Reflections...

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

"What have we done"



A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 9 June 2013 by Roy Njuabe. The scripture readings that day were 1 Kings 21:1–10 and Luke 7:36—8:3.


Let us pray: In difficult time in our lives we hear your words, in joyful moments we hear your words, Lord open our ears that we may hear and our hearts that we may believe and our hands that we may do. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you O Lord. Amen

Introduction:
When the doors of your life seems closed down, when your life seems desecrated, when you have no hope for the future, when everything in your life seems moving towards the wrong direction, the question you will often asked yourself is, what have I done to deserve all this bad luck, or in other words, why me? At some scenario you may blame yourselves concluding that may be you are the cause of your misfortune or as some Christians may put it “all these hardship in your life is because of your sin”. In 1 king Chapter 21 we read a story about a widow and her son in a difficult situation. When her situation deteriorated and her son died, she quickly link her son`s death to her sin as she said to Elijah, “have you come here oh man of God to remind me of my sin and kill my son?

The gate to our future may be closed, what we want to become is not what we are today, our dreams and hopes seems blare and we are entangled in all kinds of worries.

Sometime we simply ignore the closed gate and climb over the gate or a take a short cut into our future, but at times we work hard to open the gate so that we may walk straight into our dreams.

However to open this gate may be the toughest thing in our lives. More to that we don`t even know what is on the other side of the gate. It might be a blessing or it might be another huddle.

It was in 2006 when I once in my life thought there was nothing calls hope at all, that the gate to my future was completely shot down. At that time there was nothing more than just a single voice which keeps telling me day after day after day after day that “Roy your life is useless, you have no future just turn into an alcoholic and forget about life”. The society rejected us, discrimination was our breakfast and the water we drink was a cup of hate, as every morning when we wake up from sleep what we can see are people who will let you know that you are not welcome here. The media vandalized our image so that the society may regard us as those people against them. At that time there was little or no voice speaking for us or in other words speak in favor of asylum seekers and refugees.

My life, our lives were like people living in a jungle at the middle of a city.
I often asked myself many questions? One of the question was “What have we done to be treated as such”.

Just a few questions for you to think about!

Have you ever once in your life live in a situation where you lost all hope, nobody even dare to tell you there is hope in life and that your last hope is to wait for the day you will die.

Have you ever look at someone with compassion and imagine that the person have all the reason to live life in it fullness and set it is well with you his or her soul and give him or her another reason to be believed that there is hope?

Scripture:
The widow whom the gospel of Luke talks about was in a horrible situation, her only source of hope is gone, the source of her well being is dead, she is left with nothing but a dead body to be buried.

To be a widow during ancient time was like living a miserable life. Widows had no right in the society; they were rejected by the very society that celebrated their wedding. Some of them were accused of being the course of dead of their husbands. Members of the society criticized them and treated them as slaves who can only eat when the masters are full. However a widow with a son somehow is treated with a bit of respect.

Gospel Luke chapter 7 pointed out a widow whose son is dead, her only hope survival. She was on her way to bury her son and the Luke told us that the crowd was with her, may be sympathizing with her or laughing at her. The widow`s life was desolate and she was all alone in her family. But her encounter with Jesus at the gate turns her life around. Luke told us that Jesus looked at her with compassion and said to her “woman don`t cry”. What an amazing comfort from our Lord Jesus Christ.  

God is always there for us, in pains and in joy, in peace and in war, He had compassion for His people, He journeys with them even in the wilderness of their lives. When you experience hardship in your life and you feel the bottom line has drop out, you thought it is finished, that there is nothing left call hope, remember that God is still with you and until He said it is finished, know that it is not yet over.

The widow thought it was over, but Jesus proof to her that it wasn`t over yet, Jesus reached out His hands and touched the bier and said to the son raise up. He took the son and gave him to his mother.

Have you lost hope in your struggle for a better future?
Have you lost hope because your child is not the best in class?
Have you lost hope because your child couldn’t be the doctor or the lawyer, the bank manager, the director you wanted him or her to be?
Have you lost hope for your asylum claim or your claim against torture (CAT)? Have you lost hope of waiting resettlement to a third country as a refugee? Know today that there is still hope, know that Jesus is at the gate waiting, he is waiting to revive your dream and rekindle your desire, to bring back that lost hope and let you dream again. There is hope in Christ Jesus.   

