From: Su Min
Subject: (6 Feb) Gong Xi Fa Cai
Thursday 6th February 1997
Epistle to The CyberChurch
GREETINGSTo my extended family, brothers and sisters in Christ, spread through cyberspace: the greeting for the season is GONG XI FA CAI, traditional felicitations and wishes for prosperity and wealth for the Chinese New Year. In the Christian perspective, may I wish you peace, grace and love, that your spiritual riches abound and multiply in the lunar year of the Ox.
ATTACHEDWith this email is an attached document: family.jpg: a picture of my family to bring you Chinese New Year greetings.
A bigger annotated version of this picture is found on Min YU's webpage: http://www.singnet.com.sg/~limmy
WEBSITEMy personal website is up: it is the result of hours of slaving by Min Yu. Please do visit and view the illustrated report of our India trip Delhi, Gwalior, Agra, Jaipur, 5-15 January 1997.
LUNAR NEW YEARThe lunar new year brings with it trappings of the spring festival, celebrations of surviving a winter, the joy of anticipating the coming year: With the new year festivities we associate: spring cleaning, new clothes, fire crackers and superstition, gambling, alcohol, feasting, Ang Pow red packets of money to our children and juniors, and paying homage to the ancestors.
SPRING CLEANINGThere is a frenzy of spring cleaning in the traditional chinese house. Cob-webs swept: a new coat of paint: time to buy new furniture: throw out the old.
Perhaps a good a time as any for us to do an internal check: take stock of our lives: what have we done: where are we going: how are we going to get there: think of these in physical terms: What are the bad old habits we are going to throw out: what are the new habits we are going to adopt? Made any resolutions at the English New Year? How are you getting along with them? Think of spring cleaning in spiritual terms: what are you going to do for God's kingdom this year?
NEW CLOTHESNew clothes for the lunar new year: and our God provides! See how we can delight and rejoice with the prophet as God clothes us for the new year!
I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (Isaiah_61:10)
and Proverbs_31:25_describes the clothing of a good wife!: she is clothed in strength and dignity.
Revelation_19:8_identifies the quality of white linen we should wear: Fine linen, bright and clean; (fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints)
FIRECRACKERS & SUPERSTITIONFor safety reasons the discharge of fireworks and crackers has been banned for many years in Singapore. But the superstitions and many the new year practises still linger on. Fire crackers were supposed to chase away the evil spirits: many Christians continue to fire crackers, part just for fun; part to keep in fashion; part to frighten the ghosts away! Hmm.. a stumbling block to some, not to say the danger to property, life and limb.
To my mind, an unhealthy fear of ghosts and evil spirit impoverishes our Christian life and testimony: Why be afraid? Why fear? Thy rod and staff they comfort me!
GAMBLINGGambling is a social evil and a moral death trap. The hope of getting something for nothing. The wish that luck will allow a big windfall in our direction. A vice at any time. Need we gamble for entertainment?: surely the human imagination is bright enough to find other healthier means of entertainment. Need we gamble to get our daily needs? Should we not depend on God to provide for us? Or do we have to place our life on the roll of dice? Gambling is a social vice that has lead to the ruin of many a poor soul: to clear small debts the gambler places his assets with the moneylender: property, wife, daughter: the situation gets from bad to worse. Chinese New Year is often used as an excuse for people to gamble. "Only once a year.". The slide down a slippery slope begins with that first step! Gambling is bad any time of the year.
ALCOHOLLikewise the Methodist aversion to alcohol. Alcohol wreaked the livers and lives of many of the working class in Wesley's days. Written into the Methodist Discipline is the judgement that we should not take to alcohol: Some might argue that a glass of wine may be even good for your health: Within the bible we have so many examples of good people drinking wine. Jesus performed his first miracle by turning water into wine. Jesus asks us to use wine in commemorating his last supper. But we are also taught that "Everything is permissible" but not everything is beneficial: "Everything is permissible" but not everything is constructive" (1 Colossians_10:23)
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (1 Colossians_10:31)
The social pressure during Chinese New Year festivities is to drink alcohol: Methodists, here is your chance to witness and testify to our faith and traditions. Others of more liberal trappings: do not try to influence your car when you are under control of alcohol.
