First Sunday of Advent 2013
2:1 The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
2:2 In days to come the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it.
2:3 Many peoples shall come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
2:4 He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
2:5 O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD!
24:36 "But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
24:37 For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
24:38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark,
24:39 and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man.
24:40 Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left.
24:41 Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left.
24:42 Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.
24:43 But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.
24:44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
Today, we commemorate World AIDS Day. Today, we also enter into the season of Advent, the season of anticipation, waiting and hope. Today, some folks are running the Singapore Marathon. Some have crossed the finishing line, and some are still running.
What has World AIDS Day, the first Sunday of Advent and the Singapore Marathon do with one another? Perhaps it will all make sense after I am done. Perhaps it will not.( Read more...Collapse )
Today is a day of remembrance. We commemorate the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, gathering to remember those who have been brutally murdered due to transphobia, anti-transgender hatred, or prejudice.
Most trace the beginning of the Transgender Day of Remembrance back to a night in late November, 1998. The murder of Rita Hester on November 28th of that year in Boston shook the local community. The resulting walk through the streets and candlelight vigil outside her apartment are often considered the inspiration for what has become an international act of remembrance for those who were killed in acts of anti-transgender violence. The following year, a candlelight vigil was held in San Francisco, and each year the remembrance has grown, from very local beginnings to an international audience. In some places, the week leading up to or following the Day of Remembrance has been a time of extensive awareness building and advocacy. We want to be part of that. We want to educate people about transgender issues, the struggle that transgender people face, and to change laws and change the society we live in.( Read more...Collapse )
2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it,
3:15 and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
3:16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
3:17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
4:1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you:
4:2 proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching.
4:3 For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires,
4:4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.
4:5 As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.
32:22 The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.
32:23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had.
32:24 Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.
32:25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.
32:26 Then he said, "Let me go, for the day is breaking." But Jacob said, "I will not let you go, unless you bless me."
32:27 So he said to him, "What is your name?" And he said, "Jacob."
32:28 Then the man said, "You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed."
32:29 Then Jacob asked him, "Please tell me your name." But he said, "Why is it that you ask my name?" And there he blessed him.
32:30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved."
32:31 The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.
I want to start by inviting you to open your ears, and your hearts and your mind. Sometimes our worldview and our beliefs prevent us from being open to change. Sometimes we have a fixed idea of how things are that we filter out everything else - we hear what we want to hear.
I was invited to lecture in a class in SMU last Monday. This is a class of the brightest amongst the brightest - they are part of the University Scholars Programme. It was an engaging session - and many of them were pushed to reexamine some deeply held beliefs they had. Some of them believe that there is an absolute truth. Yet, that same absolute truth cannot be subject to critical examination. I asked - "if it is absolute, then it should be able to be subjected to critical examination."
Professor Farid Alatas, the Associate Professor of Sociology at National University of Singapore, in the International Interfaith UnConference held yesterday at SMU said that it is by being deeply rooted in one's tradition that one can appreciate and interact with other traditions. People who are fearful of being contaminated or tainted by other traditions are not secured in their tradition. I appreciate what I have to learn from other faiths because I know it will only enrich me - because I am grounded in my tradition. I do not fear that I will "lose my faith." How can I lose it?( Read more...Collapse )
Welcome Home! Welcome to Free Community Church's Homecoming 10th Anniversary service!
It has been quite a journey - from a small HDB flat at Zion Road, to 40 Zion Road, to Utterly Art, The Attic above Mox, to Yangtze and finally to Geylang Lor 23.
Our journey parallels the journey in Exodus - the Israelites liberated out from Egypt and heading towards the Promised Land. Like many other communities that are oppressed, we hear our own stories in the story of the liberated Israelites. The African American community heard their own story of oppression and liberation in the Exodus narrative.
Karen Armstrong, in her book "The Case for God" writes - "A myth was never intended as an accurate account of a historical event; it was something that had in some sense happened once but that also happens all the time."
When we talk about Exodus - there are some things we remember - the burning bush that Moses encountered, the plagues that struck the Egyptians, the Passover, the parting of the Red Sea, the 40 years in the desert, the manna from heaven, the water from the rock, the ten commandments, the golden calf, the construction of the Tabernacle.
