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Greet the Saints

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Yanadi reminds us that gospel work is not done alone. In this season of gatherings and meetups, he also encourages us to consider how to stir one another to love and good deeds, and even to reconcile with those we have issues with.

Phoebe, Prisca, Aquila, Epaenetus, Mary, Andronicus, Junia, Ampliatus, Urbanus, Stachys, Apelles, Aristobulus, Herodion, Narcissus, Tryphaena, Tryphosa, Persis, Rufus, Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, Philologus, Julia, Nereus, Olympas, Lucius, Jason, Sosipater, Tertius, Gaius, Erastus, and Quartus.

Here are some of the co-workers mentioned by name by Apostle Paul before concluding his letter to the Romans. Beyond these largely unfamiliar names to us, Paul mentioned several other co-workers by name usually near the end of his letters. Among them, John Mark is unique.

We can say that John Mark is the source of separation between Paul and Barnabas who have been close Gospel co-workers up to Acts 15:37-40. Surprisingly, in what is possibly Paul's final letter, Paul asked Timothy to bring [John] Mark with him "for he is very useful to [Paul] for ministry" (2 Tim 4:11). Evidently, Paul has most likely reconciled with John Mark by the end of his writing of the second letter to Timothy. And such is the nature of ministry: we work together for the Kingdom of God even in the midst of our imperfections.

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I myself have been missing the presence of our interns, my co-workers, who have just graduated a few weeks ago, in our various weekly meetings. That makes me reflect about who my co-workers have been in the past.

During my internship with GBC two years ago, the most shaping experience for me was the deliberate decision to reconcile with a few people I have hurt in the past, among whom are Gospel co-workers. One was especially providential and left a strong impression because I happened to be thinking about him while having lunch alone at a hawker centre and there he was munching his own lunch at a table behind me. We are now good friends.

At the end of my internship, we had our (so far) last Church Camp. Being a broke seminary student that I was, at least one of you sponsored my participation in that Church Camp. There I learned that co-workers can be anonymous and yet so impactful in guaranteeing this broke seminary student to pass the kindness to the next broke seminary student hoping to join our next Church Camp. Thank you, anonymous co-worker!

This kind GBC-er also reminded me of a shameful experience when I was still attending an Evangelical Free Church just behind my university. Being a broke undergraduate student that I was, a member of that church sponsored my participation in a Church Camp. But being an ungrateful young man that I was, I disappeared from the church without even a note to anyone upon graduating from the university. I was so grateful that at the end of my internship with GBC, I was able to visit them with my family and was received very warmly by them. I may have been their John Mark. However, no matter how painful, we still celebrate when co-workers are reconciled.

Having gone through the sermon series on The Church this year, I hope it is clear to us by now that co-workers refer to all of us, Christians. Yes, we have Eugene, Ollie, and Thian Chye who serve us faithfully as Staff Elders. And although you call Carrie, Josh, Bibs, and myself officially as "Ministry Workers", essentially we are all ministry workers. If we are called to do the works of ministry, that would make us ministry workers, wouldn't it? And that makes us co-workers.

As we are now in the final month of 2021, I am sure many of us are having many catch-ups and meet-ups. And that is wonderful. But if you have not, let me encourage you to do so. I am sure many of us are clearing annual leave and, not being able to travel overseas, why not utilise those leave days to greet the saints with a holy kiss?

Consider especially those of us who have not been able to gather in-person for services, or even get out of the house at all. Catch-ups with them may strengthen their desire to come for our in-person services. Or if not, we can still be the church community to them, who have not experienced church community for some time, by being intentional about pursuing one another's eternal good. And I hope, in doing so, we stir one another toward Gospel works, no matter how young or old we are.

Like Paul, let us pursue greeting the saints, praising and thanking God for them and His faithful works in and through them. Even our John Marks!