Reflections...

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

“Journeying Together: Prophetic Witness to the Truth and Light in Asia”

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 22 October 2017, Asia Sunday, by Rev. Po Kam-cheong. The scripture readings that day were Jn. 8:12, 14:6.


1.Introduction
            Brothers and sisters in Christ, peace be with you. Today is Asia Sunday. It is suggested by CCA, an ecumenical organization with more than 100 members from more than 20 countries. KUC has an indirect relationship with CCA, because HKCC is a member of CCA. This year is a special year for CCA. It is her Diamond Jubilee. Last week, I was in Yangon to celebrate the CCA Diamond Jubilee with more than 1000 people from all over the world. We came together for an Asia Mission Conference to reflect on the mission works of Asian churches also. The theme we have today, “Journeying Together: Prophetic Witness to the Truth and Light in Asia” is also the theme of the Asia Mission Conference. We read two verses from the Gospel of John: 8:12 and 14:6. They are the words of Jesus Christ. The theme has several key words, “Light”, “Truth”, “Prophetic Witness”, and “Journeying Together”.

2. Light
            Jn. 8:12 says, “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’” Light and darkness are the most common experience of human beings and every form of life. One of the earliest experiences of a new born baby is light also. The first thing God created was light. In Gen.1:2-3: “The earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”
            Nearly all religions use light to symbolize God, the life in God and the final destination of humankind. Light means life, and darkness means lifeless or death.
Jesus is the light of the world. He radiates the light of God and shows us what is the abundant, authentic life. Although people with power tried to kill him, those who were in darkness rejected him, he was still himself and could be himself. He used all his energy to love and to serve those who were oppressed, poor and marginalized. He is the light of the world.
            Those who follow him will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. They will become light and shine in darkness, changing the environment they are in. Just as Jesus said in Mt. 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” There’s no need to make the light shine, because light will shine by itself. The only thing one needs to do is to put it on a lampstand so it will provide the light for the whole house. Light should be in a dark place, otherwise there’s no need for light. To be a follower of Christ and light to others, one does not have to do a lot of things, but to share the light from Christ and be yourself with the image of God in you.
            We found those Christians around us that shone their light through darkness. I met one in the Asia Mission Conference who impressed all the participants. She is Sister Sudha Varghese. Her voice has become the collective voice of an entire community’s women force. She has emancipated a whole community of girls and women in the Musahar community in India, facing the worst forms of sexual exploitation and oppression.
            The Musahars, who subsist on rats, are the most downtrodden among India’s downtrodden or Dalits - and they would have remained so if it had not been for the efforts of Sister Sudha who made it her lifelong mission to uplift them. The Musahar people are landless agricultural labourers who were never paid adequately for their work; their other occupations include cleaning toilets or brewing liquor for the dominant caste. Their women and children worked in the upper caste homes and were often sexually exploited. Schools were out of bounds for them; the ones who dared to go dropped out owing to the discrimination they faced from upper caste classmates and teachers.
            Child marriage was common. Girls were married off at age 10 and had 3 to 4 children by 20 and barely old enough to look after one child. And that was the first issue that Sister Sudha had to face when she wanted to start a school for girls: the mothers said that at 10 the girls got married, not started school.           Sister Sudha started with 20 girls at first. They not only learned from books but learned to draw, color, and sew. Then they went on to mainstream government schools after Class 6. Tuition classes were arranged to help them pass Class 10 Board examinations.
            After the two boarding schools for girls, she started “Joyful Learning Centres” for small children. The elderly received clothes and health care. Her next focus was the Musahar boys who spent their time drinking and gambling. She found that they were interested in cricket and got them bat, ball and cricket gear. Soon they became winner of tournaments with other teams.
            She helped those women to file a case at the police station for rape by the upper caste men. She taught them to protect themselves and recognized their dignity. She lived in a mud house in the midst of the Musahars and received death threats because of her work. She learned not to show fear. She said, “I have lived a thousand lives and died a thousand deaths. If you kill me, there will be hundreds to take my place.” From a young girl who wanted to dedicate her life in service of the poor, Sister Sudha has become the colossal figure of love and hope for India’s marginalized people.
            In the Asian context, there’s a lot of suffering. We hear the groaning of creation. We see the massive destruction of the environment and the fatal endangering of all life on earth. Global warming and climate change affects all forms of life. People on the move are increasing in large numbers today in different categories: war refugees, climate refugees, migrant workers, internally displaced persons due to conflicts and violence, victims of religious and ethnic persecutions and the prey of human trafficking. There are those who are excluded and marginalized, like the dalits in India. Another kind of suffering is caused by the intensification of poverty and inequality in unjust systems of societies. Asia is also under the threat of war due to the competition among nations, like North Korea. Darkness is around us, we need more light to shine in Asia to expel darkness.

