A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 29 January 2012 by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that day were Psalm 111 and Mark 1:21-28.
May your word inspire us through the Holy Spirit. May our life be transformed by your love and strengthened by your holy presence. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
On and off, there have been brothers in Christ asking me the question, ‘do you believe in evil spirit and curse’. They shared with me that evil spirit is powerful and strong, it is a very prevalent phenomenon in their countries.
Many people, regardless of their religious backgrounds, refer to evil spirit as a destructive force that brings bad luck and harsh life to a person. Some people would say they are under attack by the evil spirit when they are facing hardship in their lives such as losing their jobs, health and marriage at the same time. All in all, many bad things happened at the same time. Some people will boil the leaves of the Chinese grape fruit with water and then use it to clean themselves. They believe that their bad luck will then be washed away.
Friends, have you ever experienced bad lucks in your life that bring you hardship? Do you believe in evil spirit and curse?
From what has been written in the scripture according to Gospel Mark 1, it is difficult to deny the existence of the evil spirit. Isn’t it?
A man in the synagogue was controlled by an evil spirit (the Good New Bible; unclean spirit for the New Revised Standard Version) Jesus demanded the spirit to come out of the man. One of Jesus’ ministries on earth was to cast out the evil/ unclean spirit, the demons.
Unclean/evil spirit is a name given by Judaism to name the demons. Unclean in the Old Testament means ‘evades the control of the divine holiness and banishes humans from God’s presence’. Any force that alienates a person from God and from others is evil.
In the New Testament, taken from Matthew 16:23, Jesus foretold his suffering, death and resurrection to Peter, Peter warned him not to do it as it was forbidden by God. Jesus replied to Peter with strong words: ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
Satan or evil spirit is a power that keeps us away from the life of God, the will of God and the service to God.
It is demonic or evil if our lives have taken us away from God the Holy One. It is the work of the evil spirit if we are compelled to lose our faith in God. It is the power from the evil spirit to take away a person’s self confidence and self respect. It is demonic if people are not able to live a life with dignity according to the holy image created in us by God.
Evil spirit or unclean spirit or demonic power, whatever we call it, it is not something so mysterious and not something totally beyond our understanding. We can name it and cast it out from our life.
The evil spirit could be an unloving heart to ourselves and others. I have known some people who had been abused or maltreated by parents during their childhood, and they are now rejecting themselves. Their self image is low and they cannot affirm themselves. The evil spirit works in them to deprive them of their self respect and self assurance.
Jesus Christ, who is a liberator determined to redeem the captives, will vigorously demand the evil spirit to stop and leave the person alone.
Jesus is the holy one of God because he is God’s son. He carries the image of God. He cares for the life of people. As proclaimed by the Psalmist in 111, the Lord is gracious and merciful. His righteousness endures forever. The Lord cares for the whole well being of every person. In Jesus’ social ministry, he had cast out demons, the evil spirit, in order to set the person in chains free. To cast out the unclean spirit signified Jesus’ redemption to human kinds. Jesus’ mission was to set people free from all kinds of bondages and control.
In another context, the evil spirit is the destructive force that takes away our faith and courage. The evil spirit leads us to give up our hope to change and the courage to act. The unclean spirit may say to us: ‘give up la, whatever you do is in vain because you are not good enough’. If you are in this situation, Jesus Christ has demonstrated his power to us to silent the evil and demanded it to get out from you.
Sisters and brothers in Christ, believe in Jesus Christ that we are given the authority to cast out the evil spirit from us. Whenever you are in a state of fear or self blaming or Satan has taken away your inner peace, have the courage to confront it! As promised by the word of God, there is no fear in love (1 John 4:18)
The Hong Kong Christian Council has designated today as Social Concern Sunday. To relate to the theme of today’s sermon on evil spirit, we can articulate the evil spirit from a social aspect. And I would call it social evil.
The structural greed and corruption of the establishment and people who have power have created great damage to the poor and the weak. The extreme wealth gap in different part of the world is the social evil that Christians and the Church have to confront.
Jesus’ casting out of evil spirit reminded us of our role and responsibility to stand against social evil in our times. We have to learn from Jesus to speak against injustice and demonstrate our solidarity with the poor and the persecuted. The evil power would try all means to keep the people, the system and the world away from God’s justice and compassion. They may use force to silent those who have conscience. They may discourage God’s people and tell them to give up because the system is too powerful to resist. But Jesus Christ who has the authority over evil spirit will win.
We are given great hope in Christ as we know that Jesus has the authority, the divine power, to send the evil spirit away. But we know life is never been easy and smooth even we are Christians.
