Meditations, Reflections, Bible Studies, and Sermons from Kowloon Union Church
A sermon preached at Kowloon Union
Church on Sunday 29 July 2018, the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, by
Peter Youngblood. The scripture readings that day were Psalm 145:10-18; Ephesians 3:14-21; John 6:1–21.
When I was young, my parents
told me a lot of things that turned out to not be true.
Wait, the kids have all left haven’t they? If they
haven’t, parents, you might want to cover their ears. Ok, if it’s safe, I’ll
For instance, I was told
that big birds called storks deliver babies. I was also told to leave my baby
teeth under a pillow and then the tooth fairy would bring me a quarter. Of
course, the big one was Santa Claus. Nothing was as exciting as waking up on
Christmas morning to see what Santa had brought me. It was also a little scary.
What if he hadn’t brought what I’d asked for? What if I hadn’t been a good-enough
kid that year? Well-behaved children received presents, but naughty kids got
coal. It was all very stressful.
But as kids grow up and go
to school, they start to learn things like science, math, and the physical laws
of the universe. So when I was around eight- or nine-years-old, I began to think:
This doesn’t make any sense. (Final warning! Are their ears covered?) How could
Santa possibly visit every child in just one night? Even if you exclude those
households that don’t celebrate Christmas, that’s still a lot of homes. Another
problem: Why did I never hear about anyone actually getting coal? I knew some pretty
bad kids growing up, but they always seemed to get the best presents. Ok, so maybe
that part about Santa was a myth. But then there was this
most unnerving detail: On the label that said “to Peter, from Santa”, why did
the handwriting always look exactly like my dad’s? You can see where I am going
with this. As you start to think logically—which you do more and more as you
grow—you find many problems and inconsistencies with these stories, and so they
simply don’t stand the test of time.
Now compared to Santa Claus,
today’s New Testament reading doesn’t seem so crazy. Sure, it is a little hard
to believe that just five loaves of bread and two fish fed so many people, but
maybe we should give the author of John the benefit of the doubt. After all, this
is the only miracle of Jesus that appears in all four Gospels, so it must
Well actually, when you’re a
nine-year-old kid who just found out the truth about your favorite Saint—that
is, St. Nick—you don’t want to be fooled again. So, when I heard about this
miracle in Sunday School, I was naturally a little skeptical. I got out my
calculator and did some math.
I’ll use just use my
cellphone for this. I don’t think anyone uses a calculator these days. Ok: Five
thousand people. Two fish. Five loaves of barley. For this to work, the fish
would have had to have been pretty big. Let’s say they were barbels. Those can
get big, and they lived in the Sea of Galilee. We’ll be generous and say
they were 12 pounds each, that’s a little over five kilograms. 2 fish make 24
pounds. Plus the 5 loaves of barley. That can’t have been more than 8 pounds,
24 pounds of fish and 8
pounds of bread. We’ll divide each by five thousand. Ok, every person could
have gotten .0048 pounds of fish and .0016 pounds of bread. Well, on average
human beings were shorter two thousand years ago, so they probably didn’t need
to eat as much. Oh, wait…actually the five thousand only includes the men!
With women and children, there could have been more than twenty thousand people
The math—or maths, to use proper British English—just
doesn’t work and math is probably the purest, most accurate science we have.
Therefore, as a kid, I’m thinking: it either must be some kind of supernatural
occurrence…or it’s just a myth. Maybe after Jesus blessed it, the bread and fish
started to magically duplicate: two becoming four, five becoming ten, and so
on. The only alternative is that it didn’t happen at all. And as I grew up, it
became easier to think that it was exactly that: just a myth, a story to make
us feel good. Anything that sounds too good to be true is usually too good to
But miracles don’t have to
be these supernatural events that defy math or science. Later on, I heard a
different interpretation of the loaves and fishes. According to this
interpretation, there was actually much more food than just the
two fish and five loaves that John mentions. In fact, among the crowd, there
were most likely people who had brought a picnic along for themselves to eat.
But remember, most of them were the poor and marginalized of Judean society.
