Reflections...

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

When Small is Powerful

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday July 30, 2017, by Dr. Hope S. Antone. The scripture readings that day were Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52.


Let us pray:
Dear God, as we reflect together on your written word, help us to know more your Living Word. Amen.

Today’s gospel reading (Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52) has at least 5 parables (some say 6 if you count the last verse). In just 12 verses, we are faced with 5 parables.  

Christ Jesus used parables to teach about the kingdom of God. Matthew uses “kingdom of heaven” (KOH) because many in his audience had Jewish background, where uttering God’s name was a big ‘No No’. Telling parables was a way of teaching by “using the ordinary to explain the extraordinary.” Thus, Jesus used common things that people were familiar with to teach about the kingdom of God.

The parables seem quite straightforward. But if we consider the time, religious and socio-cultural gaps between Jesus’ time and ours today, we’d realize there is more about the parables than meets the eye. We are 2,000+ years removed from the context of the biblical people to whom these parables were addressed. So it is very important to understand the significance of these ordinary things to the biblical people then, before we try to apply their meaning to ourselves, our context, and our time.

How many of us here have seen a mustard plant or the mustard seed? Someone compared the size of a mustard seed to a sand particle. Jesus said the KOH is like a mustard seed that has been planted, and when it is grown, it would be the greatest of shrubs and could become a tree. Many writers/preachers say that the mustard plant was a grass/weed that farmers dreaded for when it grew, it spread through the field and was too hard to contain. Although it could become 8, 10 or 12 feet tall, it was generally more like a squatty shrub with small leaves, rather than a sturdy tree. 
                                                    
How many of us here bake? Those who do would know that yeast (leaven) is old, fermented dough that when placed in new dough would make it rise. Only a very small amount of fermented dough is needed to make the new dough rise. Jesus said the KOH is like yeast which, when mixed with flour, would leaven it up, causing the dough to rise and double in size.

The Bible mentions yeast/leaven 22 times in the Old Testament and 17 times in the New Testament, and almost always to represent sin or evil. Jesus had in another occasion warned hearers to guard against “the yeast of the Pharisees” (Mt. 16:12). The Pharisees were religious leaders who thought highly of themselves. Concerned about their purity, they would not want to be near the sick, the dying, or the dead (for fear of contamination). In the Old Testament, yeast was seen as a symbol of contamination, impurity or corruption and it was to be thrown away during holy festivals when only unleavened bread should be eaten. Thus, yeast represents “a little sin” that can wind up destroying the whole body.

So why would Jesus use the mustard seed and yeast to teach about God’s kingdom if they were not positively regarded by biblical people?

Is it because these two – the mustard seed and yeast – exemplify that small is powerful? Many preachers say these two small things are powerful because of their potential to grow; they then connect it to the church, how it started with 12 disciples, then growing into house churches, denominations, and today’s mega-churches. For these preachers, the mustard seed and yeast are small but powerful because of their potential to grow. This means their being powerful is in the “bigness” they would become.

Generally, we people are obsessed with “bigness” – whether we are talking as a church, a government or a business corporation, we tend to think of success through increase in number/size, GDP, or profit and expansion. We tell our children, or students, to “dream big,” putting pressure on them to succeed. We forget that the big dream actually requires many small, important steps. If our children/students do not understand the importance of these small steps, then the big dream can be quite overwhelming.     

I would like to say that these two – the mustard seed and yeast – are powerful right in their being small for I believe there is power in being small. 

After deciding that the title of this sermon would be, “When Small is Powerful,” I searched the internet for similar titles and came across http://smallispowerful.org, a website on small powerful initiatives. Its homepage has a picture of ants pushing a big ball of something which could be food, and below it is a quote from the Dalai Lama: “If you think you are too small to change things, try to sleep with a mosquito!” Well, maybe the ants and mosquitos could be modern-day metaphors of something small and detested, but is powerful to impact our life.

My internet search also led me to a book, Small is Powerful: Why the Era of Big Government, Big Business and Big Culture is Over (2016). In this book, author Adam Lent argues that humanity started small and that our faith in big was manufactured in the 1900s by a group of powerful business leaders, politicians and thinkers. The idea has gripped the collective imagination of people throughout the 20th century.

But Adam Lent argues that the notion that vast concentrations of power should reside in the state, in corporations, or the church has failed to create a stable, fairer world. He therefore asserts in Small is Powerful, that ownership, power and resources should be dispersed on a smaller scale, citing examples of small revolutions, small businesses, political and social change by grassroots initiatives, and people making their own decisions about how to live their lives.