The evil spirit who knows that Jesus Christ is the holy one of God will fight and struggle all along. Look at the scene when Jesus rebuked the evil spirit and called him out of the man. The evil spirit was struggling by shaking the man and crying with a loud voice. The actions taken by the evil spirit are very symbolic. It tells one important fact: the evil spirit will not just leave the person with cooperation. The evil spirit always struggles to stay on and retain its power. Therefore we need to be prepared for the struggles with the evil spirit at all times.
Another interesting description on the casting out of the evil spirit is that the evil spirit was not destroyed, he just left temporarily. Therefore, the evil spirit may come back to attack us and the world.
As human beings we have to know well that our life may go back and forth. There are times we are doing well and staying close to God, the source of power and life. However, there are times when we are not doing so well. We may be tempted by the evil spirit to go astray. But Jesus Christ our Lord never forsakes us. He calls us to return to God and repent. The great promise from Jesus Christ is that he has the authority to cast out the evil spirit from us and bring us back to God, the source of love and life, hope and peace.
We need to keep watch. We have to be alert and use the authority given to us by Jesus to stand firm against the power of Satan. Our resistance to the evil spirit makes us strong and powerful.
Sisters and brothers in Christ, always say no to the evil spirit, stay away from it and stay close to God, God of love and compassion, holy and almighty. Do remember that Jesus Christ our Lord has cast out the demons. The resurrection of Jesus Christ has given us great hope. The power of life is stronger than the power of death. The power of light has overcome the power of destruction. In the light of Christ, there is no darkness. Jesus has sided with the righteous whom God has stood for.
It is true that though there is a constant struggle between the evil spirit and the holy spirit: the struggles between the light and the darkness. If we have courage in us, believing in the authority of Jesus Christ and use it to confront evil power like Jesus, we will win the battle. We will then no longer be bothered or enslaved by bad lucks, curse or whatever evil spirit that try to attack us. In Christ, we are a free person to live with faith, hope, love, and peace. Amen.
A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 15 January 2012 by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that day were 1 Samuel 3:1-21 and John 1:43-51.
May Your Word enlighten us to know you more deeply. May the Holy Spirit help to transform our lives to become more loving and more faithful to Your call. May the word of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, our Creator and our Savior. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
Today I would like to share with you a message on God’s calling.
To Christians, God’s calling is something familiar. Christians have been told once and again that we are called by God. God calls us to become his children and his disciples through Christ. In God’s creation, we are called his children. In God’s Kingdom, we are called to repent, and we are called to bring peace and reconciliation (2 Cor 5:17-21), and to witness the life and faith of Christ.
All the above would be something abstract and distant if it were spoken to somebody and not to us. If I ask you today, “What is God’s calling in your life?” What would be your answer?
God’s calling is about ‘partnership with the faithful’.
We have just started the season of Epiphany. The liturgical color of green has reminded us this particular season of the church calendar.
Epiphany comes from the Greek word ‘epiphaneia’ or ‘theophaneia’, meaning ‘appearance’ or ‘manifestation’. Epiphany reveals the divine presence of God through human flesh in Jesus Christ.
In the season of Epiphany, we are reminded and prompted to learn once again the life of Jesus and his ministry on earth. Jesus was called by God the Father, to engage himself to transform the world and to bring to humanity the new life of love, hope and peace.
Jesus was called by God. In his ministry on earth, he called others to serve as his disciples to work with him together for God’s Kingdom. In Jesus Christ, we know that God does not work alone. God is a God of partnership
The readings we heard today, from the Old Testament of 1 Samuel 3:1-20 and the New Testament of Gospel John 1:43-51, God has called his people to work together in the history of humanity.
Samuel, the great prophet of the Israelite was called to speak for God to his chosen people, the Jews. Jesus called the first disciples for his ministry of healing, teaching and preaching. From the gospel readings, we knew Jesus called Andrew, Peter, Philip and Nathanael to follow him.
God’s calling is about ‘partnership with the faithful’.
God’s calling is about love and compassion.
In the book of Samuel, the prophet Samuel was an influential God’s servant whom God had chosen. But his life and story began with a woman, Hannah, her mother. Hannah was a barren woman who bore no child at the beginning of her marriage. She was very upset and depressed. She did not, however, lose her faith. She kept on praying to the Lord for a child. Eventually God gave to her a son, this was Samuel. Hannah was thankful to God and in return she offered this first born child to God and left him in the temple to serve God.