These events have in some sense happened once, but also happens all the time. The power of this narrative is how it applies to us even to this day, as we see these things anew.( Read more...Collapse )
A scorpion and a toad encountered each other on the road, and travelled together for a while, recognizing in each other the kindredness they shared.
They reached the bank of a river, and the toad asked, “would you cross the river with me?” The scorpion said, “I cannot – it is not my nature.”
So they bid each other farewell as they each continued on their way – the toad leapt into the river, as the scorpion scurried along the river bank.
The toad turned back, looking as the scorpion disappeared from its view, feeling as though a part of its heart was missing. “Ah,” the toad thought. “That is the nature of the scorpion.” The toad felt the ache in that empty space in its heart – not the ache of a thousand shards of glass, but the ache of a dying dream. And the toad thought to itself, “And this, this is my nature.”
We all know our childhood shapes a significant part of who we are. And it is common sense that what we learned in our early years has a greater impact than what we pick up later. That is the one of the premises of the book "A General Theory of Love."
I was fortunate that my mom handled me the way she did. I was a child of questions. A "why?" child. Why is the wheel round? Why is the car blue? Why why why. When one question is answered I had another. My mom did her best. There are some questions that had no answers and there are some questions that is simply beyond my mom.
So she did the next best thing. She bought me a thick book called "Tell Me Why?" Why is the sky blue? Why are flowers brightly coloured? And I devoured it like how I devoured chocolate. And then she bought more. I had quite a few of those thick compendiums.
My interest in reading waned when I went to primary school. (I read the "Tell Me Whys" when I was in kindergarten) When I need to read to study, it kills off interest. But I guess this is why I prefer non-fiction to fiction.
Years later, my friend and mentor introduced me to a few books that rekindled my interest in books. He got me to read "The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature" by Matt Ridley. Then "Guns, Germs and Steel" by Jared Diamond. I continue to read books like this that helps me make sense of the world around me as well as the world inside me.
These books to me are the adult versions of "Tell Me Why." They may not be totally correct but it is up to critically examine what they present so we get a better grasp of what we know.
We may not be able to know everything. But to stop the quest of knowledge just because of that is just like saying we cannot explore the universe so we don't even take the first step into space.
Knowing may not make a difference if we don't apply what we know - just like Benjamin the donkey in "Animal Farm" but not knowing means we don't even know where to start making a difference.
A New Operating System
"Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
"Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit;
be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks.
Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them.
If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.
"But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.
You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour."
When i read this week's lectionary passages, i went - "Oh no, not again." Because these week's passages will lend to what some people have referred jokingly as "scolding sermons." it is not my intention to scold. it is not my intention to make you feel guilty. Preaching isn't just about what i want to say - preaching is about me figuring out what God wants me to say, and then figuring out how to find the right words and right way to say it to you.
i have learned through the years, that preaching the sermon is like the sowing of seeds. Some will fall onto along the path and the birds will eat them up. Some will fall onto rocky places without much soil, and spring up quickly, but because the soil is shallow, the plants would be scorched and they will wither because their roots do not go deep enough. Some will fall among the thorns that choked them. And some will fall on good soil - and those will bear bountiful yields of a hundred, sixty or thirty times of what was sown.
So whoever has ears, let them hear.
i have also learned to let go of control. Because preaching the sermon is really like the sowing of seeds. The sower has little control over the weather conditions - whether there is enough sunlight, whether there is enough rain. Like sowing, most of the work is not done by the preacher. Most of the heavy lifting is done by the Spirit. And the rest? The rest is done by the listener. The transforming of hearts, the reflection - what does this mean to me, what do i need to do, what should i be doing or not doing - all the hard work of aligning your hearts with God's will is really beyond my control. It is up to God. It is up to you.
Today's Gospel passage from Luke 12:32-40 is rather odd.
It begins with "Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is God's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" and the very next verse, Jesus tells the people "Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys."
What do you think is the kingdom that God wants to give to you? Is it about possessions? Material stuff? Wealth? Riches?
Or is the kingdom something very different?( Read more...Collapse )
Good afternoon everyone, and welcome to the opening of the ninth season of IndigNation - Faith in the Future.
i am Miak Siew.
