As they are sorting out how to deal with the coronavirus now named COVID-19, Singapore has had a cluster of cases linked to a church service.
The Ministry of Health was quick to act and met with church leaders. Churches can close and certainly will be forced to close if they don’t take specific steps to ensure the health of their congregations.
Here are the following steps that the Wesley Methodist Church is taking:
- If you are sick, stay home.
- Practice personal hygiene by frequent handwashing.
- When you arrive at the church, you will have your temperature taken, recorded, put into a database with your personal information.
- Congregational spaces will not exceed 70% occupancy.
- All choirs and kids activities will be suspended until further notice.
- Hymnals and Bibles will be removed from the pews.
- There will be no bulletins. The order of service will be accessed online or on the electronic screens.
- If it is in your hands, keep it in your hands.
- Masks are available from the ushers. Wear one if the ushers direct you to do so.
- There will be no contact during a greetings. We will not shake hands.
- The Welcome Center for visitors is closed until further notice.
Today was to be a huge gathering by combining five services (there is one service in Mandarin and another in Filipino) into two in order to celebrate 135 years of the first Methodist service and thus establishing the Wesley Methodist Church.
There are 46 churches which are part of the Methodist Church of Singapore with over 42,000 members. Wesley Methodist Church of Singapore has a large church building and congregation.
Here are today’s scriptures from the Bible:
And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
These passages are familiar especially to Methodists. They are few of John Wesley’s favorites.
Love God and neighbors. There is a connection.
Deuteronomy 6: 4-5
Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
This verse is called the Shema by the Jews. It is the scripture that is placed inside the mezzuzah that is attached to doorframes of houses and they remember what it says when they touch it while going in and out. I had a mezzuzah on my bedroom door growing up and these were some of the first verses that I memorized.
You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.
The shema is known by all Jews. The lawyer was a good Jew and had thoroughly studied the Torah which contains both of these verses. He was also a good lawyer. Jesus asked a different question. The answer is the same. Love.
The lawyer had simple, common, and superficial understanding. There is love that he thinks he needs to perform.
The second commandment to love your neighbor is similar yet different. In Leviticus the word for love means affection. In Matthew, when Jesus spoke these words, he used agape which means unconditional love…and I am sure that the lawyer heard the difference.
The law is so hard to follow. One must be so careful in order to have eternal life. It is easier said than done.
We are different from each other. How are we to love our neighbors?Loving our neighbors is even harder than loving God. There are no rules or guidelines to show us how to love our neighbor.
In those days the religious were taught who was unclean and to stay away from them. We all have a blind spot and are inconsistent.
Does the lawyer, or us for that matter, get to decide who his neighbor is? Who is my neighbor? Whose neighbor am I?
The Parable of The Good Samaritan is only found in Luke.
Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’ Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.”
NMN means not my neighbor.
A Samaritan is of mixed blood, not a real Jew. In fact, he is an apostate worshipping the wrong way. He is not under God’s blessing as the Jews think.
The Priest and Levite-educated passersby who could recite the Shema from their earliest days saw this seriously injured man but showed him no compassion.
“I need a Samaritan. Don’t pass me by!”
Jesus is speaking to us. He quoted this verse from Deuteronomy. They are of the same effort.
Love God with all your heart, strength, and mind. Love your neighbor unconditionally.
We believe, trust, worship, and imitate Jesus. Others observe our outward holiness due to our inward spiritual fruit.
All Christians should possess the eight marks of holiness that was penned by the founder of Methodism, John Wesley 1703-1791.
How can this be done? There must be mutual support from neighbors. As we train ourselves, to live godly lives, we need to be connected with one another. The church will be more fruitful.
Worship on its own is meaningless. We cannot isolate ourselves. This coronavirus epidemic has caused stress, worry, and fear. People become angry and dissatisfied. As Christians, we are called to care, show concern, comfort, and support the poor, weak, and sick. We are to become a neighbor to them.
God put us here 135 years ago. Along with other Christians, we have founded schools, raised women status, established homeless homes, and orphanages. Our celebrations MUST include our neighbors.
LOVING GOD, SERVING TOGETHER
This grand celebration ended with the congregation standing and singing the Hallejuah Chorus!! It always brings tears to my eyes!!!
After the service, I looked around the study and found many interesting things.
They had a Biblethon where people and groups signed up to write the whole Bible.
Also, as a church they have adopted the Yi people group where they have had an ongoing mission since 1998.
The Tile Project by the Children’s Ministries: They were to start with a circle. I love how each made something different.
Alpha course is a beginner class to answer questions for seekers and disciples alike. This worldwide movement helps to form small groups looking for answers.
Currently, the church is in the third year of a church-wide reading of the Bible every day. All groups have discussions on these readings. This church is on fire for the Lord. To God be the glory!