My dear friends,
Thank you very much for your most respectful, gracious, insightful and well-balanced replies to my letter. I appreciated very much your interaction, and would like to listen more to you. I would like to comment on a few things.
You will notice there are no names in my letter. So I am not criticizing anyone in particular, especially BAV. I am merely pointing out in response to an earlier comment which prompted me to write in the first place, that to a certain extent the situation we find ourselves in now has a great deal to do with the subtle emergence of false teaching in our diocese. Of course it is linked also with the inevitable global age in which we live. Thank you to “alternative” for pointing this out “we need to consistently update according to modernization”. Agreed, but the message remains the same, is Jesus-centred, and the call is always to live under HIS Lordship. After listening to a sermon on Sunday, ask the question “where was Jesus in that sermon?”” Jesus is the centre of the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. So he is also the centre, the finale, the main reference point, in every sermon. If the sermon is merely ethical, moral, or theological, and Jesus is not central, as I used to tell my students at STS, I could have heard the same thing in the mosque. We need to insist on Jesus-centred sermons.
To call Jesus LORD, is to live radically different from the world. The sermon on the Mount helps us understand this. When we look honestly at our lives, how different is our life from our non-Christians (not-yet Christians) around us, eg. there is nothing wrong with wealth, but what is our attitude to riches? Jesus called the poor blessed, and pointed out how difficult it was for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Hence, prosperity gospel is completely contrary to Jesus’ teaching. I’m looking forward to the exposition of this heresy on the future blog.
Thank you to OSAnon for clarifying the difference between “worldly management systems” and “world management systems”. That was right and helpful. There is so much that is helpful from secular research, and we benefit to put it to good use. After all, all wisdom comes from the fount of Wisdom, even if it is not acknowledged as such. (James 1:5) The difference for a Christian is that he gives all glory to God and not to man.
Finally thank you to “worshipper” who rightly points out the early copying of the west in singing western hymns and so on. One has only to look at our liturgy to see the quaint English customs we still observe. eg. clergy swear allegiance to the “lord Bishop” of Sabah. This is from England where there was as steep a hierarchy as in Chinese culture. Those on a higher level were called “lord” (tuan), but Jesus pointed out it will not be so among his disciples. Likewise bowing to the altar is a hang-over from the doctrine of transubstantiation, where it was believed a real change took place in the bread and wine to become the actual body and blood of Christ. Since the body of Christ is now on the altar one bows. But the reformation rejected this teaching. The Anglican church is part of the reformation tradition, and so Anglicans should not bow to the altar. Would that all confirmees could study some church history
From a missiological perspective, missionary recipient churches usually follow the beliefs and practices of the sending church as they are not encouraged to think through what could be their own expression of faith. So we older ones have come to love the old hymns. Nothing wrong with that. But like children growing up, there comes a time to realize one’s own identity and not be just a stereotype of the parents. So I believe it is so too in the church. Compare the church in Africa with its distinctly different music and African dance. But I believe in Malaysia, we have not developed our Malaysian distinctive and are seen as foreign. Some would like us to stay “foreign” of course. This is their advantage but to our disadvantage!
None of my students are Christian. They have a beautiful dance, clothes, and language. Were there ever to be a gathering of believers, I would talk to them about “how” to express worship to the true and living God. I would certainly include the dance, the songs, and the language. Worshipper asks “how can Sabahan and Malaysians express our worship in our own way?” A good question! I think you “worshipper” can answer this better than me, but let me share one or two things I have tried which brought deep meaning to the worshippers.
1. Once I worked with a congregation that couldn’t sing. I asked them how did they sing at their gatherings? I asked them to put Christian words to their songs and bring their own instruments. Wow, they could sing after all. Long ago I spoke at a women’s conference. We had a singing competition. Most did the predicable thing, but one small group of illiterate women from a remote kampung sang a beautiful song about Jesus’s death for our salvation in the tune used to swing the baby in the sarung. You could have heard a pin drop. No one taught them how to do it. They did it out of a heart filled with gratitude to God for His great love in sending Jesus. . I remember in the 70’s when the revival began in the primary school, we had a scripture class. We began with worship. The children filled with the spirit sang the most beautiful songs of worship in their mother tongue. Look how congregations in the interior come alive when hymns are danced and sung to the sumazau music.
2. I have dramatized the Bible readings. Instead of the usual badly-read monologues from the reading desk which go over the heads of the half asleep congregations, we used dialogue and drama. Likewise where there was a translation of the Scriptures into the majority group language in the congregation, one of the lessons was read in that language. Pantuns and poetry were used.
3. Testimonies can be given. When did we last hear an excited new believer tell how Jesus had changed their life? How about a sermon given occasionally in the form of a interview, debate, or a symposium?
Look at the television. What sort of things do people like? how do they express themselves? We can only hope for change as the laity speak out, and say what they want. It is wrong to shut up the people of God in the freezer and only allow the paid staff to perform. As in the seventies, the frozen laity need to de-thaw. To ban their involvement is to deny them expression of their gifts which are given to every member of the congregation. I have lots of examples on this, but shall reserve them for another time. The people of God together should engage in dialogue about these issues for the sake of a better future.