So before we start i have to first come out - i am in kind of an odd situation. i am gay, and i am Christian. And not only a Christian, but an ordained minister in the church. So to the Christians, they think I am out to convert them gay, and to the LGBT community, many think I am out to convert them to Christianity. So I'll be upfront. I am not out to convert anyone. Today, I am the chairperson of the organizing committee for indignation, which I have been involved in since 2006.
Given that some people have asked me about these year's theme "Faith in the Future," I think I need to shed a little light how we got there - the theme this year emerged over very quickly during one of our meetings - someone suggested it - I think it was Weijie or Mathia or Tania - and quite unanimously we thought it was a good idea - it played on the word "faith" because our meeting was held not long after the incident when Pastor Lawrence Khong attracted a lot of attention with his statement to the ESM Goh Chok Tong.
First, I have a lot of thank yous to read out. IndigNation cannot happen without a lot of people's involvement, generosity, pouring in their time, energy and resources into this. We want to thank 72-13 for the venue today, and for the closing day events Southeast Gaysia and Contradiction, Artistry Cafe for the venue for I Will Survive with Music, Select Books for hosting Gaylien Invasion, Free Community Church for hosting Transcending Gender; Fridae, IS Magazine and Beat Around the Bush for the media coverage; to CT and K Camden for the financial support; and to Gary and Kenneth of Ant Farms Design for the designing of the publicity and the candies; to Sayoni, OC Women, Purple Alliance, SgRainbow, Bear Project, YoungOutHere for their participation and involvement in the planning process; to thank you to the other Queer LGBT groups which have provided support, companionship on this process - People Like Us, Pelangi Pride Center, Pink Dot, Transgender Alliance, Bear Project, SgRainbow, SinGaypore, and my apologies to the groups which I have left out. And finally a big thank you to the volunteers who are helping out - Welton and Chase, Lip Sin, Hafiz. Thank you.
I have an agenda. The spies amongst you please take note. I have an agenda, and I will be open about it. I don't believe that I need to hide this agenda - not like some groups who operate clandestinely and infiltrate organizations and mount hostile takeovers - we operate openly. We declare our intentions. We have nothing to hide.
I have an agenda for a future that LGBT people will no longer live in fear. Fear of being rejected by their loved ones - kicked out of home, from the people dearest to them. Fear of being bullied and called names, and even fear of physical assault. Fear of being discriminated - at the workplace, at public places, anywhere. Fear of losing their jobs simply because of who they are.
I have an agenda because without a road map of where we are heading, we will just be passively allowing things to happen to us. We would just be reacting. And up to now, most of our activism has been about reacting. I must recognize many amongst you today are doing your part - be it speaking up on behalf of the LGBT community, making your presence felt on a personal and a community level, or organizing the community in big and small ways - all of you are putting your money where your mouth is. To all of you - thank you for your work and your sacrifice.
But we are often doing things in individual silos - hoping that somehow we would have a collective impact to change things. I think we can do better. While we are doing different things in different ways, sometimes disagreeing on how to do it, we need to have some sort of a master plan, some sort of big picture view instead of hoping that all the pieces will fall in the right place. We need to be coordinated. We need to all have a glimpse of the future so we know what we need to do now.
We also need to recognize that we are all interconnected. Too often, we are divided amongst ourselves. I have seen LGBT movement in the US, in an effort to appear more mainstream to the straight community, left the Transgender community out of the equation. In 2007, in an effort to get the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) passed, transgender protections were removed from the legislation, claiming they wouldn't have enough votes to pass an inclusive ENDA. T was thrown under the bus. It's just LGB. "We will come back for you." After we get our rights.
Will we do the same when our time comes? Will we try to make ourselves more mainstream, more acceptable, more Disney-family-friendly so that some of us can fit in? And those who can't fit in, "We will come back for you?" Or will we stand together, and rise or fall together?
While we are proud to support Gary and Kenneth in their challenge of 377A, we are quite quiet about Tan Eng Hong's challenge that gave them legal standing to make that challenge. Alfian Sa'at said "Queerness is radial, not sanitized, not commodified."
Will we see that the label Queer actually isn't a label at all. It is moving past labels, refusing to be put in neat little categories and seeing each human being as a human being. Queer, not just an umbrella term to cover LGBTIQAA, but the erasure of these categories. We are all a little bit queer.
