A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 31 March 2013 by
the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that day were Isaiah
65:17-25 and Luke 24:1-12.
you, sisters and brothers from One Body in Christ, for sharing with us this
is a special time when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus who died on the
year, our Easter drama does not focus on the traditional narrative of the empty
tomb in Jesus’ resurrection story. It tried to share the vision of a new heaven
and earth taken from Isaiah instead.
this new heaven and earth, people’s basic needs are met. They are given houses
to live, food to eat. People are given fair share for their labour. Children
and old people, the lowly of the society are well protected and taken care of. Animals
and human beings live together in harmony. Hierarchical relationship is
challenged and reformulated as it is shared in the vision from Isaiah 65 that
we heard this morning.
the procession, we brought forth five items, the first was a bowl of fruits – this
represents the source of life and God’s provision to his people to satisfy
their basic needs. With a grateful heart, people of God returns to God.
animal toys presented were used to show the harmonious and restored
relationship of all creatures.
other three symbols we took this morning also indicated the true meaning of
Easter as well.
Cross with lilies – cross is a symbol of pain and suffering. It is a symbol of
shame and humiliation. The lilies symbolized that Jesus’ suffering and pain is
transformed into hope, his death is transformed into new life through
–The stone at the entrance of the tomb was rolled out. An empty tomb signifies
liberation -- people of God are no more enslaved by the power of death and
darkness, but are set free from oppression and unjust treatment.
last item, a Jug of Water – water is a symbol for tears. In Jesus’ pain, he
takes away the tears of those who suffer. Because Jesus overcomes the power of
the death and is risen, the tears is then transformed from pain to joy.
the drama prepared by One Body In Christ this morning, I noticed one
interesting arrangement. The savior, who represents Jesus, goes to give food to
the laborer, love and comforts to the weeping woman, friendship to the little
rabbit and set free the man who was kept in a prison of isolation and
suppression, is a woman. Macy has taken up this role.
Christ, redeemer of the world was a man in history. But interestingly:
son of God, savior of humanity and the world was born by a woman.
son of God, savior of humanity and the world, whose resurrection was witnessed
by women first. (Luke 24:1-12)
Jesus’ time, women did not have high status as the society was still a male
dominated society. But God chose women to become his first partner to fulfill
his salvation plan.
gives to people, especially to those who regard themselves as less important,
less capable, less valuable and worthy of love, a new way to look at
came to the world to save everyone. His death and resurrection is for all.
Everyone is embraced by the love of God. We are all equal.
this special time of Easter, we keep remembering the death and resurrection of
Jesus. But we do not just remember the old details, but to share new insights
and fresh perspectives. It thus enables us to remember what a challenge it
still is to look death in the face and trust that ‘Jesus is risen’.
sisters and brothers, what is it in Easter’s narrative that you most remember
and that you most trust? What is it in Easter’s narrative that would give you
new life and new possibilities?
God of new life,
may your resurrection,
and your breathing again,
anchor us in
hope once more.
Dare our minds
to dream again,
beyond what this world offers
renewed and reborn.
God of new possibilities,
faith to believe that
mysteries beyond our knowing.
to trust ourselves as we trust in you.
Empower us to
act with courage as in you,
May the new
heaven and new earth that brings
dwells in us
and this world.
Thank you Lord, for the power of life and loving
A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 3 March 2013 by
the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that day were Psalm
63: 1-8 and Luke 13:1-9.
you for your steadfast love. May your word inspire us to understand the mystery
of life and the Holy Spirit leads us to experience the power of love in Christ.
the word of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, my
God, God of compassion and liberation. Amen.
recent hot air balloon blast that killed nineteen people, nine of them from Hong Kong, has shocked the world and many people in our
city. The incidence is so near to us. Many people are very upset as we have
witnessed such a terrible and fatal accident.
son of one of the woman victims from Hong Kong,
challenges God of his love and care to his people. This man asked some very
critical and provocative questions: “how can a God be caring as her mother who
is a faithful Christian was not saved?”
didn’t God help? Where is God’s love and kindness in the midst of a disaster?
These are very common questions asked by people who have suffered from
tragedies, directly or indirectly.
am also a bit disturbed by this tragedy. This incidence reminded me of my
brother’s sudden death after a car accident.
from and disconnection with our loved ones is very heart breaking to people who
faced the harsh reality of death.
Accidents happen every day. People die and are seriously injured in
different kinds of accidents and natural disasters every day. These unexpected
incidents do create great hardship to victims and their loved ones. The Lamma
boat crash last October was another example.
Psalm 63 that we heard this morning is very comforting and timely. The poem has
touched on the hope to see God in the sanctuary, it is a sincere praise to God
for her steadfast love, and a recognition of God’s loving presence in times of
63 reveals the Psalmist’s hope to see God in the sanctuary, and his awareness
that God is with him wherever he is. From the context, biblical scholars inform
us that the Psalmist was living in a tough living environment and life trial.
But with the hope and faith on God’s full presence in his life, he could bear
life with courage.
