Reflections...

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

Go With Him A Second Mile (Matthew 5:42b)

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 19th October 2008, Wai Ji Sunday, by the Rev. Kwok Nai Wang. The scripture readings that day were Psalm 146 and Matthew 5:38-42.


The New Testament lesson this morning is about the virtue of not to seek revenge. This is on the negative side. Positively, it is about make extra efforts to go a second mile. Jesus’ teaching certainly is very radical. Do you find it extremely difficult to follow?

“When someone wrongs you, you do not take revenge. When someone slaps your face on the right cheek, let him slap your left cheek too. When someone take you to court to sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat as well. When one of the occupation troops forces you to carry his pack one kilometer, carry it two kilometers. When someone asks you for something, give it to him. When someone wants to borrow something, lend it to him.”

This turns out to be the core of Christian ethics. As Christians or followers of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, we are commanded to go the extra mile all the time.

The extra mile or the second mile is never in the secular code of conduct; while “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is the norm the great majority of people would accept. Traditionally, all Chinese accept if you are a gentleman, you have to take revenge (有仇不報非君子).

Go for a mile, perhaps; but never go for a second mile!

Not too long ago, I listened to a radio program about the conduct of civil servants in Hong Kong. In sum, it says most civil servants do as little as possible. It is because one of the safest ways to avoid making mistakes is to follow the book to the dot. In fact, following the manual and not to do anything extra is the predominant mindset of most of the people to-day. Go the second mile – no way!

But in reality, go the second mile or make additional efforts, is the only way to go forward; the only way to improve on the present situation, and enrich our life.

Most of us watched some Olympic games. Hong Kong and Beijing are in the same time zone. This enables us to watch quite a lot without having to lose sleep. During those two weeks, I had a ball. I spent hours watching the games daily. There were many memorial events and happenings which drove me to think a lot. One of the very young gymnasts was interviewed about her success story. She said she has worked extremely hard for the past 10 years. When others practiced the same move or manouver 10 times, as expected or demanded by the coach, young as she was, she decided to do it 15 times! The badminton gold medalist also told her story. She was considered old in her sports and for several years, she suffered injuries one after another. She had thought of giving it up. But she decided to overcome all her physical and mental difficulties and go the second mile. Finally, she succeeded.

Go the second mile or make extra efforts is never easy. But many of you have done it!

It is very difficult to live as the mentally challenged people, especially adults, to live and work in Hong Kong. It is because Hong Kong is not a modern and progressive city which caters to your special needs. But you have endured it and have done well.

I wish to pay tribute this morning especially to the parents, teachers and caretakers for the mentally challenged children, young people or adults. I know you have been doing it, and doing it so well for years. It makes your job even harder as many of the children you have cared for for years have grown up. But please don’t give up. Continue to go the second mile with love. You will be rewarded.

One of my former colleagues who has migrated to Portland, Oregon came back for a visit recently. We had tea together. She told me that there were three people who have influenced her life: her father, myself and her 30-year-old mentally challenged son. It was rather difficult to work full-time as a secretary and take care of a mentally challenged son for 30 years! But she did. Through taking care of her son, she said, she experienced the bliss of life; and especially the rich meaning of love, patience and sharing. She has grown and matured since she worked with me some 30 odd years ago.

Yes, life is all about love and sharing. Only a shared life is worth living. In sharing with the people in need, our horizons can be expanded tremendously. Consequently we can experience so much more.

The most crucial need for the mentally challenged people is that they be totally accepted by society and that they themselves be totally involved in society. This is a long journey, miles and miles down the road. Parents, workers and concerned people need to go this journey together. We must press the government to allocate more resources. But more importantly we must try to change the mindset of the government officials and the general public. Their concern must be changed from caring to developmental; from passive watching and researching to active public education. The advocacy role is the common task we all must take. It is to carry our burden a second kilometer so to speak.

