Tag Archives: ministry

6 July, Wednesday – The Summons

6 July – Memorial for St. Maria Goretti, Virgin & Martyr

Maria Goretti (1890-1902) was a beautiful and pious farm girl, one of six children of Luigi Goretti and Assunta Carlini. In 1896 the family moved to Ferriere di Conca. Soon after, Maria’s father died of malaria, and the family was forced to move onto the Serenelli farm to survive.

In 1902, at the age of 12, Maria was attacked by 19-year-old farm hand Alessandro Serenelli. He tried to rape the girl who fought, yelled that it was a sin, and that he would go to hell. He tried to choke her into submission, then stabbed her 14 times. She survived in hospital for two days, forgave her attacker, asked God’s forgiveness of him, and died holding a crucifix and medal of Our Lady. She is counted as a martyr.

While in prison for his crime, Alessandro had a vision of Maria. He saw a garden where a young girl, dressed in white, gathered lilies. She smiled, came near him, and encouraged him to accept an armful of lilies. As he took them, each lily transformed into a still white flame. Maria then disappeared. This vision of Maria led to Alessandro’s conversion, and he latter testified at her cause for beatification.

– Patron Saint Index

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Hosea 10:1-3,7-8,12

Israel was a luxuriant vine
yielding plenty of fruit.
The more his fruit increased,
the more altars he built;
the richer his land became,
the richer he made the sacred stones.
Their heart is a divided heart;
very well, they must pay for it:
the Lord is going to break their altars down
and destroy their sacred stones.
Then they will say,
‘We have no king
because we have not feared the Lord.’

But what can a king do for us?
Samaria has had her day.
Her king is like a straw drifting on the water.
The idolatrous high places shall be destroyed –
that sin of Israel;
thorn and thistle will grow on their altars.
Then they will say to the mountains, ‘Cover us!’
and to the hills, ‘Fall on us!’

Sow integrity for yourselves,
reap a harvest of kindness,
break up your fallow ground:
it is time to go seeking the Lord
until he comes to rain salvation on you.

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Matthew 10:1-7

Jesus summoned his twelve disciples, and gave them authority over unclean spirits with power to cast them out and to cure all kinds of diseases and sickness.

These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, the one who was to betray him. These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them as follows:

‘Do not turn your steps to pagan territory, and do not enter any Samaritan town; go rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. And as you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’

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Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

I can place the church participation level of Catholics in roughly 4 categories – 1) regular mass attendance and active in church ministries; 2) only attend mass but are not active in church ministries; 3) attend only Christmas/Easter masses; 4) do not really identify themselves as Catholics anymore.

I am struck by what Jesus told His disciples in today’s gospel reading, to go first to the people God first chose as His own, before preaching to the Gentiles. In the present day, I feel that I can relate this concept of outreach to the large number of lapsed Catholics in the church. They had received the sacraments and had been instructed in the faith but, for various reasons, did not continue to practise it. There are supposedly around a billion Catholics in the world, but I believe that a large number are only Catholics in name. That is why when it comes to evangelisation, I would prefer to focus my efforts on reaching out to other Catholics first.

Allow me to share a little about my own involvement in ministry work. It has been slightly more than ten years since I graduated from university, during which I was very active in the Catholic Students’ Society there. That laid the groundwork for my subsequent participation in ministry work and I can say with certainty that it will be a constant in my life. In the past ten years, there was never a period of time when I was not involved in ministry work in some way or another. It is something I find great meaning in, as avenues to exercise my gifts and talents, and more importantly, to build a relationship with God. I think that for any individual, it is not one’s career, nor achievements, or even family, which matters. What will see us through till the end of life is our relationship with God. And serving the Church is what helps us build this relationship, not only for ourselves, but for everyone else in the community.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that the grace of the Spirit will guide more hearts to be converted to follow Christ.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the labourers of the harvest who have given of themselves in order to bring in the harvest.

