Coronavirus Updates

“This is the biggest trial that we’ve experienced”: Church identified as potential coronavirus cluster speaks up

by Wong Siqi // February 9, 2020, 5:38 pm

life church and mission 1

Photo from a previous service at The Life Church and Missions Singapore. Image source: Facebook

Five coronavirus-infected patients were found to have links to The Life Church and Missions Singapore (LCMS), the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced on February 8, 2020.

This made the church of 100-strong attendees the latest addition to the list of possible clusters of infection. Yong Thai Hang medicine shop and Grand Hyatt Singapore are the two other areas on the list.

In response, LCMS has indicated that they have ceased all mass gatherings and will be conducting services through online platforms instead.

“This is the biggest trial that our church has experienced in 17 years,” Senior Pastor Vincent Choo said during his Youtube Live sermon this morning, the immediate Sunday following the announcement. 

The sermon, which was supposed to start at 10.30am, was delayed by 15 minutes due to a lack of manpower as there were only five volunteers physically serving in church. Members tuning in from around the world left prayerful messages on the live chat.

“Out of the five infected cases, we personally know three of them. The other two came to our church three weeks ago. We did not know them but they were reported to be from Wuhan and were sitting amongst us.”

While it might be easy to point fingers and complain out of fear, Reverend Choo encouraged the church members to look at the situation from a different perspective: “Even though we did not know them, they came to our church because they wanted to know the Lord. So we should rejoice in that fact.”

In fact, Christians should all the more be looking towards God and pray for those in need at such a time as this, he urged.

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Not dismissing the undercurrent of tension amongst the congregation, Reverend Choo was empathetic, agreeing that it is only natural to fear when such a crisis happens. So, he prompted, how can one have peace in light of what has happened?

Titled Triumph Over The Real Trials Amid Us, he then delivered a message to his congregation based on John 20:19-21. 

“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’” (John 20:19-21)

Reverend Vincent Choo preaching on a regular Sunday during one of LCMS’ services, before the coronavirus crisis hit Singapore. Image source: Facebook

TRIUMPH OVER THE REAL TRIALS AMID US

1. God comes close to us in times of difficulties

“… When the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!'”

When Jesus appeared to His disciples in John 20:19-21, they did not yet know of His resurrection. Thinking their leader had been killed at the Crucifixion, they were hiding in fear. This is when Jesus appeared to them and consoled them.

“When there’s fear, people tend to compromise and try to run away. But we see from this passage that Jesus personally came close to the disciples and told them: ‘Peace be with you!’”

Similarly, while we are in the midst of worrying about the current situation, Jesus is close to us, Reverend Choo said.

He went on to share that he had received news from the infected church members that they felt peaceful despite what had happened. This is a peace that transcends understanding (Philippians 4:6-7).

“God is the initiator. He comes to us because He understands and empathises with our pain and tells us: ‘Peace be with you.’”

Why panic-buy when you can have peace instead?

2. God assures us that we are not alone

“… He showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you!'”

Going back to the passage, Reverend Choo also pointed out that Jesus showed the disciples His hands and sides, the marks of the crucifixion process.

“God’s hands and sides represent His love for us,” he explained. “Because of His love, He went through pain and suffering.”

Therefore, as disciples, we shouldn’t be surprised when we encounter difficulties. We need to understand that because of sin, we will have troubles on earth. Trials are a reality in life.

“So when Jesus showed the disciples His hands and sides, He was also telling them that in life, they will go through difficulties too. But after He showed them His scars, Jesus again said, ‘Peace be with you!’” Reverend Choo reminded.

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As the senior pastor of LCMS and a father to three kids, Reverend Choo noted that he is well aware of the backlash his children might face because of the news regarding his church.

“Even if the school doesn’t quarantine you, people in school might avoid you,” he had told them. “But you must never blame anyone for your circumstances. This is your faith under trial.

“This is the burden that you’ll have to bear. But God’s grace will be sufficient for you.”

3. God wants to send us out in spite of difficulties

“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

Finally, after assuring the disciples twice, Jesus gave the commandment for them to be sent out.

Reverend Choo explained that as Christians, we experience peace on a daily basis. But when a crisis strikes, our understanding of peace will be deepened, because “when that happens, a Christian would know that his peace doesn’t come from his circumstances but because of an unchanging Presence.”

Because of this, a Christian is thus willing to be sent out to spread the Gospel and share its true power and promise of peace.

“Trials have to be accompanied by faith in action. It is then that you experience the power of the Gospel.”

Reverend Choo then threw out a rhetorical question: Why was LCMS the first to be infected out of the 500 over churches in Singapore?

He paused and then continued, “Since the founding of our church, we have achieved the lowest yet highest statistics in attendance.”

At its height, the online sermon was watched by more than 500 viewers, despite only having five people physically in the church to support the livestream.

“Brothers and sisters, didn’t God tell us to go and make disciples of the world?” Reverend Choo said, smiling. He then made reference to Christians in China who have been courageously stepping up to share the faith in midst of the paranoia that has driven the streets empty. 

“Trials have to be accompanied by faith in action. It is then that you experience the power of the Gospel.”

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Finally, Reverend Choo gave a concluding exhortation from Hebrews 11:13-16.

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.

“People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13-16)

“A true disciple will have an appropriate longing for his heavenly home.”

“Note that the faith of the patriarchs was a living faith. This was a faith that had been purified through the trials and testings of life. It was an understanding that while their flesh may die, their faith never will,” he unpacked for those tuning in.

See that they were all looking forward to a better home, he pointed out. No matter how great the world is, it will never be perfect. So perhaps the trials in life are to point us to a better place – a heavenly home.”

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“A true disciple will have an appropriate longing for his heavenly home,” Reverend Choo concluded. “Because then, our faith has been refined to a level where our heart’s desires come into alignment with what God has already prepared.

“And when that happens, we will not be afraid to be a living testimony no matter the different trials in life.”

PAUSE + PRAY

  1. Let’s pray for the members of LCMS, especially those who have contracted the novel coronavirus, that they will experience God’s closeness and healing during this time.
  2. Pray for the other affected clusters in our nation, that they too may experience God and find comfort and peace through His Presence.
About the author

Wong Siqi

Siqi often loses her footwear in the office. She is also known for her loud sneezes, huge appetite, and weird sound effects. Happens to be a writer too.