Sermon: The Bible Tells Me So – Leigh

Slide2

This week, as part of our ongoing series on the Reformation, Leigh shared a meditation on the theme, “Sola Scriptura“, or “Scripture Alone”.

Working from this week’s scripture lessons (Amos 5:6-7, 10-15Hebrews 4:12-16Mark 10:17-31), Leigh spoke about how declaring “Scripture Alone” as foundational to our faith meant encountering Jesus through the Bible and being transformed by that encounter.

The sermon recording (with slides) is available here:

#GettingToKnowYou – BLC Council 2015-2017: Leigh Wong, Secretary & Education

retary [Since we have just installed our BLC Council for 2015-2017, we thought it would be good to get to know them better. To do that, we are posting a profile of each council member – a profile a day for the next 7 days! The profiles will cover the roles and responsibilities of each council member, as well as a short question-and-answer interview – in their own words.]

[Update, 17 Jul 2016: Leigh Wong has accepted a job position overseas; so he has stepped down as Chairperson and will serve as Secretary. BLC is delighted and proud to announce our first-ever Madam Chairperson – Rubini Murugesan!]  

Leigh35Bday

Leigh Wong is secretary of the Church Council (2015-2017), as well as the Council Member overseeing the education portfolio.

As Secretary, he is responsible for the following:

  • Chiefly responsible for maintaining the administrative records of Bangsar Lutheran Church
  • Keeps accurate minutes of all meetings of the congregation and of his or her Council in a volume provided by the congregation, and shall see to it that all necessary records are properly maintained and permanently stored, with copies of minutes of all congregational and Council meetings being sent to the Lutheran Church in Malaysia.
  • In partnership with the Council Chairperson, to follow up on action items on Church Council meeting matters.
  • Keep the membership rolls of the congregation, reporting them periodically to the Church Council and to the Lutheran Church in Malaysia. This includes being responsible for maintaining an accurate record of all baptisms, confirmations, communions and attendance at various services, classes and meetings sponsored by this congregation.
  • All necessary records shall be maintained in the Parish Registrar, which shall be and remain the property of the congregation.
  • In partnership with the Council Chairperson and Pastor, submit a written report to the Annual Meeting of the congregation and to the General Meeting of the Lutheran Church in Malaysia.

For the education portfolio, he is responsible for:

  • In partnership with the Pastor, to be chiefly responsible to encourage spiritual growth through education and lifelong learning by supervising and coordinating BLC education programmes and initiatives
  • Provides oversight to ensure Bible Studies as well as other congregational learning programmes are carried out smoothly
  • Key liaison with LCM HQ on education matters and programmes, including LBTI classes
  • To lead the Education Core/Committee, if there is one

Getting to know… Leigh!

Tell us briefly about yourself?
Well, first of all, the “Leigh” is pronounced “Lee” as in, “Tengku RazaLEIGH“. I’m happily married, to a wonderful woman whom I’ve dated since college, and we are constantly astounded and amused by our three sons. I currently lead media relations and issues management at an international energy company. No one believes me when I say that I’m actually an introvert – although I’ve very recently learned that there’s such a thing as an “outgoing introvert” (for real – look it up!).

How long have you been at BLC and what were your first impressions about it, when you first came?
I’ve been at BLC since 2004, and when we first stepped into the church, we went, “Whoa, is this a cult?! What’s with the non-descript bungalow, dark atmosphere and… is that cross made up of light boxes from IKEA?!” Now that lightbox cross is one of my fondest highlights of the church sanctuary.

What was your initial reaction to being asked to join/remain in Council?
When I was first asked in 2009, I had to decline due to ministry commitments with The Boys Brigade. I was then asked again in 2011, when I felt more of an, “All right, it’s time to commit to serve BLC as my faith community…”. Then, when I was asked whether I had any violent objections to staying on, I couldn’t think of any (well, violent ones anyway). This year, I decided to volunteer as Chairman because I saw an opportunity to serve in a capacity where I could more directly help partner with Pastor Augustin for the ministry of BLC, beyond merely managing administrative concerns. It is certainly a leap of faith for me as BLC is a wonderful, unique and unusual community. It will be a challenge to deftly maintain this unique aspect of the church while also discerning how we can propel the ministry forward.