11 June, Saturday – On Working the Vineyard

11 June – Feast of St. Barnabas, apostle

St. Barnabas (martyred 61) founded the Church in Antioch. He was a Levite Jewish convert, coming to the faith soon after Pentecost. Barnabas is mentioned frequently in the Acts of the Apostles, and is included among the prophets and doctors at Antioch. Like Paul, Barnabas believed in the Church’s mission to Gentiles, and worked with him in Cyprus and Asia, but split with him over a non-theological matter. At the time of his death he was carrying a copy of the Gospel of Saint Matthew that he had copied by hand.

– Patron Saint Index

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Acts 11:21-26,13:1-3

A great number believed and were converted to the Lord.

The church in Jerusalem heard about this and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. There he could see for himself that God had given grace, and this pleased him, and he urged them all to remain faithful to the Lord with heartfelt devotion; for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith. And a large number of people were won over to the Lord.

Barnabas then left for Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. As things turned out they were to live together in that church a whole year, instructing a large number of people. It was at Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians.’

In the church at Antioch the following were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen, who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. One day while they were offering worship to the Lord and keeping a fast, the Holy Spirit said, ‘I want Barnabas and Saul set apart for the work to which I have called them.’ So it was that after fasting and prayer they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

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Matthew 5:33-37

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not break your oath, but must fulfil your oaths to the Lord. But I say this to you: do not swear at all, either by heaven, since that is God’s throne; or by the earth, since that is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, since that is the city of the great king. Do not swear by your own head either, since you cannot turn a single hair white or black. All you need say is “Yes” if you mean yes, “No” if you mean no; anything more than this comes from the evil one.’

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When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all

It takes many hands to build a kingdom. And even with each person giving their best efforts, things won’t always go smoothly. You need unity, organized minds and humility to get the job done. You also need to be able to diffuse conflict. Very often, viewpoints clash and if not communicated and shared effectively, misunderstandings arise. I learned this for myself firsthand while helping to plan a church event recently, the first time I’ve ever gotten involved in something like that. It’s easy to be overwhelmed when we let our pride get in the way of God’s ministry. It struck me that it takes just as much character to be able to follow orders, as it does to give them. Everyone has an opinion. How do you shape these into a coherent path and process?

That was the dilemma the fledgling church in Antioch faced. Growth was inevitably followed by teething pains and conflict. Antioch was ground zero for the apostles’ mission to the Gentiles and they were struggling to keep up with the number of people turning to God, as well as how to organize them. How often have we heard people say about church events, “Wow, so many people are attending, how are we going to make this work’, followed by much head shaking, hand wringing and complaining. That’s what Barnabas could’ve done too – shake his head, wring his hands and complain. Instead, he rejoiced and gave thanks to God. Then he called for reinforcements – Paul!

When we become overwhelmed by God’s work, or we face opposition to our views on how ministry should be conducted, it’s tempting to give in to the impulse to complain, be despondent and give up. Reach out and seek help! Pray! Been let down by fellow parishioners who flake? God will send you new volunteers; new hands, eyes and feet to help you get the job done. Barnabas was the sort of individual that was the perfect foil for Paul. God made it possible for them to find each other. He can make it possible for you too! So don’t lose hope even when the stress, the internal politicking, the lobbying, the gossiping and the complaining become too much for you. Rejoice that you have been given the unique opportunity to help in His ministry, to help him work His vineyard. And then have faith that He will give you all that you need to do the job for Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for wisdom, patience and restraint when resolving conflicts with other Christians. We pray that our pride doesn’t blind us to the best path forward.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to willing hands and feet, volunteers who are moved by God, who make all events possible.

9 June, Thursday – Perfectly Flawed

9 June – Memorial for St. Ephrem of Syria, deacon and Doctor of the Church

St. Ephrem (306-373) was baptized at age 18. He helped to evangelize Nisibis, Mesopotamia. He may have attended the Council of Nicaea in 325. He was a deacon and preacher, and had a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In 363 Nisibis was ceded to Persia, and great persecution of Christians began. St. Ephrem led an exodus of the faithful to Edessa, where he founded a theological school. He helped introduce the use of hymns in public worship, wrote poems and hymns, and used them to fight Gnosticism and Arianism. In 1920, St. Ephrem was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church.

