Reflections...

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

“Keep Awake – a paradigm shift”

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 30 November 2014, First Sunday in Advent, by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that day were Isaiah 64:1-9; 1 Corinthian 1:3-9; Mark 13:24-37.


Opening prayer:
Dear God, we thank you for the full presence in our life and the hope given through Jesus Christ. May your word inspire us and transform us to become more like Christ. May the Holy Spirit guide us to walk in Your way of truth.

May the word of my mouth, the meditation of my heart be pleasing and acceptable to you, my God, our personal savior and liberator of all. Amen.

Introduction
Today we have started the season of Advent according to the church liturgical year.  It marks the beginning of the Church liturgical year.

The word “advent” derives from the word adventus meaning “coming” or “arrival”. The Latin translation of the Greek word parousia, a reference to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, the Lord.

Therefore, the season of Advent serves as a dual reminder of the original waiting that was done by the Hebrews for the birth of their Messiah, as well as the waiting for the second coming of Jesus Christ by Christians today.

In about a month from now, 2014 will come to an end.

Looking back on this year, there were many events big and small, that happened in Hong Kong and in the world.

In March, Malaysian airline flight MH 370 carrying 239 passengers and crew went missing on their routine flight to Beijing and eight months later we still have no idea what happened to the plane and the passengers. Disaster struck again to another Malaysian airline flight MH 17, shot down over eastern Ukraine in July killing all 298 passengers and crew onboard.

In May this year, over 200 girls were abducted from their Christian school by Islamic extremists and being forced into marriage or slavery,
and despite a lot of media coverage and outcry, they are still missing.

In late September, 43 teacher college students went on a protest against drug crimes in Guerrero in Mexico and then disappeared. Recently they have been declared legally dead. Their disappearance has provoked outrage and has led to the Mexico President declaring a national anti-crime campaign.

On 9 August, Michael Brown, a black young man, was shot dead by a white policeman. The case has aroused a lot of racial tension and even amidst the recent riots over this shooting, another 12-year old black boy has been shot dead by another policeman in Nov.
In September, the Umbrella Movement in HK begins to strive for genuine universal suffrage. The Movement has impressed the world because of its peaceful and self-refrained manner demonstrated by the protestors seeking for democracy. But it is sad though that the government does not response constructively to the widely expressed concerns. The police have used excessive violence against the peaceful protesters.  The movement has taken place for two months. There is no sign of resolution and is a bit stuck at the moment. Dialogue between the government and the student representatives has gone to a deadlock. The Umbrella movement has created a lot of divisions and conflicts within family, work place, church and society at large. Broken relationships are yet to be healed and reconciled. The fight for genuine universal suffrage that affirms equal rights of everyone and to avoid misuse of power remains a rough and tough battle in Hong Kong.  

Advent, which starts four weeks before Christmas, is traditionally a season of quiet and joyful expectation of the coming of Christ.

Where is joy and hope in the midst of all these human tragedies and injustice?

Are these tragedies and human sufferings signs of the coming of the Lord who will come to judge and save the world?

The gospel reading taken from Mark today, enlightens us to learn about the coming of the Lord (the Son of Man), the sign of the fig tree that reveals his coming and Jesus’ warning -- to be watchful and to keep awake upon his coming. 

Jesus warned his disciples to ‘keep awake’ in waiting for the coming of the Lord.

Keep awake is a shift from control to ‘letting go’

The end comes without any warning. No one know when the Son of the Lord be coming. The angel does not know even the son does not know either. Only God the Father knows.  Coming of the Lord is a mystery and it is totally in God’s hands. We have to recognize that God is the one who take the initiative and make things happen. God is God of sovereignty.

In the tragedies I mentioned, we still don’t know what happened to MH370, we still don’t know when the abducted school girls can be returned to their families, we don’t know when justice will come. But we know they are all in God’s hands. We have to learn to let go of our desire to be in control. We need to learn to accept that many things will remain mysteries to us. 

From passive waiting to hopeful waiting

The second paradigm shift I would like to say about ‘Keep awake’ is from passive waiting to hopeful waiting with active participation.

Jesus used a parable about a master who leaves home and assigns to his slaves works to do. He then asks the doorkeeper to be on the watch. As there is no idea when the master will come back, all the servants have to keep awake.  


