Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Church as Hope-Bearers

SCRIPTURE: 2 Cor 13:11
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: December 14th, 2015

"Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you." (2 Corinthians 13:11)

I have just finished a book called "Churchless" with mixed feelings about the state of the Western Church. The authors are owners and members of Barna Group, which is a private, non-partisan, and research organization that serves to identify and interpret cultural trends, especially relevant to the Christian community. They begin with some grim news about the increasing number of people who are no longer attending church services. They define the "unchurched" as people who say they are Christians but have not attended a Christian church service in the past six months. With particular interest on those who are Christians but not involved in any Church, they made this conclusion: "Invite a friend to church on Sunday" is no longer an in-thing. This week, I look at three necessary things. We need to understand the current cultural movements. We need to find ways to connect them both in or out of the Church. We need to find ways to show the unchurched that Church is worth it.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Walking with the Dying

SCRIPTURE: Job 7:13-16
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: December 5th, 2014

13When I think my bed will comfort me and my couch will ease my complaint, 14even then you frighten me with dreams and terrify me with visions, 15so that I prefer strangling and death, rather than this body of mine. 16I despise my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone; my days have no meaning. (Job 7:13-16)

Synopsis: We have often heard and read about people wanting the right to die. What about the right to live? Caught between the rock and a hard place, how do we walk with people who are dying? In this article, I will argue that it is not what we say or do, but how much love and care we put into being present. 

A) The Right to Die

Death is that inevitable end to a human being's time on earth. Dying is the lonely journey to that end. Put together the two and we will have a potent mixture for fear. How do we walk with the dying? What if the dying want to be assisted to die? Recently, a couple of stories hit the mainstream media. One of them is Brittany Maynard's widely publicized decision to die at an appointed time of her choice.  At 29, Brittany was already suffering from splitting headaches. Married just over a year, she and her husband had been hoping to start a family. Until the headaches got the better of her. Her doctors gave her the bad news: Brain cancer. Not only that, due to the aggressive nature of the cancer she had, doctors estimated she had only six months more to live. Not wanting to let her family see her suffer through palliative care, and knowing that there was medically no chance of survival, she set off for Oregon, the state that allows patient assisted dying under the "Death with Dignity" provision by the state. She planned her final day to be November 1st, 2014.  She explained her painful decision on video and news of her decision to die triggered many responses from both pro-life as well as advocates for mercy dying.  One notable response was a letter by Kara Tippetts, who was also dying of cancer. In that moving open letter, Tippetts bared out her soul with the words that deeply reflect how she felt:
"Suffering is not the absence of goodness, it is not the absence of beauty, but perhaps it can be the place where true beauty can be known. In your choosing your own death, you are robbing those that love you with the such tenderness, the opportunity of meeting you in your last moments and extending your love in your last breaths. As I sat on the bed of my young daughter praying for you, I wondered over the impossibility of understanding that one day the story of my young daughter will be made beautiful in her living because she witnessed my dying. That last kiss, that last warm touch, that last breath, matters — but it was never intended for us to decide when that last breath is breathed."

Monday, December 1, 2014

Mary's Song - The Magnificat

SCRIPTURE: Luke 1:39-56
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: December 1st, 2014

It's the most wonderful time of the year, so goes the popular year end song. After American Thanksgiving, and the infamous Black Friday sale, many stores and retail shops switch to Christmas sales mode to capture the spirit of giving, of discounting, and of frantic buying. Many Churches follow the traditional format of Advent themes. This year, my Church will look at four songs, that make up four sermons prior to Christmas. Yesterday, I started off with my sermon on Mary's Song.

The Magnificat is Latin for "glorifies" or "magnifies." It is a joy unspeakable from within that needs a channel of expression. Words and explanations do not quite cut it. It has to be sung out loud with pompous gladness and gusto. Two themes are evident from the song of Mary.