Sermon Details

Hope

Date: 20/07/2014/Speaker: Rev Miak Siew

Genesis 28:10-19a

28:10 Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran.
28:11 He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place.
28:12 And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
28:13 And the LORD stood beside him and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring;
28:14 and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring.
28:15 Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
28:16 Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place–and I did not know it!”
28:17 And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
28:18 So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it.
28:19a He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first.

I have no words.

I cannot begin, as I wrestle with the tragic loss of human lives – in Gaza, in Ukraine. The ground invasion of Gaza by Israel started on the same day MH17 was shot down.

How can I talk about dreams of stairways reaching to the heavens, and angels of God ascending and descending those stairways? How can I talk of the promise that Jacob’s offspring will be like dust of the earth – spread to the west, and to the east, and the north and the south, and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in Jacob and Jacob’s offspring when artillery is fired on the innocent people in Gaza? How can I talk about how awesome is this place when books are banned because they depict same-sex marriage (I am talking about Archie here)? How can I talk about gates of heaven when someone I went to school with, someone i called a friend, suggested that i am gay because my mom isn’t my biological mom, and i grew up living apart from my family because he, or someone else, misread one of my blog posts from long ago?

I have no words. It is all clouded by despair, by grief, by hopelessness.

Is what i do going to amount to anything? Am I able to change anything? While i try to do what i do, even those i thought were understanding allies say insensitive and inappropriate things.

I have no words.

Yet, on the same night – on Thursday night all this was happening, something else happened. While I was out having dinner, I received a WhatsApp message from my sister. She told me not to be surprised to have 9 people in sleeping bags sleeping in our living room.

They are a group of youths/young adults from Taiwan called 梦想骑士 – translated in English as Dream Riders – the youngest is 16, and the older ones in the group, the organizers – are in their late 20s and early 30s.

They are to travel from KL to SG and back on foot, and by hitching rides. They cannot spend a single cent and have to exchange labour for food and lodging.

They want to go back to share this experiences with children from single parent families and orphans to let them know that even without a lot of money and resources they can still follow their dreams.

They have their own challenges. Imagine 9 people coming together, most of them do not know each other before. Some of them are embarking on this journey to find themselves. Some of them come from broken families.

They have their own dreams. They want their lives to have meaning. They want to break the cycle of brokenness. They want to learn how to relate, how to connect, how to love, how to accept others, and how to accept themselves.

The organisers were inspired by Jesus instruction to his disciples to go out in pairs to spread the Gospel, and carry very little with them but instead depend on the hospitality and generosity of the people they encounter.

They told me of the times they waited at toll booths for hours under the blazing sun for someone to give them a ride. Then one time they got a ride, it was on a lorry carrying construction materials. It is illegal to be ferrying passengers on the lorry, so they have to be lying down at the back of the lorry, lying on the dust, bumping their heads as the lorry bumped along.

We complain about the airconditioning not working. We complain about the heat when we walk 5 minutes to the hawker centre. Are we able to take it, to do what they did? Are we able to walk a few hours under the hot sun? Are we able to be in discomfort, and step out of our comfort zones – whether they are physical, emotional or psychological ones.

When they arrived in Singapore, they couldn’t find anyone to host them the first night. They slept in the lift landing of a carpark at 4am in the morning.

When I heard they did not find lodging on the first night, my heart broke. Is this city like Sodom? Are we heartless? Are we so preoccupied with ourselves that we fail to love? Are we so fearful of strangers that we don’t let them in?

But then, I thought to myself, not many people have the privilege of having a home big enough to host 9 people.

The following day, they went door to door knocking in my neighborhood, and they came to our door. I am glad my mom and dad welcomed them, and hosted them. Hebrews 13:2 – Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.

They thought we were a blessing to them. They planned to stay 2 nights, but they stayed 3. But I wonder if they realized too, they were a blessing to us. They helped my family see who we are, what kind of people we are, and what kind of family we are.

I am glad we were not so fearful of other people we don’t let them in.

