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

“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.
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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