Reflections...

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

Make the world peaceful again!

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 27 November 2016, the First Sunday in Advent, by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that day were Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44.


Opening prayer:
Gracious God, thank you for your incarnated Word in Jesus who shared his divine life with us. May the spirit inspire us to know you and be transformed by you. Amen.

The church is beautifully decorated. Thanks to sisters and brothers who came over on Friday and Saturday to do the cleaning and decorating. Thanks also to friends from UCCP (the Uniting Church of Christ in the Philippines) and OBIC - One Body In Christ Church too for their contribution yesterday. Thanks to pastor Maggie for coordinating the clean up days.

Candles on the wreath, Christmas tree and banners set in the sanctuary are visible signs for the Season of Advent. A new church year has begun today!

I would like to share with you the worship space decorations and their symbolic meaning

Symbol 1 - The light

The light of the candles – it is an important symbol of the season. The light reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world that comes into the darkness of our lives to bring newness, life, and hope. It also reminds us that we are called to be a light to the world as we reflect the light of God's grace to others (Isaiah 42:6). The progression in the lighting of the candles symbolizes the various aspects of our waiting experience – namely peace, hope, joy and love. As the candles are lit over the four week period, it also symbolizes the darkness of fear and hopelessness receding and the shadows of sin falling away as more and more light is shed into the world. The flame of each new candle reminds the worshippers that something is happening, and that more is yet to come. Finally, the light that has come into the world is plainly visible as the Christ candle is lit at Christmas, and worshippers rejoice over the fact that the hope and promise of long ago have been realized.

Symbol 2 -  the tree (Christmas tree)

Our tree is a real one. You may smell its freshness. The tree is a symbol of life. God is the source of life. We give thanks to God for giving us eternal life and Jesus Christ who came to restore our life and save the world.

3) The photos of KUC’s members and friends, past and the present have been hung up on the tree. Photos of the people remind us - 1) We are all God’s beloved children, beautifully and wonderfully created; we are fully human being and spiritual being. 2) And yet we are all sinners and suffering from human brokenness. God breaks into the world to share our humanity, reconcile relationship and to make life whole through Christ. 3) God calls his people in different generations to become Christ’s disciples, to walk in his way and to witness God’s kingdom. 4) To love one another as Jesus Christ has commanded his disciples. 

Friends who are new to our church and who have not yet given us a photo, please give a copy to us so that we can hang it up and you can be part of our community here in KUC.

In the past few years, I used to share with the congregation on the first Advent Sunday through the bulletin or sermon about the meaning of Advent. This year I will share it again.

The word “advent” derives from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming” or “arrival”. As the Latin translation of the Greek word parousia, it is 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 of the Hebrews for the birth of their Messiah (Jesus Christ), as well as the waiting for the second coming of Jesus Christ by Christians today.

Advent signifies a time of waiting for the coming of the Lord to save his creation from sins and to restore life to all creatures.

So, what does it mean to wait for the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ? What is the significance of Advent to Christians in the contemporary world that we are living in?

Waiting in this time does not mean passively waiting until we die without action and do nothing. We heard this morning the Epistles’ reading taken from Romans – the Apostle Paul gave to the early church Christians a message of waking up from sleep –that is, waking up to a spiritually awoken life. He asked the disciples to live a life that revealed the Lord Jesus Christ who is the light of the world. In the light of Christ, disciples are no longer living selfishly for their own desires.  In them, there should be no quarreling and jealousy, no reveling and drunkenness, no debauchery and licentiousness.

Paul gives us an important Advent message today – we need to change and live a Godly life in Christ by carrying his light. We live no more in the darkness but choose to live in the light and peace with God and with one another.

The gospel reading taken from Matthew today gives us the sense of urgency. Like the thief, the Lord is coming at an unexpected hour, and therefore we must be ready.  The Advent message from Matthew is to stay awake, to take immediate and appropriate actions before it is too late.

Immediately after Donald Trump won the presidential election, there have been demonstrations in different parts of the United States showing dissatisfaction with the results. There are banners saying ‘Donald Trump does not represent me.’ A student from the States I recently met in Hong Kong told me that when she is back to the States, she will be active in the civil rights movements exerting pressure on Trump so as to protect the rights of the minorities and immigrants.

