Reflections...

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

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Christmas Day 25 December 2016 by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that day were Isaiah 52:7-10; John 1:1-14.


Opening prayer

Dear God,

In today’s celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, we come before you to receive Your Word. May Your Spirit guide our heart within to receive Jesus, the Word become flesh.  May your Word transform us to live a life in fullness. Amen.

Introduction

I would like to ask anyone here – who has received a Christmas present this year? Congratulations!

How much do you like your Christmas present?

For those who do not receive any Christmas present yet, don’t be upset. This morning I will give you one – a spiritual one!

Exchange of Christmas presents

When I was young, my friends and I liked to buy presents with a prior agreed price range and exchange them during our Christmas gathering. It was quite a fun and exciting as we always had something to look forward to.

This year two people asked me for Christmas presents. They are a man who is 30 years old and a girl who is 8. Pastor Maggie was very happy to receive a Christmas present from a cousin in Scotland. It is a very nice and well-designed bag.

I think that in general, people love to receive presents. Isn’t it true?
What if we do a Christmas present exchange with God today?

If we do a Christmas present exchange with God today, what is the present you want to receive from God?

In return, what is the present you will give to God?

I will give you a minute to think about it. I will begin and end this time with the sound of the bell.

The word ‘present’ means a gift. Something you may see and use.

The word ‘present’ also has some other meanings.

Another meaning is ‘I am here right now’

(When I was in school, students would say “present” when their names were called by the form teacher to check their attendance.)

Present also means here and now. 此時此刻

Here right now – the present moment, is a present, a gift. It conveys a deeper meaning of being together.

Jesus Christ- Immanuel- God with us- means God is present within us in all times and in all places.

Today I would like to borrow a quote from Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh about his wisdom on the Present Moment. (Ref: You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment)

“The past no longer exists, and the future is not here yet.” The only moment in which you can be truly alive is the present moment. The present moment is the destination, the point to arrive at. Every time you breathe in and take a step, you arrive: “Breathing in, I arrive. Breathing out, I arrive.” 

Now I would like to offer a space for you to experience this gift of the present moment and to experience God’s grace through the Spirit that moves.

I am going to do a guided meditation of some words taken from John, the gospel reading this morning.

The first thing I invite you to do is to breathe. Breathe in and breathe out. If you feel comfortable, you may close your eyes and keep your body, mind and heart focused.

I will read three verses from John. After each verse, I will give you some silent time to meditate. I will end each time with the sounding of the bell and then move on to the next verse. 

(Practice - Breathing in – I am here. Breathing out – I am here.)

Let God be present within us and speak to us.

Let our heart within be present and listen to God.

(Meditation starts and I read words below)
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 
 He was in the beginning with God.

(Keep breathing in and out)

-          Pay attention to the word ‘with’
-          The Word was with God. He was in the beginning with God
-          Jesus is eternally with God.
-          In this very present moment, God is with us.

Keep breathing in and breathing out

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God

-          Have you opened your heart to receive Jesus, who came in the form of a baby?
-          This baby is little and vulnerable, and yet he has power – the power of love.
-          Fully embrace this Christ child and place him in your inner heart.

God has promised - To all who received Jesus, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God. We are all God’s children, fully loved and blessed.
Keep breathing in and breathing out…. God is with us.
14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

-          Jesus is the only Son of God sent from heaven to the earth because God loves the world so much. God breaks into humanity because he loves us so much.
-          Jesus lives amongst us, full of grace and truth.
-          Jesus lives within us and all humanity, all creatures.

Keep breathing in and breathing out….

Conclusion

The Christmas present that God gives to us is our full identity as God’s beloved children. The presence of Christ, here and now, in all times and in all places’ is another great gift God has given.

The Christmas present that we give to God is – being present in God and with God; and to receive God by putting the Christ child in our heart. In this way, we are in union with God through Christ.

In Christ, we are ONE with God. That is the mystery of Christmas. That is the greatest Christmas present for all.

Let us pray:

Dear God, thank you for giving us the present of Christ who lives in our heart. The Oneness with You through Christ is a mystery. Give us, God, the spiritual wisdom to understand, and patience to practice the spiritual discipline.


Bless us, God, to have a meaningful Christmas and help us to continue the Christmas spirit by living in the present, here and now, and not to worry about tomorrow, but instead be like Christ, to be sent to bring to friends known and unknown, this marvelous present of Christmas – all hearts to receive baby Jesus, the love, life and light of the world. Amen.

