A sermon preached at Kowloon Union
Church on Sunday 15 May 2016, the Pentecost Sunday, by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that
Genesis 11:1-9; Act 2:1-21; John 14:8-17, 25-27.
God of life,
may your Spirit fill the hearts of your
faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love. Inspire us to understand your truth and by
the power of the Holy Spirit your Word transform us to become more like Christ.
It is a day
of celebration for the outpouring of the Spirit and the spread of the Gospel to
pulpit fall reminds us of Pentecost fire, the fire of Jesus’ love poured out in
the Holy Spirit towards others.
the day the early Christian community is empowered by the Holy Spirit at the Jewish Pentecost
festival. For Christians, Pentecost marked the birth of a new faith community -
the church. Fifty days on earth after his resurrection, Jesus Christ left the
earth but his calling and mission remains in those who believe in him and love
a great reminder to Christians of the power of the Holy Spirit and her
transforming power to the life, faith and mission of individual believers and
the Church community.
celebrate and give thanks for the gift of the Holy Spirit given by God in Jesus
people, the Holy Spirit is very abstract. You cannot see it with your eyes, you
cannot listen to it with your ears. You cannot touch it by hands. However, you
may feel it.
Now I invite
you all to have a minute of silence. You may close your eyes and be fully aware
of your breath. Breathe in and breathe out. If there is anything that side
tracks you, just gently come back to your breath. I will finish this time of silent
meditation in your breathing by the sound of the bell. Let us start now.
Concentrate and focus on your breathing. Breathe in and breathe out.
How do you
feel sisters and brothers?
in Hebrew: ruah; and in Greek: pneuma both meaning breath, the spirit of the
When we are
breathing we know we are a living human being. When we breathe, we know that
the God of life is with us. In Genesis when the Lord God breathed into the
man’s nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Genesis
first appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, he said to them “Peace
be with you. As the Father send me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed
on them and said to them, “receive the Holy Spirit.”
breathe, we know by experience the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Jesus Christ
lives in us.
referring the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of truth that dwells in
What is the
Spirit of Truth? The Spirit of Truth is to be fully united with God (we know
God as God knows us. God abides with us and he is with us. (John 14:15-16)
Pentecost Sunday, sisters and brothers, let us receive the Holy Spirit with
thanksgiving and affirm her presence and her power in our life and our faith in
significant to Christians and the Church. How?
within the disciples and the faith community gives them new life and transforming
Peter delivered a message during the Pentecost festival. (The Pentecost
festival was the anniversary of the Jews to commemorate and celebrate the
giving of Mosaic Law on Mount Sinai. It then became an annual renewal of the
Mosaic covenant for the Jews).
was called by Jesus as the Rock of the Church, delivered a powerful message
referring to Prophet Joel. He highlighted that everybody in God has been called
a vision and a role to play. He quoted from Joel 2:28-32.
of God will dwell in all flesh. Sons and daughters shall prophesy. Young men
shall see visions and old men shall dream dreams. Even upon slaves, both women
and men shall prophesy.”
women, young and old, servants of low social status and masters with high
status and power, are all valuable in the eyes of God. They all deserve to have
dreams and vision. No one will be left out. In God, a God of equals, all human
boundaries created by gender, age, race and class should be broken down. In
God, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, we are liberated to lead a life
that is different from the world values of hierarchy and segregation. The Holy
Spirit removes all human barriers and boundaries.
sabbatical last year, I went to Taize
France. This was a great spiritual experience. From there I experienced the
power and the work of the Holy Spirit that removed many human barriers.
Taize is an ecumenical community offering a
spiritual space for Christians of all background to worship, pray and serve the
mission of Christ to bring peace and reconciliation for all.
