Reflections...

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

Cross-Centered Stewardship

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 30 January 2011 by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that day were Micah 6:1–8; 1 Corinthians 1:18–31 and Matthew 5:1–12


Introduction
Since the new year began, we have been holding the stewardship campaign at KUC. The message on stewardship was mentioned in one way or another in the sermons delivered in January. Flyers and pledge forms for congregation members and friends have been distributed for their response. Today, we will collect the pledge form from you.

Stewardship is a sharing of gifts given by God. Stewardship in a community context such as church includes the sharing of responsibility. In a community, if everybody takes a part unselfishly and shoulder some of the responsibilities in building up God’s church and God’s kingdom on earth, things will go on easier and please the Lord.

But we all know in reality, it is not always the case and thus every year, many churches need to remind believers of the importance of stewardship and encourage them to participate actively and faithfully.

After a month of on-going messages and announcements on stewardship, how much are you prepared to take up this call of being God’s steward in your life? In what area you would like to contribute yourself for God in the congregation at Kowloon Union?

In Christian understanding, stewardship is the way our time, talents, material possessions or wealth are used or given for the service of God. As Christian stewards, empowered by the Holy Spirit, we commit ourselves to conscious and purposeful decisions according to the will of God.

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Cross-centered Stewardship
Today, I would like share with you my thoughts on stewardship by putting the cross in our midst.

The Cross has been an important sign for Christians. Sisters and brothers, spend ten seconds to look at the cross up on the altar. Now, close your eyes and keep the image of cross in your mind for another ten seconds.

I hope the image of Cross will be embedded in your mind for some time.

The Cross has been an essential sign for Christians and the church. The Cross is sign of life giving. God has given us the gift of life freely and unconditionally. The cross is a sign of forgiving love through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The cross is a sign of hope and transformation, for Jesus did not give up. Jesus said no to the forces of destruction. On the cross, Jesus encountered the severe pains and suffering with courage. In the end, he rose up again from the death. The power of love and life has overcome the power of suffering and death. The cross is a sign that demonstrates strongly the power of God in Christ.

Jesus Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection turned the world upside down. The text we heard from the beatitude in Matthew and Paul’s sharing with the disciples of early church in Corinth has given us a powerful image and insights to becoming God’s steward.

In Matthew 5, Jesus began the Sermon of the Mount by saying the Beatitudes to his disciples and to the crowd of followers. The blessings mentioned by Jesus were very unusual and very different from everyone’s previous understanding.

A steward of humble receiver and generous giver
We are living in a world in which we are tempted to earn more and spend more for a better material living. In the Beatitudes tell a higher truth of Jesus. That is we don’t have to ask for more blessing because we are all blessed, as blessing is God’s free gift to human kind. Blessing is from God and is given freely. To be blessed by God and receive the Kingdom of God, what we should do is to have less and not more! It would be a great blessing if we fully trust that God will provide what we need. As stewards, what we need to do is to lead a simple and humble life by staying close to God. ‘Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven’. Look at the cross and then remember how our Lord Jesus led a simple and humble life on earth. Jesus Christ is our model to follow in becoming God’s stewards.

It is also important to acknowledge that everything that we have is from God. Therefore, it is right to give thanks to God and share the gift with others generously for God’s sake.

A cross-centered stewardship directs us to become a humble receiver and generous giver

A Steward of Love and Care
God being the source of love, when we are in God and with God, we will be strengthened by the power of love. The power of love through Christ will enhance us to love and care for others. In reality, an alienated and distorted relationship may hinder people to care and love one another. A blessed steward of God will lead a life of love and care. For Jesus said, “blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted” and ‘blessed are the merciful for they will receive mercy.

We can be a blessing to others by sharing their painful stories and listening to them. We can visit the needy their homes, in hospitals, and even in prison. Caring ministry is an important aspect in the church ministry. With the advance technology, it is so easy to demonstrate our love and care to others through an e-mail or a telephone call. There are a lot of ways to share our love to others who are suffering from various problems, be it health problems, study and work pressure, financial crises, relationship problems, and so on. Do you wish to share your love and mercy in this ministry of care?

