Meditations, Reflections, Bible Studies, and Sermons from Kowloon Union Church  

God Alone Must we Worship

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on 25th February 2007, First Sunday in Lent, by Rev. Kwok Nai Wang. The scripture readings that day were Deuteronomy 6:1-15 and Matthew 4:1-11.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of your hearts be pleasing to you, O Lord Our God. Amen.

According to the Christian Calendar, last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday. It marked the end of the season of epiphany; and the beginning of the Lenten Season. There are 40 days in Lent. It is a season of preparation. In the ancient times, the Israelites who left Egypt, the land of bondage, spent 40 years in the Sinai wilderness. It was believed that God used this period of time to prepare his chosen people to go into Canaan or Palestine, the promised land. More importantly, Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness to seriously prepare for the beginning of his ministry.

So likewise Lent is a period of preparation for the Church and all Christians. We prepare ourselves for the ultimate salvation acts of Jesus, his crucifixion and resurrection through serious study and reflection. In some church traditions, the Lenten season is a season of fasting. In others, Christians are encouraged to give up something which they do ordinarily, such as not going to the movies, or no candies, etc.

In the five Sundays in Lent this year, I want us to reflect on “Christian Worship”.

Whenever Christians gather, the first thing we do is to worship God. Indeed worshipping God is the most important activity of any Church. The Church of Jesus Christ is primarily a worshipping community.

We worship God together every Sunday. But when was the last time we pause and reflect on the meaning of Christian worship? Without constant reflection, what we do may easily become shallow and void of meaning. Only when we are in touch with the deeps of worship, can worship help us change our life radically: from the “me-centered” life to a life in close relationship with God.

To-day, worship in local churches has become routine. Oftentimes we treat worship as purely a human activity, which may give us a pleasing feeling. We do whatever we like; and however is convenient to us. In fact, we do it so causally that we may have lost a sense of holiness; consequently our strength and power in our vocation and mission are greatly weakened. It is therefore high time that we have a thorough examination of our worshipping life in the next five Sundays in Lent. The overall theme for these 5 Sundays is: To worship God in Spirit and in Truth. To-day we will reflect on the only focus of Christian worship which is God: God alone must we worship. Next Sunday: What is Christian worship all about: Worship is a drama. The content of this drama is God’s mighty acts. The third Sunday, is worshipping God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our mind inside the sanctuary sufficient? I suggest it is far from enough. We must worship God or glorify God in the entire world as well. The fourth Sunday, how worship can drive the Church to engage in God’s mission in this world. Finally in the fifth Sunday, how does worshipping God reverently enrich our own life?

This morning, we will reflect on “God alone must we worship”. This is taken from Deut. 6:13, a key verse in the summary of the Jewish Law.

We live in an impersonal rather than a personal world to-day. Human relationships are not treasured. In their place are more tangible things, such as money and all sorts of material goods. We can blame on urbanization or rather our human failure to cope with urbanization.

Less than half-a-century ago, most of the world’s population live in rural areas. No longer now. In China, for instance, 80% of its people lived in villages in the 1970s. Since then, the mobility of people towards city-centres has been rampant. Villagers left their homes to work in cities by the millions. That explains why every year two weeks before the Chinese New Year, hundreds and thousands of them scrambled in the railway stations all over the country, trying to get a train ticket to go home for family reunion in this important festival.

In Hong Kong, only four decades ago, Shatin was only a small town where people from the Hong Kong island or Kowloon would go there for a picnic or for some tofu made from the clear water from the streams. Also when I was growing up, my Sunday School teacher would often take us to a retreat at the Ho Fuk Tung Centre where it was located in San Hui (or New Market) in Tuen Mun. The sceneries there were gorgeous. There was a lovely restaurant in a big garden with a lake in the middle. We could also go to the Castle Peak hiking. Now because of the so-called “urban development”, the Shatin Valley has 700,000 residents and Tuen Mun has another half-a-million.

The rural living style is drastically different than that in the urban areas. The pace of living is slow in the village. People know one another and care for each other. I recall very vividly about a year ago, the executive staff of the Christian Conference of Asia held a retreat at a small village 40 miles away from Chiangmai. I was asked to lead the retreat. In both of the early mornings when I was there, I took a walk in the market place of that village where villagers gathered to buy and sell. There was nothing much, but I was most impressed about the hospitality and the friendliness of the villagers.

You do not find this anywhere in Hong Kong. Most of us live in concrete jungles. We hardly know our next door neighbours. The pace in the urban life is so fast that we can hardly afford to stop and get to know one another. Moreover, when there are so many people around, keen competition is the order of the day. This is true in our schools, in work or even at home. As a result, people have become very self-protective and self-centred. We used to make fun of Imelda Marcos, the former first lady in the Philippines. She was famous for her luxurious living style. She came to Hong Kong periodically to shop. Reportedly she had hundreds and hundreds pairs of shoes, not to say other clothing items. A Filipino friend once told me jokingly that Mr. Marcos was in the “mining business”, meaning literally whenever she saw something profitable or beautiful she would try to get hold of them. So she used to claim that San Miguel Beer is mine, the cultural centre is mine, the whole metro Manila is mine… Of course, we are no Mrs. Marcos. But like her, do we also put too much emphasis on “me”: my own benefit, my own will and my own well being? As a result of this, we are disconnected with other people, and more importantly with God.