The parables of the mustard seed and yeast were parables of hope, flickering it might have been, as the early disciples faced opposition, even persecution. Having the dreaded mustard plant and the detested yeast, as parables of God’s kingdom, shows how God uses the foolish to shame the wise, the weak to shame the strong (I Cor. 1:27). It also shows that when God brings great things through small things, God’s concept of greatness is not as the world defines it. The world may see greatness in being big, strong and majestic – as the splendid cedar tree is often the image of that greatness (Ez. 17:23). But for Jesus, the kingdom of God is symbolized by the growth of a lowly mustard seed into a shrub and the rising of the dough with the yeast mixed in it.

Jesus mentioned that when the mustard plant is bigger or more mature, it may be able to offer shelter to some birds. Since the mustard plant has smaller leaves and not so sturdy branches, this may be possible for smaller birds. The dough, when baked, will feed more people. If 3 scores of flour can feed 150-200 people, how many people can the leavened loaves of bread feed?

Both the mustard seed and yeast will not grow if they are not put in the right environment to grow. The mustard seed has to be buried in the soil and watered regularly. The yeast must be mixed with flour and water, and kneaded regularly. Each needs time for the process of growing, fermenting and permeating to take place.

This is an important reminder for us that our growth in discipleship is not a smooth, clean and quick process. Rather it takes time, can get messy, and will involve many steps – of being buried, immersed in the realities of our community, being involved/engaged with people who may be different, but with whom we need to work and live. We will know if we are growing in our discipleship when we willingly become people for others, serving especially those in need. We will be like the mustard plant/shrub, giving shelter to the birds; and the yeast-laden loaf, feeding the hungry.  
      
If the parables of the mustard seed and yeast are parables of hope, the parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great value are parables of joy. These could have been assurances for the disciples who left everything – their families, their work/careers, in order to follow Jesus. For them, following Jesus did not mean a safe and happy ride to fulfillment or joy. It meant risk and sacrifice; uncertainty and insecurity, especially in the face of opposition and persecution. Yet, there was a sense of joy beyond human understanding as a result of their commitment to something greater than themselves. Again, selflessness and other-centeredness are marks of a mature faith and a mature life.

The kingdom of God challenges the world’s understanding of joy. While the world tells us to find joy in wealth, fame, name and looks, the joy in the kingdom of God is based on values that cannot be destroyed or stolen by thieves.

Treasure in heaven or the kingdom of God includes love, justice, righteousness, mercy; humility, generosity, sacrifice, selflessness, loving those who are hard to love, etc. These are values that cannot be bought with money. These are the hidden treasures, the pearls or stones of great value that people are truly longing for to live a worthy life.


Gracious God, help us affirm that small is powerful – that it includes our small steps of growing in our discipleship and faith; and that joy is in finding that the real treasure consists of values in your Kingdom which we need to nurture in our lives. 


# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, July 30, 2017

 

“I Am With You”

The sermon was prepared by the Rev. Phyllis Wong for the Worship Service which was cancelled because of Typhoon No. 8 on Sunday, 23 July 2017. The scripture readings are Genesis 28:10-19a; Roman 8:12-25; Matthew 13:24, 36-43.