To-day is Wai Chi Sunday. Every year our Church allocated one Sunday to celebrate with you from Wai Chi. We at KUC remember very fondly that Wai Chi Christian Service Centre was started here by a few members of KUC three decades ago. We are always very proud of the achievement of your teachers, caretakers, parents and hundreds of mentally challenged individuals. KUC always stands by you.

To conclude this homily, let me read to you once again part of Psalm 146 which is the Old Testament reading for this Morning:

“Happy are the people whose hope is in God who made heaven and earth, the sea and all there is in them.
God executes justice for the oppressed and gives food to the hungry.
God sets prisoners free; open the eyes of the blind; lifts up those who are bowed down.
God loves the righteous; watches over the sojourners, uphold the widows and the fatherless.
God reigns for ever.”

God never gives up on you as long as you do not give up on yourself and your loved ones.

Praise be to God. Amen.
.
.
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《Chinese Version》
《中文本》

「你同他走兩哩路罷」 (太五:42下)
今天所選讀的新約經文是關於不可報服的美德。不可報仇的詞語可能過於消極。在較為積極一面,這美德是叫我們凡事多走一步。

讓我們翻溫耶穌的教訓:「不可向欺負你的人報復。有人打你的右臉,連左臉也讓他打吧!有人拉你上法庭,要你的內衣,連外衣也給他吧!假若有人強逼你走一哩路,跟他走兩哩吧!有人向你要東西,就給他;有人向你借些甚么,就借給他。」

事實上,耶穌的教訓就慢慢成為今天基督教倫理的基礎。作為基督徒,我們當樂意隨時為人多走一哩路。

這額外的一哩路不是今天人類行事為人的準則。反之,「以眼還眼,以牙還牙」倒是今天一般人做人的原則。俗語有講「有仇不報非君子」。

我們或者願意行走當行的一哩路,但絕對不會走額外的一哩路。

不久以前,我無意收聽到電台的一個談及香港公務員的做事作風。有公務員說,他們必會按本子辦事;只有做少,絕不會多做。因為他們的基本心態是假若多做,便有很大的機會犯錯。所以他們絕不會自動走兩哩路。

然而,實情是世間上只有人肯多走一哩路,人類才會有進步。我們才可享有更大的幸福。

我相信在座各位都有從電視觀看主要在北京舉行的第二十九屆奧林匹克運動會。有許多比賽其可觀性是異常之高的。由於沒有時差,所以我們可以不挨眼瞓地每天觀看多項比賽的進行。其中有許多運動員的行藏舉止,值得我們三思的。其中一位非常年青的体操運動員在奪得金牌時向記者透露,她苦練的時期長達十年,每當教練吩咐學員某一個動作要重複做十次,她就決心做十五甚至二十次。結果因她出眾的表現,被選為國家体操運動員,因而有機會獲獎。

另一位金牌羽毛球手更嘗盡生命上的酸甜苦辣。其實她年紀已經是三十六歲,体力上超過了一位出色羽毛球手所能負擔。加上了過去數年她傷病數次,本應一早便該放棄了。然而她沒有這樣做,反之她更積極地去走兩哩路,結果上天不負有心人,在她結束她運動員的生涯前,最後一次奪取殊榮。

走多一哩路並不容易,然而在座各位都做到了!

照顧智障人士並非是一件容易的事情,尤其是香港的設施並不如其他現代大都會的完善。但雖然在不理想的環境下,你們都各盡所能敖過去。這是十分難能可貴的。

今天早上,我想藉此機會特別向各位老師、同工、家長和智障朋友致以衷心的敬意。尤其是你們所照顧的智障兒童逐漸長大,你們的工作必定更加艱辛。但千萬不要放棄。請繼續以崇高的愛心走那額外的道路,上主必鑒察你們的勞苦。

我有一位二十年前移民美國的同工,她最近回港探親,而且約了我茶敘。她告訴我在她一生中有三個人影響她最深,一位是她的父親、一位是我,另一位是她現年三十歲的嚴重智障兒子。我可以想像她長年屢月的艱苦。她一方面要出外工作,另一方面要照顧日益長大的智障兒子。然而她決心排除萬難,藉照顧她的兒子,她最終看到了生命的可貴在於她可以與人分享她的愛心與忍耐。