I also heard from the news that there are Americans who have started to prepare plans to help the needy if Donald Trump reverses policies in a way that may adversely affect them.

These actions reflect that there are Americans not just waiting passively for a new president to assume leadership. They are alert and taking actions to prevent a president going too far with his bad records in discriminating against new immigrants, women and Muslims.

‘Make America great again’ is Donald Trump’s election campaign slogan. But our world does not need any great nation. Our world is in need of peace.

The passage from the Book of Isaiah today has given us a vision of God’s peace. Peace in Hebrew is shalom, and in Arabic is salam, which share the same three root letters S-L-M connoting wholeness, completeness, well-being and welfare.

Therefore, peace is more than an absence of conflict. Peace is the presence of conditions that provide life.

Martin Luther King Jr. also echoes loudly: “Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of justice. Peace is more than just a word heard in songs; it is a deep longing for life, for justice, for wholeness.

As we hear Isaiah’s bold vision today, we are reminded of the importance of peace for the world. But we at the same time need to realise that peace begins within us. The path to peace is a journey, one that takes us inward into ourselves and outward towards community.

Prophets like Isaiah announce unexpected reversals.

I quote, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:5)

Just as war is learned, so is peace. Isaiah proclaims that in God’s new world, not only must the weapons be destroyed; they are to be transformed and repurposed.

All national and international leaders should learn about peace and be transformed. All people in the world should live a life of peace and transformation. All systems should be transformed to bring peace and well beings to the community.

To echo the prophet Isaiah’s vision in the season of Advent, a message that reminds us to prepare and wait for the coming of the Lord and his salvation for all, I will pray and voice loudly ‘Make the World peaceful again!’

I believe Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace who is incarnated amongst us will be delighted to see his disciples and his church walking in the light for peace.


May this Christmas tree and these photos of people - symbols of life and the solidarity of God’s people, and the light of advent candle, lead us and guide us to walk in the path of peace. Together let us make the world peaceful. Be still, let us make our inner world peaceful. Amen.  

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, November 27, 2016

 

A Servant King

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 20 November 2016, the twenty-seventh Sunday after Pentecost, by the Rev. David Gill. The scripture readings that day were Jeremiah 23:1-6, Colossians 1:11-20 and St Luke 23:33-43.


August 1939. Note the date -- August 1939. Not a good month for the world.

Fascism was on the march. Despots had ridden to power on promises to make their countries great. Voices of hate were screaming their ugly message. Jewish people were being vilified and persecuted. Some, attempting to escape, found themselves turned away from other countries.

The threat of violence loomed everywhere. In this region, the Sino-Japanese War had been raging for years. In Europe, the lights were going out and the Second World War would erupt within days. Most of Asia and the Pacific would be drawn in. Before the madness ended, 60 million people – mostly civilians – would die.

Ancient demons had been let loose. Fear was pervasive. And people felt helpless. They could see what was happening, yet nobody seemed able to stop it. Politicians, diplomats, even the League of Nations itself, proved powerless. It must have been like watching a train wreck in slow motion.

No, August 1939 was not a good month at all.

But that same month, something almost miraculous happened too. Something unprecedented, that was to have far-reaching consequences.

That something was the First World Conference of Christian Youth. One thousand five hundred young people gathered in Amsterdam. They came from many countries, many languages, many races, many Christian traditions, many … everything. But, with all their differences, they were drawn together by one Christian faith. Must have looked a bit like the congregation of KUC, on steroids!

Until the last minute, organisers feared they might have to postpone because of world events. But the conference went ahead, thank God. And those young people received a blessing, a confidence, a vision, that inspired them and would serve to sustain them through the tough years ahead.

Some would find themselves serving in the armed forces, on one side or the other. Some wound up in Prisoner- of-war (POW ) camps. Some became involved in resistance movements. And at least one – Madeleine Barot, from France – became what today we would call a people smuggler, leading Jewish asylum seekers across the border from occupied France to neutral Switzerland.