Psalm 63, verse 3a is a very unique phrase. It says - “God, your steadfast love
is better than life”
life important to human beings? If we don’t live and lose our breath, we are
dead. Why did the Psalmist say to God – your steadfast love is better than life?
I read the newspaper about the hot air balloon accident, I noticed that a
Briton named Michael Rennie survived after he jumped out from the balloon
before it exploded. Mr Rennie saved his life, but he lost his wife Yvonne
Rennie. According to the news report, Michael kept silent after the accident
and refused to talk. Very likely he is very upset and he may not feel the joy
of survival. It is not hard to imagine that he is in deep grief as his dear
wife died and separated from him permanently. The death of his wife could be a
torture to him. A life of loneliness and guilt could be very terrible to him.
phrase: God’s steadfast love is better than life, has given us insight.
face of unpredictable life circumstances and the reality of pains, suffering
and death in the human world, our hope is rooted in a firm belief and
determination to focus our life in the steadfast love of God. There is one
truth, in the oneness of God, we are all connected in life and in death because
God is eternal.
years ago, my brother died three days after he crashed in
a traffic accident. Although he is no longer a living human being on earth, I
feel his presence whenever I turn to God and her eternal love. It is only after
his death, I began to realize how God loved my brother and guided him to engage
in a rich earthly life that related to me and others.
My brother was a very good photographer. When our family tidied up his
boxes of possessions after his death, we discovered a lot of beautiful photos
he took from Tibet
and Mount. Everest. Although he was not a Christian, he had used his talents to
manifest God’s beautiful creation. I was amazed by the wonders and holiness
revealed by many of his photos.
I was deeply connected with him at that moment when we shared the
natural beauty which I believe is from God, the creator.
All lives are created by God. All lives are connected in and with God.
Therefore when we live in God, we are able to connect to other lives who are
also God’s creation.
sincerely pray and hope that Mr Michael Rennie and people who are facing
similar life challenges, will affirm the love of God and become more aware of
God’s presence in their life in every moment and every places. With this belief
and understanding, they will find that their loved ones are not far away from
them. Quite to the contrary, they are closely tied in the web of life.
move to look at the gospel reading today.
passages taken from Gospel Luke and Psalm today seem quite different and
contradictory in looking at God’s image.
Psalm 63, God is a god of steadfast love and her presence gives hope and peace
to the people. In Luke, it emphasizes God’s judgment on human sins.
scriptures we heard from Luke 13:1-9
passage with a fig tree metaphor, is a reminder of the urgency to turn to God
and to reconnect with her: the God of eternity and God of love and kindness.
Jews in the ancient Israelite community had a traditional understanding about
sins. Those who were suffering from tragic accidents or terrible treatment, it
was because the person or family or community concerned sinned. They believed
this was the judgment and punishment of God to them.
Jesus said otherwise. He explicitly told the people the importance of
you repent, you will perish just as they did”
had urged the people of his time to repent. Jesus had a strong sense of urgency
and he wished God’s people would sin no more but turn to God and to bear fruit
to bring out the richness of life.
warned the people in his time and to us today: repent and turn to God. What does repent mean?
repent is not merely to regret things we have done or to apologize for them or
to recognize wrong has been done. Repentance is not an emotion.
is turning to God and refocus our life in God. In the context of the Gospel,
such a turning involves responding to Jesus’ teaching, his life, suffering and
also points to a reorientation to a new life. It involves an agreement to a
change of direction that is required. This change will help the person to bear
fruit so that lives would be enriched.
key reflection of the Lenten season is to return to God and refocus our life in
God by remembering once again the suffering, pain and death of Jesus Christ.
is also a prime time for us to reflect on how Jesus’ pain and suffering related
to our life and our world today.
was mercilessly nailed on the cross. He suffered a lot. But he did not suffer
and die for no reason. His suffering revealed his identification with human
brokenness. His pains had shown his great compassion with those who are in deep
sorrow and grief. I firmly believe that Jesus Christ dwells in those who are
suffering in great pain from the balloon accident and other similar tragedies.
When we share the sorrow and grief of the victims, we are then all connected in
God and in love.
metaphor of the fig tree gives us one important message today. God has an
expectation from us. God would like her people to bear fruits like Jesus. This
demand is out of love. When a tree can bear fruit, its life would be much more meaningful
caretaker of the tree has done her best to nurture the fig tree which is weak and
bears no fruit. May we learn from this caretaker to share the gospel of love
with those who are in need of support and nutrition to heal and to grow, so
that they may bear fruits in their life?
the tragic hot air balloon accident, we realize once again:
is fragile and unpredictable. The length of life is out of our control. Jesus’
call to repent and seize the day to bear fruits by leading a meaningful life is
like a bell rang aloud today. It is a call of urgency.
steadfast love is ever present in our life. And yet, it is up to us whether we
recognize and affirm her love. It is our willingness to seek her full presence
and her guidance in our lives that lead us to a life of love that may bear
fruits for her glory.
and brothers, if you are still thinking to wait for another time and another
chance to make changes in your life, it may be wise to wake up and take action
the love of God empower you and give you strength. Amen