What do you do during your free time?
This free time you speak of, it sounds familiar…

What’s your favorite…

  • Food? Nasi lemak. Once, on summer break in Malaysia, I had nasi lemak for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, 5 days in a row. #truestory
  • Drink? Wine
  • Movie? No particular one, but I’m a sucker for SciFi, fantasy and comic-related ones. (My guilty pleasure is B-grade sci-fi – Sharknado FTW!!!)
  • Smell? Babies
  • Music genre? Acoustic and vocal jazz
  • Book or literary genre? Superhero comic books
  • Conversation topic? Nonsense

What would you consider your strength(s) and weakness(es)?
I have a type-A personality, which typically results in things getting done but, unfortunately, not always with the adequate tact.

Can you share what your personal dream and aspiration is, for the next 10 years?
To have a personal dream and aspiration in the next 10 years!

What is your dream for Malaysia (or the world), for the next 10 years?
To be able to pass to my children a Malaysia based on that vision I grew up loving – a place of peace, harmony and unity; natural beauty; as well as awesome food!

What does it mean for you to follow Christ today?
Learning to actively listen to Him moment by moment… as I march to the beat of a very, very different drummer.

What do you think God is saying to you lately?
What does it mean to be a Christian in my context today – as a postmodern, urban, time-starved, family man with a corporate job?

What’s the most random thing you can think of right… NOW?
Goofy and Pluto are both dogs – but why is one different from the other?

What’s the best way(s) to get in touch with you?

Sermon: Christ’s Compelling Call – Upwards and Outwards Towards Our Deep Gladness And The World’s Deep Hunger – Leigh

Christ's Compelling Call

(Some background: For the first six months of the year, BLC will focus on the preaching theme, “Upwards and Outwards“. Also, this sermon is based on this week’s liturgical readings: Isaiah 40:21-31; Psalm 147:1-11, 20c; 1 Corinthians 9:16-23 and Mark 1:29-39)

Sermon summary by Leigh:

If I were to ask you, “What is your deepest gladness?” What would your answer be? Now, hold that thought.

I am told to be more like Jesus and, based on today’s gospel lesson, I don’t think I’ve lived out a life of being a radical, subversive full-time preacher with a penchant for healing, hanging out with people on the fringes, and dying on the cross at the age of 33.

Yet, as a Christian, it is an undeniable truth that we are called to be like Jesus. Put another way, our journey as Christians – literally, “little Christs” – is a call upwards: towards becoming more and more like Jesus, even today.

Not only that, our call is a call outwards as well – having encountered Jesus, we feel compelled – as Paul did in his letter to the Corinthians – to preach the good news. What does “do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings” mean for you, in practice, today?

This week, I went to the Big Bad Wolf Fire Sale and fortuitously picked up a book by Timothy Keller, called “Every Good Endeavor“. I liked what it had to say about integrating faith and work:

“I’d learned that I was supposed to be changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ and therefore be “used by God” in my relationship with others, and maybe even be distinctive in the way I [worked]. Nice concepts, but what did they look like in practice?

One CEO would share that he kept a Bible on his desk and that occasionally someone in the company would ask about it. Another prayed and the company thrived. Many viewed their corporate jobs primarily as a means to make lots of money to give away to charities and organizations they cared about. When I asked pastors and business-people how their faith related to their work, they often answered that a Christian’s primary, if not sole, mission in the workplace was to evangelize those with whom they worked. But most businesspeople would quickly add that evangelism was not one of their gifts. And none of these approaches addressed the issue of how Christians’ faith should affect the way they worked.

Living out my faith in my work seemed relegated to small symbolic gestures, to self-righteous abstinence from certain behaviors, and to political alignments on the top cultural and legal issues of the day.”