A cross centered steward directs us to become a steward of love and mercy.

A steward of peace makers
In the Beatitudes, it is said ‘Blessed are the peace makers for they are called the children of God.” “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

As stewards, we are called to bring peace to the world and engage in the mission of justice and peace.

Jesus Christ was put on the cross unjustly and his persecution was unjustified. But Jesus did not respond with violence. He used a non-violent approach to encounter the unjust persecution. In Jesus Christ, we are created anew, and are given a call to be Christ’s ambassador of peace and reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)

A Christ centered steward directs us to become a peace maker and to seek justice.

In our Kowloon Union Church, we have been concerning with issues related to social justice. We have the MOE Committee (Mission, Outreach and Ecumenism) that oversees this social ministry. An Outreach Peace Making team has been set up to promote justice and peace in local community through education programs in schools and churches. Being engaged in the social ministry of justice and peace is part of stewardship in church.

As a short summary, the Beatitudes describe the way of life for those who commit themselves to follow Jesus Christ.

The key of cross centre stewardship is our commitment to follow Jesus Christ. When we are able to faithfully follow Christ, we would then able to do what God has required of his people, as highlighted in Micah 6:8, ‘to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God.’

To some believers, it would be easier to say than do, for in the real world one encounters many challenges and difficulties. Truly, we cannot deny the difficulties and limitations we may have to face. But Jesus Christ who has broken the chains of death and persecution has given us hope. Sometimes we may feel that we are too weak and too foolish to make a difference. When we are in God, we will be empowered, for Paul said that God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. The apostle Paul further reminded the disciples of God of their call by God. In his powerful message he shared that God would use those who, from a human point of view, appear foolish and the weak. “God chooses what is foolish in the world to shame the wise. God chooses the weak in the world to shame the strong.”

All God’s people are given special call and role to play and serve. We need to affirm this gift with faith and gratitude.

The essence of being God’s steward is living in a right relationship with God through Christ. Christians are called out to serve God with the best of us and others. The cross, the sacrificing and yet risen Christ is our daily reminder.

Kowloon Union Church has been a small congregation. But her potential is huge. God has a special calling to us and given us important mission to fulfill in Hong Kong and beyond. We need to be united, joining heads and hearts with prayerful actions.

Closing Prayer

I would like to end my sermon by sharing with you a Stewardship Prayer.

Almighty and ever-faithful Lord, we are gratefully acknowledging Your mercy and humbly admitting our need, we pledge our trust in You and each other. Filled with desire, we respond to Your call for discipleship by shaping our lives in imitation of Christ. We profess that the call requires us to be stewards of Your gifts.

As stewards, we receive Your gifts gratefully, cherish and tend them in a responsible manner, share them in practice and love with others, and return them with increase to the Lord. We pledge to grow in our ongoing formation as stewards and acknowledge our responsibility to call others to that same endeavor.

Almighty and ever-faithful God, it is our fervent hope and prayer that this good work that You have begun in us will bring it to fulfillment in Jesus Christ,our Lord. Amen

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, January 30, 2011

 

Hong Kong’s Forgotten Prisoners

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 16 January 2011 by John Kamm. The scripture reading that day was Matthew 25:31-40.


Have you ever been at a loss for words?

In May 1990, I attended a banquet in Hong Kong hosted by a senior Chinese official. I was on the way to Washington to testify on China’s trade privileges in the United States. China was close to losing its access to the American market. I told the official that I thought the Chinese government should do more to improve its image with the American people after the tragic events of June 4, 1989. After some back and forth, he asked me “What would you have us do?”

I was at a loss for words. I hadn’t given a thought to what I wanted China to do. The other businessmen there must have thought I’d ask for China to buy more American products. After all, I was the President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong.

In Matthew 10:18, Jesus says to his disciples, “For my sake you will be brought before rulers and kings, to tell the Good News to them and to the Gentiles. When they bring you to trial, do not worry about what you are going to say or how you will say it; when the time comes, you will be given what you will say. For the words you will speak will not be yours; they will come from the Spirit of your Father.”

