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Bishop Ong conducts the Holy Communion together with the other Methodist local pastors on Maundy Thursday Service at Mei Ann MC. Photo by James TC Wong.

Special edition by James TC Wong

Mar 31, Miri – Faithful Methodists across the Miri District observed the Holy Weekend with Rev. Dr. Ong Hwai Teik, following the latter’s participation of Maundy Thursday evening worship service at Mei Ann MC.

The newly-elected fifth Bishop of The Methodist Church in Malaysia was also invited to preach on Good Friday and Easter Sunday at Grace Methodist Church.

This was Bishop Ong’s first episcopal duty preaching outside Kuala Lumpur since commencing official duty early this year.

Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday is the first of the three days of solemn remembrance of the events leading up to and immediately following the crucifixion and triumphant resurrection of Jesus.

In his introduction, the good Bishop thanked God for the blessed opportunity to visit Miri.

He also said he was humbled and honored to be entrusted to lead the approximately 200,000 Methodist constituency in the country of whom more than half are from the Chinese-speaking churches.

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Bishop Ong (R) delivering his sermon at Mei Ann MC. Photo by James TC Wong.

“My friends, to do God’s will, you have to relinquish yourself,” said Rev. Dr. Ong in his opening sermon entitled ‘The Powerful Prayer of Relinquishment’ (Scripture reading: Luke 22: 39-47).

Even though he is English-educated and hence disadvantaged with an unfamiliarity for the Chinese language, Rev. Dr. Ong said he still heeded God’s call to serve as a chief servant.

“What is God saying to you? What does He want to use your life for?” the Bishop asked the packed congregation of 1,000 worshippers.

Rev. Dr. Ong then continued to preach on The Four Loves by Bernard of Clairvaux, a notable French thinker born in 1090.

According to Bernard’s treatise on love, the four types are in the following order:

(a) The first degree of love: Loving oneself for self’s sake.
(b) The second degree of love: Loving God for self’s sake.
(c) The third degree of love: Loving God for God’s sake.
(d) The fourth degree of love: Loving self for God’s sake.

Bishop Ong then further explained that “loving God for self’s sake” and not moving on to “loving God for God’s sake” often prevent believers from experiencing the fullness of love for God.

Quoting Bernard, he said: “If you passed loving God for God’s sake, there will come a time when you begin to love yourself for God’s sake. You begin to see yourself as a child of God as God wants you to be.”

“As we remember the Garden of Gethsemane and what the Lord Jesus gave up for us, are you loving God for God’s sake or loving God for self’s sake?” asked Bishop Ong as he concluded his sermon.

Angelic voices filled the holy sanctuary when members of the Miri Methodist District Choir sang hymns.

The Holy Communion was conducted by Bishop Ong, District Superintendent Rev. Esther Law and assisted by pastors from the respective local Methodist churches.

Liturgists serving were Rev. Lisa Ting and Rev. Wong Lik Kai, and with Pastor Tiong Huong Ong as translator for Bishop’s message to Mandarin.

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The Cross on Good Friday. Photo by William CL Ting.

GOOD FRIDAY
Sermon – Making life-changing decisions
Scripture reading – Luke 10:38-42
Preacher – Bishop Rev. Dr. Ong Hwai Teik

Bishop Ong thanked the congregation at Grace Methodist Church for their warm welcome and hospitality.

He briefly reinforced the significance of Good Friday and the culmination of Lent, and explained the reason for the dark attires worn by the pastors during the solemn service.

The good Bishop also reminded the congregation to reflect why Jesus paid the ultimate price on the Cross.

“Jesus made a hard decision knowing the hour has come. He made a life-changing decision for us,” continued Bishop Ong as he reiterated that people needed to make different types of decisions in their daily living.

Drawing from three specific passages in the bible, Bishop Ong chose Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus to deliver his message on developing deeper relationship of faith with Jesus.

In John 11, Bishop Ong spoke on Lazarus’s death and resurrection, and the faith of Martha and Mary.

The story reveals the hearts of those around Jesus and gives insight into the heart of Jesus Himself.

Lazarus’ grieving sister Martha had such great faith in Jesus that the latter would bring her dead brother back to life. When Mary talked to Jesus, she also expressed her disappointment in His late arrival, then wept at His feet.

