Reflections...

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

“The Power to Serve”

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 24 November 2013 by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that day were Psalm 46; Luke 1:68-79.


Opening prayer:

Dear God,
You are Creator of the Universe and King of the world. Open our heart God, dwell in us your holy spirit and help us to engage in your truth. May your Word enlighten and transform our lives.
May the word of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable and pleasing to you, my God, my source of strength and redeemer to all people. Amen.

Message
We heard from the reading taken from Gospel Luke 1 : 68-79 today, Zechariah, the Jewish priest in his prophetic psalm proclaimed the coming of the messiah, Jesus Christ who was sent by God to save his nation Israel (this is the second prophetic psalm amongst the three recorded in Luke – the first one by Mary and the third one by Simeon who saw Jesus in the temple)

Jesus Christ was eventually crucified by some Jews and the Roman official Pilate. Jesus had been regarded the King of the Jews. But obviously he was a suffering King who did not and could not save himself. He was even teased by the soldiers and one of the criminals handing next to him.

This description about Jesus the King of the Jews who was crucified is recorded in Gospel Luke 23:33-43, another Common Lectionary reading of the week but we did not read it this morning (you may read it later)

Jesus, Messiah of the Jews came to the world with Might and Power from God ended up dying on the cross. Don’t you think it is absurd and difficult to understand and accept from a human point of view?

According to the liturgical church year, today is the last Sunday of the church year and has been designated as Christ the King Sunday according to the church liturgical tradition.

‘Christ the King’ provides for us a great Christian legacy to reflect on our faith and understanding on power: its source, its use and outcomes that it brings to others.

Christ, who is known as the King of the Jews has never been treated like a King with respect on earth. Jesus Christ has been despised, persecuted and tortured to death. He was put on the cross, suffered and died.

When Jesus was put on the cross, as Son of God he could resist and fight back so that he might get rid of the terrible punishment and the inhuman treatment. But he did not choose this way. He chose the way of forgiveness and not revenge. He saved all humanity by showing them the radical love of sacrifice.

God, who is full of power, does not use his power to destroy and kill. In Christ, God has shown his mercy and tenderness to people he loves. In Christ, God affirms his nature of being King of peace. He insists to walk in the peaceful path of holiness and righteousness.

Jesus as the Messiah of the Jews, and the redeemer of the world, he came to serve but not to be served. He used his power for people’s sake but not for his own self interest and desire. He didn’t even use his power to defend himself! Christ manifests his glory by showing to the people his merciful love and to lead them to the light in the darkness. The salvation given by Jesus is a spiritual journey to lead a life of love and peace.

Jesus’ non violent act and his suffering are remarkable. The image of Jesus’ death on the cross is in great contrast with the image of the messiah who comes with power to save Israel from her enemies. Jesus did not use bloody war to win his kingdom. Jesus’ way of salvation to the Israel had shattered hope of many Jews as they expected a powerful king who would restore the earthly Kingdom of Israel.

From Zechariah’s prophetic psalm, he proclaims the coming of the messiah and his power to save the nation of Israel.

The Kingdom of God that Jesus comes to bring is different from what the world expected. The Kingdom of God that Jesus aims to bring is justice and peace. God does not achieve his kingdom by dominance and power control with violent means.

Zechariah, the priest and spiritual man reveals that the Messiah is sent by God. The source of power for Jesus Christ is from God, God of history who honor his covenant with their ancestors. The purpose of Jesus’ life is coming to the world to save the people through the forgiveness of sins, and to bring light to the dark world.

From Zechariah’s song of praise, he shares clearly this Messiah reveals the image of God who is holy and almighty, tender and loving. Through Jesus Christ, God gives light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide their feet into the way of peace.

If we understand fully that Jesus Christ came to guide his people to the way of peace, it makes sense for his non violent reaction even when he was handed over on the cross with violence.

As God’s servant, Zechariah has reiterated to the Israelites, God’s chosen people who are saved by the Messiah should serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness.

Zechariah’s message to the Israelites of the old speaks to us today also. He said his son John was the one to prepare the way for the Most High.

We do have to prepare the way for Christ for his second coming. Besides, Jesus had set for us a great example of how to serve and be the light of the world. Jesus has even asked his disciples to do what he had done and even more before he left the world.

Christ the King, the Messiah who reigns is not to control and dominate but to serve.
This is a great reminder to us.