Keller then draws on the work of Robert Bellah, a sociologist, who highlighted the need for “…a re-appropriation of the idea of vocation or calling, a return in a new way to the idea of work as a contribution to the good of all and not merely as a means to one’s own advancement,” before going on to explain:

“The Latin word vocare – to call – is at the root of our common word ‘vocation.’… A job is a vocation only if someone else calls you to do it and you do it for them rather than for yourself. And so our work can be a calling only if it is reimagined as a mission of service to something beyond merely our own interests.

To be a Christian in business, then, means much more than just being honest or not sleeping with your coworkers. It even means more than personal evangelism or holding a Bible study at the office. Rather, it means thinking out the implications of the gospel worldview and God’s purposes for your whole work life – and for the [area] under your influence.

So, if we are called to be like Christ (our upward call) and to impact the world around us just like He did (our outward call) – we need to reconsider the fact that our work is more than just a job; it is a vocation.  So where, or how, then are we called?

This brings me to this quote by Frederick Buechner: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Because God has made us the way we are and is continually at work in our lives, we can recognize that our deep gladness – the things that truly give us our deepest joy and sense of fulfillment – are part of His work in us. This includes our sense of fulfillment at work – consider the examples of Eric Liddell, John Coltrane, as well as other members of our faith community.

Integrating our “deep gladness” with the “deep hungers” of the world around us, thus, is where God has called us to. So, where is the deep hunger of the world around you?

And yet, as always, there is good news: God’s call does not take you where His grace does not cover you. Our Isaiah passage is remarkable because of the juxtaposition it offers between the great power of God as Creator and Lord of the Universe, and with the amazing fact that all that power is bequeathed to us:

Have you never heard?
Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
He gives power to the weak
and strength to the powerless.
Even youths will become weak and tired,
and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.

How this comes together for me stems from God’s call on my life, which I received when I was 16. Since then, I have gone on a lifelong pursuit of that calling – to be an evangelist, to help Good News get told through the power of marketing and communications.

And, so, the challenge now before us is this: Where has God called us to today?

An exercise to help us figure that out was to use the following graph – where, on one side, we list down what we think is our deepest gladness, and, on the other side, we list down where we think God is at work in the hurts of the world around us. Then, we take a good look at where the two meet and see where God brings the two together.

Where God Has Called Me To

For a final thought, I leave this for consideration:

Think of that cliché that nobody ever gets to the end of their life and wishes they spent more time in the office. It makes good sense, of course, to a point. But here’s a more interesting perspective: At the end of your life, will you wish that you had plunged more of your time, passion, and skills into work environments and work products that helped people to give and receive more love?

Can you see a way to answer “yes” to this question from your current career trajectory?

My sermon slides are available here:

Sermon: Signs – Leigh

CountdownToDoomSunday2014a

This morning, Leigh shared a message based on Job 14:1–6, I Thessalonians 4:13–18, and Matthew 24:15–28 as part of the sermon series #CountdownToDoomSunday 2014.

Leigh

The sermon takes a look at Jesus’ proclamation of “Signs of The End and His Coming Again” in the Gospel Reading and has us think about them in three ways:

  1. That these signs can be understood as signs of completion. God is at work in History. We are a part of His Kingdom work – joining Him in what He is already at work doing – seeking the Shalom of our lives, our neighbors and the world.
  2. That these are signs of hope. Paul’s message to the Thessalonian church centers on the Second Coming of Jesus as a Source of Hope. Because Jesus rose from the dead, we can also believe that, when He returns, we would see life again. We do not grieve like people who have no hope.
  3. That’s why, perhaps, the most relevant understanding of Jesus’ signs is to see you and I as signs of Jesus First and Second Coming.

As such, the challenge before us is to live out as Signs of God’s Kingdom – living with the end in mind.

The sermon then ends with a challenge and participation exercise: How do you want to be remembered?

  • Write three things that you want to see in your eulogy.
  • For a fuller exercise, consider writing out your eulogy to be read out by someone at your funeral.

Leigh’s slides are available here:

Sermon: That awkward moment when you realize Jesus called you and I – Leigh

That Awkward Moment When You Realize Jesus Called You And I

This past Sunday, Leigh’s sermon was based on Lectionary readings for the 3rd Sunday in Epiphany: Isaiah 9:1-4; 1 Corinthians 1:10-18; and Matthew 4:12-23.  The main idea was to explore the epiphany of how God has chosen us to be His emissaries/ambassadors and what that means for us as a community of faith.

