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REST, REFLECT & RENEW WESLEY TIDINGS | DECEMBER 2020

REST, REFLECT & RENEW

COVER STORY | THE YEAR OF SABBATH-REST | Wesley Tidings December 2020

+ By Aw Choon Hui, Lay Leader and Chairperson, Year Of Sabbath-Rest Taskforce

On 22 Nov 2020, The Sunday Times reported that 71 percent of the 1,200 employees surveyed felt more stressed since they started working from home, and 77 percent said that they were working longer hours at home than in the office. With WFH (work from home) now seemingly a part of our work life, this is but one of the many tectonic shifts experienced in our lives this year.

For many of us, it has been an exhausting year, both physically and mentally, as we adapted to new work practices and experienced Zoom fatigue from back-to-back online meetings, with little or no mental breaks. For many, and myself personally, we braced for the downturn in business, reduction in staff and salaries, and more hours of work, as we sought ways to pivot our business in these unprecedented times. Rest and relaxation is an elusive luxury many of us could ill afford.

Talk about a blistering pace of life! Multiply this over the years and it takes a deep toll on our souls as we feel strung out, with hardly any margin of rest in our life. Surely God did not mean for us to be sucked into living our lives at the speed of the Internet!

Invitation to Rest

Psalm 4:8 says: “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” I also love Psalm 23, in which the psalmist beckons us to lie down in green pastures, walk beside still waters and feast at the table laid out for us. Do you hear the quiet invitation from God? Even when there are hundreds of unopened emails, and the incessant buzz of our smartphone signalling yet another urgent text, our souls long for a quiet moment to just be still and seek the sanctuary of our Lord.

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life (Ps 27:4).

A gentle invitation to rest in Him, take His hand and sit by His side, at least for just a while. To calm our harried thoughts and leave all our cares and worries into His hands. And to experience His calm amidst the storms of our lives.

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience (Heb 4:9-11).

It was perhaps prescient, that way before the pandemic, God had impressed upon the church leadership to make 2021 our year of Sabbath-Rest. Little did we know then that the sudden tempest of the pandemic in 2020 would suddenly make the call to Rest, Reflect and Renew, more relevant than ever.

What happens In the year of Sabbath-Rest?

In January 2021, our Pastor-in-charge will introduce and kick-off our Year of Sabbath-Rest. Please do read the Rev Stanley Chua’s wonderful introduction in this TIDINGS issue (click here to read).

The way we hope to help all Wesleyans in the Year of Sabbath-Rest could be in the 3-P approach illustrated below.

PREACHING

Our pastors will be sharing from the pulpit on the biblical aspect of why weaving a Sabbath-Rest into our weekly routine is vital for our Christian walk and spiritual formation. There will also be teaching sessions from the Discipleship & Nurture ministry to help us understand and practise the following five core spiritual disciplines:

1. Discipline of WORSHIP

2. Discipline of MEDITATING ON SCRIPTURES

3. Discipline of PRAYER

4. Discipline of SILENCE AND SOLITUDE

5. Discipline of EXAMEN

PRACTICE

On an individual level, let me share some suggestions as to how you and your small group can learn and practise how to Rest, Reflect and Renew.

1. Sabbath Moments will be incorporated during church services to help all Wesleyans spend short moments of quiet and reflection.

2. Each of us should intentionally set aside a day in our normal week as our designated day of Sabbath-Rest. It could be Sunday or another day in the week when we do not have to officially work. On this day, let us commit to the Lord that we will do the following:

  • Cease from regular work as much as possible — i.e. avoid attending to work emails, texts or calls.
  • Cease from being enslaved to our smartphone, online shopping, online gaming, fears and anxiety.
  • Find ways to rest and be refreshed, e.g. go for meditative walks, enjoy God’s creation and presence, or take part in a class that lets us express our creativity (art, photography, making cards, gifts, etc.).
  • Plan a family outing or have a meal with good friends or extended family.

3. Many of us have been utilising the Read-Observe-Apply-Do (R.O.A.D.) method in our daily reflections using the Bible Reading Plan. For the Year of Sabbath-Rest, we will be adding one more dimension — spiritual journalling — to help us in our reflections. More details will be released soon.

4. Set aside at least one day in the year to go for a silent retreat where you will be guided to spend time listening to God.

PIVOT

One of the goals in the practice of the spiritual disciplines is to establish a holy rhythm in our lives.

We also encourage our church ministries to reflect and review whether what we have been doing, is still relevant currently.

With the entire population prevented from travelling abroad, the prohibition of large-group gatherings and many working from home, we have experienced record attendances for online small group meetings, prayer services and other ministry webinars. Almost overnight, the entire church has learnt how to use Zoom and tune in to online church services. As one wise church leader told me, instead of getting people to church, we now bring the church into the homes of entire families. While these changes pose new problems, the question we need to ask is — how should we pivot as a church to take advantage of these changes? I believe that God is presenting us with new, and perhaps better, ways of carrying out His kingdom work. The call is for us to be still and listen to what God wants to tell us.

Be Still and Know that I Am God

We need to learn how to Rest, so that we can spend time to Reflect on our individual personal lives as well as our ministry practices. Before his Aldersgate experience, Methodism founder John Wesley asked what he could do for God. But after his heart was strangely warmed, he asked what God could do for him and through him. Likewise, may we seek to be Renewed, and guided by the Holy Spirit to do the work(s) which God has planned in advance for each one of us to do.

WESLEY TIDINGS

DECEMBER 2020 ISSUE IS OUT!