– Patron Saint Index

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1 Kings 18:41-46

Elijah said to Ahab, ‘Go back, eat and drink; for I hear the sound of rain.’ While Ahab went back to eat and drink, Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel and bowed down to the earth, putting his face between his knees. ‘Now go up,’ he told his servant ‘and look out to the sea.’ He went up and looked. ‘There is nothing at all’ he said. ‘Go back seven times’ Elijah said. The seventh time, the servant said, ‘Now there is a cloud, small as a man’s hand, rising from the sea.’ Elijah said, ‘Go and say to Ahab, “Harness the chariot and go down before the rain stops you.”’ And with that the sky grew dark with cloud and storm, and rain fell in torrents. Ahab mounted his chariot and made for Jezreel. The hand of the Lord was on Elijah, and tucking up his cloak he ran in front of Ahab as far as the outskirts of Jezreel.

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Matthew 5:20-26

Jesus said to his disciples, If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.

‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not kill; and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say this to you: anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court; if a man calls his brother “Fool” he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and if a man calls him “Renegade” he will answer for it in hell fire. So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering. Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. I tell you solemnly, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny.’

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You will not be released until you have paid the last penny

My neighborhood church sits high on a hill, looking out to sea. Her building is modest, but her heart is big. When you enter, you’re greeted by a twenty foot wooden sculpture of Jesus with his arms outstretched. The cross of Calvary looms large behind him. It’s a big structure, but it isn’t foreboding. It’s embracing – which is how I felt the first time I sat in those pews. I felt embraced.

Joining a church is like starting a relationship. In the beginning, you’re overwhelmed by feelings of warmth and happiness. You feel loved and accepted. It is only after a few months in, when you start getting involved in ministry, that you begin to see things that don’t exactly sit right with you. That has started to happen to me. And I have had to take a step back to remind myself that one or two bad experiences should not color how much I love this body of God’s people. And how even after two years, there are more things that I love about it, than there are things that exasperate me.

To aim for that standard of perfection, or at least to expect it in church is to fall into the trap that Jesus talks about in today’s Gospel reading. Very often, I hear complaints of how, “I can’t believe he/she is Catholic!” or “Why do these people behave that way? They’re supposed to be Catholics!” I’ve been guilty of the same indignation myself. But Catholics aren’t born flawless. If we were, we wouldn’t need salvation as Jesus says, we would have a righteousness that ‘surpasses that of the scribes and the Pharisees’. We wouldn’t need Christ to save us. And that just makes no sense.

God’s commandment to us was, above all, to love one another as I’ve loved you. Make no mistake, there were times when our Shepherd himself grew frustrated (e.g. in Luke 9:37-56, when he rebukes his apostles for their unbelief, pride and general bone-headedness). But he never gave up, despite their failings. So who are we to walk away from our ministry because we feel frustrated, disillusioned and betrayed by our brothers and sisters in Christ? Is there some way we can rebuke to correct, as Jesus did, without becoming bitter, angry and resentful? Pray today for Christ to help us break through our disenchantment. Return to the ministry that you walked away from. Adopt Christ’s embracing heart and return to the fold.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for all those who have fallen away from the church because of disillusionment.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those whom God sends to love us despite ourselves.

14 May, Saturday – Chosen Ones

May 14 – Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle

Matthias (d. 80) was an Apostle. As he could bear witness to the Resurrection of Jesus, he was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot. He preached the Gospel for more than 30 years in Judaea, Cappadocia, Egypt, and Ethopia. He is remembered for preaching the need for mortification of the flesh with regard to all its sensual and irregular desires. He was martyred in Colchis in AD 80 by stoning.

– Patron Saint Index

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Acts 1:15-17,20-26

One day Peter stood up to speak to the brothers – there were about a hundred and twenty persons in the congregation: ‘Brothers, the passage of scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit, speaking through David, foretells the fate of Judas, who offered himself as a guide to the men who arrested Jesus – after having been one of our number and actually sharing this ministry of ours. Now in the Book of Psalms it says:

Let someone else take his office.