And what was the theme of that great youth gathering? What was the focus of bible study, thought and prayer during those days? What was the conviction those young Christians would take away with them into the testing times ahead? It was expressed in a Latin phrase: Christus Victor. Christ the Victor. Christ the conqueror of sin and death. Christ the Sovereign Lord of All. Christ … the King.

So those young people found themselves focused on a reality beyond the world’s madness, a sovereignty beyond the world’s tyrannies. And they discovered they belonged to one great family gathered by Christ the King.

At the close of the conference, they sang an Easter hymn: Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son; endless is the victory, thou o’er death hast won. A participant wrote later, “I have never heard Thine be the glory sung as it was sung that day. It was a cry Lord, have mercy. But it was also a clear commitment to the faith that had brought us together and would hold us together”.

Well, November 2016 is not August 1939. There are, alas, some disconcerting similarities. But there are many differences.

The world has changed. The threats and opportunities we face have changed. Yet two things have not changed. Still this is a chaotic, sometimes scary world. And still we hear the astonishing claim that, in the words of our second reading, God “has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son”.

Today we’ve come to the last Sunday of the church’s year. Next Sunday the Advent wreath will come out of storage. Christmas will be only four weeks ahead. So now we’re at the end of Christians’ year of faith.

Through these past 52 weeks, we’ve travelled a very long way. From the ancient yearnings of Advent to the joyful news of Christmas, the dramatic discoveries of Epiphany, the soul-searching of Lent, the grim realism of Holy Week, the explosive joy of Easter, the new life of Pentecost, and onwards. So many stories, so many teachings. So many questions, so much wondering!

Today, it all comes together. Today we affirm the significance, for us, of the man who is at the centre of that saga. Today, like those young people seventy-seven years ago, we celebrate him as sovereign Lord of all. As Christ the King.

As those kids knew in 1939, it is not an empty title, a relic of centuries past. This central claim of our faith had far-reaching implications for them, two generations ago. It has equally far-reaching implications for us, today.

The claim that Christ is King liberates us, as it did them, from captivity to an unbearable status quo. It tells us, as it told them, that no earthly tyrant has final authority. It opens our eyes, like theirs, to a reality the world cannot see. It opens our hearts, like theirs, to a hope the world cannot imagine. And it sets our feet, like theirs, marching to the beat of a drum the world cannot hear.

But wait. What kind of king is he?

Here things get complicated. We’re talking about a man who was born in poverty, who was an asylum seeker in infancy, who was condemned as a subversive, ridiculed as a fool, executed as a criminal, accompanied in death by two thieves. A strange kind of king indeed. A different kind of king, for sure.

Jesus of Nazareth was not leading an armed insurrection. He was not competing directly with the power brokers of his time. Yet he was not crucified just for uttering pious platitudes. Something about that man shook the existing order to its foundations.

The divine love he embodied challenged the status quo of his day. The cross on which he died, the cross at the centre of this church, still challenges the status quo of ours.

That cross speaks louder than all the voices of hate, all the cries of despair. For it speaks of something stronger than hate, stronger than death itself. It speaks of an all-inclusive compassion, a divine love which has no limits, no conditions, no exceptions.

Today’s gospel referred to the two criminals who were Jesus’ companions in death. Some years ago, at an Assembly of the Christian Conference of Asia, one of the young stewards from Sri Lanka was getting around wearing not one cross but two. Why, I asked him? Surely one cross is enough. Why the double crosses? “I wear these for the two criminals who were crucified with Jesus,” he told me. “I can really identify with those guys!”

As can we all.

Christ’s compassion reached out to the penitent thief. In the same way, it reaches out to you, to me, to all the people of this city, this world.

Still it breaks down the walls people build to insulate themselves from each other, to exercise power over each other, to excuse themselves from caring about each other. Still it stands in judgement over the identities – of race, gender, culture, even religion – to which we give our loyalty and which all too often we treat as gods.

Christ the compassionate King gives himself in love for others, all others, whether they know it or not, whether they care about it or not, whether they respond to it or not. We who acknowledge the reign of Christ are called to do the same – give ourselves in costly love for others. In the world at large and wherever we may be.

Including right here in Hong Kong.

