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.
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
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’
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
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.
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.