A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 27 July 2014 by the Rev. Phyllis
Wong. The scripture readings that day were Matthew 13: 31-33, 44-52.
Gracious God, we
give you thanks for the Kingdom of love and peace dwelling on earth and in our
hearts. May the word of Kingdom inspire us and change us to become more like
In the Gospel
reading taken from Matthew, Jesus continued his teaching to the crowd and his
disciples about the Kingdom of Heaven by using parables.
Last week we have heard about this – the Kingdom of Heaven is compared
to a field of wheat and weeds – the parable of the good seeds and the weeds. The
Kingdom of Heaven, has never been a place where only angels are living. There are
a mix of good people and evil people. In
advancing the Kingdom of God, there is great struggle with evil coming to destroy. But we know God will judge
and take care of his Kingdom at the end of the day.
First of all, let
me clarify the terminology - Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God have the same
Kingdom of Heaven
is not about life after death nor a place where you can only find happiness and
no sorrow. The theological meaning in the Kingdom of God is rich. It is a
prophetic vision of a new heaven and new earth in which God is dwelling. (Revelation
The Kingdom of God
is about church’s mission: to proclaim a new order and transformation according
to God’s will. It is good news shared by Jesus’ disciples and active action taken
by them to make changes.
The Kingdom of God
is a process to engage in God’s mission, and to experience God’s deep love and Christ’
transforming grace in a world of darkness.
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus used some other parables to talk about
the Kingdom of Heaven. He said the Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed that
someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all seeds, but when
it has grown it becomes a big tree so that the birds come and make nest in the
branch to rest.
Another parable of the Kingdom compares it to yeast – the leavened flour
made by a woman.
Both parables inform us an important aspect of the Kingdom of Heaven.
That it is about change, about transformation in life, a life that may serve
From the parable of
the mustard seed, it reminds us about a lesson. No matter how small we think of
ourselves, if we open up ourselves and are willing to be used by God, we may do
great things for God and make contributions to others.
If we are the
mustard seed, God is the one who sows it in the field and makes it grow. If we
just be ourselves and do what God has called us to do, we may achieve great
things. But bear in mind, it is not for ourselves, but for the sake of others,
and for the sake of God
The Kingdom of God is a call
. (Mark 1:14-15)
The Kingdom of
Heaven is central to the mission of Jesus. He regarded it as the core of the
Good News. (Mark 1:15)
The Kingdom of God is a call for change
In his earthly
ministry, Jesus proclaimed the good news by saying this to the people -- “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of
God has come near, repent, and believe in the good news
.” (Mark 1:14-15)
To seek the Kingdom
of God is to open up ourselves, and to commit ourselves to transformation of
our inner self – in short it is to live a godly life.
A godly life is to
become more forgiving, more sacrificing, more loving and compassionate, more
peaceful at heart, more sensitive to seek justice. This is the life Jesus has
demonstrated to us.
When human beings
are able to formulate new relationships which are more loving and caring, they
will form a community and a world that is a better place to live for all creatures.
Christians, who are Jesus’ followers, are called to participate in the
fulfillment of God’s Kingdom of love.
Change and transformation is easier said than done, for some people who
have experienced deep hurt in the past may find it difficult to forgive and let
go. There are others who may have fear in their hearts that hold them back in
seeking changes. In other situation, it may be self interest and a strong
desire to keep material possession that makes changes in life difficult.
As human beings, we are all imperfect and have our own limitations and
weakness. God knows it and understands. But God always gives us chance to
change and God the Creator is our source of strength. The seed that grows to
become a big tree is the work of God out of his grace. Jesus Christ, who is our
savior, never separates us from his love. He has saved and will save us from
all temptations. God will work things out when we are ready and commit
ourselves to God’s kingdom.
another important aspect of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Jesus used two other parables to share about the mystery of Kingdom of Heaven
with his disciples.
The Kingdom of Heaven is like a person finds treasure and then hides it
in the field and a merchant in search of fine pearl. When they find the
valuable thing, they both sell all their possession to buy it.