Remember the days of SARS in this city? It was a strange time. We were all getting around in those masks; pressing lift buttons with elbows instead of fingers; making lots of room for each other on the MTR; passing the peace in KUC with a bow instead of with a handshake.
It was a scary time. I remember watching a TV interview with a young medical doctor who had worked in the SARS wards of one of our hospitals. What baffled the interviewer was, the doctor had actually asked to be sent to the SARS wards. Why, he wanted to know? You knew you were risking your life. Why did you ask for such a posting?

Her reply was riveting. “Because,” she said, “I think that’s where Jesus would be”.

Christ the King. Not a ruler remote from human suffering, but a man who is immersed in it. Not a dictator who treats us as doormats, but a companion who calls us his friends. Not a solo actor, but a team player who draws us into the action too.  A servant leader, who has himself paid the price of self-giving love, and invites us all to sign up for God’s great revolution of inclusive compassion and amazing grace.

There’s the kind of patriotism every one of us can support. The kind of revolution in which each every one of us – even you, even me – can find a place.


Thanks be to God.

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, November 20, 2016

 

One Humanity

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 13 October 2016,  the twenty-six Sunday after Pentecost, by Rune Nielsen. The scripture readings that day were Genesis 2:18-24; Galatians 3:23-29.


In February of this year a sixteen-year-old girl in Arkansas, USA, was walking through her high school to leave the building after classes had ended. She lived in a small town where she had grown up in a safe environment without fear of crime. It was an ordinary day for her. She was thinking about homework and her plans to spend time with friends on the weekend. Suddenly two boys appeared in the empty hallway and grabbed her. They forced her against a wall and sexually assaulted her. She became one of the millions of women worldwide who suffer from misogynistic violence in their schools, workplaces, homes, and neighborhoods. In the case of the girl from Arkansas, many people in the community posted on social media to show their support for her.  

One man in her community tweeted: “As a man who has a daughter, a sister, and a mother, I cannot approve of disrespect for women.” Many other men followed his example by posting similar statements about their care for female relatives, and this statement of support has also been given by several men responding to news articles about sexual harassment, sexist discrimination, and human trafficking. 

After the recent case of sexual abuse of a mentally disabled woman in Hong Kong, many reactions to the crime have been similar here. People are concerned for female relatives as well as disabled loved ones. 

Violence against women is not just a ‘women’s issue’ for all people have a responsibility and a role to play in supporting justice, aiding the abused, promoting social awareness, and preventing future attacks. According to the UN, worldwide an average of 35% of women experience sexually-motivated violence in their lifetimes, and in some countries that amount is as large as 70%.

Unfortunately, many myths still exist in societies all over the world which attempt to justify mistreatment of women. One such disturbing viewpoint is that men are entitled to sexually violate women because of men’s natural instinct for lust. This mistaken belief removes the blame from perpetrators of sexual assault and shames victims who seek justice. It is also insulting to men, for it suggests that men have the same intelligence as animals, acting as uncivilized creatures who cannot overcome their desires.

The mistaken belief that a man’s desires are more important than a woman’s is perhaps more common that we realize. A story from a female student studying criminal justice recalls this harmful tendency. The teacher of her criminal justice class told the students about a situation in which a crime had been committed: A man asked a woman to date him, and she said no. Over several weeks he asked her over and over again, but her answer was always no. Then one day the man showed her a knife and threatened to kill the woman if she did not date him. The woman called the police and the man was arrested. So, the teacher asked his students: who committed the crime?

Most of the boys in the class answered that the woman did, because she had rejected the man several times. They saw her actions as the cause of the crime. When the teacher pointed out that it was the man who broke the law, a male student said “But that’s not fair—the man was just defending himself.” This statement shows that the boy believed that for a woman to say no to a man was disrespectful to the man. But that view denies women of their basic rights to choice and equal treatment. 