Five months before he was assassinated, Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to hold public office in California, gave the "Hope Speech" in the 1978 San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade. Some of you may have heard it before. "And the young gay people in the Altoona, Pennsylvanias, the Richmond, Minnesotas, who are coming out and hear Anita Bryant on television and her story. The only thing they have to look forward to is hope. And you have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great." Go search for it on Youtube. What many people didn't know is that in that speech, Harvey Milk spoke about racists policies and on the closing of the South African consulate - this is during the time of Apartheid.
He didn't just speak up for LGBT rights. He spoke up for human rights. He didn't see rights as these are my rights, these are your rights - these are rights I will fight for, but these aren't my business, they have nothing to do with me.
This is not about repackaging LGBT rights as human rights - though LGBT rights are human rights. It is about recognizing our responsibility to address the protection of other marginalized communities, communities that do not have power, communities that do not have a voice, communities who are not heard - the migrant workers, the PLHIV (people living with HIV), the sex workers... We have to address our own issues within our community - racism, classism, elitism, sexism, ableism, ageism.
We should not throw anyone under the bus.
We have an agenda
as one united people - regardless of race, language, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, social economic status or nationality
to build a future
based on justice and equality and love
to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress
not just for our nation, but for all people.
So I would like to begin this panel presentation - this group of individuals invited to give their glimpse into the future, and speak about their hopes and their dreams for the future. So we can imagine a future that we have faith in.
Vanessa Ho, project coordinator for Project X, a sex worker outreach group, and one of the organizers of Singapore's "SlutWalk" movement.
Jean Chong, member of People Like Us, one of the founders of Sayoni, and a long time friend. 2 years ago, Jean was part of a 3-woman team from Sayoni to the Conference to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW) at the United Nations in New York to highlight the discrimination experienced by lesbian, bisexual and transgender women in Singapore. They brought up the issue of how 377A does not affect only men, but also women in Singapore.
Tricia Leong, the out-est, loudest trans activist in Singapore and one of the Sisters in Solidarity.
Tania De Rozario, an artist, writer and curator interested in issues of gender, sexuality and queer desire. She is the co-founder/curator of EtiquetteSG, a multidisciplinary collective focusing on women's issues, and is the author of Tender Delirium, published by Math Paper Press."
Alex Au, founding member of People Like Us, the person behind "Yawning Bread," one of my mentors who helped shape my activist life.
Dr Vincent Wijeysingha, is a politician and civil activist from Singapore. I talked about Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to hold public office in California. Vincent is the first openly gay politician in Singapore - and I hope that he would be the first openly gay politician in public office in Singapore.
Here's how we are going to do this - We would have these six speakers speak about the topics there were assigned, and then we would throw it open to the floor..
At talks and seminars, and presentations, we often think that those seated here - the panel - have all the answers. I don't think so. I think we need to brainstorm, share our thoughts, respond, critique, refine ideas and work together to come up with better ideas - what we want to do, how we can do it, and how we can work together.
We have been talking at you. Now you get to talk back.
The Good Samaritan and The Prodigal Family
10:25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he said, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
10:26 He said to him, "What is written in the law? What do you read there?"
10:27 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."
10:28 And he said to him, "You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live."
10:29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
10:30 Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead.
10:31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
10:32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
10:33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity.
10:34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
10:35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, 'Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.'
10:36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?"
10:37 He said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."
You know, there are times we are so familiar with something, that we actually think there is nothing left to know about it. It could be somebody close to you - a family member, a loved one, a friend; it could be something you have been doing for a long time - a hobby, a sport, an interest; it could be something you are the subject matter expert.
When i read the lectionary text before i left for the US, i thought to myself - the Parable of the Good Samaritan? Hasn't it been preached to death? What else new can i offer on it? Isn't the point of the parable - "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," something i have preached repeated on, again and again, that i sound like a broken record?
That's the thing when we assume we have nothing left to learn - that we know all there is to know. That is the end of growth. The sense of adventure and of exploration, our curiosity and questions are the means of our growth. We are not meant to stop learning. God has not stopped revealing things to us.( Read more...Collapse )