‘We must therefore choose someone who has been with us the whole time that the Lord Jesus was travelling round with us, someone who was with us right from the time when John was baptising until the day when he was taken up from us – and he can act with us as a witness to his resurrection.’

Having nominated two candidates, Joseph known as Barsabbas, whose surname was Justus, and Matthias, they prayed, ‘Lord, you can read everyone’s heart; show us therefore which of these two you have chosen to take over this ministry and apostolate, which Judas abandoned to go to his proper place.’ They then drew lots for them, and as the lot fell to Matthias, he was listed as one of the twelve apostles.

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John 15:9-17

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘As the Father has loved me,
so I have loved you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments
you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.
I have told you this
so that my own joy may be in you
and your joy be complete.
This is my commandment:
love one another, as I have loved you.
A man can have no greater love
than to lay down his life for his friends.
You are my friends,
if you do what I command you.
I shall not call you servants any more,
because a servant does not know
his master’s business;
I call you friends,
because I have made known to you
everything I have learnt from my Father.
You did not choose me:
no, I chose you;
and I commissioned you
to go out and to bear fruit,
fruit that will last;
and then the Father will give you
anything you ask him in my name.
What I command you
is to love one another.’

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I chose you.

About three months ago, my parish priest approached us to help chair the church annex building fundraising committee. I was a bit surprised as we have never been active in our parish (we serve at the Catholic Spirituality Centre instead); yet, saying ‘Yes’ came naturally and we got down to work immediately. After a few meetings, the seeds of a few initiatives have been sown and we are now gathering people to help us execute our ideas.

Being a ‘newbie’ to parish work, it has been interesting to sit in on meetings and observe how the priests go about their ‘work’, which would not be possible without the help of many lay persons and office staff who give so generously of their time without any expectation of anything in return. I have been truly humbled by this opportunity, yet at the same time, wary of the dynamics that go on between the different ministry leaders and volunteers.

Thankfully, the Lord has been gentle and kind enough to send different people our way. And just when I think that we ourselves would have to shoulder the burden of organising an event/dinner, a name or two pops up in our Inbox or we get a call from someone who has heard that we need volunteers. The Lord truly provides when we are engaged in his work and it has been extremely heartening to see the many labourers come forward to offer their talents and time to help us achieve our target.

We at Oxygen were worried towards the end of last year, when our stable of writers dwindled to a mere handful. Today, the Lord has multiplied the talent within our ministry and provided in abundance. I know that He has chosen us all, in spite of our shortcomings and anxieties, simply because He knows that we have a desire to share His word with anyone who yearns for it.

Brothers and sisters, as Christians, ours is life that is pre-ordained by our Maker. It is a life that He chooses for us and it is up to us to discern His will and to follow Him. And while we do have a multitude of choices to make in our lives, we must make them in the knowledge that God himself has chosen us to live out His plan on this earth.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer – Heavenly father, we thank you for choosing us to be your sons and daughters. Help us grow in your love as we encounter the obstacles and overcome setbacks while carrying the crosses that you so lovingly place on our shoulders, knowing full well that You will always have each of us in your loving heart. For we all are your chosen ones.

Thanksgiving – Thank you Father for sending us your Holy Spirit and for empowering us with your graces.

30 April, Saturday – Building Conflicts

30 April – Memorial for Saint Pius V, Pope

Antonio Ghislieri (1504-1572) was born to impoverished Italian nobility, the son of Paolo Ghislieri and Domenica Augeria. He worked as a shepherd as a boy, and received an excellent education in piety and holiness, including a scholastic education from a Dominican friar. He joined the Order in 1518, taking the name Michele. He studied in Bologna, Italy, and was ordained in 1528 in Genoa.

He was appointed teacher of philosophy and divinity in Genoa, and was a professor of theology in Pavia for 16 years. He was the Master of novices and prior of several Dominican houses, and he worked for stricter adherence to the Order’s rule.

