Go ahead; look at the person sitting on your left, and then on your right. Unless there’s no one there lah, then look behind or something lol. You know, be creative.

That person next to you is probably someone who does not necessarily share the same beliefs as you, someone who identifies as a different gender, sexual orientation, or is of a different age. Yet we all share the same space today. Say to them “welcome home”

Welcome home indeed. This church is home to so different kinds of people. Man, I love this church. How many of u guys love this church?

All my life I’ve been the odd one out. Born into a minority race, born gay and into a family that doesn’t do so well financially. I’ve always felt like I don’t belong, like God made a mistake with me. When I made the choice to be Christian when I was 15, I thought my life would be free from exclusion. Then all my Christian buddies suddenly left me when I came out.

I like the song lyrics we sang today from FREE. “you took the uncommon, embraced the forsaken gathered all the marginalized.” It’s a great reminder that God loves even when the world doesn’t.

But here at FCC we have the inclusive thing DOWN! Like, we got it workin’ ya’ll! Or at least, I always thought so. And then I went to hillsong haha. But hang on I’ll get to that in a bit. We are one of the few churches in this country that is truly diverse. I mean, where else would u expect to hear Christian rock music and then go all solemn and observe holy communion. Here at FCC! We have men, women and those who do not identify with either gender. We have young people and we have not so young people. We have people who have traditional beliefs and people who are all crazy charismatic. By the way, how many of you came from Charismatic/Pentecostal backgrounds? Cool.

I When I was at Hillsong, I was part of a very special moment when pastor Brian Houston talked about being inclusive, and somehow he kinda edged on how all churches should be inclusive, I remember thinking, oh no, he’s not going there, he ain’t gonna say what I think he’s gonna say. No way man!

“lets face it. the vexing thing for us pastors in this century is the gay issue” – “but all of us are united under one name, and that name is Jesus” he continued. I was like oh my goodness he did not just…

I thought I was the only gay boy who got all teary eyed. Apparently I wasn’t the only one lah. Lol.

At that moment, I saw the love of God breaking down walls. I suppose that the Hillsong church doesn’t have a ‘mission statement’ to be inclusive. Maybe they do, I dunno. But what I noticed was that inclusivity seeped into all the aspects of their church. I guess what they remind us is WHY we are inclusive; because God’s love is inclusive.

Is this not the God we know? Jesus was the man who sat down with ‘Pharisees’ and ‘prostitutes’ alike. The man to whom labels had no meaning, because the only thing that mattered was that God sees you and he loves. So if you take away nothing from what I’ve said today; remember that God loves you. Don’t matter what anyone else thinks of you. God sees you, and he loves you.

We are indeed blessed. Blessed to be given this space, aptly named One Commonwealth. Right now, having just moved in, we are lucky that no specific culture has been set in. We have a chance again to be inclusive. So maybe when we look at inclusivity this time, lets not think about what separates us, but think of the common that unites us.

Look at the person next to you again, and this time, with all I have said, say to them, “welcome home.”

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Post-sermon reflections;

When I think about why I was so impacted by what Pastor Brian Houston said, I realize it wasn’t just that I felt that I was finally allowed a space at God’s table (yes that was a huge part of it) but it was also who was welcoming me there. It was about who I was sitting with.

The God we worship is the God of all. The God of Pastor Brian, the God of Rev Miak … and yes the God of Pastor Khong. No matter who we are or what we believe, we are all united by that one saving grace. That is the power of God’s love. That is inclusivity. I am reminded that at Jesus’ last supper, the people sharing his meal were probably not just his disciples, but all kinds of people. They probably disagreed with each other, but sat together nonetheless.

I think that we will only truly be inclusive when we can welcome at our table, those who don’t agree with us, who despise us, and still treat them with the same love that God treats us with.

In our church, we form cliques and label ourselves with identities like men/women/young/not young/extroverted/introverted – but at the heart of it all we are united by God’s love. Our labels don’t matter – they certainly don’t matter to Jesus.

We all have greatness put inside us that could be of great help to each other. Lets put aside our differences and work together to build a home for everyone in this church. Lets mean it when we say to each other, “welcome home”.