Reflections...

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

Christ – Our Servant King

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 26 November 2017, the Christ the King Sunday, by the Rev. Kwok Nai Wang. The scripture readings that day were Psalm 100, Ezekiel 34:20-24, Ephesians 1:15-23, Matthew 25:31-46.


Grace & Peace be upon you.
My family and I are very grateful and happy to worship God with you on this very special Sunday. Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book, “Life Together”, said in the opening paragraph: sisters and brothers in fellowship is a gift from God. We should not take it lightly. I wish to take this opportunity also to thank you for caring for me and Dorothy while I was suffering from lymphoma cum cold agglutinin disease by remembering me in your prayers of intercessions on many Sundays.

Last Thursday was Thanksgiving in America; hence today is Thanksgiving Sunday. The origin of this can be traced back to a group of British puritans who set sail by the Mayflower to the “New World” in 1620. After much hardship in farming, they had their first harvest. So, with a joyful heart, they returned thanks to God.

To-day most people live in cities. Farming is foreign. As a matter of fact, we are totally alienated from the earth which produces food to sustain us. As a result, we are deprived a sense of joy and thankfulness especially in harvest time.

This is also the last Sunday in the liturgical year, many reformed Churches use this Sunday to remind their people to return thanks to God for the care and protection as well as many blessings God has bestowed on them throughout the past year.

We live in an extremely busy world, rapidly changing. Daily we are besieged with many and various kinds of immediacies and problems. We rely on our mind solely to tackle them. We hardly take time to let our heart have a feel on whatever we encounter. Consequently, we fail to appreciate the many good things which surround our life. Instead of a thankful heart, we tend to take things for granted.

A Hebrew proverb says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23). We should learn to live with our heart more than with our mind.

Our mind is good to direct our knowing and our doing; but it is our heart which keeps our being in contact with God, or the ground of our being.

God has not only given each one of us a very precious life, God also gives us many close relatives, friends and colleagues as well as the whole natural world to sustain it. Even more importantly, God gives us the Word of Life to make us aware how to live a fulfilled life.

The early apostles wrote a letter to the Hebrews. The very first sentence is, “In the past, God spoke to our ancestors many times and in many ways through the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us through his son” (1:1-2).

In sum, God does not only give us the Word of Life through the Bible and sages of all times, but “God was in Christ”. God speaks to us personally through the mystery of the Incarnation. Jesus Christ came into the world and conquered the human heart not by force, but by his compassionate heart.

Prophet Zechariah had predicted:
“Rejoice, rejoice, people of Zion!
Shout for joy, you people of Jerusalem!
Look, your king is coming to you!
He comes triumphant and victorious,
but humble and riding on a donkey —
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (9:9)

The historic and traditional Churches use this Sunday to celebrate the “Reign of Christ”. But take note: Christ came to the world not as a king who would only take care of the interests of the rich and powerful. He came to serve those in need, so that “the blind can see, the lame can walk, those who suffer from dreaded skin diseases are made clean, the deaf hear, the dead are brought back to life, the good news is preached to the poor.” (Mat. 11:5). In fact, in the Gospel lesson we read a while ago, Jesus did not only have compassion on those in need; he actually identified with the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison. Jesus came to this world as our Servant King.

Much more, Christ died for all of us so that our life would be made whole again – to be reunited with God, the giver of our life; and hence with our sisters and brothers; with nature and indeed with our own self!

This is what the most famous hymn of Christ says, Jesus Christ
Who, being in the form of God,
did not count equality with God 
something to be grasped.
But he emptied himself,
the form of a slave,
becoming as human beings are;
and being in every way like a human being,
he was humbler yet,
 even to accepting death, death on a cross.” (Phil. 2:6-8)

Jesus Christ has accepted his death as a way to show his sacrificial love to all humankind. As the Gospel of John says, “The greatest love a person can have for his friends is to give his life for them.” (15:13). To suffer and die on the cross is nothing conceptual nor romantic. Now, I would like to invite the celestial singers to sing for us in Latin Mozart’s “Ave Verum Corpus”, how Jesus’ true body suffered. Let me give you the English words,
“Hail, true body, born of Virgin Mary, who having truly suffered, was sacrificed on the cross for mankind, whose pierced side flowed with water and blood. May it be for us a foretaste (of the heavenly banquet) in the trial of death”.


O dear Jesus: have mercy on us. Amen.

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, November 26, 2017

 

“Actions speak louder than words”

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 5 November 2017, the Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost, by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that day were Micah 3:5-12; Matthew 23:1-12.