I asked the official to release a young June 4th protester. After I returned from testifying in Washington, he was released.

After this I began working on behalf of prisoners in China. I was motivated by two things. 1) The knowledge that I could work within the system as a friend of the Chinese government to effect better treatment and early release of people in prison, especially those imprisoned for their beliefs and 2) Christ’s clear message that personal salvation lies in treating the very least among us as we would treat Jesus.

Matthew paints a picture of judgment day in a passage that resonates in the hearts of those who seek social justice for the persecuted and the dispossessed.

“When the Son of Man comes as King and all the angels with him, he will sit on his royal throne, and the people of all nations will be gathered before him. Then he will divide them into two groups, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the righteous people at his right and the others at his left. Then the King will say to the people on his right, "Come, you that are blessed by my Father! Come and possess the kingdom which has been prepared for you ever since the creation of the world. I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you received me in your homes, naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me, in prison and you visited me. . . I tell you, whenever you did this for one of the least important of my followers you did it for me.”

Christ tells us that prisoners are the least of the least, the lowest of the low, the last on the list. Elsewhere in Matthew, Jesus tells us “Those who are last will be first, and those who are first will be last” (Matthew 20:16). Scripture clearly tells us to put a high priority on caring for and visiting prisoners.

References to prisoners in the Bible are numerous. In Psalm 68:6 we are told that “He . . . leads prisoners out into happy freedom” and in Psalm 69:33 we hear that “The Lord . . . does not forget his people in prison.” (Psalm 69:33). Fulfilling Isaiah’s prophesy, Jesus announces in Luke 4:18 “He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed.”

Many prophets and apostles suffered periods of imprisonment, including Joseph, Samson, Jeremiah, Daniel, John the Baptist, Peter, James, Paul and even Jesus himself, who was held in custody between his arrest and execution. Paul is proud of his time in prison, boasting of his credentials in 2 Corinthians 11:23. “I have worked much harder, I have been in prison more times, I have been whipped much more, and I have been near death more often.”

Hong Kong is a caring society. I learned this when I served on the Board of The Community Chest. It is a generous society. It spends millions supporting the livelihoods of thousands of asylum seekers. This Church has distinguished itself in helping asylum seekers.

There is a strong system of Justices of the Peace who regularly visit our prisons, and there are local charities and missions that minister to the 12,000 inmates here, like that of the Rev. Tobias Brandner, but little is being done to assist Hong Kong people who find themselves in prisons overseas, other than the conclusion of Prisoner Transfer Agreements (or PTAs) that have allowed a relatively small number of Hong Kong prisoners to serve their sentences in Hong Kong prisons.

How many Hong Kong people are in prison outside of Hong Kong? No one seems to know. The Hong Kong government does not publish numbers. They are in the best position to have the information, but it is very possible that the SAR government itself does not know the exact number.

Consider Hong Kong people in prison in the United States. Based on our extensive research, my foundation estimates that there are about 400 Chinese citizens in federal and state prisons in the United States. Since Hong Kong is a part of China, no figures are provided for Hong Kong people in and of themselves. Under the Consular Agreement between the United States and China, American authorities must inform the Chinese embassy of Chinese citizens who have been arrested. Whether and how this information, insofar as it concerns Hong Kong people, is provided to the SAR government is not clear.

The Chinese government exercises its consular right to visit Chinese prisoners, including Hong Kong prisoners in the United States. Such visits, while welcome, are still relatively rare.

The largest number of Hong Kong people in prison outside Hong Kong are in prisons on the Mainland, and since Hong Kong is a part of China, visits to them by Chinese diplomats are out of the question. Prisoners in China are permitted one visit by a close family relative every month (but as Liu Xiaobo and his family have discovered, this right can be taken away). Provincial prison bureaus can consider requests for more frequent visits, and for visits by people other than immediate relatives, but they are under no obligation to grant them.

