A sermon preached at Kowloon Union
Church on Sunday 17 April
2016, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that
day were Psalm 23; Acts 9:36–43; John 10:22–30.
may the Holy Spirit dwell and inspire us. May your word transform us to live
our life with your love and serve faithfully like Jesus Christ. Amen.
would like to speak about a woman disciple in the early church. Her name is
Tabitha in Aramaic, in Greek, it is Dorcas. I will use the name Dorcas in my
The book of
Acts is to reveal the mission and work of the early church community in
outreaching the Gentiles and to show the successful witness of Christianity in
the Roman world.
R. O’Day, in her biblical commentary on the book of Acts, said Luke emphasized
on the role and works of the Apostle Paul and Peter in the early church
movement of the gospel. She said that
the story of Dorcas being raised from the dead was to highlight Peter’s work of
It is quite
true that people in general like to see things that involved super natural
power in one way or another. Raising the dead is dramatic and of course may
attract a lot of attention.
wonder then, according to the Acts, that the event about Peter and Dorcas became known throughout Joppa, and many
believed in the Lord.
general like to hear and believe in super natural miracles, typical examples
are someone’s cancer healed after prayers, people surviving in an areophane crash
or an earthquake.
the story of Dorcas, what really attracted me is not Peter’s power of raising
her from the dead. What touches my heart was the weeping of the widows that
revealed their deep love to Dorcas. The widows were so distressed and in deep
sorrow because their beloved sister was gone.
the only woman explicitly identified as a disciple in Acts. (9:36) The story did
not mention if Dorcas was a widow. According to some commentaries, Dorcas was
probably also a widow. She was generous to share what she had with other
widows. She made clothes for them and provided for them what they needed.
second class citizens in the earlier church period. Without support from
husbands, this group of women was socially marginalized and economically
poor. Dorcas, recognized as disciple, had
been serving them wholeheartedly.
amongst other women such as Mary, Lydia and Priscilla, were playing significant
leading roles in the early church movement. But they were seldom mentioned in
the scriptures. In a male-dominant structure both in society and in church
settings, the contribution of female was easily neglected.
In the early
church, Dorcas was representing the church community to serve the vulnerable
and the neglected. What she did was ordinary – making clothes for the widows.
Comparing to the miracle of raising the dead, it seemed nothing. But what she did
touch people’s live deeply. This was the reason for the deep sorrow of those
who have been helped by her. She had set a very good example for us to follow
reminded me of many sisters in Christ serving the Lord in a quiet and humble
way. Because they do it in a very low key way and are thus quite invisible,
people usually do not pay attention. I remember a friend, let me call her Joyce.
Joyce is in her 50s. She suffers from heart problem. Her husband is also
suffering from chronical illness. What makes her disheartened is that her
daughter is a drug addict. Her life has been once shattered because of the
health challenge and family problems. She however never gives up. She has
strong faith in God. Instead of being beaten down by life’s trials, she focuses
her life in the service of God and in the love of people. While she is still
taking good care of her husband and praying for her daughter to return to do
good, she spends a lot of her time and energy in helping refugees and homeless
people in Hong Kong. Rev Lam is a local church pastor, very much concerned
about homeless people. Joyce is working together with him behind the scene. Every
week, Joyce brings the homeless people who are also refugees to the church that
Rev Lam is ministering for worship. She also brings those who are sick to
consult doctors. Her service to the vulnerable is very down to earth. What she does is not noticeable by the
public. Rev Lam is well known by the local church of his good deeds. But not
Joyce. However Joyce is not doing any less than him. She has been giving great
service for the people in need and for God. Joyce has faithfully witnessed
Jesus Christ, the shepherd who cares for his sheep.
Joyce focuses on what she can give and serve for others. The clothing made by
Dorcas the widows showed to Peter is sign of her loving action. Dorcas’ love
and care for the widows are very concrete and practical. Love without action is
The life of
widows could be miserable. No husband to love, no recognition from society, no
adequate means for a living. But Dorcas found a way out for them. She clothed
them with protection, with dignity and with love.
