Rev Roy Surjanegara is the Minister at GKI Perth Uniting Church, an Indonesian speaking congregation in Mosmon Park. This edition, he writes about this year’s Family and Culture Month at their church.
September is the month to celebrate family life and Indonesian culture for GKI Perth Uniting Church. We call it ‘Family and Culture Month’. Each Sunday, one ethnic group is highlighted in the service through the use of the local languages for the Bible readings, songs, and prayers. Musical instruments, clothing, decorations, and traditional food also play an important part in creating the atmosphere of being in Indonesia for a day. This year, we celebrated the Batak culture of Sumatera, the Sunda culture of West Java, the Dayak culture of Borneo, and the Tionghoa culture of Indonesian-Chinese descendants.
This year’s Family and Culture Month theme was ‘SHARE’.
Sharing is an important aspect of communal life. Family life is sustained through the sharing of resources, values, knowledge, love, and faith. Humanity thrives through sharing. We are who we are today, because someone shared something with us. The scripture reminds us “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4: 7).
SHARE can also be an acronym for some of the things that we can share with each other: Smile, Help, Attention, Respect and Empathy.
This became GKI Perth’s sermon theme for each Sunday of September.
One time during a traffic light stop, I thought the driver next to my car was someone from the church. I turned to him, smiled, and waved. It turned out I was mistaken. He was a stranger, but I could see the spark on his face as he awkwardly waved in reply. We both realised what was going on, and ended up sharing big smiles on our faces.
What a difference a smile can make in human interaction. The best lighting and heating system a church could have is when all the churchgoers can exchange a smile with one another!
Our church will always be in need of volunteers: people helping out with the morning tea, greeting visitors, musicians, Sunday school teachers, and many more. We are so blessed with and grateful for the service of our church volunteers that allow us to sit peacefully in the pew enjoying the worship.
Sometimes in our head we even rationalise it by saying: ‘I’m choosing to be Mary, instead of Martha’. But can we imagine how would it be if all Christians thought the same way? Perhaps, now it’s our turn to cook the meal and serve the table in the house of the Lord.
In our body, there are signs that let you know when you have to eat, take a bath, go to bed, and many more. When you pay attention to them, you’ll then be able to give an appropriate response. However, our lifestyle can be filled with so many distractions that hinder us from paying attention to the things that matter the most. We delay eating because we’re still busy working; we can’t be bothered to go to the loo because this series we’re binge watching is just too exciting; and we numb ourselves up to the point that we no longer feel the need to pay attention anymore.
As church members, we are often in such a hurry to leave after worship that we don’t take time to stop and pay attention to our brothers and sisters. As we are sitting on the pew, someone next to you might be in pain, in anger, or in tears.
Are we aware of them? Let us be more attentive to one another.
A mother once came to me with her complaint: ‘Why can’t my daughter-in-law be more like Ruth in the Bible? My life would have been so much better!’ I was very tempted to reply, ‘Have you been a mother-in-law like Naomi to her Ruth?’
I did, however, translate that reply in my head into politer sentences for her. My point, in short, respect is a two-way street. You have to start by showing one before asking for one.
Have you ever felt hungry, but have nothing to eat? Or tired, but no place to rest? Have bills, but no money to pay?
Many of us perhaps have never experienced such a feeling of helplessness. Most of us live a comfortable life. But having comfort shouldn’t stop us from having the capacity to feel and share the pain of others. In the cross, our Lord gave a powerful example of empathy: Jesus gave up his comfort, so that we may live.
Would you give up some of your comfort to ease other people’s suffering?
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Rev Roy Surjanegara