Last week we have read the biblical story about Jacob and his brother Esau. Jacob took away Esau’s birthright by giving him food when he was starving. Together with his mother Rachel, Jacob lied to his father Isaac and received his blessing which was supposed to be given for Esau, the eldest son. Esau was angry and wanted to kill Jacob. Their mother Rachel told Jacob to seek refuge in her brother Laban’s home in Haran.
Today we read about Jacob’s journey and his encounter with God on his way to Haran. Jacob dreamed about a stair of heaven. In the dream he received God’s promise of a big nation and multiple descendent. God further promised him: ‘Know that I am with you and I will keep you wherever you go.’
Although Jacob had cheated his brother and was not honest, God still blessed him and protected him. God is forgiving and allow his people to make mistakes.
 ‘I am with you’ is God’s powerful statement. It is a promise. It is a gift freely given by God. Jacob does not have to cook to earn it. Jacob does not have to cheat to take it. God’s blessing is freely given through his presence.
‘I am with you’ is a promise and a gift. Jacob’s encountering with God is a great reminder for those who are not yet settling in and are still struggling with uncertainty, tension and distress in their life journey. God is with them.
After his encounter with God in his dream, Jacob declared “Truly Yahweh is in this place and I did not know.” (Genesis 28:16)
Jacob’s declaration “Truly Yahweh is in this place and I did not know” is remarkable. His God Yahweh was with him in this place and yet he did not know. Why?
Sisters and brothers, do we have similar experience like Jacob? God is in this place and with me and yet I did not know?
Jacob after doing so many things to earn the birthright and blessing from his father, he ended up losing everything and even his home. He had to go to a foreign land to seek refuge. Isn’t it ironic?
In his encounter with God, he began a life of transformation. 
In Psalm 46:1, the Psalmist reminded us Be Still and know that I am God.
God’s promise of being with his people is there always. It is we who are not present and who are trying to do things on our own that we miss this profound spiritual reality.
God said, ‘I am with you’. It is not knowledge. It is not something conceptual. It is faith that requires our spiritual practice and lives it out in our daily life.
I would like to take a few minutes with you now to meditate on this promise of God – ‘I am with You’. I invite Lucy to play the music of the song ‘Be not afraid’. After the music finishes we will continue to meditate in silence for another minute. I will then ring the bell as a sign to end this meditation time. Now keep these words ‘I am with You’ in your heart. Whenever there is distraction, go back to this phrase. No thinking nor any judgement. Just fully engage and be with God.  ‘I am with You’
How was the experience? Can you concentrate or did you have a lot of distraction? Did you feel God’s intimate presence or his absence. Anything that experienced just now was alright. Please don’t judge yourself. Be aware is good enough.
We are worshipping in the sanctuary, the house of God. God is here in this place. But we may not fully know it or aware of it. 
Jacob named the place he encountered God as Bethel, meaning the House of God.
The House of God gives to us no meaning if we are not there to be with God.
In Latin, contemplation consists of two words – cum meaning with, and templum meaning temple. Contemplation refers to human and God being together. Temple (the house of God) is a space where God fully present. Contemplation is a space where God and human are in union.
I would therefore encourage you to spend time in meditating God’s word and silently pray to God. Be still and know that I am God. Be still and being union with God. God who gives us this promise ‘I am with You’ , is delighted to invite us to say to him – I am with You too. God’s promise will not be fulfilled if we don’t actualize it. So let our life be with God.
‘I am with You’ is a powerful faith statement of promise.
At the same time, ‘I am with You’ is a powerful faith statement of hope.
Like his Grandfather Abraham, Jacob was promised by God of great nation and yet he had nothing except an uncertain future and distress at that very moment he was seeking refuge. It was the promise of God’s presence that saved him and kept him going. The story of Jacob therefore echoes very well the message of hope from the Letter of Romans we heard this morning.
14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. (Roman 12:14-17)
For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Roman 12:24-25)
Apostle Paul wrote beautifully about hope in times of trials and difficulties. All children of God will be saved and given strength to face tomorrow.
Listen to Paul’s powerful word of comfort – I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.” For all who suffered with Christ and in union with Christ on the cross will not die but live a life of glory.
Matthew – Weeds and wheat
Lastly I would like to talk about Jesus’ teaching today on the parable of the weeds and the wheat. This parable reinforced the important message of God’s presence in the dark world we are living in. Jesus allowed the weeds which represent devil in the world to exist. 
The parable encourages us to be patient and to be tolerant. In God, there is a reason in allowing evil to exist on earth for the time being. At the end of the age, God will work things out.
What shall we do then? As children of God – stay with God and be with God. As Christ’s disciples, live a life like Christ, to love and serve. Shine like Christ to make this world a better place to live. We have to be alert. Never allow evil, the weeds to overwhelm us. We need to clear the field and provide space for the wheat to grow.
Sisters and brothers together let us remember
‘I am with You’ is a promise of God.
‘I am with You’ is a hope from God
‘I am with You’ is a union with God
May we live this out in our daily life through contemplative prayers. Amen.



# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, July 23, 2017

 

The Yoke of Christ

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 9 July 2017 by the Rev. Ewing W. [Bud] Carroll, Jr. The scripture readings that day were Matthew 11:16-19; 25-30.