Joyce too did
not allow her personal misfortunes to ruin her life. She refused to be a
victim. Instead she is determined to use her life to serve.
narrative of Acts, the drama of Dorcas is her resurrection – Peter raised her
from the dead.
Jesus’ faithful disciple. She was Jesus’ beloved sheep. She hears the voice of
Jesus and Jesus knows her. Jesus gives
eternal life to those who follow him. (John 10: 27-28) She is with Jesus Christ
as One. As spoken by Jesus, ‘the Father
and I are One’. Dorcas who is in Christ, may say with confidence - ‘the Father
and I are One’. In this light, Dorcas has been enjoying eternal life in God.
disciples, do you want the supernatural power like Peter? Of course to some people,
it is nice to have some supernatural power like Peter. But the supernatural
power is not something Christians should seek. It is the grace of God and the
power of the holy spirit that achieves anything beyond human work.
importantly, what is the significance of such a miracle of raising the dead?
is all about love!
restoration of Dorcas’ life is meaningful to the widows because of the love she
shared with them.
demonstrated her love to the widows by her serving acts.
action is dead.
without love is nothing.
is an act of love.
Lazarus from the dead. (John 11:17-44) He did it out of compassion. Jesus cried
too when he saw the deep grief of Mary and her people for the death of Lazarus.
It is the power of love and compassion that makes this miracle works.
the miracle after he encountered with the greatly distressed widows.
resurrected after three days and appeared to his disciples. Why did not Jesus
just stay in peace with God after his death? Why did he raise and bring with
him the broken body to the disciples again? Jesus’ resurrection brought to his
fearful disciples comfort, peace and hope.
is not only just about the raising from the dead. It is not just about supernatural
power. It is not just a single event for us to remember. Resurrection is not simply
an event after death but a reality of everyday life.
is a faith given by God through Jesus Christ the transformation of life and
breaking through of darkness to light, despair to hope, and sorrow to joy.
other apostles who witnessed the resurrection of Jesus were called to be the
people of resurrection. The church is thus formed to carry the mission to share
the gospel of Jesus’ resurrection. Both men and women, strong and weak, rich
and poor, homosexual and heterosexual, married and singles who listen to
Jesus are his sheep. At the same time all
his followers are shepherds called by Jesus to serve the needed.
for the widows recorded in the scripture. Florence Nightingale who went to
Crimea to care for the wounded and dying soldiers on the battle fields. Mother Theresa provided dedicated service to
the poor and sick from the streets. Joyce serves tirelessly for the vulnerable
homeless people and refugees in Hong Kong.
are all faithful servants of Christ reveal the power of resurrection. They have
lived the love of resurrection. Some of these women are well known like Mother
Theresa and Florence Nightingale. In reality, there are many invisible women and
men working day after day, week after week, year after year, to serve the Lord
in a humble way. I am always feel indebted to our brothers and sisters (mostly
sisters) silently cleaning dishes in the kitchen after the fellowship on Sundays.
I appreciate so much of many of our sisters working in HK as domestic workers
taking care of their employers’ family, young and old, able and disable with
season of Easter, you are invited to reflect more deeply of what resurrection
meant to you. How is your life and faith encountered with the risen Christ, our
shepherd who knows us and give to us eternal life. Do we hear the voice of
Jesus and follow his way of love and service like Dorcas?
A sermon preached at Kowloon Union
Church on Sunday 3 April
2016, the Second Sunday of Easter, by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The
scripture readings that day were Acts 5:27-32; Revelation 1:4-8; John 20:19-31.
in church we celebrated the joy and happiness of Jesus’ resurrection. We have loudly
proclaimed -- Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! Allelulia!
celebrating the power, joy and hope that is brought by Jesus’ resurrection, we
came to realize, in midst of all these cheers, that after Jesus’ death, his disciples
were in great fear, isolation and uncertainties.