It centers on the realization that the Church – God’s community – is truly a revelation that could only have come from Him. English writer Dorothy L. Sayers previously described how God went through “three great humiliations” in His pursuit of humanity:

  • The first was the Incarnation, when Jesus took on human flesh and became like us.
  • The second was the Cross, where He died a shameful and painful death.
  • And the third, was the Church, “when God entrusted his reputation to ordinary — sometimes very ordinary — people.

That’s the “aha” moment, the epiphany – that Jesus would call out to us still, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people” (Matthew 4:19); in spite of who we are and what we are like, individually and collectively.

Hence, THAT AWKWARD MOMENT: WHEN YOU REALIZE JESUS CALLED YOU AND I (and meant it).

Leigh’s slides are here:

Or if you’d like to listen to the sermon accompanied by the slides, here it is (please forgive the audio quality):

And this is the poem Leigh read out at the end, which was inspired by a quote commonly attributed to, but unverified to be said by, St. Augustine of Hippo: “The church is a whore, but she is my mother”.

I And My Muther, WunnMarty Schoenleber III, 2012

Over on the dirty side of town glimpsed between the red flashes of “don’t walk”
And barely visible through the steam spewing off of street drains
Leaned up against the neon sign of a pawn shop is a prostitute
Whose mother was a prostitute
Whose grandmother was a prostitute
Whose great-grandmother was a prostitute back
As far as they can recall
And she’s wearing the hand-me down wedding dress that fits her a little too well

And if you go down the right alleyways
You’ll find her prayers stenciled onto liquor shops like brick wall communiqués
Up to the ears of a still-listening God go her graffiti apologies

Confessions so painful they can’t be pretend
They get more vulgar until you reach the alley’s end
Where they run out of room and start climbing up the wall,

Climbing up and up and up until they turn into steeples
The spray paint colors into stained glass windows
Forming a sanctuary whose doors don’t close
She strides inside and waits at the altar in white clothes

And who should reverse the customary process and approach as her groom?
None, but a ruler whose purple train fills the entire room
How backward to see this promiscuous harlot married to a king
But as she mouths her vows
They resound as forgiveness hymns she sings

In the pews made of cigarette butts and beer cans
Every hard-backed row built by her own hands
Sits a throng of witnesses
And all of them can see she doesn’t deserve His graces

Their sense of justice so violated
It can’t be controlled,
That their arms are crossed like origami waiting to unfold
In objection to this unholy marriage
As they ask themselves who gave her the privilege

At this alter she doesn’t have a right to be
“But,” she says, “He proposed to me.”
And wedding wine never tasted so good
Full forgiveness flavored finer than it should

He leans down with a kiss on her brow
She tilts her weary head down
And feels the weight of a holy crown
Etchings along the inside
Read: “Child and Bride, In You I Abide”

And with whisper in her ear He is repeating over and over
I love you I love you I love you I love you
I love you…

The congregation cheers and rises,
But from the street outside the open doors of the shabby-made cathedral
A shout across the crowd breaks the joyous celebration
A man cursing as he swore
“You can’t hear the gospel from a whore!”
But in walked two daughters and then in walked a son
They placed their hands on the man with a smile and said,
“I and my mother one.”

As performed by the artist:

As performed by the artist’s dad!

Sermon: Humility, Hospitality And The People I’d Rather Not Invite To Dinner – Leigh

This morning, Leigh spoke from this week’s lectionary readings.

He started off by talking about how there were certain kinds of people that he would never invite to dinner – but somehow, as Jesus is wont to, He would flip the dinner guest list upside down. That way, these “undesirables” would be given places of honor at the dinner party.

Jesus does this because, ultimately, He is inviting that part of each of us to dinner! Otherwise, if Jesus were to apply our standards to our own dinner parties – we might end up not being invited ourselves!

Leigh has posted his slides here: