30 October, Wednesday – The narrow door

30 Oct 2019

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Romans 8:26-30

The Spirit comes to help us in our weakness. For when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, the Spirit himself expresses our plea in a way that could never be put into words, and God who knows everything in our hearts knows perfectly well what he means, and that the pleas of the saints expressed by the Spirit are according to the mind of God.
We know that by turning everything to their good God co-operates with all those who love him, with all those that he has called according to his purpose. They are the ones he chose specially long ago and intended to become true images of his Son, so that his Son might be the eldest of many brothers. He called those he intended for this; those he called he justified, and with those he justified he shared his glory.

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Luke 13:22-30

Through towns and villages Jesus went teaching, making his way to Jerusalem. Someone said to him, ‘Sir, will there be only a few saved?’ He said to them, ‘Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.

‘Once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may find yourself knocking on the door, saying, “Lord, open to us” but he will answer, “I do not know where you come from.” Then you will find yourself saying, “We once ate and drank in your company; you taught in our streets” but he will reply, “I do not know where you come from. Away from me, all you wicked men!”
‘Then there will be weeping and grinding of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves turned outside. And men from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.
‘Yes, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last.’

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Try your best to enter by the narrow door

A few years ago, I left a parish ministry on a rather negative note. I was the coordinator of the group, and some negligence on my part caused unhappiness for one of the members. I could have dealt with it if her messages were sent only to me, but she chose to express her disappointment with me in the group chat. That action, to me, crossed a line. I also felt that it had unnecessarily skewed the other members’ impression of me. I had intended to leave out of sheer exhaustion anyway, and that incident marred my years of service. Recently, I was part of the organising team of a parish event, and my disagreement over finances with another member led to this person posting a series of group chat messages that were highly unpleasant, to say the least. When it happened, I could not help but recall its predecessor, and I felt the same degree of weariness. When such antics occur after I have committed so much willpower and effort to a task, the impact is not easy to bear.

Indeed, our brains seem wired to remember bad things with great intensity. For me to get past the weariness and continue to optimistically go forth with the same amount of commitment, I cannot count on my own strength. “The Spirit comes to help us in our weakness”, says today’s first reading. If I choose to dwell on my feelings of hurt, disappointment and wounded pride, I risk becoming bitter and resentful. As unwilling as I am, being a Christian means that I need to go where the Lord leads. In the first book of Kings Chapter 19, the prophet Elijah finds himself utterly defeated and broken, asking God to end his life. But God tells him to get up and go on. At his lowest point, the Lord did not allow Elijah to cave in to his despair.

All the above being said, my experience with ministries has been mostly positive and edifying. At the organisation I am currently volunteering at, I face cheery and enthusiastic adult learners every session, and the staff there make me feel truly valued as a volunteer trainer. There is of course also the ministry that is responsible for this reflection. Over the past 17 years or so of my off and on involvement in the Oxygen team, the atmosphere has always been one of mutual respect and God-centredness, cultivated almost wholly in an online environment. To help myself move on, perhaps I should learn to draw strength from such faith-affirming experiences rather than be dragged down by the weight of far less significant blips.

(Today’s Oxygen by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that we can overcome adversity and sin with humility and trust in the ultimate goodness of the Lord.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for all the grace-filled moments in our service to Him. May we keep the the memories close to our hearts, so that they can help to rescue us in times of distress. 

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