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, December 25, 2016

 
A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 18 December 2016,  the fourth Sunday in Advent, by Timothy Chan. The scripture readings that day were Isaiah 7:10–16, Romans 1:1–7, Matthew 1:18–25.


Good morning brothers and sisters, and also to those who are listening to the radio broadcast. The weather is getting cooler and finally, we can smell Xmas around the corner. It reminds me of a song, Seasons of Love, from the Broadway Musical = Rent. It goes: five hundred twenty-five thousand Six hundred minutes How do you measure a year in the life. Maybe some people will measure how much they earn? How many goals they have achieved? However, in the chorus it goes, How about Love? Measure your life in Love! In this morning, let’s reflect on the meaning of Love again. Let’s pray:

Loving God, we are longing for love in this season, may your Word transform us today. Inspire us to have new insight on what it means to love. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Last week, we read how Mary responds to this news that she was going to give birth to Jesus. She sings out the Magnificat, praising our God, and she knows she is bearing the Savior, the Messiah, that was promised to the World. This week, Matthew, the Gospel author leads us to see another character, Joseph, the the earthly father of Jesus. Obviously Joseph could not share the joy of Mary. He was actually troubled by the news! How come my fiancée was pregnant! Is she making up a story that God chose her to give birth to a son? How is it possible? Why God chose Mary? Why me!? I think Joseph had been struggling and desperate for an answer and a sign to give him assurance that this is not a lie.

Today, we are also facing a lot of uncertainties. We are troubled by the news all around the world. We ask God: why? Why all these things could happen in our city, in our world? We are also desperate for an answer, a sign of assurance, and a reason to carry on our life in this disturbing world. We may not have all the answers. However, brothers and sisters, Love is what we need the most today, in this broken world.

What happened to Joseph was shameful according to the Jewish tradition. A woman is pregnant before marriage and sadly, it is still the same today! Joseph was very close in breaking the engagement with Mary. Joseph knew that if her pregnancy is found out by others, she would be in big trouble, probably be stoned to dead. That is why he wanted to let her go secretly, quietly. Maybe this is what he could do at that moment of confusion. But Love always push us one step, or most of the time, a few steps further. The angel visited him and said “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”

After he woke up, he changed his mind and he decided to take her as wife and to shelter Mary and the coming child. The cost of love is immeasurable. It means you properly have to suffer with the one you love. Joseph could have an ordinary life, but once he chose to walk in this path with Mary, he might have suffered the discrimination against this family with Mary; Because of Love, he journeyed with Mary to look for a shelter to give birth; because of love, he fled with Mary and baby Jesus to Egypt to seek refuge there. Not to mention how he brought up Jesus with Mary together. Imagine it without his commitment and participation to this family, I have no clue how the story would end. It’s not about obedience only, it is about Joseph’s love for Mary and to Jesus.

To love is to accompany and to be there. Joseph did it to protect and nurture Jesus, who is going to be with us all. That is why we name Jesus Emmanuel, means ‘God is with us.’ God is with us, brothers and sisters. There are times we cannot even find a meaning for our sufferings, and we realize that believing in God does not mean we can be excluded from bad things. However, God promises us that He is always there for us, not only watching over us from afar, He incarnates as full human being, just like you and me, to experience all sorts of joys and sorrows; the sweets and bitters of life with us.

He did not come to revenge for us. He did not come to kill our enemy. He did not come to condemn and judge. In John chapter 3 verse 17  Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world. But he came to be with us! No matter what we are facing, no matter what difficult situation we are experiencing. God is with us. No matter how we are being marginalized or being discriminated against, God is with us. No matter how we feel lonely and worthless, God is with us. And no matter you believe it or not, God is with us.

God is love, and love is to be there, in a world which emphasizes individualism so much, we find our connection with one another weaker and weaker, just look around you, you may not know the name of the person who is sitting next to you. In Hong Kong, new flats and apartments are designed smaller and smaller. The developers claim there are more and more single tenants than before, so they build more smaller room/flat to meet the market demand. However, it also reflects what is happening within our society, we are becoming more and more isolated. We need love to connect people together again, for we are created to be in relation with others. Our God is a God of fellowship, and we are made to have communal life.

Brothers and sisters, we are LOVED! God is with us! But not just this, WE are Called to Love. We are called to be with people. We are called to be Joseph. We are called to be the church, to be a community and fellowship of love. We do not come to church only to experience love, but we are called to bring love around to the people who are suffering, to share peace, joy and hope from God with our neighbor and friends.