In contrast to Jesus Christ’s concept and use of power, there are people using their power by violating others’ rights and bring to them physical, psychological, sexual and spiritual damages.

There are husbands regarding themselves master of the house and treat their wives and children as property. He would use his physical and economic power or simply the authority of being the head of the family to beat them, sexually abuse them and control many aspects of their lives.

There are employers who treat their domestic helpers badly. Some of them beat their helpers and even rape them.

There are church pastors who sexually harass church members who trust them and respect them. These pastors have abused the trust from members and their position as spiritual leaders to satisfy their own sexual desire.

There are soldiers in the war zone who rape women in order to satisfy their sexual needs. Some men do this for showing their superiority and authority to women who are weaker than them.

There are police taking advantage of sexual workers by having sex with them without paying them.

There are men forcing their girl friends to have sex.

Abuse of power is found everywhere in our day to day life. Violence against women is an abuse of power by the powerful against those who are weaker than them.


Tomorrow is the International Day to End Violence Against Women. The international day reminds us that millions of women and girls have been suffering from different forms of violence all over the world.

The International Day reminds us also to care for them and try every possible way to stop it from happening.

The fact is men suffer from violence as well. But in general, women are still the major victims. According to the World Health Organization, one in three women have suffered from physical and/or sexual violence at home, at workplace and/ or in the community. Many perpetrators are someone known by the victims.

Therefore violence against women is gender based. Women are living in a more disadvantage position due to economic dependence, less education and work opportunities, and gender stereotypes. All these factors are related to sex discrimination in a patriarchal society.

As a result, to reflect and challenge the patriarchal culture is an important aspect to end violence against women, and to bring peace and wholeness for those who are affected.

Christ the King Sunday celebrates the all-embracing authority of Christ as King and Lord of the universe.

Christ the King has reminded and inspired us to know how God use his power to love and to serve, but not to control and to manipulate.

Christ and violence against women have reminded us that we need to be careful in using our power to treat one another. We should never use our power to control others and violate others’ rights and dignity at home, at work, in the church and in the community to satisfy our own desire.

The violence encountered by Jesus on the cross and violence against women informs us to be sensitive to the abuse of power and we should do our best to avoid it in our life and in our society.

We have to be critical to the abuse of power. If we see any abuse of power by the powerful against the weak and the disadvantaged, we should speak up for the sake of justice.

Jesus Christ, our saviour has called us to be the light and peace of the world just as he has done. By carrying the promise from God and the power of Christ the King in his mercy and grace, together men and women, let us continue to walk in God’s path of justice and peace.


May God strengthen us and bless you all. Amen.

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, November 24, 2013

 

“The Taste of New Wine”

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 3 November 2013 by the Rev. Dr. John LeMond. The scripture readings that day were Psalm 100; Colossians 3:9-17 and John 2:1-11.


