Reflections...

Meditations, Reflections, Bible Studies, and Sermons from Kowloon Union Church  
A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 19 August 2018, Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, by Timothy Chan. The scripture readings that day were Psalm 111, Proverbs 9:1–6, John 6:51–58.


Good morning friends, the Gospel reading today is taken from John chapter 6, again, Jesus is referring himself as the bread from heaven, but this time, he is more specific. He points out that the bread, the food from heaven, are the flesh and blood of his own. When he was saying these to the crowd, they were all shocked and probably scared. But why does Jesus insist that everyone must eat his flesh and drink his blood? And why do we have to? Before we find out why, let us pray:
Loving God, you are the light of the world, and you are the bread for the world. We ask that you put this hunger and thirst for You in us, so that we will be transformed by you. Open our hearts to receive the word that you have for us this morning. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.
 “You are what you eat!” is a very popular phrase since the science of nutrition has become more and more important. People are more aware of what they are eating in order to be healthy and fit. Before science was introduced, our ancestors also believed in this saying. In the old days, people around the world believe that eating a certain type of food/thing would help them in a specific way.
In the Aztec tradition, they believed by eating the brain of their enemy, they would have obtained the knowledge and wisdom of their enemy. In Europe, the Vikings believed that drinking the blood of wolves and bears before the battle would make them more ferocious. In China, of course, quite well-known for its “Like-supplements-Like” way of eating, you would hear people say, “Oh your child is not doing well in school? No problem na, make a pig brain soup to help your child’s brain la.”
People have been practicing it for centuries, until the breakthrough of science, we understand more how our body works. According to science, aka Google, an adult would lose 300 billion cell every day due to aging, and the food we eat would eventually, somehow, become the composition of the new cells. So basically, we are literally what we eat! So, if you eat junk food, you are probably becoming junk. Well, back then in the time of Jesus, they did not have this kind of knowledge, and from a spiritual point of view, food is always playing an important part in their religious life. The Israelites are so picky on what to eat, and what not to eat, because they believed that eating inappropriate food would defile their religious life, and by eating certain food, they would remain holy and pure. So when Jesus is challenging the people around him to eat his flesh and blood, it is definitely offensive to the people back then. How can I as a holy man need to eat your flesh to obtain eternal life? Is this man crazy?
1. Jesus is challenging them to change their way of thinking, their way of defining what is holy and what is not. He is leading them to see the spiritual food, not to focus on what they shall eat physically, but only through having or “eating” Jesus would lead them to eternal life. Jesus was sending out a powerful, “instead of counting how many times you wash your hand to make you holy, you should focus on abiding with God. Instead of classifying what food is unclean and clean, you should follow Jesus Christ’s footsteps to reach out to the outcast.” Religious life is not about rituals, but rituals should be the tool to help us to understand and experience the divine. The focus of our life is to abide with God, and to realize God’s presence within us, like what Pastor Phyllis was leading us to meditate on last week, God within us. Not only to realize His presence, but to live a life of transformation, to live a life of “We are what we believe”.
Today we are also caught up by many superficial traditions and rituals which define our life. However, friends, we often have the wrong focus. I remember debating with some Christians about whether a Christian who was not baptized would go to heaven or not. Well, I don’t know! Even though you are baptized, then another argument would start, whether you do it by immersion, or you do it by sprinkling or pouring. Oh, if you are not immersed, then the argument would start all over again.
It just won’t stop, churches would argue why you share the Communion with those who are not baptized. In KUC, if you are not baptized, or even though if you are not a Christian, you are welcome to take the Communion, because we believe that God is the host of the table, not any of our pastors here.
Friends, after all, it is not about how we are eating the bread and drinking the juice or wine. It is all about Jesus, sacrificing his life, to become the bread for the world, so through Jesus, we can have life and it is an eternal life. It is between you and God, only you would know whether you are abiding with God or not, only you would know whether you are following him or not, and it is only you who can experience this heavenly love, that the world can never take it away from you. No theology or church tradition can separate us from God. Jesus invites us to build a relationship with Him, and frees us from man-made traditions and teachings which confine us.
2. “We are what we eat”, and “we are what we believe”. By “eating” Jesus, we are inheriting his personality, his passion and his love, but it is a process and journey that we have to work on it every day. Jesus is the truth, and the way. He is the Word of God. Some people say the Bible is the word of God, but I prefer to say that Jesus is the Word of God, this Word, in Greek is Logos, it means the principles of how God runs the world, the Way of living, the Way of sustaining the whole Creation.