Both the hidden treasure in the field and the pearl are referring to i
ncomparable quality of the Kingdom of
heaven. The Kingdom is so good and supreme, that the person who find it is
willing to pay the cost. The person who goes to sell all his possession does it
with joy. It is a big contrast to the rich man who felt sad when he was asked
to sell all his things in exchange for God’s kingdom and eternal life.
These two people
are willing to give up everything in exchange of the supreme kingdom.
The parable of treasure and pearl has given a challenge to us as Jesus’
Do we recognize the supreme value of the
Kingdom of God as shared by Jesus in the parable?
Is there anything that blinds us from seeing
the ultimate value of God’s Kingdom?
Do we seek God’s Kingdom first and above all
What are the
barriers in me?
Do I love the
worldly possession and myself more than God?
What has separated
us from the love of God and made us refuse to respond to God’s calling to
participate in God’s kingdom of love, justice and peace?
There is no easy answer for the above questions.
Tong’s family talk this morning may give us some insights.
We are the treasure of God. We are the fine pearl in the eyes of God. We
are all highly valued as we are God’s children created in his holy image. Human
lives and dignity are the supreme value in the Kingdom of God. This is the very
reason we should give all we have to defend it and regain it. Without life, we
have nothing left to embrace.
Facing a world full of violence and abuse of human rights is heart
breaking. The bombings in Gaza that have killed hundreds and injured thousands
innocent people, and the women abuse in Iraq have reminded our call to seek and
engage in the Kingdom of Heaven by offering what we have, with commitment.
The supreme value of God’s Kingdom is life, love, justice and peace.
The treasure represented in God’s Kingdom is not a material object and
is not something out there. The treasure, the pearl are right here in our heart
and in all suffering faces. In seeing the love and mercy of God behind the
suffering people, we see the supreme value of God’s Kingdom.
May God guide us to make the right choice and empower us to take courageous
actions to make changes in our life and in the world for the sake of God’s
A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church
on Sunday 20 July 2014 by Dr Kung Lap
Yan. The scripture readings that day were Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43.
The passage for today is clearly
explained. It is spoken to the children of the kingdom represented by the wheat
that God’s delayed action against the children of the evil one represented by the
weed is for the sake of them, because removing the weed during the stage of
growing would uproot the wheat. However, God’s judgment would not be in vain. It
would definitely come at the harvest. Therefore, the children of God should
keep faith in God and be faithful. This passage is very comforting, especially
for those who are suffered unfair treatment from bad guys. At the same time the
passage seems to recommend a kind of passive resistance to evil. Should we
adopt it as a norm in dealing with evil? Or what are the limitations of Jesus’
parable? Let me suggest three scenarios to articulate my concern.
The first scenario is that Jesus’ comment
is right that any uprooting the weed during the stage of growing would affect
the wheat growing, but if the field is full of weed and there is less and less
space for wheat planting and growing, a responsible farmer is not to let the
weed and wheat grow in their own way, but rather is to take an active action to
remove and stop the weed in order that there is space for wheat planting and
growing. Obviously, this is not the scenario of Jesus’ parable. In Jesus’
parable, it is a wheat field with relatively less amount of weed, but this is
not our experience. In Hong Kong, we have experienced the rapid spread of weed
in the field characterized by the abuse of power, coercion, lies, threats and
irrationality. On the other hand, we have witnessed the decline of justice,
respect and equal opportunities. This is why many people exclaim that Hong Kong
has been changed, and it is no longer our familiar Hong Kong. We definitely
should have faith in God, and at the same time, we should adopt a more active
role to resist evil, for evil has no internal mechanism of self-control.
The second scenario is how to distinguish
between wheat and weed. For instance, in the eyes of both the Chinese
government and Hong Kong government, ‘occupying central with love and peace’ is
weed, for it is violence, unlawful and endangers Hong Kong economy. On the
other hand, advocates for ‘occupying central with love and peace’ would
consider both the Chinese government and Hong Kong government are weed, for
they do not keep their promise stated in the Basic Law that the universal
suffrage would be introduced in 2017. Who is the weed? Who is the wheat? Perhaps,
some would suggest that we should not focus on politics, for politics is
changing all the time. They suggest that the church is the wheat, for it bears the
sign of Gods’ salvation. But the recent sermon given by Archbishop Kwong on
July 6 makes us hesitate to say that the church is the wheat, for his sermon
shows no pastoral concern for those who are arrested due to civil disobedience.
