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9 & 10 January 2021 (Pastoral Page) ASSEMBLE AND RETURN

By Asst Ps Lai Keet Keong

“So my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles, the officials and the common people for registration by families. I found the genealogical record of those who had been the first to return….” (Nehemiah 7:5)

In the popular superhero movie, “Avengers: Endgame”, during the last stand-off against the villain Thanos, the Avengers were clearly having a bad field day. They were outnumbered, out gunned, and quickly running out of strength in their futile battle against the avalanche of attacks. Captain America, the de-facto leader of the Avengers, was bruised and beaten, with only half of his shield left. As he gritted his teeth to will his battered body off the ground, strapping the tattered shield around his arm and getting ready for one more charge towards the enemies, suddenly a mighty calvary of Avengers showed up through various portals right on time! It was against this incredible backdrop that Captain America renewed his strength and issued his command for battle: “Avengers…Assemble!”

Nehemiah was an Israelite serving in the court of the Persian King Artaxerxes when he first heard the call to return to Jerusalem and help to rebuild the ruined city walls. Despite his obedience, faith and putting his best foot forward to lead the charge, the project was bombarded with threats from the enemies outside and oppositions from within the camp. Disunity continued to fester even after the wall was successfully rebuilt. The turning point came when God put in Nehemiah’s heart to assemble everyone who returned to Jerusalem. What followed was an incredible gathering of the Israelites coming together as one to read the Book of the Law of Moses, confess their sins and renew their faith in God. (Nehemiah 7:73-9:38).

Both Captain America and Nehemiah have one thing in common – they gave a clear clarion call at a critical tipping point after battles had already been fought. Imagine the fatigue of the people, or weary thoughts floating among them on whether this might actually be the last battle before the victory! In the case of Nehemiah, God was on their side! He was the One behind the call to assemble, commandeering the return of His people back to Jerusalem to rebuild not only the city walls, but the houses and towns where they could finally be united and consecrated as God’s people.

As we step over the threshold to a New Year, may we open our hearts to heed the clarion call to assemble and return in the spirit of unity and love. To assemble could simply mean coming back physically for services or CARE Group meetings, much like the Israelites returning to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. To return in the spirit of unity and love may involve us being our brother’s or sister’s keeper by looking out for each other and reaching out in prayer or deed. Let us all put our hands and feet forward to serve one another tangibly through various means and ministries.

As the church celebrates its 63rd Anniversary this weekend, let us always remember to allow God to be the centre of it all – both in the good and through the challenges. He is either God of all or not God at all. Let us make a commitment to assemble and return in love and unity, in a way that will edify the Body of Christ and glorify God.

I leave you with Matthew 5:13-18, an apt reminder of the purpose of the church as we press on through these unprecedented times:

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

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