生命原本就是關於愛與分享。只有一個會分享的生命才有價值。當我們與別人,尤其是有需要的人分享我們所有,我們才可体驗到我們生命的豐盛。

今天智障人士最大的需要就是被社會人士接納和讓他們可以完全融入社會。在香港這是一個漫長的旅程,我們還需要努力走許多哩的路。家長們,老師們,同工們,智障朋友們,我們需要大聲疾呼要求政府多加留意,多撥資源;而且我們更要改變政府官員和巿民大眾的心態:從照顧朝向發展;從消極地研究注視進而努力推行公眾教育。我們當竭盡所能擔負倡議或倡導的角色。這是擺在我們前面我們必須走額外的道路。

今天是懷智主日。每一年我們在這聖殿都一齊聚首慶祝。九龍佑寧堂的同工同道常時以愉快的心情追想,在三十年前他們的前輩在這裡開展的懷智中心。今天懷智中心已經很有規模地發展,我們為此而引以為榮、我們為你們的成就感到非常之驕傲。九龍佑寧堂永遠皆會站在你們一邊支持你們,為你們代禱。

在結束這簡短的宣道時,讓我再次讀出部分今天所選讀的舊約經文:

「上主創造天、地、海和其中萬物;
他始終持守他的諾言。
他為被欺壓的人伸張正義;
他賜食物給飢餓的人。
上主使被囚的得自由,
使盲人能看見。
他扶起被欺壓的人;
他愛惜正直的人。
他保護寄居的外人;
他扶助孤兒寡婦。
他要挫敗邪惡人的詭計。
上主要永遠作王。」

各位只要你們不放棄,上主必永遠不會捨棄你們。

願頌讚歸於上主。阿們。

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, October 19, 2008

 

“Seeing How Much Faith They Had…” (Mark 2:5)

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 12th October 2008 by Rev. Kwok Nai Wang. The scripture readings that day were Genesis 12:1-9 and Mark 2:1-12.


Let us pray:
O Lord our God, from whom all good things come; grant to us your humble servants, that by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we may think those things which are good; and by the merciful guiding of the same, we may do the things which are pleasing in your sight. Though Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This morning, we will concentrate our reflections on Chapter 2, verses 1-12 of the Gospel according to St. Mark..

The Gospel of Mark portrayed Jesus as the One who brought forth a new era to humanity. A new era – this is not a matter of time; but a new look about life as defined by God’s intervention. Life in the old era is life with broken relationships. Life in the new era brought forth by Jesus Christ is life which is in full communion with God.

At the time of Jesus, the old guards like the priests, rabbis, Pharisees… who were the leaders of the Jewish community resented Jesus’ teaching and preaching. They considered Jesus had come to disturb their law and order. It is because all along for a thousand years, they thought they were God’s messengers. If people would follow their teaching, that is, their rigid interpretation of the Law and the Prophets, people would be fine.

That explained why Mark’s Gospel is formed by 15 controversial stories and sayings as its backbone. In these 15 controversies, Jesus stood on one side while the Jewish leaders stood on the other.

The first of 7 controversies happened in Galilee. They were about Jesus or his disciples who did something which seemingly contravened the Jewish law and customs. For example, Jesus healed the sick on the Sabbath (Mk 3:1-6). For the Jews, keeping Sabbath was a part of their creation faith – for God has created the world in 6 days. The 7th day was a day of rest. Nobody should work on Sabbath. But Jesus insisted that it was important to help people even on Sabbath. Furthermore, according to Jesus, being the Son of God had the authority to interpret the Law. The Sabbath was made for the good of man; man was not for the Sabbath (Mk 2:27).

