Happening soon. Please register if you have not done so by clicking on this link: bit.ly/beyondlament
In less than 36 hours, I have to close the registration to this public lecture as we received overwhelming response.
I plan on running the same lectures again, perhaps in the of May or early June.
Christ is risen. He is risen indeed, hallelujah!
Good Friday ends in darkness and despair. But Easter is glorious. It gives us new hope. It gives us new meaning to our existence. It speaks of the victory of Christ against sin and death. Yet, Easter is different this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. For many of us who may be accustomed to Easter celebration, drama production, large-scale evangelistic campaigns, this year’s celebration certainly seems less triumphal, celebratory, and glorious.
However, if we go back to the first Easter, things seem less glorious too. In John 20 there seems to be no sense of rejoicing. No one shouted: “Christ is Risen!”, and no one replied: “He is risen indeed.” All the disciples were in hiding. They had their own Movement Control Order (MCO), practised social distancing, and locked the door for the fear of the Jewish leaders (John 20:19). They imposed on themselves some measure of self-quarantine. They were full of fear, anxiety, and worry.
It was not until the first Easter evening when Jesus appeared to the disciples in the place where they were staying that they were overjoyed. Yet, one of the disciples, Thomas, was not present and doubted the resurrection of Christ. The following week, the disciples were still under MCO, and continued to practise social distancing and self-quarantine. Jesus appeared the second time to the disciples, and Thomas had his doubt removed.
There was hardly any victorious celebration on the first two Easter Sundays according to the narrative in John 20. Although Jesus had already appeared twice to the disciples, there was fear, anxiety, worry, and doubt. All they did was to go into hiding for a whole week. They had their self-imposed lockdown. No one proclaimed, “Jesus is risen” despite Jesus appearing twice to them.
To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. (1 Peter 5:1-4)
In exhorting the leaders of persecuted Church in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, Peter reminds them the the words of Jesus to him: “Follow me. Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep.”
Peter remained faithful to his calling till his martyrdom in the 60s CE. According to the early church tradition, Peter was crucified on the cross upside-down with his head down on the ground and feet raised on high, asserting that he was not worthy to be crucified in the same manner as his Lord.
For the disciples, Easter is a new beginning for them. While there may not be much celebration on that first Easter, the impact of the resurrection of Christ changed them. The narrative of the restoration of Peter is an inspiration and encouragement to us today. If we feel that we are not worthy to serve the Lord because of our past failures, this passage reminds us that Jesus is not finished with us yet. Jesus called Peter again for the third time, “Follow me” after his resurrection. He was patient with Peter, and he gave Peter all the time and space for him to ponder, reflect, and respond. Jesus is calling us again today. Our current situation may also offer us the time and space needed for us to pause, reflect, and respond to the resurrected Lord. Easter is a new beginning.
Like the disciples, we may be at the crossroads of our lives, feeling lost and not knowing the next step we should take. We may be confused by recent events we have encountered. We may be worried about the post-COVID-19 aftermath. Some of us may be concerned with our business, employment, and our financial cash flow. In moments of frustration, disappointment, and discouragement, we may choose to go our own way and do things according to our own strength and effort. Some of us may have gone back “fishing” because it is the only thing we know what to do. Despite our failures, Jesus wants to reinstate and restore us to serve him. Easter gives us hope.
Like the disciples, in moments like these, it is time to accept the invitation of our Lord to have breakfast with him (John 21:12). It is time to renew our strength in his presence. It is time to sit at his feet again to hear his voice and guidance so that we can be his effective servants: “Feed my lambs… Tend my sheep… Feed my sheep… Follow me” (John 21:15, 16, 17, 19).
This year’s Easter may be a bit quiet, and is certainly very different from what we may have been used to. Nevertheless, as we remember the confusion, the sense of loss, and the anxiety and fear of the disciples on the first Easter, may we be reminded that Easter is a new beginning and it gives us hope. May we be renewed on this Easter day. May we be reminded afresh why we follow Jesus. May we hear afresh his calling once again: “Follow me.” And most importantly, let us not forget to have breakfast with the resurrected Jesus – he is waiting for us.
Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Hallelujah.
We are living in unprecedented time. We are all affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. These past few weeks, we are reminded that our lives are fragile, vulnerable, and ultimately subject to the power and grace of God. Life certainly does not go on as normal.