A few years ago I visited a large prison about 50 miles north of Lo Wu. After listening to a short concert by the prison band – the conductor was a Hong Kong prisoner serving a life sentence for drug smuggling – I was taken to the cell block for Hong Kong prisoners. There were 400 prisoners there. I was told that all Hong Kong prisoners convicted in Guangdong were in that cell block. Then I went to a prison in Fujian Province. I was accompanied by officials of the provincial prison bureau. They told me that there were about 200 Hong Kong prisoners in Fujian prisons.

Based on these and other conversations, I believe there are at least 1,000 Hong Kong people serving sentences in Chinese prisons. There are more than 3,500 Mainlanders serving sentences in Hong Kong prisons. Given the traffic between Hong Kong and the Mainland, these numbers should not surprise us.

What is being done for Hong Kong prisoners on the Mainland by the government and people of Hong Kong?

The approach taken by the SAR government to helping Hong Kong prisoners abroad has been to negotiate Prisoner Transfer Agreements (or PTAs) so that the Hong Kong prisoners can serve their sentences in Hong Kong. Hong Kong has several PTAs with countries like the US, the UK and France. There is a regional PTA with Macau. China has concluded three PTAs with foreign countries.

Negotiations on a PTA between Hong Kong and the Central Government commenced in March 2000, but it does not appear that much progress has been made. A big problem is that acts considered a crime in one jurisdiction – e.g. Bible smuggling, for which Hong Kong person Li Guangqiang was sentenced to two years in a Chinese prison in 2002 – are not considered crimes in the other. Observers like HKU Law Research fellow Choy Dick Wan are skeptical that an agreement can be reached and propose instead that Hong Kong and the Mainland should adopt an ad hoc transfer system.

In fact, China does from time to time transfer prisoners to countries with which it doesn’t have a PTA, and the 2009 release on parole of the journalist Ching Cheong, followed by his return to Hong Kong, tells us that the Central Government will recognize Hong Kong’s special status from time to time and allow a prisoner to return to the SAR before completing his or her original sentence, though to date no prisoner sentenced by a Mainland court has been sent to Hong Kong to actually serve part of his or her sentence. Short of concluding a PTA, and negotiating the occasional ad hoc transfer, what else can be done to help our forgotten prisoners?

In the short run the focus should be on visiting them. The SAR government certainly has the resources to carry out a program of visits at the Guangdong prison where 400 Hong Kong prisoners are housed. China’s prison regulations allow government personnel from other provinces to visit prisoners from their locale, though in fact few local governments exercise this right with any frequency. Here is an opportunity for Hong Kong to contribute to penal reform in China while assisting some of its most vulnerable citizens. For starters the SAR government should negotiate a program of prison visits with the government of Guangdong, a program that should benefit both Hong Kong prisoners in Guangdong and Guangdong prisoners in Hong Kong.

Greater government involvement isn’t enough. Hong Kong society must show greater concern for Hong Kong prisoners overseas and on the Mainland. LegCo should press the SAR government to regularly give progress reports on the PTA with the Mainland (the last update was given in April 2008), and as part of this, to release basic information on the number and location of Hong Kong prisoners in Mainland prisons.

In the United Kingdom there is an organization called Prisoners Abroad. It assists the more than 1,000 citizens of the United Kingdom in prison overseas, and their families at home. It works to ensure that they are treated humanely, that they are free from torture. It supports local British consuls and organizes local expatriates to visit British prisoners. It makes grants to prisoners so they can buy food, bedding and clothing. It sends them books and magazines, and runs a volunteer pen-pal service. I look to the day when Hong Kong has an organization Like Prisoners Abroad.

On this day 92 years ago the Reverend Martin Luther King – that famous American prisoner of conscience – was born.

Dr. King spoke of those “weary souls with chains of fear and manacles of death,” words that describe so well our lost and abandoned brothers and sisters in the prisons of Mainland China.

“How long will justice be crucified,” Dr. King asked, “and truth bear it?”

That is the question I leave you with, brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Stewardship Sunday.

# posted by Heddy Ha : Monday, January 17, 2011

 

My Baptism – My Identity

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 9 January 2011 by Roy Njuabe. The scripture readings that day were Isaiah 42:1–9, Act 10:34–43 and Matthew 3:13–17.