They had heard of the great things this guy Jesus was doing and had thought: Well, maybe he can help us too. So when
the issue of food came up, those who had brought something instinctively
thought to keep it for themselves, thus ensuring their own survival.
Realizing the problem on
their hands, the disciples wanted to send everyone away to eat on their own, in
their minds fulfilling their responsibility as hosts but avoiding the material
cost. But doing so would have allowed many people to go hungry; the poorer
people in the crowd would not have brought food, nor would they have had the money
to buy it in town. Jesus knows this, but also knows that God will provide,
which is why he tells the disciples: “No, you feed them.” And when they go to
do it, God does provide. God provides in the form of a little boy
generously offering his supper. His bread and fish was given out to just a few
people—perhaps the neediest—but then the miracle happened: Others—having
listened to what Jesus preached and having witnessed this boy’s selfless act—were
moved by the Spirit to offer up their own meals. Those who received offered
what they had to others, and this reciprocity continued until all were fed. And
thus, the potluck was invented!
Now, I don’t mean to take all
the mystery out of this story, nor do you have to interpret it the way I do.
John does not explain, specifically, what happens in the handing out of the
bread and fish. And the other Gospels don’t even mention a boy. All we do know
is that a small amount of food was passed out and viola, somehow all were fed! Not everything needs a rational
explanation. But I do think this interpretation helps us to understand how God
and Jesus work through regular human beings. While ultimately, the source of
all love and abundance is God, God’s love emanates through us. Our power comes
from God, but it takes shape through our material efforts. Christ is the very
incarnation of Divine love and power manifested in human form.
Therefore, just because a miracle
has a rational explanation doesn’t make it any less a miracle. I see a similar
kind of miracle sitting right before me. Here at KUC there are human beings
from all across the world gathered together in a supportive community. I
imagine most of us don’t have a lot of money, maybe just enough to survive in a
very expensive city. Many in this community are transplants: immigrants,
refugees, and expatriates, some from marginalized and mistreated groups. Hong
Kong may be an international, multi-cultural city, but it is also very
segregated, full of racism, prejudice, and distrust. Probably a lot like
Despite these obstacles and
odds, you come to KUC and support one another, sharing what little you have so
that the whole community may feel more comfortable, thus making an unwelcoming
city a little bit more welcoming. If you read it the way I do, then this church
is a lot like the crowd in John 6, who, with the help of Jesus Christ, found
abundance in just a couple of fish and a few loaves of bread. And just as there
was leftover bread and fish, the generosity of this congregation also
overflows. You don’t just take care of yourselves, but also the strangers in
your midst. If you were here last week you heard Timothy’s report on the peacemaking
program, which provides pastoral, financial, and social assistance to refugees
and asylum-seekers. To me a ministry like that one represents God’s call to be
unconditionally welcoming to those who need food and shelter, protection, and
KUC and its ministries are
modern miracles because they show how the humble gifts of individual human
beings are amplified in a community. When we offer what little we have toward
the common good, that modest wealth is multiplied. This is the miracle of God’s
abundance, which makes the impossible possible. This is how churches can
manifest God’s love and compassion by feeding each other, sheltering each
other, befriending each other, and doing the same for the wider community.
More importantly, this is
done without expectation of anything in return (I hope). In some other
churches, ministries like the peacemaking program are built as a way to
evangelize, their goal being to make new Christians and thus grow their
congregations. If that happens, great! But this is not what the miracles of
Jesus are all about. He did them selflessly, so that we may participate in them
selflessly. He emphasizes that point in John 6, retreating up a Galilean
mountainside when the well-fed crowd tried to make him their new king.
That does not mean we can’t
celebrate what happens a KUC. In fact, I think we ought to celebrate it,
because it is a sign of the continuing presence of Jesus Christ in our world.
In communities like this one, Divine love and power is made manifest through “mere”
human beings. This is a powerful weapon against cynicism; it’s proof that not
everyone acts purely out of self-interest and it shows that all communities—communities
as small as churches and as big as nations—can overcome selfishness and act for
the common good. More specifically, it shows that there is an alternative to
the economic systems that we take for granted. Unconditional hospitality and
charity is an antidote to unrepentant capitalism and consumerism. Sometimes it
only takes one small act, like offering to share one’s supper, to change our
way of thinking.