Many of you would come to church, hoping the preacher is not so boring and you may learn one or two things out of the sermon and the Scripture readings. By learning more about the word of God, we aim to apply the teaching into our life and hoping that our life can be transformed, maybe not instantly, but slowly slowly. What you believe, indeed, would become what we are eventually.
I believe most of you went to different churches before coming to KUC, and you might realize the teaching of your church might be a little different with KUC’s, and the people coming to KUC are also different, right? I think it is very okay to be different, and we should appreciate the diversity in the family of God. When a church is preaching about the urgency of evangelizing people week in week out, I guess the congregation would be more evangelical, right? When a church’s teaching is more focused on sin and what you should not do, I guess the congregation would be more aware on their personal conduct and behavior. When a church preaches more on social justice, well, I guess the congregation would be more aware of what is going on in the society. As a Christian, we have to be aware of what we are being fed. It is also our responsibility to reflect on what we receive, for what we believe of God would affect our relationship with God too.
I remember long time ago, a teenager who saw God as an unpredictable, strict and stern-faced old grumpy man, he believed that God would punish him whenever he sins, and he never believes that good things would happen to him, because he believed that God is so strict with him. For a period of time, this boy would wake up every morning feeling he is so sinful and dirty that God would not forgive him. Then he would read Psalm 51 out loud 10 times a day, hoping God’s wrath and punishment would not come to him. It took a long time for this boy to get rid of this image of God and start to believe that God is not a grumpy old man. It is no longer the fear of punishment which kept him from leaving God, but the acceptance and love which he has experienced moved him to follow Jesus. And this boy is preaching to you this morning, hoping his audience can rethink what they have been believing about God.
3. “we are what we eat”, “we are what we believe”. In the proverb we read this morning, Wisdom has also invited us to her banquet. If you can turn to proverbs 9 together and we shall see she has built a house with 7 pillars. Many scholars believed that these 7 pillars are the 7 days of creation, so this house is the whole creation, so God herself has prepared a banquet for all the people.
She called to those who are simple, and those without sense, in other translations, it says those who are simple-minded, or naïve, or ignorant or foolish. So basically, she is inviting all of us here. Look at verse 5 and 6, She said “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” The banquet is an invitation, not just for enjoying food and sharing joy, but it is an invitation for people to lay aside immaturity, to lay aside the old ways and thoughts which led us away from God.
It is an invitation to walk in the way of Wisdom. In the Hebrew tradition, wisdom has two meaning, one is skill, such as craftmanship, art, and different survival skills, and the other meaning is referring to the way of living according to the divine will, to follow the pattern of the Creation. Therefore, to eat the flesh of Jesus and drink his blood, is only the beginning! The goal is to be like God and live like Christ.
Friends, it is easy to just come and enjoy all the nice food, it is free! What do you want right? It is also easy to come to God, enjoy all his love and grace, and remain the same. Without a doubt, the grace is free, the salvation is free, but there is a price, just that Jesus paid it for all of us. Apart from eating, what can we do? Now we know God is within us, so what? We learn that we have eternal life, so what? Friends, God is within us, but God cannot live our life for us, we are the one who live our life! God is within us, but sorry some of you still have to wake up early and work tomorrow!
God is within us, but we still have to face the difficulties and challenges in life. But don’t worry my friends, “we are what we eat”, don’t forget to feed yourselves with the bread of life, the love of God is our source of energy for us to become what God intends us to be.  “we are what we believe”, the wisdom and teaching of God is our guide leading us to where God intends us to be.
4. at the end of the sermon, I want to talk about food again. Recently I have shared a video on social media, it is about three chefs, a Jew, a Muslim and a Christian, living in the Palestine sharing meal with each other. Today we talk about how we reconcile with God and have peace with God through eating the flesh of Christ. Eating and sharing food can also obtain peace and bring us closer to one another. Food can be a media of peace. We are so lucky in KUC that we have opportunity to taste different cuisine all over the world. I remember one of our refugee kitchen chefs told me that seeing the local people eating her food meant so much to her. For her, it represents acceptance and inclusion, that she felt she is one of us. By eating her food, we are connected in the love and fellowship of God. This is what God wants to see, not only calling people to abide in God, but also to see people putting down their prejudice and stereotype, and to come together in unity and build peace on earth. May we all be united, not just by food, but by the undying love of God. Amen.


# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, August 19, 2018

 

“The God Within”

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 12 August 2018, by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that day were Psalm 130; Ephesians 4:255:2; John 6:35, 4151.


Your Word is a lamp, a light on my path (Chanting)

Last week I joined the Pilgrimage of Trust and Reconciliation in Hong Kong. This was an international meeting organized by Taizé Hong Kong. More than 1,500 participants, mainly young people from all over the world, joined this pilgrimage to seek God’s love, hope and unity. It was a wonderful and amazing experience. Today I am glad a number of pilgrims are with us this morning, and I would like to welcome them on behalf of the church.


Just now I chanted a Taizé songYour Word Is a Lamp, a Light on My Pathin Chinese at the beginning. You can tell my body and spirit are still very much in a mood and mode of chanting and contemplating.


Today I would like to adopt a different approach in delivering my sermon. I will try an experiential approach that requires your active participation and attention.

John 6:35
“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’ ” (v. 35).
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (v. 51).

Jesus is the One that God sent from heaven to give life. Jesus is the Word made flesh. Jesus has given his flesh to each one of us and to the world.

The message I would like to share about The God Within is not going to be the spoken words from my mouth. Rather, I wish you to experience through the breaking of bread.

Timothy, Kath, Justine and myself will start by giving out the bread.

When the loaf of bread reaches you, take a small piece from the loaf and pass the loaf to the person next to you. When you give the small piece of bread to your neighbour, please say these words: This is the bread of life.

After you receive the piece of bread, please hold it in your hand. During this time, focus your heart, mind and soul on the bread. You may touch the bread, smell it, look at it attentively and feel it prayerfully. Meditate also on what is your relationship with Jesus, the incarnated God who is fully present in this very moment. I will instruct you to eat after everyone has received a piece of bread.

Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.”

Let us together share this bread, the bread of life in the broken body of Christ.

During the breaking of bread, chant “Eat this bread.”

Jesus Christ, Bread of Life, those who come to You will not hunger.

Jesus Christ, Risen Lord, those who trust in You will not thirst.

(When everyone has received the piece of bread, I will then say,

Friends, together let us eat the bread. You may close your eyes.

Chew the bread slowly; let the bread go down slowly from your mouth to your esophagus and then to your stomach.)

(Music)

As we eat the bread, Jesus, the Bread of Life, is living within our body. In this way, the God of eternity is living in us.

The God Within is a truth we need to know and remember.

In a moment of silence, let us experience The God Withinfully present in us in the here and now.

Sisters and brothers, I invite you to listen and meditate on these words:

The truth of The God Within helps us to transform and transcend our life.

The God Within leads us to accept our true self and love ourselves as God’s beloved children created in God’s holy image. (Silence)

The God Within strengthens us to embrace our personal brokenness and the brokenness of the world.