Ironically, he uses example to humiliate them. Who is the wheat? And who is the
weed? Perhaps, one of the possible criteria to differentiate between the wheat
and the weed is its attitude towards the other. It is the weed, because it
would employ different means to extinguish the so-called enemies in the name of
justice and peace. It is the wheat, because it seeks no revenge and no lies. In
this sense, I have to say our government is the weed rather than the wheat.
The final scenario is about who the farmer
is and who the evil one is. The parable assumes that the farmer is the Son of
Man, and the one who sow seeds of weed is the evil one. But as what I have said
at the beginning that the world is already a field of weed, then the one who
sows the good seeds would be condemned as the enemy of the world. How does this
scenario help us to understand the holiness of the church? We Christians are
used to understand the holiness of the church as being separated from the weed,
but this scenario reminds us that the holiness of the church has to be engaged in
the midst of the weed, for we are intentionally thrown into it. In other words,
the issue is not about how to avoid being affected, but rather to engage in the
dirty world, and even at the risk of getting dirt.
These three scenarios challenge the basic
assumptions of Christians, that is, the peaceable of the church, the righteousness
of the church and the holiness of the church. We are inclined to emphasize what
Jesus said in the Gospel of John, ‘Look around you, and see how the fields are
ripe for harvesting.’ (4:35) This is very encouraging, indeed. But I would tell
you that this is not the reality. The reality is, ‘Look around you, and see how
the fields have been changed to the fields of weed.’ If this is so, we are not
called to harvest, but to get dirt and remove the weed in order that the good
seeds have space and nutrition to grow.
sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 13 July 2014 by the Rev. Ewing W.
Carroll, Jr. The scripture readings
that day were Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23.
Someone has said today’s Gospel Lesson is
like a lunch buffet at a fancy hotel.
There’s a little bit of everything: a wide assortment of appetizers,
salads, heavy meats – lots of carbohydrates and calories; and jam-packed with
pastries. And don't forget multi-flavors
of ice cream! But frankly today’s Gospel
Lesson is not about fancy buffets.
Rather, it’s about the ways God sows seeds of trust in you and me. How God seeks to use us as messengers of
God’s abiding love and justice in a world that seems to become more dangerous,
destructive and demeaning. This Parable
of the Sower, while not a lunch buffet, does teach us several things about our
pilgrimage of faithfulness.
Sowing seeds of faithfulness may not be popular
. Matthew tells us Jesus is sitting in a boat
speaking to the crowd. Before, his
preaching was at the synagogue. Now we
find him at the seashore. The crowd is
so large Jesus finds safety and shelter in a fishing boat. By this time, he’s worn out his welcome among
the religious leaders.
people, who should most likely have accepted, welcomed
his ministry, have now closed the door on him.
Early in his ministry, Jesus has already become unpopular with both
religious and political leaders.
John Wesley knew that feeling back in 18th
Century England. Educated by and
ordained into the Anglican priesthood, Wesley soon found he was not welcome to
preach from Anglican pulpits. In sowing
the seeds of God’s love; speaking frankly and fearlessly about God’s desire for
peace and justice, Wesley was “uninvited” from speaking in his own beloved
You’ve probably either read or heard
about the controversy regarding Archbishop Paul of the Hong Kong/Macao Anglican
Church. In a sermon preached last
Sunday, he suggested Christians should not get involved in the Occupy Central
activity or other so-called political activities. Like Jesus, on his way to the Cross, they
should remain silent! Later one of his
priests told the press the Archbishop was just being funny and witty. Funny and witty? Yes, there are times when ”silence is golden.” For me, this is NOT the time. The Jesus I know was not the silent
type. I just wonder what Bible
translation the Archbishop is reading.