Love is not just a charity, but a challenge for us to suffer with others. Our culture today packages love with romance, happiness, and sweetness, maybe with some diamonds. However, love is more than that, it may not feel good and it may not please you and it may not make you happy. Because love challenges us to be with the unloved. Are we ready? Will you say yes to God? Will you spend your time to be with the needy people? Will you risk the hostile stare when you are standing in solidarity with the minority? Will you risk challenging the authority if they oppress the weak? Will you sacrifice for the one you love?   - - will you?

Well, I may say no too! To be honest, I’m scared to do a lot of things. Joseph almost gave up too, he planned to dismiss Mary quietly. He was paniky! But the voice of God changed his mind, God said “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid” Today God is also telling us, “My children, do not be afraid.” For God is with us. Do not be afraid to love and to give. We all have moment forgetting why we have to love. Forgetting why we have to stand up for justice. Forgetting why we chose to suffer with the unwanted people? It is because Love is the only way which can bring true peace to the world. Love paid the price, to love is to sacrifice too. Christmas is a season of Love, but this love is far more than just happiness and joy, Jesus demonstrates what it means to love, it comes with commitment, courage, and a spirit of sacrifice.


In Romans, Paul affirms that we are called to belong to Jesus, and in chapter 1 verse 7, he said we are all called to be saints! We are called to spread love around. Love is so powering that it interrupts injustice without mirroring injustice, that it disarms evil without destroying the evildoer. This revolution of love is big enough to set both the oppressed and the oppressors free and bring reconciliation and justice to the world. This is the love we need in our broken world. To love in this way is like a revolution, but we are not alone, right? Just look around you again! May the Love of God inspire every one of us here to follow him. Amen.

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, December 18, 2016

 

“Joy Lives”

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 11 December 2016,  the Third Sunday in Advent, by Rune Nielsen. The scripture readings that day were Psalm 146:5-10; James 5:7-10; Luke 1:46-55.


Ever since the arrival of European settlers in the US hundreds of years ago, indigenous people known as Native Americans have faced intense persecution. Today they are a minority ethnicity, and still without access to quality education and other social services. In all areas of life they have to endure the humiliation of racial discrimination that has kept them in poverty.

In the early months of this year, a pipeline company announced its plans to build an oil pipeline near land belonging to a Native American tribe in the state of North Dakota. For the Native Americans, this area of land is sacred, a place where their ancestors were buried, valuable to the traditions of their culture. Additionally, there are environmental concerns that any leaks from an oil pipeline could pollute their water source and cause major harm to the natural environment. So, to protect their land, Native Americans started protesting against the pipeline plans. Some of them have been protesting for over eight months, living in tents at the site where the pipeline would be built.

In the past few years it had seemed that some progress had been made when Native Americans got their first representative in the local government. But incidents such as the pipeline threat remind us that there is still much farther to go in the fight for social justice. 

Today is Human Rights Sunday, a day which reminds us of the injustice taking place around the world. But after a few years of increased progress in human rights in places such as the US, it seems we are now in a time where the campaign for human rights is suddenly losing progress. In some countries religious intolerance has increased, severe droughts and natural disasters have left many without adequate food and shelter, and many people are being denied intellectual freedoms. The US presidential election of a man known for sexist and racist comments is a big step backward after previously electing a president who was the first member of an ethnic minority to serve in that position.

This Sunday’s Advent theme is joy. But how can we have joy in a world of human rights abuses? In a time when progress seems slow or even to have been reversed? In the case of the Native American protesters who have been protesting non-stop for several months, some people wonder: would it have been better not to bother getting involved at all? Is the quest for human rights in vain?

We will address the concerns behind this question in looking at the first chapter of Luke. In this text, Mary sings the Magnificat, her famous song of praise. She has been informed that she will give birth to God’s Son, a savior of the world. Now she is visiting her cousin Elizabeth. At this point, Mary is a pregnant young woman, likely a teenager. In the eyes of society, she has broken the rules and deserves punishment for pregnancy outside of marriage. As a woman, she has very few rights. She is a target for harassment and violence. Scholars note that Mary’s visit to Elizabeth is a journey seeking refuge, for she is in great danger.

But when Mary sees Elizabeth, she sings a song of joy. What right does she have to be joyful? She is an outcast. But Mary sings of God’s promise to rescue the lowly, poor, and hungry, and to overturn the powerful and proud. Today we may wonder: has that promise been fulfilled?