It has been for long that I once lost such hope, that I thought it was over, but today I stand here to testify of that, the hope is real, that when Jesus said it is not yet finish, know that it is not yet the end of your journey.

Today I stand here to testify that whenever you are rejected by people, know that your dreams, your future is still there because only God can say NO to your destiny. People can reject you, but they cannot reject your destiny because your destiny is under God`s Lordship.

Today I stand here to testify that there is the rekindle of lost hope and dreams whenever we encounter Jesus because he had compassion for us. He took care of us holistically, not only our spiritual life but also our physical being.

As a graduate from Lutheran seminary I stand here today testifying of the Goodness of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Nobody can understand the ordeal of life I went through, but the joy to life was when I walked in the light of Christ, when I realized the compassion of Jesus Christ.

The life of a refugee is a life of someone who had nothing left but his own body, whose dignity has being taken away.

How about you today, what hope have you lost? Are you looking for your lost dream, are you on the procession going to burry your only hope? You don`t have to because Christ is with you because He had compassion for you.

You can't find hope alone, someone need to be there to rekindle your hope. In Luke gospel chapter 7, Jesus gave the widow bright new smile, In 1 King chapter 21 Prophet Elijah gave the widow new reason to say truly you are a man of God.  

People can take away your smile, but they can`t take away your destiny and your dream.

Trouble, pains, worries may over take your peace, but Jesus will restore your peace.

I once lost my hope and my dream, but Jesus revive me and brought me back on track and told me it is well with your soul.

When I was young I told my mother about my dream to become a pastor. She ridiculed me and told me never to think of such dream because pastors are poor people. She wanted me to become a doctor like my elder sister or an engineer like my elder brother. At my teenage age with no right to control my dream, I followed the dream of my mother. I studied animal biology at the university. I became a veterinarian, took care of animals, yet my job gave me no happiness. When I left my country and moved to Hong Kong, I faced an ordeal of life. When I thought it was over, that my hope and dreams are like a shadow, Jesus appeared to me through people like you, through churches like KUC, proving to me that though society may reject you because of your difficulties, I am with you. Jesus was at the gate of my life, He called me into His ministry, he brought back the lost dream and vision, and He rekindles my desire to become the person He intended me to be.

I took formal theological training at Lutheran Theological seminary Hong Kong and today I am a graduate with a big mission ahead of me.
When I started my studies, I called my mother and told her about my decision to study theology, she felt so sad not because of my decision but because she felt guilty of being an obstacle to my dream and vision, she felt sad because she gave me her dream, not what God wanted me to be. However, I told her away from such guilt because it is God who decides when and how it will happen.

He allowed the son of the widow to die first before he brought him back to life. Know that God can use any means to rekindle your desire and give you a new reason to be happy again. 
 
Do not forget that in God there is still hope. Sometime you may feel that your dream is like a shadow far away as you struggle in life, but know that God who planted the dream in you will bring it back to reality. 
Troubles and difficulties may knock at your door, the gate to your future may be closed, you may ask question to challenge your existence: “what I have done”? But be aware that it is not yet over until God said it is over. Storms and hardship may overwhelm your ambitions but know that it is well with your soul because Jesus had compassion for you, He is at the gate waiting to revive your dream. Amen

Let`s end today`s sermon with this beautiful hymn “when Peace Like a river”

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, June 09, 2013

 

“Reflecting God’s Beauty in Our Living”



A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 2 June 2013, Environment Sunday, by the Rev. Judy Chan. The scripture readings that day were Genesis 1:27-31, Psalm 8 and Colossians 1:15-23.


Each year on the 1st Sunday of June, Christians around the world celebrate Environment Sunday. It’s the Sunday closest to the United Nations’ World Environment Day on June 5th. I am happy to deliver the sermon today because I know that Kowloon Union Church is a church that takes creation care very seriously. I am also happy to be preaching on Environment Sunday because it’s one of the special Sundays of Hong Kong Christian Council. We have a group called Christians for Eco-Concern, and I’m often part of a team that drafts the Environment Sunday sermon. So when Rev Phyllis asked me to preach today, I was grateful for a chance to see if our sermon really works in a church!