“KUC as the Household of God”
A sermon preached at Kowloon Union
Church on Sunday 22 July 2018, the Nineth Sunday after
Pentecost, by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that
day were Psalm 23; Ephesians 2:11-22; and Mark 6:30-34, 53-56.
us the wisdom of knowledge and the gift of grace.
us be like Christ and follow His way.
the word of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be from
you and with you. Amen!
Sunday Pastor Maggie organized the KUC Quiz for the congregation. Those who had
participated in it found it great fun. Following this great game, I would like
to do my sermon today with some questions. All who can give the right answers will
be rewarded. I work that out on a trust system. You may come to me for the reward
after the worship.
ready. What is KUC stand for? (waiting for the congregation to answer…)
– Kowloon Union Church
is the short form of our congregation.
is the name of our church.
KUC is called as church by Christ and is regarded as the Household of God, K.U.C,
these three letters would have a broader and deeper meaning.
now start my second round of question.
K – apart from Kowloon, what would you say? What does it stand for? (KING,
making reference from Psalm 23, K stands for King.
23 begins with ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.’ (another version
uses - The Lord is my shepherd, I lack
the ancient Near East, the shepherd was a central image for the king.
Throughout the Old Testament this royal metaphor is used to portray God’s
protective and guiding grace.
stands for King. This King is not the ordinary one. Unlike the kings on earth
that are concerned more on power, control and status, the King in the Household
of God is loving and kind. Kindness, is another word begins with K. Kindness is another quality in the
household of God.
household of God is where Christ the King dwells. This King is full of
Church which is called to be the Household of God will have Jesus Christ sit
right at the center.
the King who is our shepherd offers protection and assurance in times of crisis
and trouble. Christ the King gives to His people comfort and strength. Christ
the King leads his people to walk in the righteous path with courage. Christ the King
empowers his people to overcome fear, to encounter evil and their enemy with
strong faith and hope. The promise of the shepherd, the King who is full of power and yet very
gentle and kind has been beautifully said in Psalm 23.
The great king, the great shepherd has given us great
assurance and has invited us to stay in the house of the Lord for a whole life
Sisters and brothers, if you are feeling weary
and facing crisis in life, come to dwell in the house of God. The Household of
God is in this space and in this time.
The household of God refers also to our inner
heart where Jesus and the Holy Spirit dwell.
Let your wounds be healed and your soul rest in
the love of our great shepherd, Jesus Christ who is King of the world and head
of God’s household.
I will now read Psalm 23 to you, please listen
deeply and attentively. After listening, please spend some moments with God and receive His grace in
silence. I will end the silence with sound of bell.
1 The Lord is my
shepherd, I shall not want.
2He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
3he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
4Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
5You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.
(Silence by 1 minutes and end by the sound of
Bearing this peace and
silence, I now move to the second
the household of God, what does U stand for?
tip for you is to make reference from the epistle’s reading of Ephesians that
we heard this morning.
for unity, Union, United….
Christ, Christ the King is at the Centre of the household of God.
the early church, there were tensions between the Jews and the Gentiles. The
Jews have regarded themselves as God’s chosen people. Their religious rules and
cultural norms on circumcision have created division and conflicts with the Gentiles. The radical love of Christ, however, has
broken all human made barriers.
the epistle of Ephesians, the message of unity brought by Jesus Christ is
his blood, in his sacrifice, Jesus has made both the Jews and the Gentiles into
one. He himself has broken down the dividing wall and the hostility. No more human
rules and traditions can separate people from the love of God. There are no longer
strangers and aliens. No one is discriminated against. The unity in Christ brings
peace and wholeness of life. In Christ, all are equal and
treated with respect. In the household of God, everyone is included as member, and as children of God.
know unity is easier said than done. To
achieve the goal of unity is still a long way to go in our earthly journey. We have witnessed so many conflicts and divisions at home, in
work, in church, in society and in the world. Unity and peace is never an easy
task. But we have to keep this calling and work together towards that goal.