This is probably the first time that we could not meet together physically as a family of God during the Movement Control Order (MCO) imposed by the Malaysian government. This affects all our services for the Holy Week, one of the most important seasons for Christians. We cannot come together physically to commemorate the death and resurrection of our Lord. We cannot come together to celebrate the Holy Communion.
Photo credit: St Paul's Church, Petaling Jaya
Celebrating the Holy Communion is probably one of the most sacred rites for me as a priest. There has been ongoing discussion whether the Holy Communion can be celebrated virtually or not (for example, see the excellent essay by Ian Paul, “(How) can we celebrate Holy Communion as ‘online’ church?”). Biblical Graduate School of Theology, Singapore, has also produced a theological advisory on remote celebration of the Holy Communion. At the moment, there is no virtual Holy Communion for the Diocese of West Malaysia.
There is a sense of emptiness in me, a sense of despair, and a sense of frustration for not being able to gather together as a community to celebrate the Holy Communion. While I do participate in virtual services online, somehow it can never replace a real physical community where we recite the Nicene Creed together, we confess our sins together and hear the absolution pronounced, we share the peace of God with one another, and where I serve the host to those who come forward to receive the body of the Lord. For me, there is something missing.
This reminds me of how the Israelites of old lamenting and crying out to God while they were in exile. They could not worship in the Temple. They could only look back to the time they worshipped the Lord in his holy place. They longed for the coming of the Messiah to deliver them.
By the rivers of Babylon--
there we sat down and there we wept
when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there we hung up our harps.
For there our captors asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How could we sing the LORD’S song in a foreign land?
Taking it positively, the MCO creates in me a strong thirst and hunger for the day when we could finally meet together again. It creates this deep longing and anticipation in wanting to run back to the church the day it is permissible to do so, and to worship as a community, sing praises to God, share the peace of God with one another, bring our offerings and the fruit of our labour to the altar, and celebrate the Holy Communion with the saints. As a priest, I long for the day where I could hold and lift up the host and break it. It is a true hunger, longing, and anticipation to have a foretaste of the promised heavenly banquet here on earth.
Celebrating the Holy Communion is not merely to remember the death of Jesus (1 Cor 11:23-25). It is also a proclamation of the coming of the Lord again. St Paul reminds us: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor 11:26). The Holy Communion itself expresses this deep longing and anticipation of the coming of the Lord. We look forward to the Great Banquet. It creates in us the cry: Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus (1 Cor 16:22). And this is the greatest hope of our Christian faith.
Photo credit: St Paul's Church, Petaling Jaya
The current global crisis causes me to rethink the meaning of gathering together as the people of God. Never before do I truly appreciate the church, the body of Christ. Not being able to celebrate the Holy Communion allows me to have a deeper appreciation of the salvific work of Christ, more so in this Lenten season. Despite the lament of the current crisis, I remain hopeful in the Lord.
I can’t imagine how it would feel like when the church meets again in the future. I think tears might just roll down my face when I can finally hold and lift up the host, and break it and hear the “piak” sound and say: “We break this bread to share in the body of Christ.”
Whenever we are confronted with a crisis, we can either succumb to it or we could rise above it, emerging stronger and more resilient than ever.
With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting all of us globally, it brings disruptions and inconveniences to our daily life. As a theological educator, all my classes in this semester are cancelled in compliance with the Movement Control Order (MCO) issued by the Malaysian government from 18-31 March. Other modular and intensive courses to be held in the coming weeks are cancelled as well.
Many questions are now being raised: How do we complete the syllabus for our courses? Will we be able to carry out replacement classes after the MCO is lifted? How do students access library resources? What if the MCO is extended?
Although the welfare and wellbeing of our students, staff, and faculty are foremost in our mind, we also wonder about the aftermath of the pandemic. How are classes going to be held?
This brings me back to one of the issues I raised some years ago about how brick and mortar seminaries may not be the only way for the future. What I am advocating is not to phase out traditional model of learning, such as the current full-time residential training. There is still a place for this model. What I am reflecting here is this: what else can we do to respond to the current challenges ahead of us?