     Today’s Gospel reading shows us two very contrasting views of Jesus:  one, of anger and disappointment; and another, of comfort and kindness. 
     Jesus asked, “With what shall I compare this generation? Most likely he was referring to the Scribes and Pharisees, the religious leaders of his time.  They were unhappy with John the Baptizer [remember John wasn’t a Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, Catholic or Anglican.  But he was a baptizer!].  Crazy looking/acting John; weird clothing; eating bugs and leaves; baptizing people in the Jordan River, but not bathing there! The religious leaders were complaining:  How dare this strange, weird man go around baptizing people and claiming God’s rule was coming?
     The Scribes and Pharisees were equally unhappy with Jesus.  They accused him of violating the religious laws they so faithfully tried to protect and honor.  How?  By eating with unquestionable people – tax collectors, alcoholics and women of questionable character; enjoying a good time with friends and God forbid - performing miracles on the Sabbath.  Who did he think he was!
      In Jesus’ time, men performed the Hora, the traditional circle-like dances at Jewish wedding feasts.  [If you’re from Northern Luzon, you know the Igorot custom of men dancing at weddings!].  Jewish women were responsible to mourn at funerals:  the longer and louder, the better.  Probably like children everywhere, when playing, there were times when maybe the boys wanted to mourn; or the girls wanted to dance. And they likely ended up in heated arguments about who got to do what.  Sound familiar?   So Jesus compares these religious leaders to little kids being childish, not child-like.
     But Jesus’ anger and unhappiness was not just directed towards the Scribes and Pharisees.  Don’t we wish!  But also towards you and me.  Towards today’s Christians who demand that others live the Christian Faith – according to our understanding and desires.  Jason was born into a Hong Kong Buddhist family.  During his university years he became a Christian and joined a very conservative church group.  They always encouraged their members to be truthful.  So, one Sunday morning during a time of sharing, Jason asked to speak.  Thanking the members for encouraging truthfulness, he told them he was gay.  His truthfulness was rewarded with a ”Good-by, please don’t come back.”  Don’t you dare dance, mourn or step outside OUR comfort zones.
     Fortunately, in the last few verses of today’s Gospel, we see a very different Jesus.   In his modern version of the Bible, The MESSAGE, Eugene Peterson translates this famous passage  ”Are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me- watch how I do it.  Learn the unfound rhythm of grace.  I won’t lay anything heavy or ill fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live free and lightly.” In the more traditional translations this last verse reads, ”My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” 
     Matthew shows us the real Jesus:  angry and disappointed with religious leaders “yoked” by narrow thinking and closed minds.  Religious people who thought they were doing the right thing but so often were lessening, not living God’s love.  By contrast a Jesus who offers comfort, peace and rest; a love offering to ease whatever burdens keep us from more fully experiencing the best of God’s gracious love.  So what is the yoke that Christ offers us?  Let me share three possibilities with you.
     1.  Firstly, the yoke of faith, not law.    Have you ever been to Singapore?  Did you buy one of those T-shirts showing “All my parents brought me from SQ was a T shirt showing 100 no’s.  No this, no that. Or like this photocopy of a Singapore Lion with the words  “Singapore is a fine city.”  A play on the word fine, not as something wonderful, rather, having to pay a SQ$1,000 fine for chewing gum; a fine for tossing a cigarette on the ground, a fine for spitting; a fine for wasting water; a fine for not flushing a public toilet.  Of course we need to have rules and regulations for daily life!  No matter at home, school, work, church, government. But Christian faith is more YES than NO.  More love than law.  Paul Tillich, a famous theologian once noted, “The burden that Jesus helps us, the church, remove is the burden of religion!”  Christ doesn’t invite us to a slavery of religion.  He invites us to a living and loving relationship with him; to a savior, not a system.
     2.  Secondly, the yoke of Christ lightens our burdens. Beware of those who preach and sing songs guaranteeing financial prosperity and profit for Christian believers!  Those kinds of views are in themselves a heavy burden.  Seeking to follow Christ doesn’t mean less pain or less abuse.  Christ’s yoke doesn’t remove tough and difficult experiences from our daily lives.  Some of you know first-hand the dangers and difficulties heaped upon you because of your faith in Christ.  But the Good News is that Christ’s yoke helps us to face these burdens.  No wonder Paul could write, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
     3.  Thirdly, the yoke of Christ is easy.  Wait a minute. Easy?  Yes, easy.  The Greek word translated here as easy doesn’t mean simple, comfy.  It means fitting, appropriate, tailored just for us.   In the mid-80s I returned to the U.S. to work in my church’s Mission Office.  Sadly, I was expected to wear a suit, to appear more “business-like”.  No more Balinese batik shirts. So off to George, a Shanghai tailor on Wanchai’s Lockhart Road.  My spouse reminded George to provide room for me to grow.  As we returned for the first fitting, George greeted us with a smile stretching from Jordan Road to Admiralty.  Turing to my wife, he said, “See, lots of room to grow.” The trouser legs were about a foot longer than I needed.  George must have thought I would grow taller, not wider!  But Jesus doesn’t make that kind of mistake.  His yoke fits us; perfectly tailored – and always leaves room for us to grow!
     Years ago on a visit to Indonesia I watched a farmer plowing his land, preparing to plant a new rice crop:  shirtless and shoeless, sloshing through nearly knee-deep mud with two oxen yoked to his ancient-looking wooden plow; one large ox and one baby ox.  It looked so unfair to have that small ox having to pull that plow with the larger ox. Their strides were different; the older ox was filled with strength and endurance.  But I was the only one who seemed to think this was a problem.  You could tell I wasn’t reared on a farm!
     Then it dawned on me. The older ox was pulling more than its share; the younger ox, far less.  The younger, weaker ox was learning from the stronger, older, more experienced ox.  Yoked together, they were a team, walking and working for one common purpose.