Unfortunately, myths about the inequality of men and women also come from mistaken religious beliefs. Some Christians believe that all women should suffer for Eve’s sin in the story of humanity’s fall. Although the Bible says in Genesis that the “man shall rule over” the woman, the ultimate truth is that both men and women have sinned and we are all in need of the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ. In Galatians 3, Paul writes that “there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

As Christians, we strive towards making a more just world, to expand God’s kingdom to make Heaven on earth. In Genesis we read that in Eden, the garden of paradise, the man and woman were equal. Eden reflects the world as it ought to be, as God wanted it to be, before humanity fell into sin. Biblical scholars have noted from close study of the Hebrew text of Genesis that Adam, the first person, is not described as male until after the creation of the woman Eve. Male and female did not exist until God made the woman from Adam’s rib. Humanity was a single person, a single entity without gender before Eve was created. Our origin is not engendered.

When Adam first met Eve in the garden of Eden, he said: “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Basically, it was as though he said, “Wow! This person is a lot like me.” Although commonly used at weddings, this passage is also relevant to the unity of the whole of humankind, not just the unity two people share in marriage. It is about the origin of us all. But sadly, today many people only focus on the differences between the two genders, not the similarities.

A few months ago in Hong Kong, a man was arrested for sexually assaulting his domestic helper. After going on trial, he said “I apologize to my wife and daughter, for I have hurt my family by this.” But he did not apologize to the domestic helper, the woman he committed the crime against. He felt remorse for negative consequences that affected his relatives, but not for those consequences, such as emotional and psychological trauma, that hurt a person outside of his family. He didn’t acknowledge a common humanity in the domestic helper. Clearly, acting in the interest of loved ones is not enough. It’s time that men and women see each other as members of the same group, as people with a common identity based not in gender, ethnicity, or other differences, but in their common humanity.

Some people decide not to respect the humanity and dignity of people of the opposite gender in their own families. … Statistics show that 90% of rape victims are assaulted by people they know well. A woman who endured rape by her father as a child described the feeling of abuse like this: “When it happened, I felt as though my soul was being ripped open. The vulnerability made me feel as though my skin had been removed and all of my internal organs were in plain view—everything that was supposed to be private and stay inside me was being taken from me and put on display. I was experiencing something worse than the things I had feared most.” While it can be hard for someone who has not experienced abuse to understand the suffering of those who have been victims, empathy is not impossible. Both women and men feel vulnerability. This vulnerability can come from many sources, whether gender, low social standing, criticism, prejudice, disagreements, and so on. Each person has a choice of how to respond to their feelings of vulnerability.

People who choose to abuse people of another gender are often insecure about themselves. Men who feel that they are weaker or less powerful than other men tend to compensate for their lack of power by dominating women. Men in positions of power sometimes discriminate against women or hurt them because they are afraid of losing their power over other people. These are cruel responses to feelings of vulnerability.

The better response to vulnerability is not domination, fear, distrust, and abuse of ‘the other’ but unity with others who are vulnerable, including those of another gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation. Galatians lists categories of people, all of them vulnerable to prejudice from the labels they are given by society: In Christ “There is no longer Jew or Greek”—labels of ethnicity, “there is no longer slave or free”—labels of social status, “there is no longer male and female”—labels of gender; and we could add many more categories, such as “In Christ there is no longer queer or straight, or abled or disabled…” When Jesus looks at us, he does not see us as man or woman, he sees us simply as humans.  

Living out this truth, many courageous men and women have supported the White Ribbon Campaign, which advocates for gender equality. Founded by men dedicated to spreading awareness of violence against women, the White Ribbon Campaign runs workshops for teaching men and boys about identifying sexism and preventing sexual violence. As the White Ribbon campaign reminds us, standing by passively, not doing anything, while men harass women or speak about them inappropriately, does as much harm as actively supporting the discriminating behavior.

Women are not being selfish when we stand up for our rights—we are claiming the dignity and respect we were meant to have, for we too were made in God’s image. In the first chapter of Genesis God says “God created humankind in his image, male and female he created them” and “God blessed them” both. Male and female come out of one image, sharing the same essence. As a pastor once told me, “The violation of any person’s body is a violation of God’s body because each person bears God’s image. If anyone is raped, God is raped and God suffers for it.” Sexual assault is a crime against humanity and a crime against God.