We have to remember too we are not alone. Christ is our unity. Christ
will continue to guide us. In Christ, we are united with God and with each
other. In this oneness, we are very much interconnected. Your happiness is my
happiness, your sorrow is my sorrow. To achieve unity, we need to communicate
with deep listening and do our best to understand each other without bias. We
need also to learn and have the courage to say sorry and take responsibility of
what we have done wrong, and to seek forgiveness. Unity requires also deep
healing and reconciliation. But we need to be careful not to ask victims of
violence (physical or sexual) to forgive the abusers too easily. It is wrong
and could be a form of religious violence to victims and doing injustice to
them. True unity is to bring liberty and set people free of bondage and oppression.
Whenever we walk humbly with Christ and live a life with love and
respect to one another, we are able to make not only our church, but our own
family and the world a dwelling place for God.
Now we come to the last letter – C. What does it
stand for in the Household of God?
Care, Community….. They are all good and important quality for building the
household of God.
gospel reading from Mark today shows to us Jesus’ compassion. I would like to pick the word - compassion. (care and community are
34When Jesus landed and
saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep
without a shepherd.So he began teaching them many things. (Mark 6:34)
demonstrated his love and compassion to those who are in need of him by
spending time with them, to teach them and to heal their illness.
without action is not love. As we know, Jesus did not only give time to the
needy. He had even sacrificed his life for the sake of love.
Jesus’ love in action once again encourages us and reminds us in the household
of God, compassion is a quality that we can never miss.
– the household of God.
scripture readings today remind us to build the household of God with KUC.
King - putting Christ the King, the Servant King at the centre of the House.
People who are living in the House - being kind.
Unity - Christ is unity that breaks all division and brings love and liberty.
Compassion, Care, Community...
the congregation of KUC, we have been doing our best to build the household of
God by centering our mission in Christ the servant King, to bring unity and
peace with a compassionate heart for the poor and the vulnerable. Timothy will share the peace making ministry
later in the Mission Moment later. You will then be updated on our work.
the household of God, it is not only external.
is also important to make our life and our heart a dwelling place for God to
live in. Let us live out K.U.C in our daily life.
God bless us and guide us to be more and more KUC - be kind, united,
compassionate and caring in Christ!
“Being servants of God, praying for mercy”
sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 8 July 2018, the
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, by the Rev. Dr. Tjeerd de Boer and Kathleen Ferrier. The scripture readings that day were Ezekiel 3 :
1-5, Psalm 123, Mark 6:1-13.
Dear sisters and brothers of KUC
He left that place and
came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him (Mark 6:1)
disciples followed Jesus…
The Gospel tells us about Jesus, tells
us about following Jesus, tells us about the disciples following Jesus
Jesus had said to them: follow me –
and the first disciples immediately had left what they were doing and had
Then Jesus called those whom he
wanted to be his disciples, and they came to him.
Then he appointed twelve (of them),
whom he also named apostles, to be with him and to be sent to proclaim the Good
So, here we are, at KUC, reading
about these very first followers,
as followers of Jesus ourselves, because
Jesus has called us to be with him, and to be sent, to proclaim the Good News,
that is to go Jesus’ way, to go in his name.
One of the first names used for
Christians is ‘those of the Way, ‘people of the way’, that is: people of the
way of Jesus, people on and in the way of Jesus,
-in his way of Mission and Diakonia
(one of my favorite courses I taught at the Lutheran Theological Seminary) –
being sent and serving,
-in his Way of Church and Society (a
course at LTS we had the privilege to teach together) – being sent and serving.
So, here we are, being sent and
Here we are, as members of this one
body of Christ,
as in one body we have many members, …so
we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members of
according to the measure of faith that God has assigned,
with gifts that differ according to the grace given to us…’ as Paul
repeatedly emphasizes in his letters (this is from the one to the sisters and
brothers in Rome, Romans 12)
Here, in this community of Kowloon Union Church, we have found that
body: a wonderful, colorful, beautiful body, with members from all over the
world, with different backgrounds and cultures, speaking different languages,
coming from different situations, having different orientations, in this wide
diversity all being member of one another.