Then when Jesus and his disciples were on their way to Jerusalem, the centre of Judaism and the Jewish society, the priests, the rabbis and the Pharisees, were impatient with Jesus’ acts and teaching, so they began to challenge Jesus by asking difficult questions. For example, they asked, as Jews, should they pay taxes to the Roman Emperor? (Mk 12:13-17). These 8 controversies were meant to be traps to Jesus, in that whatever Jesus’ answer, they would find Jesus was at fault and would then be able to get rid of him or at least to discredit him. No wonder both in the very beginning as well as near the end of the Gospel, it was recorded the Jewish establishment wanted to make plans to kill Jesus (Mk 3:6 and 11:18).

This morning the New Testament reading Mark 2: 1-12 was also found in Matthew 9:1-8 and Luke 5:17-26. It was a healing story: a paralytic was cured by Jesus. But quite unlike other healing stories, there were many scenes, (altogether eight) and many people were involved in it.

Scene One: The setting. Jesus was at home in Capernaum in Galilee, where he grew up. Jesus had been busy in his ministry. Matthew 4:23 related the fact that, Jesus went all over Galilee, teaching in synagogues, preaching the Good News about the Kingdom, and healing people who had all kinds of sickness.” However, Jesus came home not to rest, but continued his preaching ministry. “Jesus was preaching the message to them” (2:2). This message presumably was: “The right time has come, and the Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mk 1:15).

Scene Two. Many people gathered where Jesus was. The Scriptures did not mention why so many people came. Probably some came to hear Jesus preached; others to see how Jesus performed miracles. Obviously words had come around about the wonderful things Jesus had done. Mk 1:34 recorded, “Jesus healed many who were sick with all kinds of diseases and drove out many demons”. So many people came. In fact there were so many people that not only there was “no room left” in the room where Jesus was, but also “not even out in front of the door”.

We cannot judge whether this big crowd came for the sake of curiosity. But the fact was that their “selfishness” had prevented other people with real needs to approach Jesus.

Scene Three. There were four friends who carried a paralytic. Their intention was clear. They had wanted this paralytic friend to be healed by Jesus. That was why they took the trouble. First of all, they had to carry their friend for a distance. Then as they approached the room where Jesus was, it was full of people both inside and outside. So they had to climb up to the roof and make a hole. Then with great efforts brought the paralytic friend to the roof; and finally from the roof with a mat they lowered his friend carefully to where Jesus was.

Scene Four. When Jesus saw how much faith these four friends had, Jesus said to the paralysed man, “My son your sins are forgiven”. Here lies the core of this very unique healing story. It was not the faith of paralysed man which touched Jesus. But rather it was the faith of his four friends which caught Jesus’ great attention or even admiration.

What a big contrast between the crowds who for various selfish reasons had prevented the paralytic and those who really need the help of Jesus from approaching; and the four friends who took the big trouble to make sure that his paralytic friend would be cured by Jesus! Where do we stand between the unfaith of the crowds and the faith of the four friends?

The Christian faith is never for the enhancement of self benefit. It always implies our caring of other people, especially the less fortunate. Indeed as the young German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer described Jesus Christ as “a man for others”.

The way Jesus healed the paralytic was also very unique. Jesus said, “My son your sins are forgiven”. What does sin have to do with sickness?

Superficially, when we look at sin and sickness together, there is little in common between them. Sickness is deficiency in the physical and/or mental dimension of life; sin is spiritual. But in deeper analysis, sin is more than any wrongdoing. Sin is even more than the good things which you ignore to do. Sin is your alienation with God, with other people and even with yourself. Sin is disrelationship or relationships broken at all levels. Similarly sickness is also about separation. When you are sick not only you feel the pain or discomfort physically; but also mentally you fall into a state of fear and uncertainty. Moreover socially you would feel you are being isolated or excluded. For instance because of her sickness, Peter’s mother-in-law was unable to host Jesus (Mk 1:29-31). In ancient times, lepers were not allowed to go into town. Therefore both sin and sickness indicated a state of being not “wholesome”. So broadly speaking, when Jesus told the paralytic, “my son, your sins are forgiven”, it was synonymous of saying, “my son, let me restore your wholeness”. Indeed Jesus came to make us physically, mentally, socially and spiritually wholesome.