Waiting without a time frame could be a torture. Waiting would be terribly unbearable if we do nothing in the process of waiting. You may have experienced these – waiting for an exam result, baby to be born, a beloved is dying…

Advent, is a time of waiting for the coming of the Lord.  Waiting, however, is not passive inaction. On the contrary, waiting is taken as active participation of here and now which induce implication for future.

Like the slaves and door keeper in the parable, we are all God’s servants and called to do God’s work. Each one of us has assigned a role and we have to take our responsibility to work according to the will of God. We all have a part to play in God’s world. 

‘To keep awake’ is a shift from passive waiting to hopeful waiting by actively engaging in God’s Kingdom of justice and peace. We wait actively, with action, patience and humility. 

Advent is a season for prophecy, calling on us to repent, prepare, and be ever watchful.
Isaiah is an important prophet in ancient Israel to proclaim the coming of the Messiah who saved the Israelites and brought to them a new heaven and new earth. (Isaiah 65)

From the Book of Isaiah 64:1-9, Isaiah prophesized that God took the initiative to meet with his people and to meet with the righteous. Although there are times the people turn away from God, Isaiah affirmed that God’s relationship is forever there. Whenever the people repent and turn to God, the steadfast love God will heal and forgive. One emphasis of Isaiah’s prophetic message is to affirm the covenant relationship between God and his people the Israelites. In Isaiah’s prayer to God, he said:

“Yet , O Lord, You are our Father, we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are the work of your hands. Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord, and do not remember iniquity forever.  Now consider, we are all your people.” (64:9-9b)

The prophetic words have given us light today. We are people of God as we are created in his holy image. We are forever God’s people only if we acknowledge this relationship. If we don’t turn to God, we have nothing to do with God and God’s kingdom. The coming of the Lord has no meaning to us.

God is a righteous God. As Isaiah pointed out in his prayer and dialogue with God: “You meet those gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways.” (64:5)

The prophetic message of Isaiah inspires us today: a deep knowledge and understanding about the coming of the Lord. When we are doing righteous and walk in God’s way, God will meet with us and we will be with God.

Coming of the Lord is thus not about prediction. It is never a scare tactic to control believers and to make sure that they behave themselves without doing wrong.

Coming of the Lord is about doing righteous and remember God and his ways. God reveals himself in Jesus Christ. Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life. Whenever we follow Christ’ way by leading a life of love, forgiveness and sacrifice, God is with us. And we are in God.

Coming of the Lord is a mystery. It involves many complicated theological discourse such as “eschatological hope, already but not yet”. This sounds a bit difficult to people who don’t have formal theological training.

Yes, the Coming of the Lord is a mystery on the one hand. On the other hand, the mystery of the coming of the Lord is this: at the very moment when we engage in a Godly life with Jesus Christ, to live a life of faith, hope, justice, peace, joy and love, the Lord has come in us.

Although there are a lot of problems yet to be solved and the occupy movement has created a lot of tensions in the society. The beauty and success of the Umbrella Movement that I find is this: the people of Hong Kong – young and old, men and women, professors and van drivers (people of different socio-economic status), have demonstrated their courage and determination to strive for democracy and demand for an equal and just society which allow people to share power and resources that may improve the lives of many.  Another aspect of the occupy movement that touches my heart deeply is the goodness of the people that manifests. I found peace, love, generous sharing, mutual support and care amongst the people in the occupy areas. Many people who have experienced it regarded Occupy Admiralty a heaven on earth. In my point of view, this is the sign and image of the coming of the Lord.


In the season of Advent, we are called to ‘Keep awake’. Keep awake is a paradigm shift – a challenge to our existing belief. Sisters and brothers, in the season of Advent, ‘keep awake’.  

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, November 30, 2014

 

“We are ONE Body”

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 9 November 2014, Wai Ji Sunday, by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that day were 1 Cor 12:12-27.                                             


Today I would like to share with you a message about the Body.
In 1 Cor 12:12-27 - Apostle Paul in the early church era has used the body as a parable to talk about church unity. It can be applied to describe family, organization and different kinds of community.