In the breaking of bread, our brokenness is healed, and we become whole in Christ. (Silence)

The God Within empowers us to face death without fear. The bread of life that we have taken will sustain our life and hope forever and ever. (Silence)

The God Within calls us to live a life like Christ, to love and to serve the world by offering and sacrifice to God. (Silencebell)

Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life, the God who lives within us and the world, thank you; we praise you forever and ever! Amen.


# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, August 12, 2018

 

What are you looking for today?

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 5 August 2018, Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, by Justine Wong. The scripture readings that day were Psalm 51:1–12 ; Ephesians 4:1–16 ; John 6:24–35.


            Today’s Gospel reading continues the story we heard last week about the feeding of the 5000. Remember – five loaves, two fish, impossible maths? I wonder, if you had been one of those 5000, what would you have done after you witnessed that miracle, not just with your eyes but with your stomach!

            John 6, starting with v. 22 tells us exactly what the 5000 did. They went looking for more miracles. When they couldn’t find Jesus or the disciples, they got into their boats to chase after him.

            When they found him, Jesus said something interesting in v26:
"Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you."

            Jesus is telling the crowd that they have been looking for the wrong thing, because of the wrong motives. According to v27, there are two types of food or bread. One that perishes, and one that would endure for eternal life, and is given by the Son of Man. Verse 35 points out that Jesus himself is the bread of life, whoever goes to Him will never be hungry, and whoever believes in Jesus will never be thirsty.

            Jesus is the bread of life, the bread that would endure forever. So what do we need to do to get this bread of life? In v27 Jesus already told the crowd that the Son of Man will give it to them, but they didn’t understand.

            While they are working for the food that would perish, they also think that they need to work for the bread of life. They asked, "What must we do to perform the works of God?" Jesus addressed their stubbornness: "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." Out of people’s expectation, Jesus didn’t ask them to do a lot of good works or keep all the commandments. Just believe in him whom God sent. But do you think the people really believe in Jesus?

            No! Unbelief is a common theme in the gospel according to John. In v30 people asked, "What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing?” After knowing Jesus healed the sick and fed the five thousand, people are still asking Jesus for a sign. They couldn’t understand the signs that Jesus has already given them.

            The people have their particular “sign” in mind that they would like to see. They referred to the manna from the wilderness as the bread from heaven. They may expect Jesus to do something like Moses, sending bread from heaven, or lead them out of the oppressive political environment. Remember, they tried to make Jesus as king, and that’s the reason why Jesus left them in the first place.

            People have their own agenda about what Jesus should do, and they have their own motives when looking for Jesus. Blinded with their own expectations, they cannot really see the signs that Jesus was trying to show them. They were looking for the wrong thing, and missed the main point. They did not truly believe in Jesus, because Jesus was not how they expect or imagine.

            How about ourselves? What are you looking for today? Are we expecting God to show us signs according to our will, so we can believe in Him? If we try to put God in a box, and bind up His works with our own expectations, we may miss the signs He is already showing in our lives.

            Why are you in church today? Are we here because of the food or fellowship? Are we here because of the pastors? Or are we here because we are seeking to know Jesus Christ? We should not build our faith upon something other than Jesus. If we come to worship God with our own motives, we may not able to see God clearly. I am not saying that the other things are not important, but Jesus should be our focus and first priority.

            When I was a kid I used to ask my parents if I can just eat candies, chips and other snacks instead of the proper meal like rice and veggie. I guess some of us may have asked the same question, or your kids may have asked you this as well.  While snacks can be filling, it cannot replace a proper meal, as it is not good to our health, or provide enough nutrition. That’s why Jesus said He is the “bread of life”, but not the “snack of life”!

            As adults we understand the difference between snack and bread, and we know what is best for our kids. However, from kids’ perspective, they may just think the adults are not serving their best interests. Does this look like our relationship with God? We think we know what is best for us, but only God knows what is truly good for us.