God knows what it is like to be abused and vulnerable. Jesus Christ faced vulnerability hanging on the cross. He was stripped almost naked, crucified painfully in front of an angry crowd. Jesus died and went to the depths of hell, but that did not stop him. He rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven. God’s Son has lived out a process of pain, suffering, and finding new life. The pain of victims can be transformed into strength and hope that makes them no longer victims, but survivors.


It’s time we take a stance. When we realize our common humanity, our unified response to sexual assault and discrimination of any gender will be “I am offended because I am also a human being, and this is a crime against human beings and God who made us all.”

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, November 13, 2016

 

Are you children of the resurrection?

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 6 November 2016, the twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost, by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that day Luke 20: 27-38


Opening prayer
God of resurrection, we come before you to hear your word. May your word heal and liberate us. May the Spirit of truth set us free and transform our life to become more like Christ. Amen. 

Introduction
Do you believe in resurrection? What is your understanding on resurrection of the dead?

In the Apostles’ Creed, as universal church and followers of Christ we affirm our faith by saying - I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,  the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

We affirm our faith on “The resurrection of the body and the life everlasting”. In today’s gospel reading taken from Luke, it highlighted an important aspect of faith and theology on resurrection. The topic is brought up by the Sadducees. The Sadducees were one of the Jewish sects, tended to be rationalistic and by and large wealthy. Unlike the Pharisees, they denied resurrection and did not believe in resurrection at all.

They challenged Jesus on the belief of resurrection.

They brought up the Levirate marriage – an ancient and traditional Jewish law as the centre of debate. According to this Levirate marriage law, a woman cannot marry to another man outside the family if her husband died with no son. Instead, the brother of the deceased has to marry the woman as a duty to his late brother. The firstborn whom she bears shall succeed the name of the deceased brother, so that his name may not be blotted out of Israel.  (You may refer to this ancient Law from the Book of Deuteronomy 25:5-10)

The Sadducees in the gospel account asked Jesus a challenging but very interesting question:  

A woman married seven brothers without children for any of them. When resurrection comes and all these dead husbands and wife are restored their lives, whose wife is this woman be? Who does this woman belong?

The motive of the Sadducees is not to seek the truth or showing a concern to the woman and the seven brothers who may have to resolve this problem in heaven when they all meet. The Sadducees’ question is to test Jesus and see how he responds to such a question of dilemma.

Although Sadducees aim to give Jesus a difficult time, their question however is a very good one worthy of our theological and faith reflection. 

In fact, Christians today who married for more than once due to the passing of spouse or divorce, they may encounter this problem and dilemma. I heard of a Christian wife who married a widower asking his husband, “when we both die and go to heaven meeting your former wife, who then will be your wife, I or she?”

Jesus’ reply is not only wise and sweet, but remarkably life transcending and transforming.

Here I read again the text from Luke 20:34-36

20:34 Jesus said to them, "Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage;
20:35 but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.
20:36 Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being
children of the resurrection.
Wow… how liberating Jesus’ words are!

We human beings living on earth are constrained by human systems, cultural norms, fixed belief and forms of relationships. But in a place of that age (I‘m referring to heaven) where resurrection occurs, human beings are confined no more by all these human made institutions, legalistic practice and customs. Human beings are all free from the imperfect systems and contextual social relationships on earth in resurrection. Life and relationship are no more bounded by fixed laws and values.

The Sadducees who assumed that afterlife is like this life, and just wanted to show their rationality and authority in the Law, may not be that happy with Jesus’ answer on resurrection.

But I believe that Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees’ question at least has given deep relief to the woman concerned. A woman who married for seven times due to some male-centric law on earth probably does not want to be “owned” by these seven men when she goes into another life. For women who are living in low and disadvantage position in an ancient Jewish community, being possession of men and their families, with no autonomy and limited resources to choose their own lives, a resurrected life that allows them to live freely without the traditional baggage of needing husbands and marriage, could be a great liberation.  If I were this woman, I would say aloud, leave me alone! Let me go free!

I can see also, Jesus’ assertion of no more marriage and marital relationships in the life of resurrection could help also create harmony and peace amongst the seven brothers. They don’t have to argue and fight for their wife back. Jesus’ has sent a strong message of ‘letting go’ on resurrection. There is no more control and possession of anything or anyone in a resurrected life. 