     How is with us?  Can we hear Jesus speaking to us today?  To our needs, our fears or whatever burdens may be crushing our spirits?  Whatever burdens keep us from being more caring, kinder, more generous and loving?  Yoked with Christ, we can bear any burden.  Christ’ yokes us, not to a childish but to a child-like faith; filled with trust, a willing spirit and a joyful heart.  Today, Christ call to each of us ”Come to me and I will give you rest.  Keep coming to me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  Amen.        

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, July 09, 2017

 

“God will provide”

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 2 July 2017, the fourth Sunday after Pentecost, by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that day were Genesis 22:114; Mathew 10:4042


Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China.
The SAR government and many pro-establishment organizations had arranged different kinds of programmes to celebrate this special day in the city. 
How about you? What did you do on this special day? I chose to join the July 1st Rally organized by organization advocating for civil rights and democracy in Hong Kong.

To the many people who take Hong Kong as their home, July 1st is a day to remind our SAR government and the leaders of the Central Government of the desires of Hong Kong citizens, namely to sustain the core values in the city: the rule of law, freedom of speech, respect of civil rights, equality amongst all and care for people especially the vulnerable. Advocating for genuine democracy with one person one vote to elect our Chief executive has been one of the major agendas in the rally. 

Because of the recent news about the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo’s terminal liver cancer, one of the highlight in the July 1st Rally this year was to call for the Mainland Authority to set him free and allow him to go overseas on medical parole. Mr Liu, an intellectual and human rights activist, was detained due to his participation in the Charter 08 Manifesto’ in December 2008. He was tried on charges of "inciting subversion of state power" and was sentenced to eleven years' imprisonment on 25 December 2009. His wife Liu Xia has been under house arrest after his husband was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.

In the Rally, voices on defending freedom of human rights activists was heard; speeches on advocating labor legislations to protect grass-roots’ dignified life were given. Banners of the rainbow on affirming equal rights for sexual minorities were also seen. I joined the team under the Rainbow banner, walking together with Rev Grace and friends from the Covenant of the Rainbow Network. This is a network formed by Christian organizations and Churches to advocate for equal rights and dignity for the LGBTI community and to build a truly inclusive Church in Hong Kong. Kowloon Union Church has been part of this Covenant since 2013.

The July 1st Rally is a demonstration of the people of Hong Kong to reflect the very diverse needs and concerns of the many little ones who have been oppressed, discriminated and maltreated in the community.

The gospel reading we heard from Matthew this morning on Jesus’ teaching to his disciples on welcoming and caring for the little ones is timely and echoes what the July 1st Rally has been organized for.
The context of Jesus’ teaching on welcoming and caring for the little ones in Matthew is that his disciples were facing rejections, from the synagogues, the Jewish religious community and the Roman authority. In Matthew’s account, the little ones were the apostles and the disciples of Jesus. They were marginalized and persecuted because of their faith in Christ.    

Therefore, Jesus’ assertion about the reward to those who give water to the little ones in the name of a disciple is a great assurance to his followers in times of trials and crisis.

Jesus said, whoever welcomes you, welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. (v40) Jesus has identified himself with the little ones. In Christ, we affirm once again the little ones have never been forgotten by God. 

