A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 18th January 2009 by Robert Lam, Paul Cheung and Rev. Kwok Nai Wang. The scripture readings that day were I John 4:7-21 and John 15:1-17.
This morning, we are going to experiment with a dialogue sermon.
Traditionally, even from the time of the Early church, preaching is always a one-way traffic: the preacher preaches and the congregation listens.
We have been trying to find ways to enhance congregation participation. You will notice that after the reading of the Ancient Word, viz. the Bible and the expounding of the contemporary word, there is a short period of reflection. This is a golden opportunity for congregation members to go on an inward journey: our own encounter with God, or to think about how does God’s Word come to us in a meaningful way.
For years, I have been wondering whether it may be more interesting if the preacher and representatives of the congregation engage in a dialogue sermon, i.e. to make preaching a two-way traffic. From another angle, this kind of dialogue sermon may intensify the congregation’s encounter with God’s Word; and makes God’s Word even more relevant.
It’s not easy to do a dialogue sermon. I have done it only once in my ministry of 43 years.
However, I have persuaded Robert Lam and Paul Cheung to do a dialogue sermon with me. The topic I have chosen is what is the core of the Christian faith? Robert and Paul will give their witness first, and later I will respond.
A couple of things I would like to mention before they speak. First, the reflection is broadly about Christian faith. Christian faith is seldom taught. It can only be shared. I am very grateful to Robert and Paul to decide to share their faith with us.
Second, Robert and Paul are members of trustees of KUC. As I mention in the Senior Minister’s Corner to-day, it is my wish that trustees should go beyond what the constitution requires, namely, to make sure the buildings of our church are sound and safe and the offerings and other income are appropriated properly. Trustees should particularly be concerned by being the guardians of the faith of this congregation.
It is my pleasure now to welcome Robert and then Paul to this pulpit.
The heart of the Christian belief is God's love.
God the Creator who loved the world and us so much that He sent His Son into the world to die on the cross for our sins so that we who believed in Him will have eternal life.
That is the core of the Christian faith.
Through Jesus' death on the cross and his resurrection, our broken relationship with God has been restored.
We can live the life on earth the way He has always intended, to love Him and to let His love flow through us to the people around, the people that we come into contact with and the world that He has created.
Like all human and love relationship, our relationship with God will only grow through daily and constant contact with our Creator.
We draw our strength from His love, we face the our ups and downs of my life knowing that He is with us throughout in this journey. We will also have the love and strength to love the world He has created, the people in the world and those around us who need His love and our love.
This love journey is not only the journey of a lifetime but one that lasts all eternity.
During the preparation of the sermon, I tried to relate my faith to my life. For me, Christian faith has made my life more fulfilling. The core of Christian faith I would like to share today is living an abundant life. In the Gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 10, Jesus said “I have come in order that you might have life - life in all its fullness.”
Every week, during our Sunday service, we say the prayer of confession in which we ask God to forgive us not only our sins of commission, but also sins of alienation from God, from others and from ourselves. The Christian teachings of love, sharing, caring, forgiving, and respect help us to build up a more harmonious relationship with others and the nature. Christian faith changes our life of alienation to a life of being connected with ourselves, with others, and with God, and such change enriches our life.
Christian faith makes our life more fulfilling as it helps us search the meaning of our life. God does not create something without a purpose. We were created with our strengths and weaknesses. Christian faith empowers us to search God’s purpose in our life and leads us to contribute ourselves in God’s plan. In the gospel of John, chapter 15, verse 4, it reads, “Remain united to me, and I will remain united to you. A branch cannot bear fruit by itself; it can do so only if it remains in the vine. In the same way, you cannot bear fruit unless you remain in me.” To live a life fully is living in Christ. In Him, we can have personal development as the branch gets the nutrient and grows up. In Him, we can offer our talents to help others as the plants become mature and bear fruit for the needy. In Him we can always have the strength and hope to face the difficulties in life like the plants leaving leaves and becoming weak in winter but being rejuvenated in spring. Our faith makes our life complete with purpose, direction, and hope.
That is my understanding about the core of Christian faith. Though I can experience the fullness of life in Christian faith, sometimes I feel a bit frustrated when facing people who are quite pessimistic and always hold a negative view. They find it very difficult to see the positive side of life. The question I want to raise is: How can we help those people see the fullness of life through Christian faith?
Kwok Nai Wang:
Life is a bundle of relationships. Your minister Phyllis Wong is a wife, a mother and an ordained minister. As such, she is related to her husband, her daughter and son as well as you all as her parishioners. Her life is not only defined by all these people, but also her life is enriched by them as well. But sadly, not too many people realize this important point.
As a matter of fact, fewer and fewer people treasure good relationship with their relatives, colleagues and friends nowadays. Almost daily, we read about siblings turn against each other and resort to legal proceedings over inheritance of their father or mother. We try to keep amiable relationship with our friends, but alas soon we find their shortcomings. Our colleagues disappoint us because their performance fall below our expectation, etc.
Sooner or later, we find all kinds relationship do not last. It is because they fail to build on solid foundations.
This morning, Robert and Paul offer us some suggestions.
Robert insists that God is love. Love is not empty words. Love is self-giving. God shows us He loves us so much so that He came to us through Jesus Christ and that He died for us.
Our relationship with other people must be based on this kind of limitless love.
Paul suggested our life relationships must be built on Jesus Christ. We must relate to each other through Christ rather than directly. When we are in Christ, Christ will be in us and vice verse. When we are in Christ we will become like Jesus – especially his sacrificial servant hood style. When Christ is in us, we will feel Jesus’ demand to us: love one another as Jesus has loved us.
When human situations are impossible, our faith in God will make it possible.
In this day and age, it is difficult to express our love to others, even our very close ones. It is equally difficult to keep others to see their lives cannot be separated from God. But difficult as it is, we must try. We must try our best and leave everything else to God. After all we are not God. We are only human. We are not in control of everything. Often the sad fact is that we see the difficulties we have to overcome and the sacrifice we have to make and just give up. In facing any hardship, I suggest we pray the prayer of Peter, “Lord, save me” (Matthew 14:30). Only if we ask, God will never let us walk alone.