Reflections...

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

“A life of giving in a tempting world”


A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 17 February 2013 by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that day were Deuteronomy 26:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13.


Opening prayer:

God of light, enlighten our heart to receive your word. Open our eyes, oh God, to see your vision and the Holy Spirit leads us to your truth. Amen.

Introduction

I would like to begin by sharing a real story.

It is a story about two men who are pretty well known in Hong Kong. One of them is Mr Lin Yuet Tsang (練乙錚). Lin is a current affairs commentator and a former member in the government Central Policy Unit.

When Lin was studying in secondary school and was about to graduate, he was struggling with his future. He had a strong passion and desire to study and continue his academic journey. And yet his family was too poor to support his education. He was very unhappy about it and he shared his feeling with his school principal. After his sharing with his school principal, the Father of that Catholic School referred him to see an alumni of his school. This alumni gave to Lin an envelope when he met him. Inside the envelope, there was a huge amount of money that enabled Lin to go for further study abroad. Before Lin left the alumni’s office, he said to him, “you don’t have to return the money to me. But in future if you know someone in need of money, you may use this amount of money to help that person.

This alumni is Martin Lee (李柱銘). Martin Lee is the former Chairman of the Democratic Party. Martin is a veteran political leader fighting for democracy in HK. He is a reputable barrister in the legal profession. In an interview, Martin was asked about this story as Lin wrote about it in his book. Martin shared with the interviewer that Mr Lin did not need to appreciate him. It was because he had been helped in exactly the same way by a friend of his father. When he was in need of money to go for further study, this uncle gave him the money he needed. This uncle spoke the same thing to him, “You don’t have to return the money to me. But in future if you know someone in need of money, you may use this amount of money to help that person.”

Both Mr Lin and Mr Martin Lee are two well known public figures who have demonstrated their concerns to the society of Hong Kong, and have contributed to the political and social development of Hong Kong.

A kind giving by a man has planted a good seed that carried on to the next generation. A generous giving has helped to nurture people with conscience to serve the community and to give what has been given to those who are in need of help.

We have entered into the Lent season since last Ash Wednesday. Today is the first Sunday of Lent.

Lent is a season to offer Christians a chance to reflect on our faith. It is a time to remind us of the need to repent and refocus our lives in God.

A life of giving is a key area for us to reflect today. We are also challenged by putting this Christian core faith into practice in the season of Lent. (In our congregation, an encouragement to the congregation to prepare an almsgiving box and put the money in for charity purpose is a concrete action in practicing ‘giving’)

Prayer, fasting and meditating on the word of God are inner spiritual practices of an individual and the faith community to nurture our spirit and to deepen our faith in God. All these spiritual practices aim to help us be more connected to God. Our God, is a God of love and life giving. God is fully manifested in Jesus Christ.

Lent reminds us the suffering, sacrifice and death of Jesus. He died on the cross in great pain. His identification with those who are suffering in pain has led his followers, the Christians and Church to remember and be concerned with the poor, the weak and the vulnerable.

In the Old Testament reading today, it is an old story retold once and again in the Jewish community that they are God’s chosen people. God who is their savior redeem them from slavery and free them from the bondage and oppression in Egypt. God of the Israelites takes them to a land with milk and honey. Because of God’s kind and gracious giving to the Jews, they are committed to the relationship with God by following the commandment given to them by God. The Jews are called to give with thanksgiving. They are demanded to return some portions of their gifts to God and share them with foreigners, orphans and widows. These people are representation of the vulnerable, weak and marginalized in the society.

This is the reason for many churches to designate the 1st Sunday in Lent Social Concerns Sunday.

The basis of social concern is a compassionate heart for others and a sense of justice to people who are not treated with dignity and equality.

At the beginning of the Lent season, Christ’s disciples are reminded that we are human beings connected to each other in God. Because of this connection with each other, and God’s gracious gifts to us through our ancestors and the death of Jesus who gave his life out of love, we are called to love by leading a life of giving.

We love because God first loves us. We give because God first gives to us. The commandment given to the Jews reminds them and us everything is from God.

Truly, it is not easy to lead a life of giving in the world we are living today. Like Jesus, we have been tempted in many different ways. We have been put into different kinds of tests. Our personal needs, our pride, our suspicion towards others, our desire and greed for power, influence and status, may be the barriers that make us keep things for ourselves instead of giving to others generously.

The good news from the word of God today is Jesus Christ has set an example for us that we may overcome the temptation before us. Let us learn from Jesus by focusing our live in God. By reading and putting the word of God deeply in our heart, by taking full responsibility of our own acts without blaming God of inaction, by trusting in God that in all circumstances God will be there to lead us on when we turn to God.

The life of giving is a spiritual practice.

From Martin Lee and Lin Yuet Tsang’s story, we see how the generous act of giving may impact on other people and bring goodness to a community.

Very truly both Martin Lee and his uncle have done a very good job in nurturing a caring and supportive world. Their act of generous giving has given great encouragement to us. How about then Jesus’ sacrifice of his life in order to save our lives and the whole world?

Shall we all receive this gift with gratitude and share this gift with others?
I would like to conclude my sermon by highlighting the way we should try out when we travel in Lent:

The way in Lent we travel with Christ is
-          Not what we can take, but what we can give.

The way in Lent we travel with Christ is
-          Not what we can possess, but what we can share.

The way in Lent we travel with Christ is
-          Not what we can acquire, but what we can contribute.

The way in Lent we travel with Christ is
-          Not what we can secure, but what we can give up.

Closing Prayer:
Dear God, lead us to have a meaningful Lent. May our faith be deepened, and our life be transformed by you. Help us to live a life more like Christ that may bear fruits to the world and bring glory to you. Amen.

