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

The Unity of Love

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

Opening prayer
Loving God, 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.

Today I 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 bread.”

Dear 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.

Jenny and 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:

1 John 4:18

“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 continues

1 John 4:19

“We love because God first loved us.”

It is the love of God that nurtures Jenny and David to grow into maturity and binds them together.

Their love relationship echoes the words said by Lao Tzu (Old Master), a Chinese philosopher:

“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.

In reality, 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

So hold on, hold on

Everybody hurts.

You are not alone.

Love hurts. Perhaps the more we love, the more we hurt.

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.

Suffering and pain, doubt and fear, darkness and death are all part of life and faith.

According to 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!’

The human 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.

Jesus, the 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. 

Look! When 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 Christ.

John 15:1, 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... ”

Jesus gave 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)

Jesus said 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 self-control.

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 them.

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”

Recently I watched a film - The Secret Superstar.

I was in particular touched by the episode on the mother-daughter relationship.

The context 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.

When the 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!

It is 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 embrace all.

Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit... ”

Sisters and brothers, in union with God, let us bear the fruit of love and share it with the hungry souls. 

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.”

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, April 29, 2018

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