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


A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 21 January 2018, the Third Sunday after Epiphany, by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that day were Jonah 3:1-5,10;  1 Cor 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20

Opening prayer
Creator God, may your Word reveal to us your wisdom. May Jesus Christ the living Word strengthen our faith and transform us to be more like him.  Amen.

After Jesus overcame Satan’s temptation in the wilderness and after John was arrested, he started his public ministry to proclaim the good news of God, calling people to repent and believe in the good news. Meanwhile, he went to call for disciples to follow him and join his ministry.

Today, I would preach about ‘calling’ and reflect on its meaning.

God’s call on our lives should not be taken as one more thing to do. God’s call is a gift. It is a gift for us to experience God’s grace.

The Calling of Christ invited and challenged us to have full trust in God.
Jesus called Simon, Andrew, James and John. They responded to his invitation positively and immediately. From the gospel account of Mark, it did not mention at all if these four followers asked any question. The highlight of the account was they left everything and followed Jesus immediately. Simon and Andrew left the nets. As fishermen, net is the means of earning, the means of supporting their life. For James and John, they left their father and the hired workers. It indicated that James and John’s family was a bit wealthier comparing to Simon and Andrew. But all of them were willing to leave their comfort zone, a place to work and live, and even family that were familiar to them.

Jesus as their master was so new to them. Even these disciples did not fully understand what it meant to follow Jesus. They were willing to engage in an uncertain future. They had demonstrated full trust in Jesus.

The Calling of Christ invited and challenged us to have faith in God. When the source of security is all gone, it is a time to test our full trust in God. To leave earthly possession and follow Jesus is a result of faith by knowing that everything is from God and in God’s hand. The eternal destiny is with this everlasting God.

As human beings we will plan and calculate before we make any decision especially the major ones. I think it is very normal and consider it the right thing to do as a responsible adult.

When I was considering to quit my job in the University and take up theology study sixteen years ago, I had gone through a mental process by analyzing its pros and cons. I felt a bit insecure for losing a decent job and income. When I was struggling, I remembered the words in the song of Seek Ye First. Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness, all these things will be added unto you. God strengthened my faith in Him through his words. God’s adequate provision to me and our whole family has revealed God’s faithfulness and promise of abundant life to His beloved children and followers.

The calling of Christ invited and challenged us to let go of our earthly worries and even the sense of insecurity but to entrust in God’s grace. When we have full trust in God, we are more willing and easier to take life risks.

The Calling of God invited and challenged us to surrender our ego
The Book of Jonah told us a story about Jonah who was called by God to proclaim his message to the people of Nineveh whom he hated because of their evilness. Jonah was not ready to listen to God and so was reluctant to do His will. But God insisted. When God called Jonah for the second time, Jonah did what he was asked to proclaim God’s message of judgement to Nineveh. We thus learned from Jonah about the surrender of his ego to take God’s call and carry out His mission.

God is the one who called
From the story of Jonah, we see clearly also calling is ultimately from God.  
Calling is absolutely God’s sovereign power to extend his invitation to anyone he has chosen. No matter who we are, good or bad, capable or incapable as defined by ourselves and others, it is God our creator, the Ultimate to decide.  God’s calling is even beyond human readiness and weaknesses.

The four fishermen whom Jesus called were ordinary people in their society. They were not great people with high social status and respect. They were not perfect. In many ways they did not fully understand Jesus their master. Even Simon who was later given the name Peter, denied Jesus when he was threatened by the religious authority. Jesus called his disciples to be his ministry partners out of love and trust to them. Jesus revealed that God is a God of community and participation. He is pleased to have His children be with Him and join His mission.  Calling is an invitation from God to his beloved children for partnership in His creation and salvation.

Sisters and brothers, don’t be afraid and worry when Jesus came to you and invited you to follow him. God will give you power and strength to do His work and His will. God will also let you experience His grace and know His will at the end.
God’s Calling is a gift. Another word for gift is present. I used ‘Calling’ as my sermon title. ‘Calling – calling, includes three letters – i-n-g, it conveys a meaning of on-going and ever present. God’s call is to live every moment with the presence of God.

When we are not fully present we are not aware of God. We are too easily distracted in our daily life. We are living in a world moving so fast and we are always overwhelmed by the overflow of information. Messages and information from emails, whatsapp, facebook, Instagram and etc have kept us so busy and distracted.
Living in a troubled world, many of us have been constantly disturbed. Our mind and hearts have been carried away by worries, life difficulties and human tragedies.
Distraction is a barrier to listen clearly of our calling. Busyness is an enemy for us to be attentive to God’s voice. We cannot live fully in the present with God if we are in regret of the past and worry about future.
In the Epistle of 1 Cor 7:29-31, the Apostle of the early church encouraged the disciples to overcome worldly worries, possession, material life and expectation from society and live a life free from the bondage of human relationships. The wisdom from the Apostle is that the present form of the world is passing away. So God’s people and Christ’s disciples should look up to things that have eternal values – that is eternal love and life, which can only be found in God.

While we accept human reality of internal and external conflicts, struggles and contradictions, Jesus’ followers need to set our sight in God and free ourselves from the limitation of human world. The resurrected power of Christ is our source of strength and insight.

To Conclude
God’s calling is a gift. This gift allows us to restore our trust in God, to surrender our ego and to let go of earthly worry so that we can live an eternal life of love and hope.

God’s call ultimately is to call us to live every moment with the presence of God
Calling is all about being, being with God and aware of our real being as God’s children.
In God and with God, we know that we are wonderfully and uniquely created with many gifts – gifts that bring us and others joy and abundant life. Calling is thus to connect with God and with others so as we try every effort to make this world a better place to live.
To end my sermon, I would like to share Henry Nouwen’s wisdom on God’s calling. Here I quote from his book Bread for the Journey:
 “... We are not called to save the world, solve all problems, and help all people.   But each of us has our own unique call, in our families, in our work, in our world. We have to keep asking God to help us see clearly what our call is and give us the strength to love out that call with trust. Then we will discover that our faithfulness to a small task is the most healing response to the illness of our time.”
Let us spend two minutes to pray with stillness and aware of God’s presence within and all around.

Closing prayer:

Living God, we thank you for the gift of calling. You call us to be your beloved children, to be connected with you in eternal love and life through Christ. May the Holy Spirit remind us of your presence in every moment, strengthen us to follow Jesus and be his faithful partners to engage our lives in Your calling to bring your love and unity to the world. With a grateful and joyful heart we pray, amen. 

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, January 21, 2018

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