Bishop Ong emphasized in particular the special ‘responsiveness of relationship’ Mary had with Jesus.

Based on personal experiences, Bishop Ong related people he knows who are in the pursuit of building long-term relationships, giving example of a church family who still has close contact with his family after many years.

He also mentioned King David, a man who was after God’s heart. Though he committed a great sin, David repented and learned the value of actively engaging with and being responsive to God.

“It’s easy to hear the message intellectually with our ears but it’s another thing to hear with your heart,” he reminded the congregation.

Responsiveness is also important, Bishop Ong said. In Luke 10: 38-42, there were four things that Mary did:

a) She paid attention to Jesus
b) She created time for Jesus
c) She prioritized the opportunity to meet Jesus
d) She resisted hindrances in order to be with Jesus

Bishop Ong also encouraged the congregation to have an abiding fellowship with God, sharing the same values in the Gospel.

“The Word and the Spirit of God must come together. God has a calling for each one of us,” summed up Bishop Ong.

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Church faithfuls celebrating the triumphant Resurrection by placing stalks of flowers on the Cross. Photo by William CL Ting.

EASTER SUNDAY
Sermon – The Heart of the Matter…is a Matter of the Burning Heart
Scripture reading – Luke 24:13-35
Preacher – Bishop Rev. Dr. Ong Hwai Teik

Bishop’s opening note for the Easter Service was The Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35).

He gave an interesting dimension about the two downcast disciples who failed to recognize Jesus when the latter appeared to them.

“This is a hard-to-believe story if you don’t have faith,” said Bishop Ong. “but there is at least one man that you can name – Cleopas who was a witness to this divine appearance.”

“In a world where we live by sight, it is hard to believe in the supernatural like The Resurrection,” he pressed on.

On the subject of ‘The Power of Preoccupation’, Bishop Ong first re-told the episode of Grand Prix driver Jenson Button losing the lead in the race in China in 2011 because the Maclaren driver was looking down resulting in his entering the wrong pit stop belonging to the Red Bull team.

It was ‘The Power of Preoccupation’ that prevented Cleopas and his companion to recognize Jesus, said Bishop Ong. Both disciples were bogged down by the distraction of events and different expectations that they failed to see the Messiah who was standing before them.

“What’s your idea about Jesus and Christianity?” asked Bishop Ong. “Open minds lead to open eyes and a burning heart for Jesus.”

In the beginning, Cleopas and his companion’s minds and hearts were closed by distractions and their own assumptions that they failed to identify Jesus. But eventually the convinced minds together with the convicted hearts and opened eyes led the two disciples to cement their faith and experience a radical transformation from sorrow to joy.

In closing, Bishop Ong retold the story of the late Bishop Festo Kivengere of Uganda. In 1973 Kivengere met three men from his diocese before they were killed by a firing squad.

February 10 began as a sad day for us in Kabale. People were commanded to come to the stadium and witness the execution. Death permeated the atmosphere. A silent crowd of about three thousand was there ready to watch. I had permission from the authorities to speak to the men before they died, and two of my fellow ministers were with me. They brought the men in a truck and unloaded them. They were handcuffed and their feet were chained. The firing squad stood at attention. As we walked into the center of the stadium, I was wondering what to say. How do you give the Gospel to doomed men who are probably seething with rage?

We approached them from behind, and as they turned to look at us, what a sight! Their faces were all alight with an unmistakable glow and radiance. Before we could say anything, one of them burst out: “Bishop, thank you for coming! I wanted to tell you. The day I was arrested, in my prison cell, I asked the Lord Jesus to come into my heart. He came in and forgave me all my sins! Heaven is now open, and there is nothing between me and my God! Please tell my wife and children that I am going to be with Jesus. Ask them to accept him into their lives as I did.” The other two men told similar stories, excitedly raising their hands, which rattled their handcuffs. (Source –http://www.dacb.org/stories/uganda/kivengere_festo)

“Do not apologize for the Cross,” Bishop Ong reminded the congregation.

At the invitation from Bishop Ong, groups of worshippers approached the front sanctuary area to renew their faith as the former led in singing the song ‘The Power of Your Love’ and closing prayer proclaiming “The Lord is alive, He is risen!’