The story of the wedding at Cana is one of the most well known of Jesus’ miracle stories.
Perhaps because it is the first of Jesus’ miracles.
He is attending a wedding along with his disciples.
And his mother calls him aside and tells him that there is no more wine.
We may wonder what Mary expected Jesus to do about it?
Maybe she didn’t know herself.
She simply says to the servants: “Do whatever he tells you to do.”
And then Jesus immediately turns the water in the six stone jars into wine
Not just any wine,
but the very best wine…better than the wine that was served first.
Those who knew what happened seemed to be quite impressed.
The passage tells us that the disciples were so impressed
that they believed in Jesus from that time on.
But what are we to make of this miracle ourselves?
When there were so many more important things that could have been done by Jesus.
Why turn water into wine?
And why do it at a wedding?
What do we make of this miracle today?
On one level, it seems more like a trick than a miracle.
Is this event something that we often choose to tell others about when we are speaking of our faith?
“Listen, I want to tell you about my faith…about Christianity.”
“You see, I serve a powerful God.”
“In fact, my God turned water into wine.”
No, probably not.
When we put it that way, it doesn’t really sound all that impressive.
And yet, we are told that Jesus’ glory was manifested in this action.
How strange this seems to us today.
We experience much greater miracles all around us every single day
In fact, we are inundated with miracles much greater than this.
I can pick up a small box that fits into the palm of my hand
And speak into it…and talk with my children in America.
Imagine that!
I can push a button on a screen in my living room and watch people in Israel, Jesus’ home.
I can push another button and go immediately to another part of the world.
And watch a farmer planting his crops in China; or a pianist playing beautiful music in Vienna.
I’ve watched a man walk on the moon.
I’ve flown like a bird, except much faster than any bird has ever flown--600 mph.
And 6 miles high!
If I want information, the accumulated wisdom of the ages is at my fingertips on the internet.
And these are only the beginning of the miracles that have become commonplace in my life.
So…Jesus turned water into wine.
So what?
We have come to a point in the history of humanity.
When we are no longer impressed by such simple things
If I want wine, I can buy as much as I want;
it will never run out.
So, why do we need Jesus?
In fact, why do we need God?
In this world of human miracles…who needs a savior at all?
And yet, there is something that draws us to Jesus anyway.
We are almost embarrassed to say it…
But there is something in this simple story of water and wine
That still meets a need in our lives;
That touches a part of our lives that our other miracles don’t touch.
We aren’t quite sure if we can say, like Jesus’ disciples, that we believe because of this miracle.
But we want to believe.
We feel intuitively that there is something there that we’ve missed.
That we are missing in our lives.
And it doesn’t take long to realize what we are missing.
We are missing the amazing taste of new wine in our lives
We are not missing the fact of miracles
Miracles have become commonplace to us
But the amazement of the headwaiter is what we are missing.
“What is this?” he asks as he tastes the wine.
This is not just wine, this is a delicious taste.
It is not only not the cheap wine that comes at the end of the feast.
It is better than the best wine that came at the beginning.
This is not just a miracle
It is an experience of delight.
Delight in the taste of something so rich and wonderful.
It is not the kind of miracle that casts doubt on the need for God.
It is the kind of experience that elicits in one thanks to God for creating such wine.
Those who taste this wine at the wedding know that God’s hand is in it.
They have no idea who Jesus is.
But in tasting this wine they know that they have touched something glorious.
That is what we are missing.
And that is what we want for our lives.
And Psalm 100 encourages us:
It says to us: Yes!
This is what you were made for.
Amazement at the glory of God.
Amazement!
Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth.
Serve the LORD with gladness;
Come before him with joyful singing.
Why?
Because it is the Lord God who has made us.
It is the Lord God whom we taste in this new wine.
One who gladdens our hearts the way this wine gladdens our palates.
We have not made ourselves,
nor are we made whole by our modern miracles.
In this simple act…is revealed to us the promise of God for creation.
The glorious taste of new wine.
This is what we want.
In this simple miracle story of water and wine,
God has chosen to create a miracle of renewal in our world
And Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, assures us
This is not simply for God’s chosen people
It is for all people
Whether we call ourselves Anglicans or Baptists;
Whether we call ourselves Christians or Jews or Muslims.
Somehow, Paul says, this new wine is all in all
And like Jesus’ disciples, we don’t ask how this could be
We simply believe.
Yes, we are almost embarrassed to say it.
But this is what we wanted all along.
This simple faith in an amazing new reality.
When I think of new wine,
And singing joyful songs in the Lord,
I think of the community at Taizé.
The community gathered
every day: morning, noon and night.
The brothers and their guests come together to pray and sing.
This is the effect that the new wine of Jesus Christ
In the midst of a world that seems to offer little more than materialism
Where the good wine seems to have been drunk long ago
Where in fact life-giving wine seems to have disappeared entirely
A miracle happens.
And we sing out in unexpected joy.
This was never more true than in August of 2005.
Taizé’s founder, Brother Roger, 90 years old at the time,
had joined the community in daily prayer and song
joined by 2,500 others in the church of the reconciliation.
Suddenly a mentally ill woman came up behind the elderly Roger
and stabbed him in the neck.
The gathered assembly didn’t realize what had happened at first
and they continued to sing out: Laudate dominum! Praise the Lord.
Brother Roger died in the arms of his friends
And still people continued to sing.
To sing with joy to the Lord.
The taste of new wine causes us to song,
not because everything is fine,
but because even in the midst of a world of disappointment,
unfulfilled dreams and death.
The taste of new wine remains on our tongues and elicits songs of joy.
It calls us to faith, even when faith and hope seem ludicrous.
Even when our neighbor takes our life,
the new wine causes us to burst forth in joyful songs to the Lord.
That is amazing. 
That is new wine.
That is the miracle that touches us and draws us toward Jesus—
Yes, give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the Lord is good
To all generations.

Amen.

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, November 03, 2013

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