He was an inquisitor in Como and Bergamo, and the commissary general of the Roman Inquisition in 1551. On Sep 4, 1556, he was ordained Bishop of Nepi and Sutri against his will. He was Inquisitor in Milan and Lombary in the same year, and created cardinal on Mar 15 the following year, made Grand Inquisitor on Dec 14, 1558, and was part of the conclave of 1559. He was appointed Bishop of Mondovi, Italy on Mar 17, 1560. As bishop, he worked to lead his flock with words and examples, and served as a continual messenger encouraging personal piety and devotion to God.

He became the 225th pope in 1566, and immediately faced the task of enacting the reforms of the Council of Trent. New seminaries were opened, a new breviary, new missal, and new catechism were published. Foundations were established to spread the faith and preserve the doctrine of the Church. He spent much time personally working with the needy. He built hospitals and used the papal treasury to care for the poor. He faced many difficulties in the public forum, both in the implementation of the Tridentine reforms and interaction with other heads of state. He created 21 cardinals. At the time of his death he was working on a Christian European alliance to break the power of the Islamic states.

-Patron Saint Index

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Acts 16:1-10

From Cilicia Paul went to Derbe, and then on to Lystra. Here there was a disciple called Timothy, whose mother was a Jewess who had become a believer; but his father was a Greek. The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of Timothy, and Paul, who wanted to have him as a travelling companion, had him circumcised. This was on account of the Jews in the locality where everyone knew his father was a Greek.

As they visited one town after another, they passed on the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, with instructions to respect them.

So the churches grew strong in the faith, as well as growing daily in numbers.

They travelled through Phrygia and the Galatian country, having been told by the Holy Spirit not to preach the word in Asia. When they reached the frontier of Mysia they thought to cross it into Bithynia, but as the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them, they went through Mysia and came down to Troas.

One night Paul had a vision: a Macedonian appeared and appealed to him in these words, ‘Come across to Macedonia and help us.’ Once he had seen this vision we lost no time in arranging a passage to Macedonia, convinced that God had called us to bring them the Good News.

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John 15:18-21

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘If the world hates you,
remember that it hated me before you.
If you belonged to the world,
the world would love you as its own;
but because you do not belong to the world,
because my choice withdrew you from the world,
therefore the world hates you.
Remember the words I said to you: A servant is not greater than his master.
If they persecuted me, they will persecute you too;
if they kept my word, they will keep yours as well.
But it will be on my account that they will do all this,
because they do not know the one who sent me.’

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Day after day the churches grew stronger in faith and increased in number

The church that I attend has been undergoing a redevelopment plan that has been ongoing for as far back as decades. As I have been told, this project has been deemed rather ‘controversial’ over the course of its long history. As one could imagine, there are many stakeholders in a major redevelopment plan such as including the church leadership, the pastoral staff, the administrative and support teams, the deacons, the congregation, adjacent neighbors and government building commissions; all of whom have their own views and opinions, myself included. Having only attended this church since I started seeking and, eventually accepting Christ, I personally feel that I have a vested interest in its outcome. Yet the most important stakeholder that we need to focus on is God and whether this plan is in line with His plans!

Conflict can, and often does, arise within the church setting. The early Christians faced disagreements such as whether to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles (as we read about on Thursday’s reflection). In time, they resolved their differences through obediently following the promptings of the Holy Spirit in guiding them to the answer God wanted. They allowed His Word to show them the truth.

Whenever there is conflict in a church, it is the responsibility of each believer to seek to resolve these tensions. First and foremost, the parties need to have the right focus – which is on God and not on themselves. They also need to consider their own role in the conflict and be willing to work with the other individual(s) to address the problem in a loving manner. The point is not to win an argument, but rather to improve the ministry when His people handle it in a Christ-like manner.

Brothers and sisters, the church is more than just a building where people gather. It is a collection of God’s people, that serve as the body of Christ, doing His work in a world that desperately needs its Prince of Peace.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Steven Su)

Prayer – Heavenly Father, we pray for Your will to be done in our church communities. May the power of Your Holy Spirit guide us as we seek to glorify You in all that we build.

Thanksgiving – Lord, we give thanks for our church families who encourage us throughout our time on this world.