I’m reminded again what a leading church
member in one of Hong Kong’s Methodist churches once said to me: “We welcome
you to preach in our church, but please don’t say anything that might make us
uncomfortable. We’ve had a long, busy
workweek. When we come to church on
Sunday, the last thing we want is to be challenged or disturbed
But that’s exactly what happens when we
take seriously the words and life of Jesus. That’s what happens when we
seriously hear and seek to live the Gospel God sows in our hearts and
minds. Christians in the early church
learned this lesson very quickly – to speak out for Christ can easily mean
speaking against political, social and religious narrowness. Daring to sow seeds of God’s grace, strength,
hope and salvation can easily get us into trouble. Not with God, but with other people, usually
church leaders; and in Hong Kong it’s often with government leaders and the
The seeming wastefulness of the farmer
. In Jesus’ time, farmers planted seeds in two
different ways: one was to “broadcast” – scatter the seeds, knowing that some
of them would grow; some would quickly wither and die. Another was to put a sack on the back of a
donkey and let the donkey walk up and down the field. The sack had a hole in
the bottom and the seeds would scatter from the sack.
But let’s be clear: this Parable is not about farmers, donkeys or
how to plant wheat, cotton, organic herbs or mango trees. No, Matthew is trying
to tell us: God is the Sower. And what God is sowing is the precious gift
of God’s abiding love. God doesn’t give
up on us. Never, never, ever. God keeps
sowing. How many times have you heard –
or said – “Don’t waste your time on that person. They’re hopeless. They will never change
. Trying to help them improve is like
scattering seed on hard, rocky soil.
Some of us grew
up on an old Gospel Hymn “Bringing in the Sheaves
”. I love these words, “Sowing in the
sunshine, sowing in the shadows, fearing neither clouds nor winter’s chilling
breeze; by and by the harvest, and the labor ended, we shall come rejoicing, in
bringing in the sheaves
.” It may
seem that God is being wasteful, but both God’s love
– and God’s
, are poured out for all people.
There’s nothing wasteful about such love!
There’s a third thing about this Gospel
Lesson that intrigues me. Regardless
of the kind of soil, there’s always some kind of harvest.
People hear – and respond - to the Gospel in
different ways. Billy Sunday was a
famous American professional baseball player-turned-evangelist. He held
revivals all across America in the late 1800s/early 1900s. A woman once asked him, “Sir why do you
keep holding these revivals? People’s
conversions don’t seem to last
Sunday replied, “Why do you keep taking baths
Some of us profess a faith of closed
minds – hardened hearts, if you will.
Our thoughts are glued to the past.
Yet others are such activist-minded, God hardly has a chance to be
heard, much less followed. This kind of
harvest is more about convenience than commitment.
Painful as it may seem to us, God does
not just depend upon you or me in order to bring about God’s Kingdom of love
and justice. Someone has written, “The
Kingdom of God [the Reign of God] is not advanced by filling the church with
people; it’s filling people with God.
I believe God would greatly like us to cooperate in sowing seeds of love
and justice. But God’s will is not
dependent upon us.
Now, finally! The question, “What Kind of duck are you
?” Like people, ducks vary in size, shape, color
and attitude. Like us, their eating
habits are also different. Puddle ducks – like a Mallard duck, only eat what
they can conveniently find along the water’s edge. They put very little effort or energy into
finding food. On the other hand, diving
ducks go to great lengths to find food, even diving deep, deep, deep down to
the bottom of a river or lakebed, where they might find food. Their feathers may get torn; their bodies
filthy with mud; they dive with great risk, but the results are wonderful.
God is both anxious and determined to sow
seeds of love, justice, peace and righteousness. That’s part of the nature and purpose of
God. Our response? As I see it, there are two: We can be like the puddle ducks; float along
the surface, reacting, responding through what is comfortable or
convenient. Never stretching too much;
never pushing ourselves too hard; just go with the flow; just enough to make it
through another day. Or we can be like
the diving ducks – willing to risk.
Prepared to go to great depths; to challenge ourselves - and others; to
struggle amidst difficulty and danger; to move beyond the comfort zone; daring
to go to the edge of life.
So what’s your answer? Puddle duck or diving duck? Jesus said, ”Let anyone with ears hear
.” Come, Lord Jesus, help us to hear – and to
live and grow as the kinds of seeds you want us to become. Amen.