A sermon preached at Kowloon Union
Church on Sunday 29 April 2018, the Fifth Sunday of Easter, by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that
day were Acts 8:26–40 ; 1 John 4:7–21 ; John 15:1–8
open our ears and our hearts to receive Your Word. May Your Word of love
inspire and transform us. May our life be connected with You like the branches
abide in the vine and bear much fruit for your glory. Amen.
would like to share with you a message about love.
Mother Theresa once
said, “The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for
friends, are you hungry for love? What kind of love are you longing for?
The topic on
love leads me think of a love story of a young man and woman who have decided
to get married after 15 years of dating. I would like to share their story with
you. I’ll call them Jenny and David.
David went to the same secondary school. David did very well in his study while
Jenny was just average. But David always has full trust in Jenny. David would
do everything to encourage Jenny and to build up her self-confidence. Jenny has
been fully accepted by David as who she is. She said David has helped her to
become the better person God has created her to be. Jenny grew up in a broken
family. Her father left her mother when she was very small. Because of this,
she has no confidence in marriage and was afraid to engage in intimate relationship.
But David’s selfless love has given her light and hope. Jenny in her
relationship with David, she realized how love has saved her. She allows love to
cast away her fear inside and she is set free. As she has been strengthened by
the love of David, she is more courageous to love. In the end, she agrees to get
married and start a new family. When I was listening to their story, I was very
touched. I felt the deep love of God in them. David in his selfless love
towards Jenny has revealed God’s love and kindness. Their love story fulfills
the Word of God we heard this morning from the scriptures:
“There is no
fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with
punishment, and whoever fears has not reach perfection in love.” And it
because God first loved us.”
It is the
love of God that nurtures Jenny and David to grow into maturity and binds them
relationship echoes the words said by Lao Tzu (Old Master), a Chinese
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while
loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
I admire Jenny
for her courage to love others and herself.
I think there are many people like Jenny, having wounds and fear in loving
relationships of different kinds. We are living in an imperfect world. We may have
been wounded when we love someone so much. They could be our spouse, our
partners, our parents, our children, our friends, our sisters and brothers in
church, you name it.
There is a song sung by a band called R.E.M. – Everybody
hurts. Recently I heard an Irish priest, Father Ray Kelly, sing it in Britain’s
Got Talent. I would like to summarize the lyrics and share with you.
Well, everybody hurts sometimes
Love hurts. Perhaps the more we love, the more we
Our God has been deeply hurt too. Jesus Christ, the
Son of God came to the world for the sake of love. But he was tortured to death
on the cross. He suffered great physical pain and great insult. Even his
disciples betrayed him. In his anguish,
Jesus cried to God to take away the cup of suffering in the garden of Gethsemane.
Love is not something romantic. There is always a cost for love. The deeper the
love, the greater the cost that needs to be paid.
and pain, doubt and fear, darkness and death are all part of life and faith.
the church liturgical year, we are still in the season of Easter celebrating
the joy of Jesus’ resurrection and the new life given to us and to the world. The
salvation that Jesus brought to us has to go through suffering and pain. In
Jesus, we know ‘We are not alone!’
face of Jesus allows us to accept our weakness, vulnerability, struggles and
failures. With his full acceptance, we don’t have to escape from pain and unloving
moments but to embrace them with faith and courage. The death of Jesus reveals his
greatness, love and kindness. His resurrected love strengthens us to endure
suffering and overcome fear.
incarnated God to the world, who died and rose again is forever connected to
the Holy One, the eternal God. He is Life and Love. When we abide in him, we
abide with God for eternity, the God of everlasting love.
we say and believe that Jesus lives in us the human flesh, our human body is
sharing God’s life through the Holy Spirit. We are truly human being and at the
same time we are truly spiritual beings. That is the mystery of Jesus’
incarnation and the lesson that we learn from today through the metaphor of the
vine and the branches, to indicate our identity and our relationship with Jesus
it says “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower” (15:1).
John 15: 5a “I
am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear
much fruit... ”
to his disciples the teaching of abiding in him. “Abide in me as I abide in
you” (15:4) Jesus and I are one. Through Christ we are in union with God. The
question is how do we know we are one with God? (pause)
when we abide in him we can bear fruit, because apart from him we can do
nothing. As Tong shared with us in the children’s talk just now, the fruit
Jesus refers to is the spiritual fruit that could nourish people’s hearts and
soul. They are love,
joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and
In 1 John 4, the apostle of the early church enlightened and affirmed us
this truth - “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in
The love story
of Jenny and David affirms the biblical truth ‘Where there is love, there is God.’
1 John 4:12 is another powerful verse to lead us understand the unity of
love in God. “No one has seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and
his love is perfected in us”
watched a film - The Secret Superstar.
I was in
particular touched by the episode on the mother-daughter relationship.
of the film is in a traditional Indian family and culture. The husband’s family
forced this mother to go for abortion after they know that the baby is a girl.
But this woman refused to obey and she left home to keep her girl. Only after
she gave birth did she return home. For the sake of her child, this mother
tolerated her husband’s violence against her.
daughter realized that her mother has sacrificed so much to save her life even
before she was born, she gave up her dream of becoming a singer. But she felt
very upset. When her abusive father tried to take her guitar, the last and only
thing left in her passion in singing, the mother took the courage to stand up for
her daughter by resisting her husband’s unreasonable demand. She ended up
making a decision to divorce. The deep love between the mother and daughter
made them to give up something they valued so much. For the sake of loving her
daughter, the mother gave up her fixed beliefs, sense of security and comfort
zone to take risk for their future.
The love of
one another is powerful indeed to bring changes and transformation of people’s
lives. The sacrificing love the mother and the daughter have for each other has
given them great strength to strive for a better life with dignity. They reveal
the unity of love from the Divine!
perhaps easier to love someone you like and have close relationship with. The
challenge from the apostle of the early church is to love our sisters and
brothers especially those we don’t really like.
1 John 4:20-21 challenged us with this, “Those who say, ‘I love God’,
and hate their brothers or sisters whom they have seen, cannot love God whom
they have not seen. The Commandment we have from God is this: those who love
God must love their brothers and sisters also.”
These words are
straightforward but very remarkable. Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection is to
bring new life and new hope to all. This is the unity of love for everyone. When
we abide in Jesus and He in us, we know that not only I am abiding in God, but
all other people are abiding in God. In union with God, we are one with other
sisters and brothers who are also called the children of God. We share the same
life and same love in God. In this mystery of oneness, we share joy and sorrow together,
we share love and hate together, we share and life and death together.
From the Book of Acts 8:26–40 we heard
a story about an Ethiopian eunuch who is a serious faith seeker and reads from
the prophet Isaiah as he travels home from Jerusalem. However, he could not
participate fully in the worshipping life of Israel because of his race and his
sexual identity. Guided by the Spirit, Philip
meets him where he is, shares with him the scriptures in his questions, and
proclaims to him the good news of Jesus the Christ. This Ethiopian court
official is baptized and becomes part of the Christian community. Philip has
set a good example for us to include and embrace sisters and brothers who are
different from us and who are not conformed to the mainstream.
God is Love.
When we abide in God and God is in us, we have the great capacity to love and to
“I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear
much fruit... ”
brothers, in union with God, let us bear the fruit of love and share it with the
To end my
sermon, I would like to share another quote from Mother Teresa:
“Love is a fruit in
season at all times, and within reach of every hand.”