            So, then, to get to the heart of the Gospel lesson, what kind of bread are you looking for today? Are you looking for a snack that just fills your stomach, or are you looking for the bread of life, who gives us everlasting hope and peace?    

            You may still wonder, so what does it mean to believe in the bread of life? What does it mean to put our faith on Jesus? While Jesus did not want to be the earthy king, the king that is full of power and above everyone else, Jesus is leading us to another kingdom, the kingdom of God. This kingdom is about justice, peace, mercy and love, and our king is living out a humble life, denying Himself and be with the people, care for them and show them how to love. Jesus is our king, who is also the bread of life, one that would break himself for His people, and share what He has with us.

            To believe in the bread of life is to trust that God is love, and He is always good to us, even if we don’t always get what we want. We can also be assured that in God’s kingdom, we would not face our problems on our own.  Our king never leaves us, He would rather sacrifice Himself but not letting us suffer alone. Jesus is our hope and source of peace, if we are willing to let Him take over the control.

            For the movie Sunday two weeks ago, we watched “The Shack”. The main character Mack goes to church every Sunday, because of his wife. Mack’s faith was second-hand, so when a tragedy hit the family, Mack lost his faith. He can only see his own pain and sorrow. After a special incident, Mack finally realized God never left him and His daughter. And God’s love and patience is beyond his imagination. Until Mack gave up making his own judgement on everything, he then becomes a true believer of God, who is able to live out the hope and love he experienced.

            Life goes on and we often look for different things at different stages of our lives. Jesus did not rebuke the people who looked for Him because of food or other motives. But He pointed out that while they think they are looking for what is good, and they think they have the best agenda, Jesus can indeed offer them something better than they can expect or imagine.
           
            No matter what are you looking for today, Jesus did not ask you to give it up completely. You just need to keep your eyes and heart open, and not lose sight of God and His work in your lives.
           
            As I prepared this sermon, God placed this same question on my heart – what are you looking for? Why are you in this church today? As a seminary student, I do have my own motives and requirements to fulfill coming to this church. KUC is a very unique place, and I chose my longest internship here, so that I can be exposed to a wide range of ministries, and I also hope to resolve some of the concerns on my heart. After more than nine months of learning and serving here, as my internship is coming to a close next Sunday, I asked myself, what did I find? Am I only looking for what I want to see here, or do I see what God wants me to see here?

            KUC is the most diverse church I have ever been. The church is not big, but we have a congregation from all walks of life, different culture and background. Given our diversity, I can really see what it said in Ephesians 4:2: with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

            While it may not be as perfect as what the verses described, I can see we tried to bear with one another in love, and making effort to maintain unity. This is the beauty that I think God wants me to see. While it is hard to just imagine what it means to be “Where are all one” (the KUC motto), I can see all the different body parts come together as one body in this church.
           
            KUC is more than a place for my internship. It has gradually become another home for me; a place to taste worldwide cuisine, a place to learn what liturgy is all about; a place to response to social issues, and more importantly, a place to care for the minorities and the marginalized. KUC is the place I learned and experienced what ministry is all about, it’s not only about meetings, activities or administration, it’s all about people.

            Talking about people, I need to confess and ask for forgiveness that I didn’t spend enough time building deeper relationship with you all. Firstly because I am not exactly an outgoing person, second is that I am afraid that it would be hard to say goodbye to you all when the time comes. I treasure my moments in KUC, not only because I find what I want to look for here, but because God let me see His great love in action beyond my expectation here in this community. I experienced the Kingdom of God here in KUC.

            As we will once again take the bread together,
may we remember the bread of life is the “bread” we should first seek;
and may we believe in Jesus in all occasions;
and may we keep an open heart to see the signs that God put in our lives; and may we continue to build and to be the body that shares Christ’s love, peace, hope and joy, just as KUC always has been. Thanks again for having me in this lovely community in the past nine months, may God bless you all.




# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, August 05, 2018

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