John the Baptist or John the baptizer, whatever name you call him, was a great prophet. He feed on locust and wild honey, he dressed in clothe made of camel`s hair and had a leather belt round his waist. If we see such a person today around us dress like John, are we not going to call him a mad man? But in the scripture it says people went to him confessing their sins and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan. Well I don`t know if this river was cold or hot, but as the scripture says it was at the desert of Jordan, definitely it should be warm. He stood in the water while baptizing people; he could identify who was good person and who was bad person. He said to the people he claimed were bad people; who asked you to run away from your sins repent and be baptized or else you will see what God will do to you. Who warn you to flee from the coming wrath of God? John identified these group of people as not worthy to received baptism unless they repent from their sins. John pointed his finger directly to them and said you are bad people so I can`t baptize you unless you repent.

I know if today a pastor point a finger to a person that he is like “a viper”, the pastor will not just be send out of the church, but he or she will not be allowed to enter the church again.

But in John`s time, people seek to be baptized though John used hatch words to them. Sometime I wondered if they really knew what John was saying. John said; don`t feel that because you are the children of Abraham implies you are save from your sins. To be saved is not a matter of inheritance, but to repent and be baptized. Then you can be identified as a child of God. He told them that God can rise up children for Abraham from stones. This means that they have no identity at all unless they repent and be baptized.

While John baptized those who repented, a man who had no sin came to him. This man is faithful and righteous. He is Jesus. Here John is caught in a situation that is above his level. He has to baptize Jesus: a man whom he described as someone whose sandals he is not fit to carry. Jesus all the way from Galilee seeks baptism from John who is far lower than Him. He humbles himself before John for water baptism.

In our society today, some of the high level Christians or pastors who claim the power of baptism are in the hands of so call spiritually able or pastors will not dare to receive Holy Communion from a church member who is not ordained. However Christ proves to us from this text that even the lowest amongst you can do great things in His authority and name.

The biggest question in this text is not even why Jesus did allow himself to be baptized by John but “Why did he receive baptism at all” He is a righteous man. But His answer to this question was pretty clear in verse 15 where He said “let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness”. Jesus wants to identify with us in baptism, that when we are baptized, it not only to wash away our sin but it gives us a new identity in Christ Jesus, that together we belong to one baptism. “Your baptism is your identity”. You belong to a family, you have a brother, and you have a sister. You have a seal in your life and this seal can never be taken away from you. Your baptism is only to you alone, it doesn`t extend to any member in your family. That is why John said to the Pharisees and Sadducees, don`t think that because Abraham is your father means that you will be saved. He went further to say from these stones God can raise children for Abraham. John made it clear that the kingdom of God does not belong only to the Jews, but to those who believe in Him and do what is right in His sight.

You may feel rejected in the community, you may feel like you have no identity. But in Christ you have an identity.

I recalled of a story about my friend. His parent had divorced. His mother was married to another man and his father to another woman. Whenever this boy visited his mother, she rejected him that he does not belong to this family; he should go and live with his father. When he went to his father, his step mother did not want him to live with them and she will influence her husband to send the boy back to his mother. This friend of mine often share with me what he went through and at each time he shared he will asked me: “where do I belong” “where is my identity? Who will call me his or her child?”

In our lives, we all battle with this problem of identity, where do I belong? Are we accepted in this community? Or in this church, do we belong to God though we are sinners?

I once told my friend that you may feel rejected; you may feel that you have no identity within your family but in Christ, you have an identity that which no one can take it away.

When Jesus came up from the water after His baptism, the bible says in verse 16 that “At that moment the havens opened, and he saw the spirit of God descending like a dove and lighten on Him”. In verse 17 it says “And a voice from Heaven said: This is My son whom I love, with Him I am well pleased” In Greek version it say, outos estin ho huios mou ho agapetos, the phrase outos estin(this is) show that this statement was recorded as a third person. In this text, God did not say “you are my son” but he said “this is my son” God make it public that Jesus is his son.