God called Samuel to become his servant and to serve as a prophet to the Israelites. God’s calling to a great leader of the Israelite community began with God’s compassion to a faithful woman who was in need of a child to save her life.
I remember a couple who had a strong wish to have their own child. But unfortunately they couldn’t have it. They tried artificial insemination without success. Eventually they gave up and they decided to adopt a baby girl.
The baby girl turned out to be a blessing to the couple as her presence had redeemed their marriage which was at the brink of breaking up.
For the child, the parents were a blessing to her in return. She was abandoned by her biological parents. But she was redeemed by God through this couple. The couple became her adopted parents giving her love and care.
We may say God has called this couple to love and care for this baby girl who has been abandoned by her biological parents. But it was God’s love falling upon them in the first place. God knew their needs. God knew that they had longed for a child so desperately.
God’s calling is about love and compassion. God’s calling is to fulfill the need of his beloved children.
God’s calling is about our passion completed in God and for God.
Jesus called Philip to follow him when he was in Galilee. He took up the call from Jesus because he found that Jesus was the messiah of the Israelites that he and many other Jews were longing for. Philip had heard about Jesus from his friends: Peter and Andrew who came from the same town of Bethsaida.
Philip responded to Jesus’ call positively because he knew what he wanted. He was looking for a messiah to restore his nation and to serve his people.
We must know our passion and desire. Only when we are able to know ourselves are we able to take up the call from God.
Philip’s friend – Nathanael, has given us another interesting perspective on God’s calling. When Nathanael was told about Jesus by Philip, he did not respond positively. He had a kind of discrimination again Jesus because he came from Nazareth, a city which was not so respected in Jesus’ time. Nathanael was transformed when he realized that he was known and understood by Jesus. Nathanael was impressed by Jesus by what he said about him. Jesus described him as a ‘man of no deception’. Jesus explained that he knew it because he saw him under the fig tree. With reference to a commentary, the author shared that in the ancient time of Israel, a fig tree was a symbol of peace and wholeness. A man under a fig tree reflected that he was a spiritual person who prayed and longed for peace and care for his people. Nathanael was moved by Jesus’ understanding of him and his deep passion for his nation. He immediately recognized Jesus as the Son of God and the king of Israel.
God’s calling is about our passion completed in God and for God.
I have completed four year of service in KUC since I started in 2007.
When I was looking for a ministry after my graduation from the Chung Chi Divinity, I prayed to God that I wished to work in a ministry which could give me wider exposure to people from diverse backgrounds. I prayed to God also that I wished to do something more international and serve marginalized and vulnerable people. God answered my prayer. God knew my desire and passion. He thus led me to KUC and helped me to engage in this church to serve.
God’s calling is linked to our inner desire and passion. Therefore, sisters and brothers, it is important to know our inner desire and passion in life and communicate to God with courage.
Today is the birthday of a great civil rights Christian leader --- Martin Luther King. Revd King had dedicated his life to end racial segregation and racial discrimination. He had a strong passion to bring about a world of love and peace where people embrace one another with respect and equality. He had a noble dream in which no men and women should be discriminated nor excluded because of their race. He had faithfully taken up the call of God to advocate for a world where all God’s children love one another without hatred and discrimination.
Revd King had paid a great cost for his service to God and to the world. He was assassinated on the 4th April 1968. But his life had brought glory to God. His inner passion went hand in hand with God’s will and calling. He was God’s faithful servant who had taken partnership with God to heal the broken world and to transform the lives of many.
In our Christian confession of faith, we believe in the communion of saints. May the spirit of Martin Luther King inspire us today to rethink about and respond to God’s calling.
Sisters and brothers, at the beginning of 2012, I invite you to think seriously the question I asked of you right at the beginning of my sermon -- “What is God’s calling in your life?” My blessing to you all is to live a life to fulfill God’s calling in you, with the help of our Lord Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 1 January 2012, First Sunday After Christmas, by the Rev. John Le Mond. The scripture readings that day were Isaiah 61:10—62:3; Galatians 4:4-7 and Luke 2:22-40.
There was a man named Simeon
Who was righteous and devout
He was waiting for the consolation of Israel
The comforting of Israel
Sometimes we refer to the Holy Spirit as the “comforter”
This is part of the nature of God
The one who consoles
In this case, the one who consoles was the Messiah
The one who would not only console
But who would save the people.
We know what happened to Simeon
We know that he did meet the consoler.
We know this because we have read the story in Scripture;
But in Simeon’s own lifetime
He did not know if he would actually ever meet the savior of Israel
He had been promised that this would happen,
But he must have had doubts
And so he did not know
If he would be able continue faithfully to the end or not.