Our disconnectedness was compounded by the whole process of “Secularization”, also a distinct feature of the last century.

The 20th Century was marked by great scientific and technological developments. I recall before the summer break in 1965, a Yale physics professor who was also a Nobel Laureate gave an open lecture. I did not understand most of what he said. But there was one thing he said which caught my attention. According to him, scientific developments for the 20 years since the second world war, i.e. from 1945-1965, were a lot greater than those in the past 2,000 years. How much more so after 1965? In 1968, Chris Barnard of South Africa performed the first heart transplant. In 1969, Neil Armstrong of the U.S.A. took the first step on the moon.

The fantastic scientific and technological developments in the past three or four decades have driven more and more people in believing that human beings can also create and even control the ongoingness in the universe. So we do not need God. Oftentimes we have even become our own demi-gods or idols.

Indeed sciences and technologies can create many idols for us. These include, progress, fame, status, wealth, success, etc. The biggest of these is materialism. This was how an American educator described the dream or the value system of the youngsters nowadays. They all want a beautiful wife or a handsome husband; two lovely children; a three-room apartment (preferably with enclosed full baths and walk-in closets); two four-wheeled cars; and a five-figure monthly salary… We cannot blame our younger generation with numbers as their idols. Do we fall into the same pit too? Even our human services, such as education, social work, medical and health, treat their clients as numbers. The human element has been totally neglected. In its place is cost-effectiveness in terms of numbers, or dollars and cents. Indeed, we are all cut-off from other human beings, sometimes including our loved ones and also ourselves by the many idols or false gods we have been led subconsciously to worship.

No! God alone must we worship. This was how Jesus conquered the third temptation. Jesus could have all “the kingdoms of the world” if the he should only kneel down and worship the Devil (Mt. 4:8-10). But he refused to worship the Devil.

Yes! God alone must we worship. It is because it is God who calls each and everyone of us into being. For it is only in God, the ground of our being, can we find our meaning of existence. God is the only ultimate reality in this planet earth. Thus Jesus pronounced “Heaven and earth will pass away, but God’s words will never pass away” (Mt 24:35). This is how apostle Paul dared to proclaim, “In God we live, we move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Without a close relationship with God, the only true God, our life will become chaotic and confused.

Worship in Church is a reminder that we should worship God and God only. Only if we take our Sunday worship seriously can we turn our whole life to God and are able to resist all kinds of temptations to follow the numerous idols which are around us.

I hope Sunday worship in this church can help us to build a closer relationship with God. Indeed this is one of the purposes of worship. In the Orthodox tradition, worship or divine liturgy is considered the most important activity of the Church. For according to it, through worship, our human life is transformed: We shall become like God or Theosis.

Glory be to God, to Jesus Christ and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, February 25, 2007

<< Home


May 2004|July 2004|September 2004|November 2004|December 2004|April 2005|July 2005|August 2005|September 2005|October 2006|November 2006|December 2006|January 2007|February 2007|March 2007|April 2007|May 2007|July 2007|August 2007|September 2007|October 2007|November 2007|December 2007|January 2008|February 2008|March 2008|April 2008|May 2008|June 2008|July 2008|August 2008|September 2008|October 2008|November 2008|December 2008|January 2009|February 2009|March 2009|April 2009|May 2009|June 2009|July 2009|August 2009|September 2009|October 2009|November 2009|December 2009|January 2010|February 2010|March 2010|April 2010|May 2010|June 2010|July 2010|September 2010|October 2010|November 2010|December 2010|January 2011|February 2011|April 2011|May 2011|June 2011|July 2011|October 2011|November 2011|December 2011|January 2012|February 2012|March 2012|August 2012|September 2012|November 2012|December 2012|January 2013|February 2013|March 2013|April 2013|May 2013|June 2013|September 2013|October 2013|November 2013|December 2013|February 2014|March 2014|April 2014|May 2014|June 2014|July 2014|August 2014|September 2014|October 2014|November 2014|December 2014|January 2015|February 2015|March 2015|April 2015|July 2015|August 2015|October 2015|November 2015|December 2015|January 2016|February 2016|March 2016|April 2016|May 2016|June 2016|July 2016|August 2016|September 2016|October 2016|November 2016|December 2016|January 2017|February 2017|March 2017|April 2017|May 2017|June 2017|July 2017|August 2017|September 2017|October 2017|November 2017|December 2017|January 2018|February 2018|March 2018|April 2018|June 2018|July 2018|August 2018|September 2018|October 2018|November 2018|December 2018|January 2019|February 2019|March 2019|May 2019|June 2019|July 2019|August 2019|
Archived sermons by the Barksdales

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?