3. Truth
            Jn. 14:6 reads, “Jesus said to him (Thomas), ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life.’” Jesus was a man of integrity. He always spoke the truth, even at the risk of endangering his own life. Those people in power hated him but the poor people liked him very much. He taught his disciples to be people of truth. In Mt. 5:37 he spoke about oath taking: “Let your words be ‘Yes, Yes’ and ‘No, No’; anything more than that this comes from the evil one.” Following Jesus way is to live a life of truthfulness and that will lead to an abundant life.
            Vaclav Havel was the former president of the Czech Republic, a famous playwright, poet and political dissident. In one of his books “The Power of the Powerless,” he told a story: A shopkeeper hung up a banner on the window of his shop: “The working class of the whole world unites!” Havel asks, “Why does the shopkeeper have to do this? Does he really care about the working class in the whole world? Does he really think of how to unite the working class?” No. He did so for many years because everybody had done the same. He did so to protect himself from fault finding by those in power and was ready to say a lie. We build up a society of mistrust and falsehood if we are going to lie in public life to protect our own safety. Then, an empire of falsehood and darkness will rule over us.
           If you visit Mainland China, you will experience a very different kind of social and political system from HK. You cannot Google, WhatsApp, send or receive email, access to a lot of websites. Of course, you cannot bring in Apple Daily, Mingpao or any books that criticize the Mainland government. There is censorship. Everything is under control. From childhood, children will be taught to love the country and hate the enemy. People will conscious about the lines that they should not cross over, a lot of them don’t need to be spelled out clearly.
            In the time of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) and even before and after that, people will read the news the other way round. When the news said, “The whole country is in solidarity,” it meant that something happened and there’s a crisis within the party. When a banner was hung up on the wall of a community with words like, “We strictly follow the one child policy,” it meant that a lot of people had breached the restriction. People believed in rumors but not the reports in the media. The foundation of this kind of society is shaky because it is not based on truth.
            In HK, we enjoy the freedom of speech, assembly and the rule of law, etc. When we watch the news on the TV or read them in the newspaper, we usually will trust the media and believe that the news is true. There’s no political censorship. We try to build up a society that based on truth. However, as the ‘one country’ becomes stronger and is trying to swallow up the ‘HK system’, the atmosphere changes. HK is more polarized now and it is not easy to know what is true and what is false. People from different political stands have their own stories and points of view and are not going to listen to others. We are in a “post-truth” society. No one cares about the truth but only his/her own point of view. Emotions drive. This will not benefit HK but ruin it. We need truth in this kind of situation more than ever before. Let’s speak in truth with love to our society. As Paul said in Eph. 4:15, “Speak the truth in love.”

4. Prophetic Witness
            Now we come to “Prophetic Witness.” Prophets are those people who speak truth to those in power and the society, warning people against evil, idolatry or destruction and ask them to turn away from their wrongdoings, follow the laws of God and to do justice in the society. They were social critics in the Old Testament times, and we found similar kind of persons in the history of China.
            Prophets like Isaiah, Hosea and Amos all spoke on judgment and hope to the Israelites, pleading for social justice and transformation of inequalities in the society.
They are heroes because they had to face the danger of their own lives. They responded to the call of God, took up their responsibility and spoke the truth. Their words were recorded in the Bible and in history. Those prophets will be remembered and their influence lasts longer than those kings and emperors of their time.
            Many churches in Asia often have a prophetic voice in their situations. For example, Donald Trump, the President of the United States, after winning the election, said that he would concentrate his time and energy on internal issues. But, for certain, the U.S. could not escape from international affairs. Since the new leader in North Korea is continuously strengthening their military power and has conducted nuclear tests, the U.S. had to react and the tension between these two countries has heightened. They threatened each other that they will destroy their enemy. South Korea is the nearest country to North Korea and they are afraid of war but their only choice is to follow the stand of the U.S. In this situation, the South Korean Church voiced out for peace and continuously tried to develop relationships with the North Korean Church, although it is against the law of South Korea. They urged the governments on both sides to use all their efforts to solve disputes. To be a peacemaker and to have a prophetic voice is not an easy job in difficult times. In polarized situations, those who advocate for peace often will be seen as weak and even treasonous. The church in those situations needs to have faith and courage.
            I serve in the Hong Kong Christian Council. One of our important tasks is to voice out on important social issues, either in response to government consultations or actively express our views on social policies. The Church is not the government, we don’t need to endorse what the government had done. The Church is not a political party, we don’t have to gain the votes from the citizens. The Church cares for the people because this is a concern originating from our faith. The work of the Council to speak out on social issues is like a fire alarm, to alert the society to take suitable actions. Of course, there may be false alarms and we were all frightened. But if we dismantle the alarm system because it’s too noisy, when there’s a fire, we will not escape. This is also a prophetic voice.

5. Journeying Together
            Whom should we join hands with on the way to justice and peace for the realization of the kingdom of God? Christians only? How about people with goodwill? How about those who also fight for justice? How about those from other faiths?
            Rev. Dr. Wesley Ariarajah, an ordained minister of the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka, former WCC Director of Inter faith Dialogue for 16 years, said to us at the Asia Mission Conference last week: Asian churches inherited the mission theology from the missionaries who came with colonialism and military power, using a lot of resources to ‘conquer’ and ‘occupy’ the souls in Asia, preaching a gospel of the only way and only truth. In their eyes, all other religions are idolatrous. This kind of mission theology refuses to accept other faiths and neglects the value of the existence of other faiths. It seriously hampered the relationship between the Christian faith and other faiths. Dr. Ariarajah argued that this kind of mission theology needs to go through a process of decolonization. Christian churches in Asia should respect other faiths as the search for the mystery and meaning of human existence. In many Asian countries, Christians are in a minority. We should not have a mentality to become the majority of the society through mission work. Otherwise, it will create religious tension and social instability. We can and should journey together with people of other faiths for the realization of the kingdom of God. Buddhism spread all over Asia peacefully and did not endanger the existence of other faiths. It became an indigenous faith of many Asian countries although it was foreign in her origin. Christianity should learn from them.

            Jesus said, “Those who are not against me are with me.”

6. Conclusion
            We are on a journey to the kingdom of God. Christians from different denominations and traditions should go hand in hand to seek justice and peace in our own society and in the world. We should follow the footsteps of the prophets and Jesus to witness to the truth and become shining lights in our context. We also could join hands with people of goodwill and other faiths, to stand with those who are poor, deprived and marginalized and seek for a better society.
            May God bless us with His strength and joy, use us as an instrument of peace, so that the world will know that you are God of all. Amen.

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, October 22, 2017



<< Home

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?