A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 11 March 2012 by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that day were Exodus 20:1–17; Psalm 19: 1–10 and John 2:13–22.
God of love and life, may your Holy Spirit inspire us and be with us. May the word of my mouth and the mediation of my heart be acceptable to you, my rock and my redeemer.
Natural laws and social laws
Today is a sad day when we are here to commemorate the 1st anniversary of the Fukushima disaster. The earthquake, tsunami and the subsequent nuclear radiation have shocked Japan and the world. It is heart breaking to see so many people lost their loved ones and their homes. Many individuals and families are still recovering from the trauma. The nuclear radiation crisis is still a threat to many people in Japan and all over the world.
The lectionary readings today are timely reminder and comforts for us and many when Japan and the world are commemorating the first anniversary of Fukushima disaster.
The reading taken from Psalm 19 today is beautiful and enriching. The psalmist shared with us the beautiful and almighty creation by God. Through the natural laws, we are reminded that the whole creation was made by God who is the source of all life.
“The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1) Nature has revealed to us the glory of God. If we say the earthquake and the Tsunami are telling the glory God, how do we make sense of it?
But how do we comprehend God’s glory when we witnessed the natural disasters of earthquake and the tsunami which had taken thousands and thousands of human lives and homes? Many people, Christians included, asked: “Where’s God and where’s God’s mercy?”
In Latin, glory is gloria, meaning "fame, renown". This is used to denote the manifestation of God's presence. The glory of God means the presence of God. With this understanding, we will then realize one truth: God is fully present in Nature, the mother earth and with all creatures. The world is basically God’s own body. Therefore, God can never stay free from the impact of the disasters upon human beings and all living organism on earth. God’s mercy is revealed in her suffering together with the victims. Together, God is suffering with her people and the earth.
We are all children of God created in her own image. Therefore, when people in Hong Kong and in different parts of the world are sharing the sorrow and pains of the victims from Japan, somewhere somehow our compassions have revealed that God’s mercy dwells upon them. We have learnt from the media that many people have gone to support the victims and helping them to rebuild lives and homes. This is a great witness of God’s glory.
Glory in Hebrew is Kabod, meaning ‘weight or heaviness’ which indicate importance, honor and majesty.
The natural disasters give us a sign to know that before the almighty and holy God the Creator, we human beings are just little creatures. We have nothing to be proud of. Human beings should always live a humble life and never try to use our wisdom to control and manipulate Nature. Human being needs to respect God’s creation by taking good care of her.
Japan has been one of the richest and most modernized countries, within an hour, all the success and glory of men and women were all gone.
Glory in Greek --- Doxa, originally means judgment and opinion. I am always being careful and critical to interpret any disaster as God’s punishment to people for their wrong doings. I would rather take natural disasters as an opinion and revelation of God for human beings to better understand God, including her/his will and Jesus’ salvation.
The natural law helps us to understand God’s creation from chaos and from her loving presence. The religious and social laws through God’s commandments help God’s people to lead a righteous life to His/Her delight.
While earthquake and tsunami may still be a mystery to understand, the crisis and threat of nuclear radiation is definitely a human made disaster. The nuclear crisis is definitely the cost and price human beings must pay by themselves.
The religious and social laws shared in Psalm 19 and the Exodus 20:1-17 enlighten us to recognize another aspect of God: God is taking care of human beings and hope that they will lead a joyful and harmonious life in community.
From the Ten Commandments, the Lord has instructed his people to acknowledge the gifts of life by honoring our mothers and fathers. The Lord demands his chosen people to respect live by killing no one. The Lord also warned his people not to be greedy by taking other people’s wife and possessions. The massive nuclear power plants in Japan and many different parts of the world have posed a critical and serious challenge to people nowadays. The risk of nuclear power plant has posed risk and dangers to human life and health, as well as the natural environment due to its high level of radiation. The demand on observing Sabbath Day has also reminded his people to honor God’s creation, and to strike a balance of work and rest. It implies the needs of restoring lives and it is an indication of respecting lives and nurturing lives which are gifts given by God. God told his people not to worship other idols but only God. Idols could be power and money, status and position. In our world we are living today, good performance and success are commonly valued qualities, many people, Christians included, are worshipping idols but not the divine God of life and love. From the Fukushima Disaster and our day to day life, we need to have a deep reflection and confession on this.
In the gospel reading taken from John, we saw an angry Jesus who turned away the money changers and people doing business in the temple. He was angry because the Jews had used the Temple in a disrespectful way. The Temple was no more a place to honor and praise God, but a tool for many people’s own interests.
Jesus took a radical move to cleanse the temple, to keep God’s house for God. By doing so he knew that he had to make a personal sacrifice. He was prepared to do that. That’s why he used his own body and his own life to represent the temple which would be destroyed but rebuilt in three days.
God’s divine and righteous anger is at work in Jesus. In our times when the mother earth is being used violently and destroyed by excessive exploitations, God’s divine and righteous anger is at work in the environmentalists. The Hong Kong Alliance Against Nukes is one of the campaigners against nuclear energy. We as church, as person like Jesus, and as a collective faith community, let us turn to God with a grateful heart, and to share Jesus’ anger on ungodly acts works against God’s world and God’s community. With courage, let us make a bold step to take up Jesus’ mission to restore God’s world to nurture and embrace lives.
To challenge and speak up against unjust power and wealth distribution, and seek for justice and peace to all especially to those who have less resources to protect themselves.
Jesus shared God’s anger and suffering. Do we share the same concerns and feeling with God through Jesus Christ?
Thank you God for the word and the beautiful world you have created. Thank you for sending you child Jesus to give new life and to transform the world. May you strengthen our heart to love you and your creation. May your word remind us once again that
You are the source of all lives and the world is yours. Lead us to serve you faithful by becoming your true disciples to bring your love, hope and peace to the world.