Embrace Diversity
As human beings, we all have our own body.
In our body, there are different members: head, eyes, ears, mouth, hands and legs. They are all visible. Invisible members include the heart, liver, stomach, brain.
These members in a body serve different purposes and help us to keep our life going strong and happy.

It is God’s will to create different members in a body. As described by Apostle Paul:
Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, ‘because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body.’ And if the ears would say, ‘because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body.’ That would not make it less a part of the body.”

From the parable of ONE body but different members, we may then appreciate the gift of diversity given by God. As said in 1 Cor 12:17 : “if the whole body were eyes, where hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?”

The diverse creation of God enables us to enjoy richness in life. Eyes let us see beautiful things and watch good movies, our ears help us to listen to uplifting music, our mouth enables us to taste delicious food.

Members in one body are different and yet they are equally important in God’s creation. Equally, we are different and yet we are all valuable. There is no need to compare and compete with each other.

There are many members, yet one body. (v20) In our difference, we learn how to appreciate and support each other. We learn how to humble ourselves to know we are unique and yet we have our own limitations. We need to help and support each other to contribute the best of ourselves. We need each other to build a better life and create a world which is more loving, equal and harmonious.

We are all connected
United in One Body in Christ and to embrace differences with acceptance is an ideal. There are times we don’t accept weak members in our community. Apostle Paul challenged the church community by saying - 1 Cor 12: 22-26:

“the members that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect where our more respectable members do not need this. God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member,  that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.”

Apostle Paul teaches Christians in his time and today about caring for each other. With the parable of One Body, Paul makes a strong notion of each member is connected as one in God through Christ. We share the same spirit in God and same body in Christ. As One Body, we are connected: one member suffers, all suffer together with it, if one member honoured, all rejoice together with it. Your pain is my pain, your joy is my joy.

Mentally and physically challenged friends have been regarded as weak by the society and even by their beloved families. These friends have not been well received and respected if not totally rejected. The parable of ‘We are One Body’ in the love of Christ has reminded us our mission to serve the weak and take them as part of us.

As Wai Ji Christian Service is celebrating her 35th birthday this year and KUC is celebrating her 90th anniversary with a theme of “Where ALL are ONE”, the body image of oneness is an important pointer for us.

At the end, I would like to show you a bamboo cross with a hanged Jesus. I bought it from the Philippines.

The broken and suffering body of Jesus is heart-breaking. But it is a powerful image and inspiration for us to remember We are ONE BODY in Christ.

Jesus’ forgiving love and gracious sacrifice on the cross is our source of strength and guide in our quest to the body of Christ and individual members of it. (v27)

Wai Ji’s motto: “I came not to be served but to serve”. This is the word and deeds of Jesus when he was on earth to fulfil his mission from God. I hope we all look up to Jesus Christ. In our union with Jesus as One Body, we are strengthened and committed to serve the Lord, to share the gospel and to honour God’s glory. Amen. 