Scene Five, on hearing what Jesus said to the paralytic, “your sins are forgiven,” some leaders of the law who were sitting there thought to themselves, “How does he dare to talk like this? This is blasphemy! God is the only one who can forgive sins!”. (2:7)

Are the thoughts of the learned Jewish teachers of law questioned Jesus in their minds because of the curiosity in searching for the truth or the plain fact that they were pondering about how to find faults in Jesus and were trying to find ways to discredit Jesus?

To me what these rabbis were trying to do rooted from their unfaith. Like the crowds, they had their own agenda. In carrying out their agenda, they prevented the people who really need Jesus’ help from getting near Jesus. Faith is helping people to connect and ultimately to relate to God. Unfaith is the opposite. It prolongs people’s pain and anxiety.

The rabbis, who formed the core of the Jewish leadership wanted to assert their authority. The Torah or the Law only gave priests, their counterparts, the authority to represent God to pronounce a person clean or sins forgiven. Since Jesus was not one of them, so what Jesus said was a blasphemy.

But Jesus was the Messiah. He was the Son of the Living God. Jesus as the Holy One of God (Mk 1:24) was the representative of God on earth. So he had the same authority as God. The rabbis refused to accept this.

Scene Six. Jesus healed the paralysed man. Jesus’ healing was not ordinary. He ordered the paralytic, “I tell you, get up, pick up your mat and go home” (2:11). Jesus words were never empty pronouncements. For Jesus, to speak was to act. Jesus was not merely a miracle or wonder-worker, he proclaimed and enacted the good news of Salvation.

Scene Seven. The paralytic was cured. The paralytic was excluded from participating in the ordinary activities. He could not walk and move freely. He had to depend on other people. But he had faith in Jesus. So on hearing Jesus’ command, he obeyed, “he got up, picked up his mat and hurried away” (Is 12a).

Scene Eight. The lives of the crowd were transformed. “They were all completely amazed and praised God saying: we have never seen anything like this”.

Remember in the beginning of this story, these people came for selfish reasons. Now after their encounter with Jesus, in witnessing what Jesus had done, they went away with their lives renewed: from self to God; from seeking for self-interest to praising God.

Perhaps this is one of the most enlightening healing stories of Jesus. The story especially demonstrates that Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the Living God does not only have the authority to heal; but also in healing the paralytic Jesus showed that He came to the world for the salvation of the humankind, so that our broken lives may be whole again.

This story is about the human struggle between faith and unfaith as well. Faith is the absolute obedience to Jesus. When Jesus told the paralysed man to get up, pick up his mat and walk; he did just that. So the paralytic regained his wholeness in life again. Faith in Jesus must have life implications. The four friends of the paralysed man had faith in Jesus. They were convinced that Jesus could heal their friend. So they took the great trouble of bringing their friend to Jesus with the full confidence that Jesus was able to help. Faith and love or caring go hand in hand. The four friends cared for their paralysed friend and they also had faith in Jesus. So as a result the impossible became possible. Their friend was healed by Jesus.

On the other hand the arrogance of the religious leaders had prevented them from accepting Jesus Christ as their Saviour. Not only that, they tried to use their positions and influence to prevent people to approach Jesus. This is unfaith. What a big contrast to the faith of the four friends!

Finally, when people are open to Jesus, their lives would be transformed through the encounter with Jesus. In facing Jesus, the paralytic was able to stand up and became an independent and free person. The people who originally came for their own purposes and interests, in the end became God-centred. They began to praise God…

This healing story, like any other stories in the Bible serves as a minor to us. We can see ourself more clearly by reading any Biblical story. In studying this healing story of the paralytic, let us do a bit of self-examination. Are you one in the self-serving crowd? Or one of the four friends? Or one of the religious leaders? Or plainly the paralytic?

Let us pray:
Most Gracious God, you are the source of love and justice; enlighten our minds and our hearts with your presence, that we may both know your will and be enabled to perform it. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, October 12, 2008

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