Opening prayer
Creator God, inspire us by Your Word.
Redeemer Christ, empower us by Your Love.
Life Giver Spirit, transform us by Your Grace.
Amen.
What a joy for the church to receive little Mercy as our new member and a part of our faith community through baptism.
Baptism is an important sacrament of the church. It is a visible sign to reveal God’s invisible grace.   
Little Mercy reminds me of my two children when they were still babies. Time flies! They are now already adults in their twenties. Children grow really fast. It is like a blink of the eye. We need to cherish our time with them. Very soon you will find they have grown up, have their own friends and family, and become independent adults.
I remember one summer our whole family went to Canada to visit friends. One day we went to a Water Sport Centre. In one of the pools in the Centre, there was a long and steep water slide. My husband and I found it great fun to play with it. We went up the stairs and then slide down. My friend Mary saw us playing happily, she encouraged her little daughter to go for that slide. Her daughter was quite small at that time. She was around 7 years old. When they walked up to the top of the slide, her daughter was afraid and she refused to slide down. Mary was a kind of tiger mum. She took her daughter to different class. She tried to train up her daughter at many different things. Swimming was one of the skills that she wanted to train her up in and in fact her daughter could swim very well. Mary wished to take this chance to test her little girl. At the beginning, Mary did her best to encourage her daughter to go for that long steep slide with courage. But her daughter kept saying no, and Mary started to lose her patience. I could feel her disappointment with her daughter. Out of anger, she started to raise her voice. But the more she shouted, the more hesitant her daughter became.  I then said to Mary to do it by herself first and then her daughter might follow. I guessed Mary herself was afraid too. But she took my advice and slid down. You know what happened after she did it? Her daughter immediately followed what her mother did. When they were both in the middle of the water, they were both laughing happily. They did it eventually and found it a great fun.
This episode reminded me what parenting is all about.
As parents, we have many wishes and expectation on our children. When they have just been born, we wish them to grow healthily and strong. When they are in school, we wish them to learn well and work hard with their study. We wish our children to become a good and responsible person, having good manners and able to care for others.
We wish our children to learn, and learn well. But children learn not just by what parents say but by what they do and practice in daily life.
In today’s gospel account, Jesus continued his teaching to his disciples and the people who came to listen to him. He was critical of the scribes and the Pharisees. He said, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat;  therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.
Jesus recognized the role of the scribes and the Pharisees and endorsed what they taught, but he criticised them for not doing it.
The scribes and the Pharisees are teachers of the law and religious people with authority in his time. They have good knowledge about the Jewish laws. They are good at teaching others. In Jesus’ eyes, it was not good enough if they did not put their words into action. Jesus pointed out that they did not have a compassionate heart because they put burdens on others’ shoulders and they did not do anything to help. Jesus also criticised them for their vanity. They cared about high position and status. They showed off their knowledge in the Law and religious practice. They wanted to be praised and treated with respect and honour. They cared about titles as they wished people to call them rabbi or teacher. Jesus taught his disciples and the crowd to be humble. He told them to stay close to God, taking God as their only Father and Jesus Christ as their only teacher.
In Jesus’ teaching, the very important lesson that we learned is that ‘actions speak louder than words’.
The story I shared about my friend Mary and her daughter reminded me so much of this lesson.
As a mother of two, I also find that parents play a vital role in teaching and nurturing their children not just by words but by deeds. Children learn from what their parents say and do with consistency.
For me I learned from my parents how to be a hard-working, responsible and caring person. They worked day and night for the sake of the family. I remember my father once offered a job in his small factory to a fifteen year old boy who has dropped out from school. His kindness to a drug addict also indirectly taught me acceptance to those who are not that welcome by society.
No one is perfect. So parents passed on to us good and bad qualities. Twenty years ago, I worked in a women’s refuge. I found that many abused husbands were raised in a family in which their fathers were beating their mothers. Quite often, these abused husbands were child abuse victims as well. Children learn to use violence to resolve conflicts if they have been living in a violent family and social environment.
As children of God, we are blessed to have a loving parent God who has created us in His holy image. We are loved and well taken care of by God, our only Father as referred by Jesus. As Christians we are privileged to have Jesus Christ, our only teacher. Not only does he teach us by His Word, but also his deeds. Jesus is the Word made flesh. Jesus healed the blinded and the woman suffering from blood discharge for 12 years. He accepted prostitutes and ate with tax collectors. All these people were regarded as sinners in his time.
Jesus had set a great and good example for his disciples, you and me. We love because God first loves us. Jesus demonstrated to us what compassion is all about.
While Jesus criticized the scribes and the Pharisees, he taught his disciples to be humble by saying, “the greatest among you will be your servant.  All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 13:11-12)
The baby who is little and fragile reminded us of our human limitations and vulnerability. Our saviour Jesus came to the world in the form of baby. God is a humble God. Therefore when Mercy’s parents and the church pledged to nurture baby Mercy to live a Godly life and walk in Christ’ loving and righteous way, we learn too from the little one - to be humble and pure.
Jesus said ‘for all who humble themselves will be exalted’. This is a powerful message. A baby is vulnerable and humble. But baby has also demonstrated to us the power of life, new possibilities and unlimited imagination.  
Jesus’ death on the cross had set a great example of humility. He was majestic and powerful. However he did not use this power to make himself great and popular. His humility before God has made a new world possible. This Servant King has brought new life and new hope to all. The name of Jesus Christ and his power of resurrection is praised forever and ever.
Actions speak louder the words.
Sisters and brothers, may the teaching of Jesus and the infant baptism today strengthen our faith and be reminded to live a life like Christ who has lived out his words faithfully.
To end my sermon, I would like to share a biblical verse from Galatians 2:20, and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. ” Amen. 

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, November 05, 2017

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