21 April, Thursday – Remembering to Be Servants

21 April – Memorial of Saint Anselm, Bishop and Doctor

Anselm (1033-1109) was born of Italian nobility. After a childhood devoted to piety and study, he wanted to enter religious life, but his father prevented it, and Anselm became rather worldly for several years. Upon his mother’s death, Anselm argued with his father, fled to France, and became a Benedictine monk at Bec, Normandy. He studied under and succeeded Lanfranc as abbot, before later becoming Archbishop of Canterbury.

Anselm was a theological writer and counsellor to Pope Gregory VII, Pope Urban II, and William the Conqueror. He opposed slavery and obtained English legislation prohibiting the sale of men. He fought King William Rufus’ encroachment on ecclesiastical rights and the independences of the Church, and was exiled. He resolved theological doubts of the Italo-Greek bishops at the Council of Bari in 1098. He strongly supported celibate clergy. King Henry I invited him to return to England, but they disputed over investitures, and Anselm was again exiled in 1106.

He was one of the great philosophers and theologians of the Middle Ages, and was proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 1720 by Pope Clement XI.

“No one will have any other desire in heaven than what God wills; and the desire of one will be the desire of all; and the desire of all and of each one will also be the desire of God.” ~St. Anselm, Opera Omnis, Letter 112

-Patron Saint Index

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Acts 13:13-25

Paul and his friends went by sea from Paphos to Perga in Pamphylia where John left them to go back to Jerusalem. The others carried on from Perga till they reached Antioch in Pisidia. Here they went to synagogue on the sabbath and took their seats. After the lessons from the Law and the Prophets had been read, the presidents of the synagogue sent them a message: ‘Brothers, if you would like to address some words of encouragement to the congregation, please do so.’ Paul stood up, held up a hand for silence and began to speak:

‘Men of Israel, and fearers of God, listen! The God of our nation Israel chose our ancestors, and made our people great when they were living as foreigners in Egypt; then by divine power he led them out, and for about forty years took care of them in the wilderness. When he had destroyed seven nations in Canaan, he put them in possession of their land for about four hundred and fifty years. After this he gave them judges, down to the prophet Samuel. Then they demanded a king, and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin. After forty years, he deposed him and made David their king, of whom he approved in these words, “I have selected David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who will carry out my whole purpose.” To keep his promise, God has raised up for Israel one of David’s descendants, Jesus, as Saviour, whose coming was heralded by John when he proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the whole people of Israel. Before John ended his career he said, “I am not the one you imagine me to be; that one is coming after me and I am not fit to undo his sandal.” ’

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John 13:16-20

After he had washed the feet of his disciples, Jesus said to them:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
no servant is greater than his master,
no messenger is greater than the man who sent him.

‘Now that you know this, happiness will be yours if you behave accordingly. I am not speaking about all of you: I know the ones I have chosen; but what scripture says must be fulfilled: Someone who shares my table rebels against me.

‘I tell you this now, before it happens,
so that when it does happen
you may believe that I am He.
I tell you most solemnly,
whoever welcomes the one I send welcomes me,
and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.’

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“No servant is greater than his master”

I recently took an unusual business course. While the course did look at how to go about creating mission statements, setting up business strategies and focusing on the financial aspects of how to run one’s business, the attitude was one of servanthood and service.

In running a business, the typical mindset is that in order to be successful in business, one had to be mindful of the “ways of the world”. This course, however, focused on the fact that God was the owner of one’s business! The approach to the business was to be one of a steward and to run the business according to God’s rules.

I found this approach very exciting, while at the same time extremely challenging. Depending on which industry one was in, it could mean that one had to step away from practices which were “acceptable” (for instance in how we behave in our “dog-eat-dog world”), but were unacceptable according to the teachings of the Bible! In my mind, I was rebelling, thinking of how difficult it is to succeed if we didn’t do what our competitors did!

And yet, by remembering that we are stewards, and by submitting to our God and master, we learn to trust in Him totally. Whatever successes we have will be His successes and whatever challenges we face needs to be lifted up to Him. We learn not to be arrogant, and learn to truly be His servants.