He was an old man
Would he live long enough
To meet this special one?
Still, he came to the temple every day
Expecting to see the comforter
He was always ready
Maybe it would be today.
There was also the prophetess Anna
She had been a widow for more than 60 years
And she devoted herself to fasting and praying in the temple.
She also was near the end of her life
Yet she came to the temple every day
Expecting to meet God.
She did not know exactly how God would meet her
But she knew that it would happen…eventually
Simeon and Anna are important figures in Scripture
Not because they spent a lot of time with Jesus
But because represent for us
That same expectation that we have in our hearts
That same desire to see God…face to face
And they did see God face to face.
They were among the first to recognize Jesus as the consoler, the comforter
The one promised to Israel.
Luke tells us that Simeon was righteous and devout
But we can only imagine what living a righteous and devout life
Might have been like for Simeon:
Here was a person who waited patiently for a savior
Yet never seeing that savior.
Coming to the temple every day
And going home disappointed each evening.
It was not so much that others might have laughed at him for his naiveté
But the psychological and emotional struggle within himself
Must have been dreadful.
Still, Simeon waited…and looked
So imagine…imagine how Simeon felt when he went into the temple that day
Imagine what it was that he saw!
Actually, what he saw was another couple and their baby
Nothing more, really.
There were hundreds like them
Coming for a blessing in the temple.
They certainly didn’t see themselves as special
They were quite ordinary…and so was their baby
Yet, at the same time…Simeon recognized something more
In fact, he experienced something more…much more
As soon as he came into the presence of Joseph, Mary and Jesus,
Into the presence of this seemingly ordinary child,
He knew who Jesus was.
He knew that Jesus was not just any child
Simeon had memorized the passage from Isaiah
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. (Isaiah 62:3)
These words were in human form before him that day.
Simeon had come face to face with the God of his fathers and mothers
He was looking into the face of the savior God
How could this be so?
He had expected something more
A blinding light, perhaps
A real crown upon the head of the consoler, the savior of his people
Still, there could be no doubt
Here was the comforter
An ordinary baby
In the arms of an ordinary couple
On an ordinary day,
Just like all the others that Simeon had seen come and go.
It had happened so unexpectedly.
Where do we expect to find the consoler?
Today, the world is a religious marketplace
Different ideas about religion are all around us.
Who will we believe?
What will we believe?
Will we be ready when we do in fact meet the consoler?
I remember a conversation I had with a woman a few years ago
About experiencing the presence of God in our daily lives.
She was the only Christian in her family
And none of the people she worked with were Christians.
There were times when she felt alone in her faith
Waiting, longing for the presence of God.
And yet, she said, it was always amazing to her
That when she needed someone to encourage her
God always provided someone,
And it was often surprising just who God chose to encourage her
Sometimes a Christian friend…and they could come together and pray for each other.
Sometimes it was a family member or a neighbor
But sometimes it was someone who was neither a family member nor a neighbor
Sometimes it was a complete stranger
Someone who was not a Christian…who knew nothing about Jesus Christ.
But for her, there was one thing that was always the same
In each of these encounters
When consolation and encouragement were needed
She knew and believed that it was God who consoled her.
Looking back over her life, she said
Most of the situations in which she had experienced consolation were so ordinary
There were no clear religious signs that God was present
Except that…she was comforted
That was the clear sign for her
Jesus continues to take on human form in our world today
And to meet us in the most unexpected, ordinary ways
Sometimes carried in the arms of a young, newly married couple
Sometimes to be present to us in the familiar face of a friend
Sometimes in the touch of a total stranger
Perhaps even in the experience we have with someone we consider an enemy
Jesus continues to enter our lives in such ordinary, human ways
So, like Simeon and Anna, we also wait
Wait for the unexpected
Knowing, believing that our Lord is coming to us
And our Lord does come to us
And we are ready to be surprised.
Where will we meet the consolation of God?
Today, we begin the year 2012
And today Jesus continues to be for us Emmanuel
The Lord with us
Along with Simeon and Anna we wait to see the Lord
We wait for the one who will console and comfort us
Who will touch us, speak to us, walk with us
And with our world
Along with Simeon and Anna we also welcome Jesus into our lives today
Not really expecting to meet God in such ordinary ways
But knowing that it will happen:
As we walk into the church to worship
As we walk into our place of work or study
As we enter the our home
As the door of the bus or the MTR opens to us
We also expect to meet the savior.
And along with Anna, we praise God to all who will listen. Amen.