The little one - Link to the OT

Now I am moving to the Old Testament reading today from Genesis 22 about Abraham’s sacrifice of his son Isaac for burnt offering.

Poor Isaac is the little one in this narrative. He has no right for his life and he has no say for his choice. In the ancient Hebrew community, Abraham is the patriarch. In these old days, children are property of their father.

From a human rights point of view that we cherish today, Abraham was committing a crime of child abuse. No one can kill a child in the name of religion. It is morally wrong to sacrifice a child’s life to testify one’s faith. Children should never be maltreated in the name of love. Adults including parents should never use their power to take away children’s basic human rights and dignity. People of faith should have greater responsibility to protect and take care of the little ones.

When we read the scriptures, we need to be a bit curious and critical to address the texts which are unusually violent and against human rights. It is because God’s nature is love, light and life. Jesus Christ, who came to the world in human form has shown us God’s quality.

As Christians, we are nurtured by the living Word of God and the truth of the biblical message helps us to grow in faith. Therefore, we need to take a responsible manner to learn the biblical texts with understanding of the context and purpose in which the scriptures were formulated. We should never read the scripture literally.

I would like to share a bit more about Abraham’s act of sacrificing Isaac as a response to God’s command to test his faith.
Child sacrifice was common  practice in Canaanite but not in Israelite tradition.

The God of Israelites Yahweh forbids this kind of practice. It is clearly shown in the Book of Leviticus 18:21. Here I quote:

You shall not give any of your offspring to sacrifice them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.”

With insights taken from the commentary of the New Jerusalem Bible, lying behind the story of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac is the condemnation of child sacrifice. The story as it stands justifies the ritual prescription for the redemption of the first born of Israel. Like all the first fruits, these belong to God. They are not, however, to be sacrificed but to be redeemed.

Besides, Abraham’s story is to give an advanced spiritual lesson for the Israelite community about faith in God.

What are the spiritual lessons we may learn from the biblical account of Abraham’s burnt offering of his son today?

Abraham has been regarded as a great leader by the Israelite community. He was God’s chosen one. God promised to make his offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and the sands on the seashore. He was blessed to be Father of many nations. He was taken as the Father of Faith and set good example for the Israelites and Christians.

Letting go – no attachment

Abraham was given a son in his old age. Isaac was his only beloved son to inherit his possessions.  When he was tested by God to take away his beloved son, he was willing to surrender to God’s sovereignty. Having children is good and is a blessing from God. But Abraham was not attached to it even though it was something good and treasurable. From Abraham, we learn to let go and do not become attached to any good relationship and success no matter how good it seems to be. Not only is any attachment a source of suffering, attachment of human relationships, good or bad, and material life, may lead us to separate from God. Ironically many people are separated from the love of God because they are so much attached to the failures, pains and wounds in the past. Letting go is an on-going spiritual practice in our journey of faith.   

Abraham, the Father of Faith has demonstrated a complete surrender to a sovereign God by recognizing the wisdom declared in the Book of Job 1:21

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.”

When we are fully aware that we are nothing without God and all we are and all we have are from God, we will then able to live a life freely with deep trust in God.  

Look up to God

Towards the end of the biblical account on Genesis 22, we find a happy ending. After God affirmed Abraham’s faith, God told him that there is no need to offer Isaac as sacrifice. According to the text, Abraham then looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 

Abraham found the ram when he looked up. Abraham’s looking up conveys a significant spiritual message. Look up is to connect with the Divine. When we uplift our eyes to God above we are able to see the gift He has prepared for us. Sometimes we may be too stuck in our own problems and situation without looking up to God. If we open our heart and uplift our eyes to God, we will find what God has prepared for us.

At the end of the text, Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided”.

For the phrase - it shall be provided, another version given by the NRSV is ‘he shall be seen’.

The Lord shall be seen. God makes himself being seen by his people.  Sometimes we don’t see God because we don’t look up and refuse to believe.

God will provide for us whatever we need. But it requires our trust in God and our action of faith to look up and connect ourselves with the Source of Life and Love.

“God will provide”  is a statement of faith given by Abraham the Father of Faith.  

“God will provide”  is a promise.  Jesus, the Son of God who sacrificed himself as the lamb of God, has given to the people of faith everlasting life and hope.

“God will provide”  is a mission to the church to serve the little ones faithfully, and to respond to Jesus’ calling by saying, ‘here I am Lord, send me’.





# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, July 02, 2017

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Archived sermons by the Barksdales

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