In following God’s ways, we will always be mindful of the fact that He leads us, and that we would never be greater than our God. Freedom and happiness would be ours to have!

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer – Father God, we pray that we will learn to totally submit to You. Help us to be led by You totally in all aspects of our lives; in our businesses, our relationships with others and in ALL aspects of our earthly lives. Give us a servant heart oh God!

Thanksgiving – Thank you God for all that You have given us materially and spiritually. Thank you for being in our lives and allowing us to be Your representatives here in the world.

Saturday, 18 Apr – Leading so as to Serve

18 Apr

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Acts 6:1-7

About this time, when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenists made a complaint against the Hebrews: in the daily distribution their own widows were being overlooked. So the Twelve called a full meeting of the disciples and addressed them, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the word of God so as to give out food; you, brothers, must select from among yourselves seven men of good reputation, filled with the Spirit and with wisdom; we will hand over this duty to them, and continue to devote ourselves to prayer and to the service of the word.’ The whole assembly approved of this proposal and elected Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

  The word of the Lord continued to spread: the number of disciples in Jerusalem was greatly increased, and a large group of priests made their submission to the faith.

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John 6:16-21

In the evening the disciples went down to the shore of the lake and got into a boat to make for Capernaum on the other side of the lake. It was getting dark by now and Jesus had still not rejoined them. The wind was strong, and the sea was getting rough. They had rowed three or four miles when they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming towards the boat. This frightened them, but he said, ‘It is I. Do not be afraid.’ They were for taking him into the boat, but in no time it reached the shore at the place they were making for.

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the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenists made a complaint against the Hebrews

Arguments within the early brotherhood of Christ’s followers were already present. As shown in the first reading, the Hellenists (Greeks) and the Hebrews (Jews) that comprised the early Christians, had their differences and divisions. This happened as ‘the number of disciples was increasing’. So we should not be surprised that it still happens to this day.

I believe one of the arguments of the early Christians would probably be about ‘primacy’  and ‘eligibility’ of fellowship — that is, who came first and who is worthy of being counted. We can infer this because of the specific mention of ‘Hellenists’ and ‘Hebrews’ as well as ‘widows’. The primacy of the Jews as God’s chosen people as mentioned in Old Testament scriptures could not be avoided by the Greeks who understandably may have felt second-class. Not to mention within themselves, emerged their widows, who were losing out in the ration of grain. Imagine the kind of discontent the first apostles would have to deal with and smoothen out.

Yet, they did not avoid the situation. Instead they convened a council to announce a better way forward. They acknowledged the reality of the situation, but also humbly admitted that they may not be the best persons to administer a solution. Within the Church, this was the start of ordaining bishops, deacons, and various apostolates. From this too, we see the institution of the first ‘public administration’ or ‘civil service’, in today’s speak.

What does this mean for us Christians? It is the notion of leadership, formation, and succession. The Twelve Apostles prefigure for us a leadership that is confident and secure in their own ministry, yet also humble enough to realise they could not do everything. They had a calling, but they also had real limitations.

They had a common higher purpose: ‘continue to devote ourselves to prayer and to the service of the word’. They had self-knowledge: ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the word of God so as to give out food.’ They cared about formation and renewal: ‘select from among yourselves seven men of good reputation, filled with the Spirit and with wisdom; we will hand over this duty to them’. They were aware of the importance of succession: ‘They presented these to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.’

As Christians who may also be leaders in various offices, let us reflect on our roles and duties, and ponder how we can reflect true leadership for our members and teams. One of the lessons that emerged from the fairly recent passing of ex-Prime Minister of Singapore Mr Lee Kuan Yew, was the realisation that he had contributed to building a public system that could renew itself and relied not on one particularly person. At the same time, each and every person within the organisation or team has a valuable role and contribution. May we not shy away from leadership, nor fellowship.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

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Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, we offer up this humble ministry of Oxygen in service to you. We pray that you will continue to sustain our mission and renew our team.

Thanksgiving: We give you thanks for the many people you have sent our way. Writers and readers alike, who contribute to giving our work purpose and continuity.