Gospel according to John that we heard this morning, the author recorded the fear
and isolation of Jesus’ disciples. They locked up themselves in the room where
they had the last supper with Jesus. They were very frightened. They were
afraid of the Jews, the religious authorities who had killed Jesus, their
master. As Jesus’ disciples, their fear was very much understood. Who knows if
they would be the next to be crucified!
moment of trauma, Jesus the risen Lord came to them and stood among them and
said ‘Peace be with you.’
showed them his body – the broken body: his hand and his side.
disciples rejoiced when they saw their Lord Jesus.
with you”: these are not just words of comforts from Jesus, but the real
presence of the Lord with those who are living in fear.
Peace is the presence of the Lord with a physical
In times of
fear and trial, having someone close and trustful to stay with us physically is
good. Jesus did it for his disciples.
teaches us that our presence is important to our friends who are in troubles
and in need of care and support. Jesus’
full presence in his disciples taught us an important lesson - Don’t just pay
lip service! Be with those in need in a concrete and down to earth manner.
showed to his disciples his wounds. He did not hide his trauma. To adopt the
phrase by Henry Nouwen, Jesus is the wounded healer. In his wounds we are
healed. We learn from Jesus that sharing of our vulnerability may serve others.
We, who are committed to be Christ’s followers may do what Jesus did.
in jail, homeless people on the streets and seniors in elderly homes; listening
to and playing with a child in distress; giving a call to a friend who is sick
or has lost his job, are some of the ways to share the peace of the Lord with
others. I have some very good friends in life. When I looked back and asked
what makes our friendship long lasting? I find out that it was our presence and
companion for each other whenever we are in need. To share peace with other people,
one of the best ways is to be physically present. People who are in need may
see us, speak to us and even touch us.
Peace be with you – the second time
Peace is the presence of the Lord with the Holy
disciples rejoiced after they saw Jesus. Jesus could have left at that point, but
he stayed and spoke to them again – Peace be with you.
time he said peace be with you, he added this – “As the Father has sent me, so
I send you.” After that, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the
Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you
retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
It is good
to have someone physically present in us when we are in fear, in isolation and
in uncertainty. However, in reality, it is not always possible.
aware that he would leave his disciples and end his earthly life, going back to
his Father. When Jesus said to his disciples – peace be with you. He at the
same time gave to them the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the power of God in
Jesus. The power of the spirit is eternal and would be living in his disciples
the Holy Spirit from Jesus, Jesus is forever living in them. This is the
profound promise and assurance from Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit in Jesus
Christ renews the life of the disciples. The holy spirit in Jesus Christ
transformed them and strengthened them to move beyond the physical and human
world to a spiritual and eternal world.
disciples strengthened by the Holy Spirit are given a new world view with
spiritual dimension. They are given the power to proclaim the forgiveness of sins
in the physical absence of Jesus. They are commissioned to do the work of God
like Jesus was called on earth. The Holy Spirit breathed by the risen Jesus is
a fulfillment and confirmation of his words he shared with them before he was
crucified. You may read Gospel John 14-16.
Peace is a
gift and promise. Peace is also a calling to Jesus’ disciples.
- As the Father has sent me, I am
sending you. (V. 22)
disciples were empowered by Jesus’ spirit that lived in them. They fear no
more. They began to unlock the door and went out to the world with freedom.
They left their closet and proclaimed
the good news openly. From the book of Acts, we learnt that the spiritually
filled disciples began to heal the sick, cast out demons and preach the good
news of repentance and forgiveness of sins as proclaimed by Jesus. Their
preaching in the temple had antagonized the religious leaders. When they were
challenged by the religious leaders and asked to stop proclaiming and teaching
about Jesus, they stood firm and did not give up. They did not let go of those
who put Jesus to death. By the power of the holy spirit, they continued to
speak the truth of Jesus’ unjust killing.
They did it with great courage. They had no fear of the authority on
earth. They did the will of God, the God of justice and righteousness.
with you, is carried with the power of the Holy Spirit in Jesus.
empowered disciples continue Jesus’ mission to call
for repentance and to proclaim forgiveness of sins in God’s kingdom of love and justice.
It is heart
breaking to hear the horrific news about the suicide bomb in Pakistan last
Sunday. Many innocent children and women were killed. The United Methodist
General Board of Global Ministries has expressed sorrow to the families of
those killed and injured. The General Secretary of the Mission Board expressed
outrage and condemned the action. But they prayed too for the perpetrators. The
prayer was, “asking God to lead them to the righteousness of non-violence.”