In Taize I
was staying in a dormitory with some ladies from France and South Korea. The
lady from South Korea is a church minister. She commands very little English
and no Chinese. For me I can neither speak her language Korean. It was not easy
for us to communicate verbally. But we communicated with non-verbal language
and we both felt great being with each other.
stay in Taize, I met people whose mother tongue is French, Spanish, Italian,
Romanian, Mandarin, German and so on. We were not able to communicate in our
own mother language. However, the holy spirit within us has broken the language
barrier. We worship and pray together for 8 days. The people who gathered to
worship were from different race, nation, nationality, gender, age, and mental
ability (there were mentally challenged friends joining the pilgrimage). We
shared Holy Communion every day. In the bread and wine that symbolized the body
of Christ, we were all united in One Holy Spirit. There are Christians from
Catholics, Protestant and Orthodox background. United in Christ through the
Holy Spirit, we all overcome many boundaries.
testament account today about the Babel Tower. It highlights people scattering
because they spoke different languages. In Christ, the Holy Spirit gathers
people speaking different languages in unity. The people who built Babel Tower were
scattered probably not because they spoke different languages. It was their
pride and self centred-ness that divide.
Unlike the disciples of Christ who took risk and left their comfort zone
to go to different places to share the gospel, the people from Babel became
very inward looking. They just want
to keep their stable life and do not walk in God’s way. Their sin is the
separation from God. The story of the Babel Tower is a reminder to believers
and the church community to walk humbly with God, and to live a life like
Christ. Jesus came not to be served but to serve.
passion, Jesus said to his disciples that ‘those who believe in him will do
what he does and will do even greater things than him.’ (John 14:12)
is sent to earth to reveal God’s glory of love and unity. Church is built to
In a world
that is full of division, hatred, fear and insecurity, let us who are united by
the power of the Holy spirit in Christ break all walls that divide. Let Christ,
our unity and liberty restore the world and renew all lives.
brothers, let us celebrate Pentecost with the transforming love and power of
the Holy Spirit in Christ. Amen.
preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 8 May 2016, the Seventh Sunday after Easter, by Dr. Paul Cheung. The
scripture readings that day were Mark 11:20-24.
The Lesson from the Withered Fig Tree
20 In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to
its roots. 21 Then Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi,
look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” 22 Jesus
answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly I tell you, if you
say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not
doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will
be done for you. 24 So I tell you, whatever you ask for in
prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
Have faith in God and we will be able to face the obstacles and uncertainties
Life is full of happiness,
yet we experience failure and disappointment time and again and we feel upset and
depressed. In a frustrating situation, can we be all right?
In Proverbs 12:25, it says, “Anxiety
weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.”
When unfortunate things
happen to us, we may take a negative view to look at our life and ourselves.
This attitude makes us feel not all right. On the other hand, we may interpret
the unpleasant incidents from an optimistic perspective. So we may remain
hopeful and hold a positive attitude, and as a result, we can be all right in
It is not what we experience, but
how we respond to our experience that makes us happy or unhappy.
Optimistic thinking brings us the energy
to live with a happy and positive manner to deal with the problems. Also, research
shows that optimism is positively co-related to good health, greater longevity and
Dimensions of Explanatory Styles
Our thinking patterns determine
whether we are optimistic or pessimistic. There are different dimensions to
explain our experiences.
One dimension is permanence. Encountering
a problem or an undesirable incident, we may explain it in a permanent
dimension. For example, your boss is not satisfied with your performance in a
task. Pessimistic explanatory style explains that your boss probably doesn’t
like your performance in the future. Maybe he even doesn’t like you. This is a
permanent dimension. A very pessimistic person may think, “I fail this time. I am
going to lose my job.” Optimistic explanatory style, however, explains it in another
way. “Well, my boss doesn’t like my performance in this task. That is true. But
it only concerns this particular task. It doesn’t mean that he won’t be satisfied
with my future work performance.” The temporary explanatory style helps us remain
optimistic when we are faced with an unpleasant event. Since we remain hopeful
about the future, we have the incentive to improve.