In baptism we make public our faith to God. That we are God`s sons and daughters.

Have you ever imagine that during your baptism God actually spoke to the world about you? Have you ever imagine that during the day of your baptism God opens the door of the heaven and welcome you? God gives you an identity, a seal that you belong to him. It is a sign that you are saved from your sins.

Do you know why that baptismal stand is in eight corners shape? Theologically it represents the eight people saved in Noah ark. Baptism is a sign of your salvation.

The mighty voice of God from the heaven saying “this is my child, whom I love” was not limited to Jesus only, it was extended to you. You are not just His child but he loves you as well. He loves you for whom you are, he loves you even if everybody around you hates you.

God did not just end his statement with his love for his child. He went on to say “with him I am well pleased”. Who doesn`t like to hear his father or mother says he or she is pleased with what he or she did? Asked yourself -- is God pleased with your work, with your ministry, with your love, with your fight for justice and character?

Can you find any area in your life where God can say He is pleased with you?

At home whenever my daughter does something right I will often say to her “very good”, means I was pleased with what she did. One day my daughter asked me to bring down her toys from an upper shelf and when I did so she said to me “Daddy good”. I was happy because my daughter acknowledged my service to her. The question I then asked myself was - did God acknowledge my services to Him? Did God say he is pleased with me? Am I doing what God wants me to do? I hope so.

In Christ baptism, we can identify three persons; Jesus received baptism, the Holy Spirit descended on Him and God the Father spoke from the heavens. These three persons are all represented in one God, the Holy Trinity. Today we baptized in the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Look at the back of the altar, do you know what those three pillars represent, look up the roof, do you know what those three small windows represent --- the triune God.

Our baptism is a seal from God that our sins are wash away, that He loves us and He is pleased with our decision to follow Him. It is a seal that Jesus identifies with us and a seal that the Holy Spirit who descended upon Jesus had descended onto us, lives in us and guide us in our lives and ministries. AMEN

# posted by Heddy Ha : Wednesday, January 12, 2011

 

A Good Beginning Is Half Of Success

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 2 January 2011 by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that day were Jeremiah 31:7-14, Ephesians 1:3-14 and Matthews 2:1-12.


It is a great joy and inspiration to begin the new year of 2011 by praising our Lord God, the Creator of heaven and earth, the Redeemer of the captives and the healer of the sick and the wounded.

In 31:7-14, the author of Jeremiah gave praises to God for his promise to the Israelites, His chosen people. This is an important message to people of all generations. The Lord will save the people from all kinds of captivity, and lead them to liberation.

We heard from the prophet about the promise of God for his people, which included: “The young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry.” In addition to that, “God will turn the people’s mourning into joy, comfort them and give them gladness for sorrow. For God’s servants, the priest, he will give them their fill of fatness, and his people shall be satisfied with his bounty.” (Jeremiah 31:13-14, New Revised Standard Version.)

A good beginning is half of success. This begins with our faith in the Lord. Praise to God and a daily thanksgiving to what God has given and achieved is the key.

According to the Church liturgical calendar, we are still in the season of Christmastides. In the season of Advent, we looked forward to the coming of the Lord and celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas. On 6th January (this coming Thursday), we will start the season of the Epiphany. The term epiphany means "to show," "to make known" or even "to reveal." In Western churches, it recalls the coming of the gift-bearing wise men to visit the Christ child. They are those people from a foreign land who "revealed" Jesus to the world as the Lord and the King.

The wise men were from the East were gentiles and not Jews. That God used the gentiles, not the Jews, to reveal Jesus as the King of the Jews is indicative. God will use different people in His will to achieve His plan. God will also do things extraordinary to the world and in our life. As Christians and the Church of Christ, we should be prepared for being called by God to reveal the light of Christ on earth. We have to be prepared to do something out of our expectations and different from our usual pattern.

