Okay, idk why I always start my posts with ‘Okay’, leggo.
So, in the past week, I’ve prettied up my website here quite a bit, so you can go explore around and give me some feedback on how I can improve it. To make things even weirder, I’m writing this in HTML instead of the standard ‘Visual Aid’ UI that WordPress has. It’s a less stylistic way of doing things, but it gives me a ridiculous amount of control (at least it seems to, to this tech-idiot that has been forcing himself to IT upgrade)… so meh.
Either way, when redesigning the website, I remembered a concept that I’ve heard in every episode of Evan Carmichael’s YouTube Channel, finding your ONE WORD. If I’m gonna brand myself and my writing, then I need to know exactly what my message is, down to the one word. So today, I’m going to talk about how I found my personal one word and how you can find yours, so that you can both live a meaningful life, and have people understand you, at the same time.
Part 1: Togetherness
I was talking to Pastor Andre, from The City Singapore, about my own life issues and seeking guidance and clarity on my own chaotic mess of a life, and one thing I remembered most was him asking “Okay, if you we’re to sum up ‘Ecumenism’ in one line, what would it be?”. Now, if you all have know me for longer than 2 days, you should know that I talk about ‘Unity’ like a beaver talks about wood; I would literally have nothing better to do with my life without it.
Of course, my idea of unity starts with The Church, a topic of discussion known as ‘Ecumenism’. I started my personal faith journey through watching videos by Pastor Doug Perry on YouTube, and he talks a lot on how “The last prayer that Jesus prayed before he went to the Cross, was that we would be One, as He and the Father are One, so that the world will know that the Father sent him”. Here’s the reference:
“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” – John 17:20-23
Now, the older I get, the more I understand how true this is. We face so many challenges, as a faith community, everyday; even down to the individual decisions we make everyday. Think of how many of those challenges would instantly disappear if we just learnt to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2). What is easy for you may be hella difficult for me, and what is easy to me could be so easy for me; which means, in all these cases, we should be tanking these things for each other. Now, in the case of Church, whether in Teaching, Prophecy, Evangelism or Pastoring, we could all use a little bit of help here and there. The sheer blindness to the day to day struggles in the Church just across the road, is what I think the major problem in this country is. More events and more outreach will not bring people to Christ, unity will.
So back to my talk with Pastor Andre, my answer to his question was “Communication!”. This is something I have to really really overemphasise when talking about ecumenism, because effective unity is not in all doing and thinking the same things, that is tyranny; unity is in watching and paying attention each other, and as a result, acting from a place of both self awareness and goodwill. I am fully fully against the idea of a ‘One World Church Government’ or even a ‘State Church’ where a central authority governs the local faith community. What I think would work best, is a Christian Institution that provides a platform for both clergy and laypeople to systematically interact with their counterparts in the other Churches around them, regardless of branch or affiliation. You might as why is communication so important then? It doesn’t guarentee that people will move in the same direction, in fact, if unity is just communication, then it expects people to disagree and make contrary decisions. Well, that is true, and that is why communication alone, is not very useful.
Part 2: Humility
The other day, I was having dinner with my brother and cousins, just the kids alone and I brought up the topic of understanding what each of us values. Now that is a bit of a hard thing to determine from scratch, but I remembered a video I saw on YouTube (I think it was of Tony Robbins or Simon Sinek, but I can’t remember) on finding your life’s purpose; and the key take away was to start with what irks you. If you want to know what you value, you must first know what you hate. One of my cousins hated when people lie and another hated when people excluded the weak; and what I realised was that, above all else, they valued truth and inclusiveness respectively. For me, the thing I hate to see most, is when people don’t see the greater value in others as compared to themselves, not recognising the strength in the poor person’s suffering and the weakness of their own riches, not recognising that everyone has attributes that make them better than you in some way. In one word, I hate ‘HUBRIS’
I quoted Galatians 6:2 earlier, and literally the next verse says:
“For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”
– Galatians 6:3
That is exactly why we should choose to “bear each other’s burdens”(Galatians 6:2), because we recognise that, in interacting with other people, we are not as good of people as we think we are. In one word, above all else, I value ‘Humility’.
Part 3: Achievement
Now, that is a really strange thing to value, because Humility seems like a hilariously passive core value; and I am a decidedly not passive kind of a person, so what the heck, bro? Yeap, that’s the awkward part of living a life with that aim, it’s borderline impossible to explain to every mother-father-son why ‘Humility’is not as simple as ‘Oh, I say myself bad lor’. No, the kind of life I lead is the kind where I always always always live with accepting the possibility that I am critically and fatally wrong about one thing or another, and that overlooked part of my decision making in everyday life is causing great suffering to myself and others. So ‘Humility’ to me is the “I can do better” attitude in every situation, it means aggressively correcting my perspective, until I can live a truly good life. ‘Humility’ is the result of a lifetime of disciplined adventure.