There is a need to embrace online learning. Unfortunately, seminaries in Malaysia are generally slow to adapt to changes. We have not taken full advantage of the technological advances available for us to tap into what we could possibly offer to our students in terms of e-learning experience, including revamping our instructional models and making full use of the digital resources available.
The current crisis provides us another window of opportunity to respond positively to the situation. If anything, the current crisis reinforces the fact that we have to embrace technological advances if seminaries wish to remain resilient, adaptable to forces beyond our control, and continue to provide theological education to our students in Malaysia and beyond.
What can we plan for the immediate future for seminaries in Malaysia?
1) Upgrade our infrastructure so that our entire campus is provided with high-speed wifi/internet connection. This is no longer an option but a necessity so that we could offer a better learning experience.
2) Revamp our instructional model. We may have to consider offering courses online, blended model (say 50% online, and 50% face to face classroom interaction) or any other suitable models such as viewing videos at the convenience of the students. If we are prepared, we could tap on adjunct lecturers that are more than willing to offer courses but without the need for them to cross geographical boundaries to be in the seminary to deliver their lectures. In this way, we could potentially expand our course offerings, tapping into expertise available globally at reduced cost.
3) Reconsider our assessment of academic requirements. Currently, most of our academic requirements stipulates certain percentage of class attendance. This might have to be reviewed in light of online learning especially if our classes are designed to be self-paced.
4) Move to digital resources. While physical library remains important, there is a need to consider subscription to digital resources with journals and ebook access. Any financial budget allocated for physical expansion of library might be more profitably channelled to digital subscription that students may access from anywhere as long as there is internet connection. Currently, many academic publishers are offering access to their digital resources for free at least until middle of the year. This is a great opportunity for us to familiarise ourselves with digital resources if we have not done so already.
5) Collaborate with other seminaries. The time is now for us to work closely together. We need to collaborate with one another, not only with seminaries in Malaysia but also in the region. We could potentially share resources, participate in each other’s online learning courses, consider transfer of credits, and offer joint classes together where lecturers from different institutions could co-teach an online course in their respective geographical locations. This will enhance students' learning experience.
6) Change our mindset. This is probably the hardest thing to do. We are often averse to changes, and more so changes to areas that we are not familiar or uncomfortable with. However, help is always available. There are educational consultants who are willing to assist seminaries migrating to e-learning.
What I have said above is nothing new. Many seminaries globally have embraced online learning and there are lessons to learn from them.
Perhaps the current crisis is a golden opportunity for seminaries in Malaysia to reinvent themselves and thus provide greater access to theological education for many who are not geographically located near the physical location of the seminaries. Imagine the great impact where people located in East Malaysia, the East Coast states of Peninsular Malaysia, the smaller towns all over the country, and even students from the region could be further equipped for the ministry of the Gospel.
Are we ready? Who is with me?
This massive single-volume commentary edited by J. Brian Tucker and Aaron Kuecker is now published. Many years in the making, the editors are to be applauded for this very impressive edition contributing to the ongoing research and debates in the field of social identity and the New Testament.
I am very honoured to contribute a chapter on 2 Corinthians in this volume.