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, February 17, 2013

 

“The Glory of God cannot be hidden”


A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 10 February 2013 by Roy Njuabe. The scripture readings that day was Luke 9:28-43.


Let us pray: O Lord, open our eyes to see your presence, open our ears to hear your voice, open our hearts to receive your love. Help us to hear and to receive you in Words that our mouths may proclaim your praise. Amen.

Introduction:
Did you once have an experience where you are at an amazing event and someone is preaching on a very interesting topic and you are so sleepy that you can`t control yourself. You tried to open your eyes but you can`t. You were really drunk at sleep. But when you wake up from your slumber, the event was almost at the end and you noticed that the atmosphere was really excited and people were curious about what they saw or heard. At that moment you did try to get a glimpse of what had happened. You turn around and ask some friends: what happened, what did he talk about? You did your best to capture a moment which may help you join the crowd.

Bible encounter:
In the gospel of Luke, Jesus took Peter, John and James and went up to the mountain. As he was praying, amazing things happens; his face became as bright as flashing of lightning, Moses and Elijah appeared in glorious splendour, talking with Jesus about his departure. However Peter, John and James were very asleep. The bible said VERY SLEEPY. When I read this text, I wonder why these guys were sleepy, was it because they were so tired after walking all the way to the top of the mountain? Or were they hungry? With the entire amazing thing happening around them; flashing of lightning, Jesus face shining; these three men Peter, John and James were VERY SLEEPY. Wow

If I may ask you today: what can make you fall asleep when you are in the presence of God in fellowship with one another; is it tiredness, or the prayer is too long, or the sermon is too long and boring, (this sermon is very short so please don`t fall asleep) or may be someone is saying something which is irrelevant to you or let’s say you are too busy that your mind is away from what is happening around you.

At one point you may wake up from your slumber, you’ve missed all the interesting part of the event or speech. Now, you are trying your best to get an idea of what had happen; sometimes it is not too late, but sometimes may be too late when the event is over and the guest speakers are leaving.

Peter, John and James, at the mountain top experience were very sleepy, they couldnt capture in full what was going on, but when they became FULLY awake, they saw His glory and two men standing with Jesus. But it was almost toward the end of the whole event, and the guest speakers Moses and Elijah were leaving. In Luke 9: 33 it says “as the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to Jesus “master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters- one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah. (Peter did not know what he was saying).

I love Peter in such situation, he is always very smart. When he woke up from sleep and saw the last part of the event, he immediately knew that something amazing had happen and his mind was like, how can I comprehend what just happened? May be keep the guest speakers to stay for one more night so that I may spend some time with them knowing what really happened. Well, as I mention, at times it may be too late, the guest speakers are leaving.
When we are in the presence of God in fellowship with one another but not fully present, we may miss out important point and when the whole event is over and we didnt fully comprehend what happen, yet we struggle to draw our conclusion or think of the best way to save the result, which at times may be different from the view of those who were listening. 

We may have similar struggles with our faith, we struggle with our faith, we sleep in our faiths, we are trying to see Jesus in different situation; this Jesus that I knew yesterday, today he is different, he answered my prayer yesterday but today I had no reply from Him. The disciples may be wondering; this Jesus who came up this mountain with a normal face, but now his face is shining. We may wonder, why our heart is so veiled from God`s word, we can’t understand.

However, in our slumber, in our confusion, Gods glory will never be hidden from us.

Peter while in his confused state of mind to build three tents, God speaks to them “This is my son, my chosen one, listen to Him”. The bible emphasized, “When he spoke these words Jesus was ALONE”.
Wow, the disciples may wonder that the whole event that happened, which they missed from the start was directed to one man, Jesus Christ.
We may miss the direction in our lives but we can never miss the voice of God, God will always reveal himself to us. However we may be stubborn to listen or follow his way. Gods glory can never be hidden from us.
   
According to some theologians;
Moses brought us the law
Elijah brought us prophesies
Jesus brought us Grace.

According to this event, the law and prophesies are gone but Grace stays.
Jesus ALONE at the end of the experience, God said “This is my son; listen to Him”.

It is not by law, it is not by prophesies, it is Grace alone that we are set free, set free from our unbelieves, set free from our slumber, set free from our sinful nature. It is all by Grace through this one person Jesus Christ.

The grace flows from the mountain top to the mountain down. 

The next day when Jesus and the disciples came down from the mountain top, the bible said a great crowd met him and a man in the crowd cried out to the Lord, in verse 38 “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child, suddenly unclean spirits are troubling him; but your disciples cannot do the job well to cast out the unclean spirit. Jesus answered, “you faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring the son here…. Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit healed the boy and gave him back to his father.
It was by Grace that this boy was healed; that the unclean spirit could leave this boy. This boy was set free from the unclean spirit by God`s Grace.
We are set free from all our unclean actions by God`s grace alone, not by our works.

But remember this, if there is one thing you may remember from this sermon, remember this, it takes faith to do Gods work. Whether small or big faith, it takes faith to do Gods work. Some people may view Pastoring as something too simple, it is not. In pasturing, you need faith. You may encounter very difficult situations, situations that are beyond your understanding. What you need is faith, faith in God, knowing that it is God in action, not you. So act boldly. In 2 Corinthians 3:12, it says “since we have such hope, (hope in Jesus) we act with great boldness”.

Therefore Paul said “Since it is by Gods mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify Gods word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing”.

Gods glory can never be hidden, however it can be hidden from those who veiled their heart. Amen 


# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, February 10, 2013

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