Another dimension of explanation is
pervasiveness, which refers to explaining an unpleasant experience as a universal
or an individual case. For instance, Shelly has made every effort to try to
pass the examination. Unfortunately, she fails. Pessimistic explanatory style
explains that hard work is just a waste of time. Because of this thought, Shelly
may be unwilling to work hard again as she thinks hard work is useless. On the
other hand, optimistic explanation is that hard work cannot help her pass this
exam. That is true, but it doesn’t mean that hard work is not useful for other assessments.
Being optimistic, Shelly may continue to work hard. People with hope are more
likely to pay effort to improve.
Different patterns of thinking lead to different
emotions and behaviors. Facing
adversity, optimistic thinking can help us remain positive and keep the
motivation to move forward. For Christians, God is the greatest source of our
hope. When we are in trouble, we come to God. In 1 Peter 5:7, it says, “Cast all your
anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”
Prayer can give us courage and confidence to face the uncertainties. Through
prayer, we feel God’s presence and get the strength
to handle the problem.
In Mark 11:24, Jesus says to His disciples, “So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe
that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
Jesus’ teaching emphasizes that faith in God is utmost important in our prayer and we have to trust that
God will do wondrous things for us. Such great faith is formed based on a very
close connection with God. In prayer, our interaction with God lets us understand
more and more about God’s will and this understanding guides us to pray according
to His will.
Jesus’ prayer is the best
example. Jesus knew what He would go through to fulfill the salvation – His
mission on earth. On the night when He was betrayed, Lord Jesus was facing the
upcoming suffering in agony, He prayed earnestly for the passion. In Luke
22:42, Jesus prayed, “Father, if you
are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” Jesus’
prayer reflects His faith in God – trust God for His almighty power and trust
God for His will to do the best for us following God’s plan, God’s way, and God’s
During American civil war, Abraham Lincoln
and his generals were under a great deal of pressure. Seeing no sign of victory
and being desperate, one of the generals said to Lincoln,
“Mr President, let us pray that God is on our side.” Lincoln said, “No, let us
pray that we are on God’s side.”
is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according
to his will, he hears us.” (1 John 5:14)
faith in God and pray that God will work according to His plan, His way, and
I would like to share with
you my favourite hymn “Great is Your faithfulness”
The hymn reminds me of God’s blessings. When we are distressed,
we are grateful to have “your living presence to cheer
and to guide; strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, these
are the blessings your love will provide.”
Great is Your
faithfulness. That is the amazing truth – We have faith in God because of His faithfulness.
Life is like hiking on
a long mountain trail. We need to climb up the hill and take many steps. We feel
tired and sometimes exhausted. Occasionally we get lost, but remain hopeful
that we can reach the destination.
Facing challenges and crises,
have faith in God and certainly we can be all right.
We are grateful for Your dear presence with us in our life
journey. We cast all our worries and burdens on You because we know You care for
us. In good times and bad times help us have faith in You. May Your will be done on us. We pray in the
name of our risen Lord Jesus of Christ. Amen.
A sermon preached at Kowloon
Union Church on Sunday 1 May 2016 by the Rev. Dr.
Tjeerd de Boer. The scripture readings
that day were John 5:1-9.
John 5: 1 After
this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
2 Now in Jerusalem
by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five
porticoes. 3 In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5 One man was there who had been ill for
thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been
there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” 7 The sick
man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is
stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.”
8 Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was
made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was the
Gospel reading is about healing, healing on a holy day, somewhere between
Easter and Pentecost, about a sign, an indication that Jesus is the one we are
waiting for, even if do not know who he is.
at different levels, in different circles, individual-community-nations healing
as of one of the signs by which Jesus makes it very clear who he is – and what
his ministry and mission mean.
is in a place called Bet-zatha, Bethesda (still
name of many hospitals): pool of mercy,
and it is one of seven signs (in the Gospel of John) by which Jesus shows how
comprehensive, how all-inclusive his healing is: by changing water into wine,
by cleaning the temple, by curing a sick boy and a lame man, by feeding the
multitude, by opening the eyes of one was blind and one who was dead – seven
signs of life, of new life.
many of us, Christians, Jesus’ ministry is the ministry of healing in the first
place, indeed – Jesus came and comes to heal.
