Reflections...

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A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Easter Sunday 20 April 2014 by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that day were Matthew 28:1-10.

                                   
Opening prayer:
God of eternality, we thank you for your love given through Jesus and your Word that nourishes our life. May the holy spirit inspire us to understand your Word and lead us to be one in you. Amen.

Happy Easter! In our world today, Easter is a joyful festival for many people to celebrate. We have holidays, good programs and good food to enjoy.

Easter is an important festival to celebrate. However, without walking with Jesus in his passion and come to see his scars and pains, our celebration of his resurrection would be very superficial and shallow.

The escalating political conflicts in Ukraine have caught the world attention in the past few months. Last month, a Malaysian flight carrying over 200 passengers disappeared. Last week, we heard the heart breaking news from South Korea, a ferry carring hundreds of students sank.

For people who have experienced the death of beloved ones, serious illness, violence and persecution, they are like living in a tomb facing complete darkness.

What does Easter mean to them? Can they really enjoy and rejoice in this festival?

Christians celebrate Easter because Jesus has risen from death. Jesus is no more enslaved by the power of death. He is free and liberated from darkness. 

Yes, we celebrate Easter, and yet we never ignore the suffering and pains of Jesus Christ. Instead, we embrace it and take it as a very important part for Easter. Only when we are deeply walking with Jesus in his passion and share his pains and suffering would our celebration of his resurrection be deep and real. Jesus died two thousand year ago and thus we are not able to witness his physical pain directly. But in ours and in people who are suffering today, we see Jesus’ pain and his presence in us and in them.

Easter is joyful and happy not because there is an absence of pain and suffering.
Jesus had pointed out clearly that in this world we do face difficulties and challenges. As quoted from Gospel John 16:33b, Jesus said to his disciples:
‘In the world you face persecution, but take courage, I have conquered the world’ . This is the promise of Jesus Christ. In the empty bomb, the word of Jesus is fulfilled.
Therefore the celebration of Easter is not to ignore human suffering and pains. It is never to forget injustice.

The celebration of Easter is to affirm our faith in Christ that no one can take away our life, joy and hope in the midst of uncertainty, insecurity and persecution. Like the women who saw the empty tomb, they were filled with deep joy although at the same time they were afraid.

Tomb is a place to keep dead bodies.
Tomb is symbol of death and darkness.

This morning we processed into the sanctuary. We broke the tomb as a symbolic act to proclaim the resurrection power of Jesus. It is an act to praise the Lord. It is an act to speak to the world : Christ is risen, He is risen indeed alleluia.

With this proclamation -- Christ is risen, He is risen indeed, alleluia…, we affirm that the living God is forever living in us. The living and loving God is forever living in the world. Jesus Christ, our incarnated God, our saviour has overcome darkness and death in the world. In Christ, we are no longer living in the darkness of the tomb. We are set free to see the light.

In the empty tomb, death has no more power. But it is life that speaks. It is joy that speaks. It is hope that speaks. It is the grace of God that speaks.

Easter is about transformation and change
Last Friday I read a very touching story about forgiveness from face book and South China Morning Post.

It is a real story that happened in Iran. A young man called Balal killed another young man, when he was in his 20s. According to the Iranian law, the murderer has to be hanged to death and the victim’s family will participate in the execution by taking away the chair on which the murderer stands.
When this young murderer was about to be executed, the victim’s mother came before him and slapped his face. Then amazing thing happened. This woman and her husband helped to remove the noose from this young man. They forgave this young man who had killed their son.

The mother of the killer and the mother of the victim then sobbed in each other’s arms – One because she had lost her son, the other because her son had been saved.
This is a very touching moment.

The mother and the father of the victim chose to forgive. The father thought this young man did not intentionally kill their son. He was just too young and did not know better to handle a knife. According to the victim’s father, they eventually forgave this young murderer because his wife dreamed of his son who told her that he was well and happy. Therefore she did not have to take revenge.   

Out of love to their son, these parents chose to forgive.

Out of love to all humanity, Jesus chose to forgive those who have sinned against him. When Jesus was crucified on the cross, he prayed to God the Father to forgive them for they did not know what they did.

The radical love of forgiveness in Jesus has tremendous power of transformation.

Love and forgiveness is the essence of Easter. It is love that brought new life. Look at the Iranian parents who have lost their son. Their forgiving act has saved the life of Balal, a young man who was once a murderer, a man waiting for death.

I believe also the parents who chose to forgive have brought to themselves new stage in life. They forgive because their son who was the victim forgives first as he told his mother in a dream not to retaliate but to forgive. Forgiveness helps people to let go of their sorrow and hatred.

Easter is about transformation – the tomb we have in the drama here was transformed from a black tent to a colourful tent.

If the tomb is our heart and is our world, by the forgiving grace of God, let us transform it from death to life, from sorrow to joy, from hatred to love, from fear to peace.

Jesus died for love. But He was raised again and he has call his disciples to go and tell about his resurrection, and be his faithful witness. Mary and the other women were the first batch of disciples to witness Jesus Christ and subsequently the male disciples.

Sisters and brothers, as we have graciously received the lavish gifts of forgiveness by God in Christ and our lives have been redeemed, shall we share this good news with others so that other people will experience also God’s redeeming love and transforming power?

Christ is risen, He is risen indeed!

May the spirit of Easter prevail!

May God bless you all a joyful Easter with life and hope! Amen.

Reflective hymn: Lord How can I repay
Mary and another Mary, the first witnesses of Jesus Christ’ resurrection were called to go and tell the news to his disciples.
Jesus asked his disciples to go to Galilee and he would meet them there.
As we receive the great gift of new life and redeeming love from Jesus Christ, let us in respond sing to God what we want to give as a return for his grace. You may remain seated in your seat when we sing this song – How do I repay?

Eternal peace and joy is possible with genuine forgiving love shared in our family, in our church community and in the world.

I am not here to justify injustice and violence while I am taking about forgiveness. Without justice and a respect to life and human dignity, there is no genuine forgiveness. Therefore, forgiveness has to be based on justice love.

What I would like to stress Jesus whoTherefore Jesus’ risen from the death informed us an important message. He is no more enslaved by the violence and persecution. The unjust systems and actions would never let him down. This is the hope to all under captives and persecution.

Easter is a celebration of new life: a life that has conquered death and evils of hatred and violence.

Transformation is possible. Life is worth to live because Christ lives.
Because he lives we can face tomorrow. Because he lives all fear is gone. Because we know God holds the future.

In the empty tomb, death does not the last word but life does!


God sent His son, Jesus. He came to love, heal and forgive;
He lived and died to buy my pardon. An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives! 

Chorus
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy he gives;
But greater still the calm assurance:
This child can face uncertain days because He Lives! 

Chorus
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

And then one day, I'll cross the river,
I'll fight life's final war with pain;
And then, as death gives way to vict'ry,
I'll see the lights of glory and I'll know He lives!

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, April 20, 2014

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