“You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance.” (Psalms 65:11)
My thoughts and feelings are deeply stirred as the final month of 2020 approaches. It is time for me to bring to a close a year’s service, my four years as Bishop as well as my life in pastoral ministry since 1984.
The past year
To some, 2020 might feel like a lifetime. For others, it might be a year wasted. Most, however, would probably regard the year as a way station along life’s journey to pause and reflect. How indebted are we in our relationships with family and friends, and with God? What timely compensation is possible before it becomes too late?
The past four years
My four-year appointment (owing to my reaching the mandatory retirement age) as Bishop seems to have gone by in a flash. It was four years of constant racing against the clock to try and participate in the various realms of ministry within my term of office. It was always a case of “time not enough”. Time often ran out and work had to stop before being completed satisfactorily; the feeling was one of helplessness.
I have a deeper appreciation of what is expressed in Ecclesiastes: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him” (3:1, 14). Once a decision is made, we should spare no effort and waste no time in getting the work done. We will then have few or no regrets when it is time to move on.
If one knows how long an undertaking would last before embarking on it, few would attempt it for fear of inability to persist to the end. When I graduated from theological college 40 years ago, I might not have had the courage to take the first steps to be a preacher if I had wondered how I could remain one for three or four decades till my retirement. But Paul tells us the Lord’s grace is sufficient and to let God lead, one step at a time.
Looking back, we may find that 10, 20, 30 years have gone by, and through each year we have experienced what the psalmist describes in Psalms 65:11—“You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance.”
I regret not being able to join you as Bishop in the ongoing fight against COVID-19. Many are severely affected by the pandemic and life will be more difficult. But I will be praying for you, for our nation and for this gravely afflicted world. I believe the Lord will raise His own people among us.
Christmas this year will not be celebrated with the usual festive cheer, bustling malls and feasting. These are no longer important. We are in the midst of a war against the pandemic— businesses big and small are struggling to survive the economic woes in its wake; we are on the brink of a global recession and hanging on to the hope of a COVID-19 vaccine.
In such extraordinary times and above all the sound and fury against the difficult circumstances, we will continue to pray and know the promise of God’s presence with us despite the world’s strident clatter and clamour. Emmanuel! Indeed, no matter where we are, God is with us!
Wishing all a blessed Christmas and peace in the Lord!
|Bishop Dr Chong Chin Chung – was elected Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore in 2016.
He served as President of the Chinese Annual Conference from 2008 to 2016.