Jesus’ teaching on resurrection enlightens us to reflect on our life and faith. Do we live with fixed belief, prejudice, pre-conception and straight social norms in family, at work, in church and in society, that have limited our own and others to live a loving and free life in God of the resurrection?

In the readings from Luke, Jesus also quoted that Moses, whom the Sadducees and the Jews respected, had shown the reality of resurrection of the dead when he spoke in the bush about “the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive." 20:37-38

Jesus’ further illustration on resurrection by referring to Moses of his assertion of the God of Israelites speaks to their patriarchs and people of all generations.

Jesus makes a very strong point -  God, is not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.

It is not the death that matter. It is the life of God and his eternal presence that matter. It is the eternal God that makes everlasting love, salvation and transformation all possible in different times and different places. 

Jesus’ teaching on resurrection has given us new insight about afterlife. He also gives to us imagination on life and relationship with God and with each other in the present life. A resurrected self and community on earth is possible when Christ with the living spirit lives in us.

I would like to conclude my sermon by sharing this wonderful encounter I had in a church wedding. 

The bride’s parents were divorced and his father remarried to another woman. On the wedding day, both her biological mother and step mother were present in the ceremony. They were even sitting side by side on the front row together with the bride’s father. I used to be sensitive to this kind of situation in order to avoid bad feelings and embarrassment.  When I spoke to the bride’s biological mother, she was so relaxed and at ease to share with me. She told me she has overcome her divorce. She said she has kept good relationship with her daughter, her ex-husband and his second wife. She told me that she is a Christian and thus she relates to them with love. She said they are happy together.

 I was impressed by the bride’s mother, a sister in Christ.

She was divorced but she is not enslaved by her past. She refused to be victimized and trapped by the traditional values on marriage. On the contrary, she allows herself to move on to a new life and a new form of relationship with her daughter, ex-husband and herself. She remains single but lives with self-confidence and contentment .

In Christ, she lives fully and alive with freedom and joy. I feel strongly Jesus’ resurrected life dwelled in her. To echo what Jesus said, ‘those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection.

Resurrection is to listen to the word of Jesus and to live a life in Christ. Children of the resurrection are to live a life of love, freedom, hope and creative imagination of this life and the life after. 

Sisters and brothers, are you children of the resurrection, believing in the God of living?


May God bless you all to claim that identity and to live fully a resurrected life in Christ. Amen. 

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, November 06, 2016

Archives

May 2004|July 2004|September 2004|November 2004|December 2004|April 2005|July 2005|August 2005|September 2005|October 2006|November 2006|December 2006|January 2007|February 2007|March 2007|April 2007|May 2007|July 2007|August 2007|September 2007|October 2007|November 2007|December 2007|January 2008|February 2008|March 2008|April 2008|May 2008|June 2008|July 2008|August 2008|September 2008|October 2008|November 2008|December 2008|January 2009|February 2009|March 2009|April 2009|May 2009|June 2009|July 2009|August 2009|September 2009|October 2009|November 2009|December 2009|January 2010|February 2010|March 2010|April 2010|May 2010|June 2010|July 2010|September 2010|October 2010|November 2010|December 2010|January 2011|February 2011|April 2011|May 2011|June 2011|July 2011|October 2011|November 2011|December 2011|January 2012|February 2012|March 2012|August 2012|September 2012|November 2012|December 2012|January 2013|February 2013|March 2013|April 2013|May 2013|June 2013|September 2013|October 2013|November 2013|December 2013|February 2014|March 2014|April 2014|May 2014|June 2014|July 2014|August 2014|September 2014|October 2014|November 2014|December 2014|January 2015|February 2015|March 2015|April 2015|July 2015|August 2015|October 2015|November 2015|December 2015|January 2016|February 2016|March 2016|April 2016|May 2016|June 2016|July 2016|August 2016|September 2016|October 2016|November 2016|December 2016|January 2017|February 2017|March 2017|April 2017|May 2017|June 2017|July 2017|August 2017|September 2017|October 2017|November 2017|
Archived sermons by the Barksdales

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?