Sunday, July 10, 2005


The Promise
Originally uploaded by mincaye.
This is a difficult one.

Wrote down these thoughts in between worship and the sermon at church this morning (slightly edited here):

I feel 'comfortable' here. But it's not the same as the comfort I feel in, say, d'NA, where there's a sense of belonging and pilgrimage (akin to Eliot's "still and still moving"). Here, it is almost a sense of complacent, air-conditioned comfort. Nothing challenges me anymore. I want to feel the kind of disturbing force that must have characterised the invasion of Christ into this world.

Much to my surprise, today's sermon spoke directly to what I'm presently going through. Pastor Vincent is now doing his series on the Ten Commandments (I'd just found out today, after a few weeks of absence from church), subtitled "The 10 Habits of a Happy and Successful Person."

Right; the first thing that came to my mind was, this is so self-helplike, as though the main purpose of the Commandments was to bestow happiness and success upon those who abide by it. Sounds more like modern positive psychology than a call to righteousness.

But then he continued by introducing this week's commandment: number three. The King James Version phrases Exodus 20:7 thus;

"Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain."

I must admit that my recent spate of swearing suddenly surfaced in my mind as I heard those words and read them projected on the screen.

He defined vanity in the words; emptiness, trivial, deceitful and misuse, among others, and went on to elaborate on how God's name can be used to insult, indulge, impress, intimidate and injure. It can also be used impulsively; no one who hits his toe against a wall shouts "Praise the Lord!"

But more than anything, the word 'emptiness' struck a chord in me today. I realised that phrases like "Oh my God," though expressing no contempt for God, do not give his name due reverence. Contrast this with the Hebrews, who wash before writing 'YHWH' and discard the pen afterwards.

(Before I continue, I just want to mention something the pastor said before the altar call: "If you're searching for the true God, your search can end today." At that moment, Michael William's very first words to me flashed in my mind: "May you continually seek and find the true God." So much for the Great Adventure if our search is over)

Moving on. He continued with thoughts on we as Christians bear God's name, carrying with us a certain responsibility in representing God himself, in which reverence is paramount. He ended with a catch phrase; mind your walk and watch your talk.

Somewhere during the sermon, I was reminded of something George Bernanos wrote in his book Diary of a Country Priest, quoted in Yancey's Disappointment with God:

"Madame," I said, "if our God were a pagan god or the god of intellectuals--and for me it comes to much the same--He might fly to His remotest heaven and our grief would force Him down to earth again. But you know that our God came to be among us. Shake your fist at Him, spit in His face, scourge Him, and finally crucify Him: what does it matter? My daughter, it's already been done to Him."

Anyway. I know how hard it is for me to represent the Name. I have fallen so much already, and I don't want others to fall because of me.

Ms Jaya, my MUET teacher, also my former debate teacher, told the class that I'm a person of great integrity on her first lesson. And the other day, Melody said something piercing. I skipped a few periods, and when I was in class later, she gave me a knowing look and said, "integrity, integrity."

Being also an ex-CF President, I knew exactly what she meant by that, and the candid manner in which she said those words was also very familiar to me.

But underneath it all, I know that I am becoming less and less of a good representation of Christ. And so I am now doing something I never thought I would. I'll let the Latin and German speak for me:

'Christianus Nicht Mehr'


Joan-Lynn said...

I don't know if this is a conspiracy or what, but my church's currently doing The Ten Commandments as well. We finished two of it for the past two weeks already. And funny how the pastor mentioned that the last time The Ten Commandments were preached in church was in the early 1990s. Hmmm...

enilit said...

What's "Christianus Nicht Mehr"?