Another kind of difference I learned
here in Hong Kong is the difference in faith biography, related to ‘tradition
and conversion’, to traditional and converted Christians.
Some of us, like myself, are traditional Christian: children of many
generations Christians - and some of us are new Christians: the first
Christians in their families, that is the story and testimony of most local
colleagues at LTS, most local students, many pastors and students from the
mainland, many are first generation Christians.
It is the difference between those
baptized as an infant:
Born on a
Friday, I was baptized on the following Sunday, two days young – without even
my mother being present, because she was still recovering from giving birth to
me. Baptism as an expression of tradition
and those baptized as an adult, often without any family member present,
as the conclusion of a process of conversion, of becoming a Christian.
That is not easy. Being the first. Being misunderstood, like Jesus, like
the disciples, in proclaiming the good
news, encountering disrespect, unbelief, rejection.
But, against all odds, they started to make the way, and here we are,
together as Christians, new Christians or Christians of tradition. It does not matter.
As followers of Christ, as equal members of his one body, we are all alike, we
are all born again in Christ, with all our different histories and backgrounds,
all our different stories and testimonies,
Being people of the Way, called by
Him who is the Way, Truth and Life, following his Way as disciples, we are
being sent to serve as his apostles, to share this one story and testimony to
all those mentioned in today’s Gospel (in Mark 6): both with those who in their
unbelief, thínk that they know who Jesus is (wherever they are, in our hometown,
and everywhere) and with those who need to be healed (wherever they are, in our
hometown, and everywhere).
The only option is to go, not our
way, but His way and to go as followers: disciples, apostles, members of his
body. All we have to do is to open our hearts, to our brothers and sisters, and
to open our hearts to listen what the Lord tells us to do: ‘to think with sober
judgment, to hate what is evil, to hold fast what is good, to love another with
mutual affection’ (Romans 12).
judgement, holding fast what is good and to love one another with mutual
affection is what we have found and experienced here at KUC: a diverse,
international body of Christ as was already said.
sets an example of how people from all walks of life can walk together, really,
following Him and thus respecting each other.
KUC sets an
example of how we can have a true and honest and respectful interest in the
differences, -even enjoy them, as we do in the Refugee Kitchen-, knowing that
what binds us together is stronger than our differences. We are followers,
people of the Way.
As some of
you might know I studied Spanish and one of my favorite poets is the Spanish
poet Antonio Machado. I especially like his poem in which he says: Traveler
there is no way. The way is made by going, just by going you make the way, and
when you look back, you see the path that you have left behind.
We are here
together at KUC as people from the way. We come from far away and from near by,
but we all come with the desire to make this place a better place. That is what
we want to leave behind: a better Hong Kong, a better China, a better Asia and
a better world. And by coming together here as this diverse body of Christ, we
go His way, the way of love and the way of respect and the way of equal rights
and opportunities for all. And even if we do not see now, how this is working
out here in HK, or in China, or in Asia or in the world, we as believers know,
that we may have faith that one day it will happen.
in this region, China, Myanmar, Indonesia, Laos and Cambodia, has taught us so
much and strengthened our faith, that the better world is on its way. Our years
in Hong Kong, with you, with students and faculty from LTS and from HKBU, with
students from the Asian University for Women in Bangladesh and people who work
with migrant-communities and with modern slaves have given us hope for this
more equal world to come. Because we have seen the strength and the faith of
people who - sometimes under the most difficult, if not inhuman circumstances -
keep hope following Him, keep opening their hearts and listen what He wants
them to do. This has been extremely encouraging and we are grateful for that.
We have also experienced that there are bonds between sisters and brothers that
go beyond time and place. Therefore, we know, that even if we return now to the
Netherlands we will remain united to you, our sisters and brothers at KUC.
Because we are people of the Way, travelers together, making the way, following
our hearts, following the Way He shows us, following Him. Amen.
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Archived sermons by the Barksdales