- ABOUT US
- FCC EXPERIENCE
- THE PASTOR’S DESK
- SERVICES & EVENTS
- GET IN TOUCH
Good morning! We have been using Menti as an engagement tool for our sermons for quite a while. I hope it has been useful in helping you reflect and think about how the sermon intersects with your life and your relationship with God. As always it is an invitation – here at FCC, we encourage, invite, but never coerce. That is how we see Jesus ministering to those around him – always invitation -come and see – but never coercive.
Would you join me as we open in prayer – may the words from my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, O God of all creation, God who is love.
We continue today with our sermon series Home is the way, and today we start with being away from home.
Why are we away from home?
We may be far away from home – sometimes because circumstances forced us to be, sometimes we choose to be away from home. For a long while, many of you have not being able to go home and be with your family. Some of you were stuck with borders closed, and it is only in recent months that folks were able to travel – and go home. We continue to pray for the pandemic to end, and we lift up all people who are separated from their loved ones so we can all be reunited with the people we miss dearly. Some of you may be far away from home because there has been conflicts and / or breakdown in relationships, while you can go home, the way home may not be easy. We also want to pray for healing and reconciliation so there will be shalom – wholeness – in all the homes we come from.
Being away from home is an experience common across cultures – even cultures that are from thousands of years ago.
I want to invite you to think about the stories in the Bible.
<M>What are the stories where people had to leave home? Why did they leave home?
There are those who are far away from home because they were forced to. It could be the environmental disasters – like Noah and his family, forced to leave everything behind and get on the ark because the flood was coming, or Lot and his family, escaping the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, or Noami and her family, who moved to Moab because there was a famine in Judah.
For others, it was to flee from violence, war, persecution, and political upheavals. Of course, the most obvious this season of Epiphany is the Holy Family – Jesus, Mary and Joseph. We are in the season of Epiphany, the time after Jesus birth, and we read of the massacre of the innocents by King Herod, killing any male child under 2, hearing that a child who is a threat to his rule has been born. The Holy Family were refugees – like many refugees who flee from genocide, ethnic cleansing, and foreign occupation. Just because we are Christians doesn’t mean we do not succumb to influences that cause us to persecute and oppress others. History is full of examples where we Christians have failed. Today many Christians imagine ourselves to be victims of oppression at the slightest of criticisms or insults. We have to be less thin-skinned. We need to remember to turn the other cheek. We still see these happening today – and it is important that we always ask ourselves how to love our neighbours so we are following Jesus’ teachings and aligned with God’s will.
In these situations where people are forced to leave their home, how do we help these people find the way home?
It isn’t sending them back for sure – they may not have a home to return to. We are called to be welcoming, and create a safe space, a place of refuge for them. That is what loving our neighbours mean. While we may not accept refugees in Singapore – we have many who are far away from home – migrant workers and domestic workers in our midst. How we treat them should be no different from our friends from overseas who work here.
Geoffrey shared with me a few months ago when he drove to one of the dormitories when he was picking up a grab passenger – a migrant worker sent to stay in a hotel instead of the dormitory because they were critical in the current project. He was shocked to see the dormitory very crowded – that it was dangerous because they were in such close contact. And this was after the wave of covid infections in 2020 in the dormitories.
In June 2020 – there were changes made for the safety, health and well-being of the migrant workers because of the large numbers of migrant workers infected by Covid-19.
But in September 2021 – new regulations were introduced, but instead of improvements to 2020, they were a u-turn.
We cannot turn a blind eye to this. Compassion and justice require us to speak on behalf of the voiceless. Knowing how contagious covid-19 is, I cannot imagine how these are improvements.
The Bible has many, many instructions how to treat foreigners, aliens, strangers, migrants – it is not something peripheral, but very central to how we understand the commandment to love our neighbour, to love each other as Jesus has loved us.
You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Deuteronomy 24:14 You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he be of your brothers, or of your foreigners who are in your land within your gates:
Deuteronomy 24:17-18 Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge. 18 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this.
The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
Exodus 22:21 “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.
Exodus 23:9 “You shall not oppress an alien, for you know the heart of an alien, seeing you were aliens in the land of Egypt.
Thus says the Lord of hosts: Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another; do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.
‘Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow.’ Then all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’
For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors forever and ever.
There will be those who are far from home, and the way – Jesus’ way – is to help them find home away from home. This year, we would be engaging in more projects with the migrant worker community – and I hope we can participate as how we “Do justice and love mercy,” so we are not just talking the talk, but walking the talk.