A survey among new Christians in mainland China shows
that nearly 70% of them gave healing as
motive for conversion, the recovery from illness of oneself or of a family
More in general, that is true for most of the first
generation Christians in all Asian, African and Latin American (and perhaps
other) churches and countries.
Gospel tells us how Jesus meets with the crowds, with the invalids —blind,
lame, and paralyzed people – that is the first circle, of the ones Jesus is
coming for, as he testified in his first public sermon: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor”
he meets with one of them personally.
striking, the story of this disabled man, who for already 38 years is waiting
for a miracle, waiting to be healed, waiting for someone to heal him, or at
least, someone to help him to be healed, 38 years – and still hoping?
the number of years of the journey of the people of Israel, through desert and
wilderness, which took them 38 years – and cost them a whole generation (Deut.
in fact, Jesus’ encounter with this lifelong lame is a miracle in itself.
then, Jesus bluntly asks: “Do you want
to be made well?”
seems to be a rather senseless and unnecessary question, to a person who is, a
lifetime long, waiting to be healed. Of
cóurse he wants to be healed.
the question is and remains to be intriguing, does he really want to be healed,
to live with a new perspective, a new life, fundamentally different from the
life he used to live, for so many years? Does he realizes what it really means
to be healed?
is not only as a question to that lonely lame man, it is a question also to us
we want to get well, do we want to be healed? Do we want that new perspective?
Do we really want to see that what needs to be healed, is healed?
we want to change all that has to be changed? Are we willing, are we able, to
start a new life, or to start our life anew?
poor man’s perspective is narrow, limited by his daily routine, he expects his
new friend, his unknown benefactor, to help him to go into the pool, without
knowing that it is Jesus who asks him the key question
Jesus does not bring him to the pool, he heals him right away – without asking
further questions or putting conditions - and the man was made well, took up
his mat and began to walk –
this (crucial) moment of change, the Law of Sabbath is broken by both the
healer and the healed
of tradition, you were not allowed to heal on Sabbath, and you should not take
up your mat on Sabbath!
those two very short lines, stand up
and walk – and: that day was a Sabbath, the circle becomes wider, wider than the
blind, lame, and paralyzed in the pool, as wide as the whole community of
believers – of all those who had not seen the need of the invalid, of the poor
among them, for so many, many years
we get to know Jesus, who heals whenever it is needed and heals whom
wants to be healed, if necessary, breaking the Law,
healing goes beyond the Law. Jesus’ message is a sign to the whole community of
believers, as the individual change – and healing - involves all
the only authority Jesus respects is the authority of his Father,
his mission is God’s mission
his question is, with even more emphasis: do you want to get well, do
you want to get healed – is also a question to the authorities, whose rules he
breaks: do you really want a new perspective, of life?
mission and ministry, Jesus’ healing goes beyond all borders, all kinds of
borders, beyond traditions and authorities, beyond pools of mercy, beyond
neighborly or friendly help and assistance, beyond our human efforts, how
important traditions and authorities may be, how admirable acts of charity and
solidarity and how essential human efforts, of course, are !
healing is human and divine at the same time, is very down to earth and
effective, is directly related to the sorrows and pains of daily life and is
directly to the promises of new life, a new earth, a new city where all and all
needs are being taken care of, and all
is the widest circle: the circle which includes áll peoples, áll nations (áll
cultures, áll languages), the city where Jesus is Lord (which we celebrate at
Ascension Day, this coming Thursday), the community where there is place and
food and health and life for all, forever,
is our perspective, perspective of life, néw life
therefore this question to all of us: do we really want to be healed, do we
the words of Psalm 67, Psalm of
Ascension - which we sang at the beginning of our worship (Laudate Omnes Gentes, Sing Praises, All You Peoples):
God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us,
God’s way may be known upon earth, God’s saving power among all nations.
us, the peoples, praise God; let all the peoples praise God
us all, healed and waiting/wanting to be healed, praise God. Amen !