The wise men brought to child Jesus precious gift ‒ gold, frankincense and myrrh. Obviously, the wise men were well prepared to see a King of the Jews; he was the Lord, great and powerful. The wise men went to pay homage with reverence and respect. If we take the Lord as God who is almighty, holy and gracious, we would do the same as the wise men to worship God, to pay respect to God and bring the best to Him. The first and most fundamental thing God calls us to do is to worship and pay Him homage. We are called to worship the Lord as the people of God. Therefore, a well prepared heart and an attitude of reverence for the weekly Sunday worship is fundamental and vital.

A good preparation includes doing what God has called upon us to do: Give our best gifts to the Lord.

What are our good and precious gifts? We may have more than one. If time is precious to you, reserve your time to God. Try to spend some time of silence to communicate with God and do some personal reflection every day. If money is precious to you, give your financial gift for God’s kingdom generously. Think of anything that is precious to you, bring it to the Lord for revealing God’s glory. Whenever we bring to God our precious gift, it reflects one important aspect in our life; that is, we focus our life in God and to lead a Christ-like life as priority. The encounter with God is a great joy. When we seem to be a giver to God, we actually receive more. Look at the response of the wise men when they saw Jesus. They were overwhelmed with joy. Are you prepared to give the best for God and receive this joy in encountering Christ our Lord?

The Church was established by Jesus Christ and has been sustained and further developed by the faithful community who follow Jesus Christ and serve as his disciples. The Church is a gift of God in Christ. The Church which is regarded as the body of Christ is given a call to become a faithful witness of God on earth. The life of Jesus Christ, which includes his suffering, death and resurrection has inspired millions of the faithful to devote their lives to him.

The early Church leader, the apostle Paul reminded the faithful (in Ephesians) that God had given them the spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ. We are thus given promise and hope to engage deeply a life to praise God.

As Christians, disciples of Christ, we all know in principal that we should follow the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ and become his good witness in the world. Due to personal weakness and worldly temptations, we find it difficult to follow Christ and focus our life in God. What apostal Paul shared with the Christian community in Ephesians is very encouraging. He reiterated that all the believers are the children of God, who come at a great price, and we are given spiritual blessings from God through Christ. For our lives, we are given promise and hope. This is a life of praising God and bringing Him glory.

God has wisdom and knowledge. Through Christ, God builds up the wholeness of human beings and the Church, the body of Christ. The apostle Paul regarded the Church as a goal in God’s plan.

We, as disciples of God, are called to take up God’s calling and his plan with responsibility. Epiphany is to reveal Christ. Therefore, we need to do our best to reveal the light of Christ to the world, by bringing love and care to the needed. God has given us strengths through the Holy Spirit to overcome all kinds of difficulties and barriers.

Christians, individually and collectively as a Church, are called to fulfill God’s plan in Christ. As reiterated by the apostle Paul, “In Christ we have obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of Him who accomplished all things according to His counsel and will, so that we, the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of His glory.” (Eph 1:11-12)

Conclusion

Epiphany is more than a celebration of the Magis’ visit to the young Jesus. The star leads each of us to embrace the gift of Christ.

This is a time we remember and engage our life in the promise of Epiphany. This is also a time we remember that Jesus Christ reveals himself with his full identification as a human being. Jesus’ forgiving and sacrificing love brings us new life and hope. The suffering and pain of the innocent people, and those who have been fighting for social justice and freedom in human history, manifest Christ Himself.

The price of salvation and human liberation is high. The grace given by God through Christ is never cheap. It is worthy of our active response and commitment to God’s calling to be Christ followers, real “God’s children” to reveal and embrace his light and glory on earth.

At the beginning of the year, we are challenged to follow faithfully God’s leading in our life, and to serve the Church. It is a time when we are asked to prepared for the joys and risks of accepting the call to live into God’s unfolding vision of wholeness through the life of Christ.

The liturgical color for Epiphany is white. White symbolizes newness and hope.

May we start the year of 2011 with a hope that is deeply engaged in the love and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us pray:

We praise You, Holy One, for visions of Your loving ways.
Stir our hope and fill us with courage to imagine how we might journey in the paths You illuminate with the brilliance of the Christ child in the year to come.
Amen.

# posted by Heddy Ha : Monday, January 10, 2011

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