The list of contributors to this volume include:
Introduction: How to use the SICNT - J. Brian Tucker, Moody Theological Seminary, USA, and Aaron Kuecker, Trinity Christian College, USA
1. Genealogy of Social Identity Theory - A. Sue Russell, Asbury Theological Seminary, USA
2. Matthew - Matthew J. Marohl, St. Olaf College, USA
3. Mark - Rafael Rodríguez, Johnson University, USA
4. Luke - Aaron Kuecker, Trinity Christian College, USA
5. John - Warren Carter, Phillips Theological Seminary, USA
6. Acts - Aaron Kuecker, Trinity Christian College, USA
7. Romans - Christopher Zoccali, Northeastern Seminary, USA
8. 1 Corinthians - J. Brian Tucker, Moody Theological Seminary, USA
9. 2 Corinthians - Kar Yong Lim, Seminari Theoloji Malaysia, Malaysia
10. Galatians - Robert - L. Brawley, McCormick Theological Seminary, USA, and Jae Won Lee, Independent Scholar, USA
11. Ephesians - Minna Shkul, University of Sheffield, UK
12. Philippians - Sergio Rosell Nebreda, Saint Louis University, Spain
13. Colossians - A. Asano, Kwansei Gakuin University, Japan
14. 1 Thessalonians - Matthew P. O'Reilly, Hope Hull United Methodist Church
15. 2 Thessalonians - Matthew P. O'Reilly, Hope Hull United Methodist Church
16. 1 Timothy - Chris Porter, Ridley College, Australia
17. 2 Timothy - Chris Porter, Ridley College, Australia
18. Titus - Chris Porter, Ridley College, Australia
19. Philemon - Ryan Heinsch, Moody Theological Seminary, USA
20. Hebrews - Matthew J. Marohl, St. Olaf College, USA
21. James - K. Jason Coker, National Director of Together for Hope, USA
22. 1 Peter - Laura J. Hunt, Ashland Theological Seminary, USA
23. 2 Peter - R. Alan Streett, Criswell College, USA
24. 1 John - Rikard Roitto, Stockholm School of Theology, Sweden
25. 2 John - Rikard Roitto, Stockholm School of Theology, Sweden
26. 3 John - Rikard Roitto, Stockholm School of Theology, Sweden
27. Jude - R. Alan Streett, Criswell College, USA
28. Revelation - Paul Middleton, University of Chester, UK
According to the synopsis, this invaluable resource "highlights the way the NT seeks to form the social identity of the members of the earliest Christ-movement. By drawing on the interpretive resources of social-scientific theories-especially those related to the formation of identity-interpreters generate new questions that open fruitful identity-related avenues into the text. It provides helpful introductions to each NT book that focus on various social dimensions of the text as well as a commentary structure that illuminates the text as a work of social influence."
This volume is a follow up on the earlier publication, T&T Clark Handbook to Social Identity in the New Testament, where I also contributed a chapter.
For further information, please visit the publisher's website or Amazon where one is able to "look inside".
On August 15, 2019, my journey to the Anglican church marked another milestone when I was ordained as a Priest in the Diocese of West Malaysia, on the Feast of St Mary the Virgin at St Mary's Cathedral.
I have earlier shared about my personal journey to the Anglican church. The journey to priesthood is a continuation of the same journey, after having served the church and the seminary for 19 years. And I will continue to serve the church and the seminary, God willing, for the years ahead.
Thank you to many who have journeyed with me, supported me, and encouragement me all these years. I am thankful for all these the fellowship in the ministry of the gospel.
Photo credits: Simon Kang and John Chan.
Over the past few months, I have been busy conducting several Christian education seminars in a number of churches. A few things amazed and surprised me.
First of all, the response to these seminars had been overwhelming. For example, more than 200 people filled the hall at the Klang Chinese Methodist Church for the session on the the History of the Bible held on March 6, 2019.
Secondly, there is great hunger in wanting to delve into reading the Bible. There were many great questions raised in all the sessions, and some of them I do not even have any answer. Through these questions, I was able to reflect further and think through many issues as well.
Finally, the level of commitment shown by those who came for the classes is very commendable. I taught a consecutive 5-nightly sessions from 730-1030pm in early April at Sidang Injil Borneo Kuala Lumpur. About 90 people signed up for the class and they braved the massive traffic jam to the classes every night after a long day at work. This level of dedication brought much encouragement to me.
Below are some photographs taken at some of the sessions I taught over the past couple of months.
March 8, 2019: Klang Chinese Methodist Church. Session: History of the Bible
March 16: St Paul's Church, Petaling Jaya. Session on the Origins of the New Testament.
April 1-5: Sidang Injil Borneo Kuala Lumpur (SIBKL). Session: The Gospel of John
On February 22, 2019, I will be delivering a public lecture on "The Corinth St Paul Saw: Insights from Archaeology" at St Thomas' Cathedral, Jalan McDoughall, Kuching, Sarawak.
All are welcome, and details of the public lecture can be found in the flyer below.
I am a Lecturer in New Testament Studies, Director of Postgraduate Studies, and the founding Director of the Centre of Bible Engagement at Seminari Theoloji Malaysia. You can find out more about me by clicking here.
My engagement in conversation with issues, reflections, and concerns related to my vocation as a seminary lecturer and theological education in general. Opinions expressed in this blog are strictly my personal views and do not represent the official position of the seminary