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
‘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
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
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
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
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
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
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