Spirit helps believers to discern and proclaim God’s forgiveness of sins in a
careful manner, with the perspective of justice.
Peace be with you – the third time
To the doubtful and to the believers
to his disciples for the third time, ‘peace be with you’ when he saw them with
Thomas’s presence this time. Thomas was not in the room when Jesus first
appeared to the disciples. Thomas insisted that he would believe the Lord has
risen only if he saw Jesus’ broken body and touched with his finger the mark of
the nail and in his side.
time I learnt about this gospel account in a bible study, Thomas was criticized
because he did not have faith and trust. But to me Thomas had his point. Other
disciples already had a chance to see the risen Jesus. Why not him? To find out
the fact before you believe in something is reasonable and a responsible manner
for an adult. Isn’t it?
very considerate and had good understanding in Thomas. He appeared to him and
asked him to touch him. This act obviously touched Thomas deeply. The account did not mention if Thomas touched
Jesus or not. But it highlighted Thomas’s response to Jesus - “My Lord and my God.” Again the presence of
Jesus must have been overwhelming to Thomas.
time Jesus said “peace be with you”, in the presence of Thomas, the one who
doubted, inspired me to think about this.
that Jesus gave is to those who have doubts in their hearts. Jesus Christ
allows people to have doubts and questions. Jesus goes and stands amongst those
who have questions or are even suspicious. Quite often believers are asked to
trust and obey in God. It is good to have trust in God. And yet, it is not
healthy to discourage believers to ask questions with reason. Worse still is
the teaching and practice of blind obedience to so called religious
authorities. From the conversation
between Jesus and Thomas, we realized that the God revealed in Jesus is open
and confident enough to allow questions and challenges from believers.
at the end of his conversation is equally interesting and worth our attention.
He said to
Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have
not seen and yet have come to believe. ”
addressed Thomas’ concern, he acknowledged those who have a pure heart and pure
faith. It is particular important for believers who don’t have a chance to meet
with him directly after he leaves the earthly world.
- “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” probably
is speaking to us and many who do not see his physical appearance. We believe
because of the words and deeds of Jesus Christ shared in the bible. We believe
because we see witnesses of Jesus’ disciples in their good works.
“Peace be with you” – is speaking to those who have not seen Jesus and yet have
come to believe. This is a gift promised and given for all generations.
with you is a gift and a calling from Jesus, our risen Lord to his disciples
and to the world God created.
In the last
two weeks, like many people from Hong Kong, from Pakistan, from Brussels and from the world, I was very
disturbed by the news of the horrific killing of a four year old girl in
Taiwan, the merciless destruction of lives by suicide bombs in Pakistan and
Brussels. Jesus’ greetings - Peace be with you is so much needed in a troubled
world that we are living in.
frustration, helplessness, depression, hatred, division and retaliation are
burning many people’s souls, may Jesus’ peace given in the Holy Spirit renew the
hearts of the faithful and give hope to the world.
4 April. It is a day to remember Martin Luther King Jr, the American Baptist
minister and civil rights activist. He was assassinated on 4 April 1968. Martin
Luther King was a great man of the world. He was God’s faithful servant
witnessing Jesus’ love, justice and peace on earth. Tomorrow will be a date to commemorate his
death, to celebrate his life and his contribution in advocating equal rights
for all and an end to racial discrimination in the United States and in the
his powerful speeches, I have a dream is probably the most famous, but I would
like to quote one that is related to the theme of peace that I share today.
Martin Luther King once said, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it
is the presence of justice.”
I would like
to echo by saying:
is not the absence of tension, sorrow and violence.
is the presence of God, this God is eternal and holy – this God is with her
people and the world in the past, present and future.
is the presence of God – to all people – to the righteous and the wicked; to the
victims and the perpetuators, to the saints and the sinners.
is the presence of God – in our life and in our service, that manifest God’s
‘Peace be with you’. May you be the peace.
with us.’ Let us be the peace.