Christians have discovered that God is “a God of reversal.” Whatever peace and justice is undone by human hands can be raised up again. Even before Jesus’ ministry on earth, God was working wonders among the people. Slaves were set free, the sick were healed, and the lowly were exalted. But Mary speaks of the reversal of the high and low, the proud and humble not only for the past. Her song is prophetic, in the tradition of the song sung by the prophet Hannah in the book of 1 Samuel. Mary’s song also echoes the themes of many psalms. The ancient Israelites regarded the book of Psalms as a book of prophecy. For them, it was in the same category as narratives of the prophets, such as the books of Jeremiah and Isaiah.

But doesn’t Mary realize how difficult her life will be as the mother of Christ? For soon she will have to flee from her homeland with her husband and son, going to a foreign country to avoid death at the hands of a powerful politician. Her son will have many enemies who oppose his message of peace. During Mary’s pregnancy she might not know these details of the future to come, but I believe she was aware of the danger and risk involved in her role as Jesus’ mother. Even at the moment when she sings the Magnificat, she has begun to experience the danger. But still she sings with joy. Psalm 146 says “Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.”
           
In the past two months in North Dakota, the weather has gotten very cold. Sitting in thick snow all day, many protesters got frost bite, a harmful injury from cold temperatures. But still they protested. Why?

I will tell you a story of endurance. There once was a beach where hundreds of starfish had washed up on the shore. The starfish were dying because they could not survive out of the water. A little boy at the beach walked along the shore, picking up the starfish, one by one, and throwing them back into the ocean so that they could live. As he did this, an old man was watching him. The old man said to the boy, “Boy, look at how many starfish there are. You will never make a difference.” But the boy smiled, picked up another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. He told the old man, “It made a difference for that one.” Although the struggle for human rights is often not this simply or easily achieved, it relies upon the same attitude as the boy in the story has. Mother Teresa said, “No act of kindness…is ever wasted.” Imagine if the whole town of people had joined in to rescue the starfish—how many could be saved!

In the case of the protesters in North Dakota, entire towns did join in the cause. Some churches began to donate blankets and other supplies to help protesters stay warm. Also, two weeks ago, thousands of US war veterans traveled to North Dakota and protect the protesters from any harm they may receive from police. Still, they face many difficulties.

It makes us wonder: How do people in desperate situations cope? They sing. After a deadly shooting and bombing took place in Norway in 2011, thousands of people gathered in the capital to sing songs of peace and justice. Persecuted Christians in the war zone Gaza Strip of Israel sing similar songs as they gather around the oppressive walls that replaced their church buildings. They sing in the hope that one day the justice and peace in the lyrics will be accomplished.

Mary’s song is also amazing. She knows that the future will be difficult, and does not know the details, but she trusts God. One day, Mary’s baby boy will be sentenced to death as a criminal and die before her very eyes. The baby boy she received as a gift from God was taken away from her. Was that the end of God’s promise to her? Had it been no use that Mary had raised God’s son if he could not save the world?

In the Native American protests, many politicians still continued to ignore the rights of Native Americans, despite the thousands of people crying out for equality and justice. Some politicians suggested setting up a barrier that would prevent food from reaching the protesters, to force them to leave by starvation. Other politicians suggested destroying the tents and campsites.  All of this made people around the nation wonder—were the protesters’ efforts really worthwhile?

But Mary experienced a story of hope we can all learn from. Jesus rose from the dead…Mary’s son lived! Jesus’ story of resurrection is the story of this world. This world in which people are hurt, degraded, and even killed, is being transformed. Jesus died that we may have eternal life! The Magnificat is not just Mary’s song, but also our own, a song for all times and places.

As a human rights activist once said, “At the moment when it seems the battle is lost, when even desperate hope has begun to fade away, that is when the tide will change and the flame of justice will ignite.”
           
Last week the US government decided not to give a drilling permit to the pipeline company for building the pipeline in the Native American lands. After months of clinging on to desperate hope, the protesters have begun to see positive change. They have gathered around campfires, singing songs of joy.


However, the protesters are aware that the authorities’ decision could be overturned by the new Trump administration. There is still a possibility that their long struggle for justice will have to last even longer. But still they sing. There is joy that their voice was heard, that people are now aware of their cause and allies have joined them. Similarly, Mary didn’t give up on the world when she experienced the injustice of society, and neither shall we. To be joyful is to celebrate God’s promises, because Jesus has already declared victory over sin and death. Joy lives.

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, December 11, 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?