The theme of this year’s Environment Sunday is “Reflecting God’s Beauty in Our Living.” The idea came out a campaign our eco-concern committee hopes to carry out in the coming year. We were aiming to do something big to capture the attention of the whole Hong Kong community. Our original idea was a campaign against bottled water – we called it something like ‘Against Destructive Consumption: Stop Drinking Bottled Water’. Well, the HKCC board was interested to support us. But they wisely advised three things: one, start with the Christian community, two, expand beyond just bottled water, and three, make the focus more positive. So our committee followed their advice and we came up with a new working title “Reflecting God’s Beauty in Our Living.” The project details are still in process, and the title may change a bit, but for today, I stick to our theme of beauty.

Hans Lutz tells a story about Hong Kong children who were asked to draw a picture of something beautiful. Can you guess what most of them drew? Pictures of nature – flowers, birds, oceans, rainbows. That makes me think that there must be something innate in our DNA that connects with beauty in the natural environment, even in urban Hong Kong.

This appreciation for beauty seems to be universal, which shouldn’t be surprising if we believe that it’s God who created the beauty all around us. Remember what God said after finishing creation? In Genesis 1:31, it says: “God saw everything that he had made, and, indeed, it was very good.” Yes, God created a world that not only can sustain life, it’s an environment that’s harmonious and self-renewing and beautiful. And God has given humans the ability to appreciate the beauty that’s in the world.

I had a new appreciation for this beauty when I found out that many of the design principles used in art can be found in nature. Two of the most important principles in creating beauty are scale and proportion.

What do we mean? Scale.

Here’s a picture of a piece of jewelry. It’s a crystal necklace. Can you see the shape? It’s diamond shaped, and not just one, but a whole series of diamond shapes that make a lovely design that’s pleasing to the eye. This design is called a fractal. That means it’s a geometric shape repeated on many scales.

Well, fractals can be found in nature too. Look at this fern. Can you see how each leaflet is the same shape as the blade; and each blade is the same shape as the branch? And it’s not only in ferns. You’ll find fractals everywhere in nature– in clouds and mountains, coastlines, trees, vegetables, and even in the structure of our lungs and circulatory systems. There is probably some scientific reason why fractals exist, but certainly, they add beauty to our world. Without them, our environment would be very boring and bland.
                          
Besides scale, beauty also requires proportion. There is one famous proportion called the Golden mean. The ancient Greeks used this proportion in their art and architecture. To illustrate: this is a photo of the Parthenon. You see the red lines make rectangles based on the golden mean. The ratio of height to width is 1 to 1.6. So, if you have a rectangle 1 metre tall, it needs to be 1.6 metres wide. If it’s 100 metres tall, it needs to be 160 metres wide. This is the proportion that is most attractive to the human eye, so many designers incorporate the golden mean into their works.
                                          
We can find the golden mean already though in nature and the human body.
One of the most visible are our teeth. Our two front teeth form a golden rectangle. And the tooth next to those form another golden rectangle. So when you’re making dentures or false teeth, the proportion must be that golden mean in order to look natural.
We can also see the golden mean in the spacing of leaves, the coloring of birds and the stripes on an animal’s tail.

So beauty in God’s handiwork can be seen all over the universe. God set the standard for beauty and shared that sense of beauty with humanity so we too could enjoy the world that He made.

Yet, all this beauty in nature has an even greater purpose than our enjoyment. It’s been said that beauty is a window through which we see God. Beauty draws us to Him and teaches us about Him. Fr. Peter Cameron says:

Beauty…reveals to us that there is something more to the world than the beautiful thing itself. It leads to…wondering where the beauty came from. It would be impossible for a human being who has just received a bouquet of flowers to not reach into the flowers to find a card. The beauty of the flowers moves us to wonder about the sender. Then, when we know who sent them, we enjoy them all the more. Every act of beauty does the same to us. It moves us to find the author and the reason.

You hear this sense of wonder and awe about beauty in the Psalms:

Psalm 8: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?”