「我們同屬一個身體」      經文:林前1212-27            王美鳳牧師   9/11/2014
今日我同大家分享一個有關身體的訊息。
林前12:12-27—使徒保羅以身體比喻為教會群體,從而講及教會合一。身體的比喻也可應用到家庭,機構和其他社群
我們作為人,都有一個身體。
我們的身體都有不同的肢體,有可看見的眼耳口鼻手腳,有看見的內藏-心、肝、胃、腦袋不同的肢體保存我們的生命,令我們活得快樂。
是上主按其旨意創造身體,以及所有不同的肢體。正如使徒保羅指出:林前12:14-16
身子原不是一個肢體,乃是許多肢體。 設若腳說:「我不是手,所以不屬乎身子」,它不能因此就不屬乎身子。  設若耳說:「我不是眼,所以不屬乎身子」,它也不能因此就不屬乎身子。
合一的身體和眾多肢體的比喻,啟發我們去思考身子上不同的肢體,功能有別,正好反映上帝創造的奇妙和恩典。正如林前1217所講,「若全身是眼,從那裡聽呢?若全身是耳,從那裡聞味呢?」身體裡不同的肢體和器官,展現不同功用,正是上帝容讓我們經歷生命和生活的豐富:視覺上,我們有眼可以看好的電影,欣賞美麗的大自然。聽覺上,耳朵讓我們可以聽優美的音樂。味覺上,口讓我們品嘗美食。
肢體不同,但屬於一個身體,讓我們肯定上帝的創造裡,每個肢體都是獨特的,有價值的,也是平等的。我們毋須比較和互相競爭。
肢體不同,但屬於一個身體,我們肯定和確認自己的同時,我們要承認自己的限制;我們需要學習尊重差異、和而不同,抱着謙卑和包容的態度,彼此欣賞,互相確認彼此的重要,互助配搭和支持,共同努力合作,活出更美好的生活和創造平等和諧互助的世界。
在基督合一的身體,擁抱多元和彼此接納是很理想的美事,現實上面對不少困難。特別當面對軟弱肢體又或問題肢體時,怎辦?保羅在林前12 22-26節,提出挑戰:「人以為軟弱的,更是不可少的。 身上肢體我們看為不體面的,越發給它加上體面;不俊美的,越發得著俊美; 我們俊美的肢體,自然用不著裝飾。但神配搭這身子,把加倍的體面給那有缺欠的肢體, 免得身上分門別類,總要肢體彼此相顧。 若一個肢體受苦,所有的肢體就一同受苦;若一個肢體得榮耀,所有的肢體就一同快樂。
使徒保羅提醒我們要彼此担當,肢體一同受苦,又一同得榮耀。這就是肢體聯系於基督同一個身體的奧秘,當我們連於一體時我們就不能分割。 你的受苦,就是我的受苦;你得光榮,就是我的光榮;你的快樂,也就是我的快樂。
智障人士常被家人和社會視為俊美,他們單未能獲得尊重和接納,更會被排斥。我們都是在 基督內的同一個身體,提醒我們關顧弱小和看來不俊美的肢體,因為他們都是上主所創造,並且是我們的一份子。
今年「基督教懷智服務處」(懷智) 慶祝三十五周年,九龍佑寧堂慶祝九十周年。佑寧堂慶祝主題是「合一」,「我們同屬一個身體」的教導,帶給我們實踐彼此聯系和合一相愛的重要亮光
最後,我想大家看看這個用竹造的十字架,耶穌被釘其中。
耶穌被釘十字架,身體被折磨受盡痛苦,情境悲傷。但是耶穌被釘十字架的形象,提醒我們聯系於基督。耶穌破碎的身體,祂寬恕的愛和犧牲,成為我們力量的來源,引領我們追隨基督和落實作 -- 你們就是基督的身子,並且各自做肢體。」(v27)

「懷智」的機構格言 --- 取自聖經耶穌的話,「非以役人,乃役於人」(我來不是被人服侍,乃是要服侍別人) ,這是主耶穌在地的生命實踐。姊妹弟兄,盼望我們一同仰望耶穌,在與祂聯成同一的身體,竭力事主,見證福音,榮耀主名。誠心所願。

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, November 09, 2014

 

“How Should We Live Our Lives?”

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 2 November 2014 by the Rev. Dr. John LeMond. The scripture readings that day were Micah 3:5-12; 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13; Matthew 23:1-12.


How should we live our lives?

How should we go about living our daily lives

In this world?

This is the question that is addressed

By the three Scripture passages that we have just read.

They do not ask: “What kind of Christian should I be?”

Or “What should I do to please God?”

They are asking: “What does it mean to be a human being?”

What does it mean to live an honest, true life…

As a human being?

It applies to people who are religious

And to people who are not religious.

We are asked to think about living in relation to other people.

These passages speak to every one of us today

Regardless of our denominational background

Or our theological orientation.



These passages speak to us…

Regardless of our commitment to Jesus Christ

Or our commitment to any religion.

What does it really mean to live as a human being?

It’s a universal question.

And Jesus enters into this human discussion

By talking about Moses.

Moses was the greatest leader of the Hebrew people.

A person who had lived a full life

One who had both submitted himself to the will of God

And who had disappointed God.

But most of all he had delivered to the people of Israel

The commandments of God.

And what were those commandments concerned with?

As the Hebrew people left a life of slavery

And prepared to enter into a new era of freedom

It was important for them to know

What it meant to be free,

What it meant truly to be a human being.