FEASTINGAs successful members of a thriving economy, we generally eat too much, all the time. At festive times we eat even more.
1) So spare a thought for your own body:
it is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Colossians_6:19)
not too much cholesterol:
not too many calories:
do not litter it with rubbish:
do not soil it with pollution:
respect the temple.
2) Spare a thought too, for the poor and needy, the down and out:
those with broken families: those with no families: the widow, the orphan, the alien, the prisoner. Is there
anyway you can share a teeny weeny bit of festive joy with them?
ANG POWAs I think of the red packet, and the great joy that children get from counting their loot, I also realise that Ang Pow giving is a bi-directional tradition: we give downwards to those under us, and we give upwards to those senior members of our family.
I think of the people that have served me faithfully though the year: wife: quietly by my side, supporting me in all I do: can I ever thank her enough? Our Filipino maid: years in Singapore because of economic circumstances: have we been able to share God's love with her? My office staff: Is the red packet congruent with the way I have been treating them the whole year?
What about Almighty God? Is there a red packet for Him? Do I want to place in the offering bag, over and above the tithes and offerings, a special Ang Pow out of love and respect?
ANCESTORSOne of the tasks of integrating traditional practices with practical Christian living is the need to adapt and accept the parts that we can, and politely but firmly declining the parts that clash with our Christian stand.
(Incidentally, we were given a fascinating book that links Chinese writing to the Creation as described in Genesis: The discovery of Genesis; how the truths of Genesis were found hidden in the Chinese language: by Kang and Nelson: for example: the word for "create" has the components "mud", "mouth", "life", "walk"... is this not Adam being created: the word "boat" has the components "vessel", "eight", "mouth"... is this not linked to Noah's ark, with Noah, 3 sons and the 4 wives?)
Take our ancestors. Ancestor worship is bound in ancient Chinese tradition. As Christians we worship God, not our ancestors. But yet, the bible repeatedly refers reverently to the patriarchs of old: In Hebrew 11, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and other faithfuls are listed as a great cloud of witnesses to the running of our race: run the race with perseverance!
I believe it is good to remember our forefathers: respect them for what they have done for us. Chinese New Year is as good a time as any. And we can thank God for them: for without them we would not have been born, nor would we be where we are today.
The Lim clan is said to have began some 3000 years ago, with the son of the prime minister to a wicked emperor being born in a cave in a forest. The prime minister was exterminated, but his lineage was reinstated and honoured with the surname Lim: forest: so the bedtime story goes.
My ancestral lineage I can trace back to my great grandfather (father of my father's father): Dr Lim Boon Keng. As a child I remember being brought to the patriarch’s house in Paterson Road, Singapore. The image of a frail old man with a whispery beard in white suite still is in my mind.
On my mother's side, I think of my maternal grandmother, Mrs Seow Poh Leng, who showered me with love and affection and much goodies (Mr Seow I never met, lost at sea during W.W.II)
Then there are my spiritual ancestors: the men who brought the gospel to me: directly I think of my Sunday school teacher Aw Swee Eng: Then there are the missionaries who brought Methodism to Singapore: Going back further, I think of John Wesley, Martin Luther and other giants in our church history.
So at Chinese New Year, as we pause and give thanks to God for our rich heritage, I think of my ancestors and thank God that in His wisdom He sent these men and women to pave the way for me.
And my place in history? I shall pass this place but once: my passage is brief and transient: What will my descendants think of me, if they do think of me? May God grant that my spiritual legacy will be to His glory.
Almighty God, we thank you for the Chinese New Year celebrations.
The annual family gatherings help us cement our family ties.
We thank you for our family ancestors and spiritual ancestors:
we pause to name them, one by one....
Father give us a bold tongue that we may witness to our family and friends
as we meet them during this festive season.
O God give us obedient bodies, that we may witness by the things we do and the way we act, as well as by
the things we say.
In the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus. Amen.
For any comments or enquiries please write to Dr. Lim Su Min
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