But there are other ways we don’t let people in.

I was talking to a friend – and he was talking about a group of folks he used to hang out with, that I used to hang out with. He no longer hangs out with them, and I asked why? He said that after all these years, his relationship with the rest of the group has not grown deeper. It is always talking about what the latest trends, where they have recently travelled to, what is fashionable, gossiping about other people. There isn’t any space for going deep, taking off our masks and be vulnerable. He compared them to his friendship with me – saying that in these five years, we have grown closer, we have shared a lot of what we go through – our hopes, our fears, our dreams with each other. We were able to be vulnerable to one another, to open up and speak what is on our minds and on our hearts.

So after that conversation, I went home, and the small group invited me to join them as they shared with me their gratefulness, and what they have learned in the few days staying with us. It was a precious moment – a gift. They were vulnerable and honest. And I realized that I, too had to be vulnerable. I came out to them. I told them I am the gay pastor at the only inclusive church in Singapore. I don’t know why but they didn’t look surprised or shocked. Perhaps in our interactions over the past few days, perhaps because of our willingness in being open and vulnerable to one another, they no longer see me just as a label but they saw me for who I am.

Another friend told me recently, for the muscles to remember an action, it needs to be repeated 100 times. For the muscles to forget bad postures, bad habits, an action needs to be repeated 1000 times. For an action to become second nature it needs to be repeated 10,000 times.

We repeat this ritual – communion – every week. That is 52 times a year. Do we repeat it enough until it is etched on our hearts?

Do we practice love when we return back to our daily lives? Or do we forget and repeat all the bad habits, bad behaviors, do we fail to love the other 6 days?

The dream riders – spend 1.5 hours every day – and usually more – reviewing what they have learned, reflecting on what has happened during the day, talking about their conflicts with others in the group so that whatever they learn will stick. They have a whole month doing this.

I know that this group of youths brought hope. Hope when there is so much senseless violence and death all over. Here is a group that seeks to do something to bring hope to children whose family do not fit in the cookie cutter model of one father, one mother, and their children during a time when so many people are parroting the word “pro-family.” They, to me, are truly pro-family, because they are pro-love.

I wonder if you can recall, I have said before, “Even the dimmest candle can dispel the deepest darkness.” Well, some physicist or pessimist may tell me that won’t work with a black hole in space. I wonder if this candle, this hope that this 9 wonderful angels have brought to me, is enough to fight the darkness of despair, hopelessness, betrayal and grief.

And then I recall our song –

“And I will remember when you became real to me

When you will not turn away, you will not turn away

I remember i am an anchor of love

I am a beacon of hope for you”

Many of you have expressed concern because i am visibly burnt out. i am grateful for the reminders that i do not have to shoulder the burden of the world – because i have to trust God to do that. But still, i am emotionally exhausted. The tragedies this week certainly added so much more.

I have been propped up over the past month since Pink Dot by one thing – One Commonwealth. This space is the manifestation of the promise “Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for i will not leave you until i have done what i have promised you.” All those of you who have stepped up to help with the move, to chip in here and there, all of you – like Louis who is playing in the worship team for the first time – have helped propped me up.

Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place–and I did not know it!” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” Jacob anointed the stone he used as a pillow, the stone he dreamt his dreams on, with oil. He called the place Bethel – Beth – House – El – of God.

We anointed this altar, this communion table last week. This stone we dreamt our dreams on. We anointed this altar in this place called Commonwealth, in this house of God.

This altar is the ritual altar – where we remember the act of love Jesus did, the commandment of love that Jesus gave, and how we are to symbolically embody that love in the ritual of the communion.

But this altar, after we are done on Sundays with our service, is stored in that niche under our kitchen table. That is the real table where we celebrate, re-enact, and live out – love. With family, with friends, with strangers.

Let us celebrate communion – and hope that we allow the elements – the bread and the wine, the emblems of love, make us one in the Body of Christ and etch on our hearts who we are, what we are called to do.