The commandments did not really concern themselves

With belonging to a particular religion.

They did not concern themselves

With following a particular theology.

They were for all people

As a guide to living life in all its fullness.

And the commandments said:

Love God and love your neighbor.

Very simple.

And when Jesus entered into the discussion with the people about Moses

This is what he pointed to.

“Listen to the words that God sent through Moses

“And follow them.”

And to emphasize the nature of the gift that Moses had delivered to them, 

Jesus pointed out exactly what they should not do:

Do not be like those who say one thing and do the other.

Do not be like those who put heavy burdens on others.

Do not do things just so others can see what you do and praise you.

Do not seek honor and glory for yourself.

Love God…and love your neighbor.

According to Jesus

All the law and the prophets depend on doing these two things only.



Being truly human does not depend

Upon fulfilling a large number of rules and regulations

Only two: love God and love your neighbor…with all the strength you have.

Today, as we sit here together,

We know why this was an important question for Jesus…

And for the people of his time.

Because it is an important question for our everyday lives as well.

How do I live life truly, completely and fully?

In chapter 10 of the Gospel of Luke,

We have a similar story of Jesus and a lawyer

The lawyer asks Jesus the same question in a slightly different way.

“Jesus,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

So Jesus asked him a question:  “What is written in the law of Moses.”

The lawyer says:

“Love God…and love your neighbor.”

Jesus makes a direct connection between being truly human

And having eternal life.

Jesus says, the answer is the same.

 Love God…and love your neighbor.

There is no difference between the two.

And this is something that our world needs to hear.

We watch the international news

And we see that the world is constantly at war.

Constantly embattled.

We watch daily as people suffer in Syria

In West Africa, in America,

In the Philippines, in Southeast Asia, in Hong Kong.

These people are not far away from us

They are people we know and love

The suffering of this world is not far from us…it is near.

We need not look outside our congregation

To find examples of suffering in our world.

Our own brothers and sisters suffer…

Emotionally, physically and spiritually.

And so we too come to Jesus and ask the question:

How can I live my life truly, fully and completely

In the midst of all this suffering?

“Love God…and love your neighbor.”

But, we cry: this is not possible.

Jesus himself tried it and it didn’t work.

If Jesus suffered and died,

Is there any hope for us?

The hope, sisters and brothers,

Lies not in our successfully fulfilling this law of love

But in knowing that our Lord Jesus Christ

Is the fulfillment.

And that it is through Christ

That that we realize our true humanity.

Even though we seek to follow the exhortations of Paul to the Thessalonians:

To be holy and righteous and blameless

And to relate to others in an encouraging and comforting way,

We too often find ourselves more like those mentioned in the book of Micah

Waging war against those who do not favor us with gifts

Taking bribes, despising justice

And distorting all that is right.

Filling our lives with wickedness and bloodshed.

Sounds a bit harsh, doesn’t it?

We may say, “That doesn’t sound like me!”

 “That must be someone else.”

I may not be holy, but I am at least good.



But the Lord says to us,

The good people

It is you who deserve to be plowed under like a field,

To become rubble, overgrown with weeds.

In the finally analysis

It is we, as part of the human race,

Who are responsible.

It is we who kidnap hundreds of girls…

And force them to convert to another religion.

It is we who invade the Ukraine and attempt to overthrow the government

It is we who use the diamond industry to support terror in Africa

It is we who shoot peaceful civilians in Syria

It is we who manipulate the financial markets out of greed.

It is we who argue with our neighbors and gossip about our friends

It is we who turn our backs on the most vulnerable in our society.

It is we human beings who do this.

We know this

And yet, we are frankly amazed to find ourselves among the accused. (Pause)

But even more amazing is this:

It is we to whom Jesus comes, calling us friend

It is we whom Jesus embraces with love.

It is even as we fail

To live truly as the human beings that we were created to be

That God continues to call our names,

And to welcome us into an embrace of love.

We begin to realize our true humanity

When, even as we fail,

We yet open ourselves to the one

Who is both truly human and truly divine,

The one who shows us the way of truth and life.

How should we live our lives?

Love God; love your neighbor

And cling to hope in the unconditional love and grace of Jesus Christ.


Amen.

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, November 02, 2014

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