Psalm 19: “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.”

Psalm 104: “O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures….When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.”

Christians throughout the ages have continued to recognize how the beauty of creation bears witness to the glory of God.

St Augustine in the 4th century said: “Question the beauty of the earth, the beauty of the sea, the beauty of the sky… the visible things that are ruled, the invisible things that rule them; question all these. They will answer you: ‘Behold and see, we are beautiful.’ Their beauty is their confession to God. Who made these beautiful changing things, if not the one who is beautiful and changeth not?” (St. Augustine, Sermons, 241, Easter)

Rev Maltie Babcock in the 19th century expressed the same sentiment in his famous poem, “This is My Father’s World”. Babcock lived in upstate New York in the U.S. He loved to go hiking in the area with its beautiful farms and orchards. When he would go on these walks, he told his wife, “I’m going out to see my Father’s world.” Babcock suffered from depression, so being out in nature may have given him a measure of joy and peace. Hear the words of the first verse:

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world; I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.

In the 21st century, we may have less opportunity or interest in “going out to see my Father’s world”. We spend much of our time indoors. Even some days, when air pollution is severe, the government warns the public to avoid prolonged stays at the roadsides with heavy traffic or surrounded by tall buildings. But that’s where most of Hong Kong people live, work, play and go to school!

So instead of enjoying God’s beauty in the natural world, we seek pleasure in others places, like the material world with the latest gadget or designer clothes or beauty product. These fancy goods might be well-designed and beautiful in their own way. Maybe they even have fractals or the golden mean. But there are some basic differences between the beauty of a gorgeous sunset and the beauty of the latest smart phone. The sunset is created to be enjoyed by everyone, while the newest phone is created to be enjoyed by a select group. A sunset instills a sense of wonder and gratitude, while the latest phone instills a sense of pride for those who own it, and envy for those who don’t. A sunset addresses the longing of our souls for beauty in and out of this world. That cool phone? It’s meant to create an insatiable desire to consume more and more on earth to feel like we’re in heaven.

G.K. Chesterton said: “There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.” He makes a good point, but accumulating more and more doesn’t work. No matter how much we accumulate, it may never be ‘enough’ in a culture that manufactures desires to distort the yearnings of our heart. Desiring less is certainly a better strategy than accumulating more, once our basic needs have been met. But the best way to get ‘enough’ is to understand what it is we should really desire, what it is we truly lack. For most people in Hong Kong, we don’t lack for clothes or gadgets or beauty products. What we lack are clear skies, fresh air, open spaces, a healthy food supply, a clean harbor – in other words, God’s natural beauty in our daily lives.

So what can we do? Firstly, we need to open our eyes and arms to receive that beautiful bouquet called nature that’s delivered every day to every address on earth. That bouquet may not be as lovely as in the past due to our folly and neglect. But creation will not be silenced or ignored.

Secondly, we need to open the card so we can find out who is the sender and say thank you to God. We can say thank you in worship for the beauty of the earth and the glory of the skies. We can say thank you by repairing the damage that’s been done to God’s good creation. And then, we can thank you through faith in His son Jesus Christ, the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation as it says in Colossians 1:15.

Truly we are in need of faith, because on our own, we cannot save the planet. On our own, we are not courageous or powerful enough to battle the powers of sin and evil that are bent on destroying this earth and those who dwell upon it. Yet, if we believe that in Christ that everything on earth and in heaven has been reconciled with God, we will never lose hope (Col.1:19-20).

We are not alone in the fight to restore creation. As Maltie Babcock declared:

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done.
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heaven be one.
                                                  
Let us remember then that restoring creation is ultimately God’s own work in our time, in which God comes both to judge and to restore. Our calling as Christians is simply to reflect and protect God’s beauty in our daily living and life choices through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Prayer:
O Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth! May we join all creation in proclaiming Your beauty and love which we can see every day in nature all around us. We thank you for sending your Son, Jesus Christ, the firstborn of creation, who reconciles us to You, our neighbor and the created world through His precious blood. May the beauty of Your Word in Scripture guide us and the beauty of the body of Christ strengthen us that Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, June 02, 2013

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