So, all in all, I decided on the motto “Achieving Humility Together” for my website, because it explains, most concisely, what my life is for. The universal message of Christianity has always been Sacrifice, regardless of branch or affiliation, and I’m not trying to replace that cornerstone of the Christian faith. It’s just that I think this aspect of ‘Sacrifice’, the humility brought about by people coming together to answer the divine call to adventure, is what we lack most in this day and age, and that my life should be about spreading that message.
So what is your One Word? I know this website is practically private, so like not more than 30 people will see this, for now, but let me know in the comments below, and maybe we can all help each other manifest our words together.
I was going to share this on Instagram, but I think this is too personal to make a TLDR version of.
I think that if you have talked to me enough, you’d hear me say that “to serve the poor is the most basic form of worship”, but also “to know God is the most basic form of worship” and that “the Eucharist is the most basic form of worship” which seems like a contradiction, because how can they all be most basic at the same time? So, I’m gonna try to show how both acts of love and holy communion are the core of understanding God. I’ve talked about both topics separately and on their own before, so this will be a summary and recap of it.
Part 1: Knowing God
Christianity is an orthodoxical religion, meaning that you identify with the religion based on your beliefs, rather than practice, which would be an orthopraxical religion. This is important, because we believe that the key to living the most complete and whole life is not in the things you do, but the quality of your thoughts. This is a belief we share with the Buddhists and Muslimin, that we are “Saved by grace through faith… not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). This means that every action you do in worship is valuable not in and of itself, but because it is an extension of your valuable decisions; decisions to act on your understanding of God’s will. Our basic beliefs, in the holiness of God, sinfulness of mankind, and salvation through God’s sacrifice, received by grace through faith is a universal belief shared by all branches of Christianity: Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Nontrinitarian and Esoteric. These 4 basic beliefs are a commonality, because they ARE the definition of Christian. There are no set of works that can replace the fundamental role of a heart set on knowing God, holding on to these basic beliefs and structuring your life decisions around them; a house “…built on rock” (Matthew 7:24). To know God is worship.
Part 2: The Eucharist
Now dramatically, “When [Jesus] himself wanted to explain to his disciples what his forthcoming death was all about, he didn’t give them a theory, he gave them a meal.” (N.T. Wright). We worship in that we know God, but before we even hear the name of Jesus,
“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” – Romans 10:14
How do we know the story of the Gospel? I suggest to you now, that the way Jesus intended for his message to be preached is with the Liturgy of the Eucharist (aka the sharing of Holy Communion), and that all other preaching, ritual, song, hymn and psalm is only a secondary extension of the Eucharist. The whole drama of the suffering servant king from heaven, the essence of the gospel is summed up in the Words of Institution:
“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” – 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Practice this, meditate on its meaning, and you will surely understand the Gospel, and know the heart of God.
Part 3: Serving the Poor
Now practically, Jesus is not just a story, he is a person living among us.
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” – Matthew 25:37-40
This is not Jesus trying to act humble like a politician shaking hands with the coffee shop uncle; this was his childhood. Jesus was a carpenter’s (like a modern day contractor) son, born in a (like an SPCA dog kennel), spoke Aramaic instead of Hebrew or Greek at home (like our Hokkien Lang), childhood spent in Egypt (like if you’re raise in Australia back when it was racist), his father wasn’t with him till adulthood, worked as an itinerant, homeless, Rabbi after suddenly abandoning his carpeting work. Like actually think about how dirt poor Jesus was.
“At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns,so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.” – Deuteronomy 4:3
Like do you realise that Jesus actually experienced the Levite, foreigner, fatherless and widow life? When you serve the “least of these brothers and sisters of (his)“, remember that they are like family to him because they suffered the way he suffered. To know God is to get to know the people of God, the poor, the last, the lost, the least, right in the middle of their suffering and to act in love throughout. Stories are important, the drama of the Gospel is essential, but the other side of knowing God is practical; so that while you meditate on the Eucharist, your actions continue the Gospel message in your everyday acts of love. That is to know God.
So bringing it back to how “serving the poor”, “knowing God”, “the Eucharist” are all the most basic forms of worship, it is that the drama of the Eucharist and the practical of serving are two sides of the concept of knowing God. That is what I want to leave you with today.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” – Deuteronomy 6:4-9