Then we move on to another group of people who are away from home – those who were kicked out of home. Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Cain was cursed to be restless wanderer without a home for the murder of his brother Abel. Jacob had to flee and seek refuge with his uncle Laban after he tricked his father to give him the blessing that is meant for his brother Esau.
Some folks were kicked out, some left home because they did something wrong. None of us are saints, and we have done wrong one time or another – we have sinned and done things that separate us from God, and from each other. This is one way we are “away from home”
I want to ask – <M> what needs to happen before we want to go home?
We need to recognise that we did something wrong. In the parable of the lost child / prodigal child in the Gospel according to Luke 15 – that’s what happened. “He came to himself when he “had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need.”
17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’
Neither Adam and Eve nor Cain expressed the desire of returning home, at least not according to what is written. Have you ever wondered why?
Let’s take a look at Genesis 3 and 4:
But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.”
9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
10 The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.
12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”
13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. 14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”
None of them held themselves accountable. Adam didn’t. He blamed Eve. Eve blamed the serpent. None of them held themselves accountable for their own actions.
Yes, they may have been deceived, yes, they may have be wronged, but they did what they did, and still didn’t recognise their own part in what happened.
Cain denied and even feigned ignorance – “I don’t know – am I my brother’s keeper.” It appears as though he accepts the punishment because he was caught red-handed, and not because he was remorseful.
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.”
I have grown to see Psalm 51 differently over the years – I used to think “what kind of person is David? Against God, and God only, that he has sinned? What about Uriel whom he sent to battle to be killed? What about Bathsheba?
I have come to realise that all wrongdoing is wrongdoing against God – and our asking for forgiveness from God should lead us to asking for forgiveness from those we have wronged, hurt, or harmed.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
David acknowledged his wrongdoing. He held himself accountable.
Just like the Lord’s prayer – forgive us our trespasses – well, I hope we do reflect on what they are, and not use it as a blank cheque and ask for to forgive us without even knowing what we did wrong!
It may not be easy to reflect on our wrongdoing, our mistakes. A lot of times we feel shame. But here we need to differentiate between shame and guilt. Because shame is about feeling terrible about who we are, while guilt is feeling terrible about what we did.
It is important because too often we are so ashamed of ourselves that we cannot bring ourselves to go home. Shame becomes our identity. We become shameful, that we hide, just like how Adam and Eve hid from God.
Because of shame, we hide – we lie, we conceal our wrongdoing, we pretend everything’s ok. But all this while, we are being eaten from the inside – because of shame. We are not authentic. We keep running away. Just like Adam and Eve.
We cannot be ignorant or not hold ourselves accountable like Cain and say “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
We should instead have a contrite heart – “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.”
But our identity shouldn’t be shame – our identity is God’s beloved.
I really appreciated what one of the leaders of FCC shared with me – I think sometimes hearing the words from others, in a different way – even through reading them to you – helps.
“We are worthy, of worth to God. We are forgiven so we have nothing to hide, nothing to prove, and nothing to lose, God loves us unconditionally and that God teaches us to love others well. God takes delight in us, God protects and covers us so there is no need to respond out of defense.
We can find shelter in the shadow of God’s wings. God has our back. God knows our darkness, our wounds, our fears, our shame. God has forgiven us for who we are and what we have done. We are reconciled with God despite our past.
We have the power within us to remove the shame and guilt we have grown up with and allow God to heal us. The recognition that God has done/can do so much more for us helps us to heal, know who we are and how we express ourselves.
That is the Gospel – the good news. You are loved beyond imagination. This is reflected in the parable of the lost son / prodigal
Restoration of Prodigal – “But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’[d] 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate;
How do we find our way home when we did something wrong?
Repentance & accountability
Know our transgressions
Contrite heart (psalm 51)
Admit our mistakes
Making amends & seeking forgiveness
Repentance is a form of accountability. Repentance is being able turning around when we went down the wrong path.
<M> Are there things that you need to seek forgiveness / repent of?
After this season of Epiphany is the season of Lent. We would have programmes for reflection, and I want to invite you to consider joining one of these that deal with repentance, seeking forgiveness, making amends.
Finally, as a home, at FCC we want to avoid using shame as a means of disciplining because it is not loving. It harms one’s sense of self-worth. It makes us feel less than, unworthy – the exact opposite of the idea that we are beloved of God, beloved by God – We are worthy, of worth to God.
We do not want to be shaming, but we still want to be able to hold one another accountable.
We are an imperfect community made up of imperfect people, so as we seek forgiveness we also need to offer forgiveness. We want to be able to give people 2nd chances, 3rd chances, 4th chances, because that is how Jesus loves, and we are to love each other as how Jesus loved us.
This is how Home is the Way. Amen.