A sermon preached at Kowloon Union
Church on Sunday 30 September 2018 by Dr. Kung Lap
Yan. The scripture readings that day were Psalm
19:7–14, Mark 9:38–50.
The phrase, “I am
not the only one”, may sound very familiar to many of you. This comes from
the lyrics of the song, Imagine, by John Lennon. “I am not the
only one” means a lot to people engaged in the Umbrella Movement, for they know
that they are never alone. However, on some occasions, we are happier when we are the only ones than when we are not the only
is the concern of the Gospel for today.
It records a
conversation between John and Jesus. John said to Jesus,
Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your
name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us. (v. 38)
John’s saying was concerned about the
authenticity of the man having the authority and power to cast out demons but
without following Jesus. It is whether the man was committing a heresy, and/or
whether he had abused the name of Jesus. Apparently,
is well established, but if we pay
attention to what had been happened to the disciples some days before this
event, we may have different interpretations of John’s saying. In 9:28-29, the disciples asked Jesus, “Why could we
not cast demons out?” Jesus said to them, “This kind can come out only
I believe that
first, John had prayed very hard so that he
might have some successful experiences to cast out demons. If this is so, the question John
puts to Jesus reflects that he was unsatisfied with the man whose spiritual
life in terms of casting out demons was stronger than John himself, but the man
was not supposed to be. Second, the man did not follow Jesus, and this implied that he was not
chosen or he did not want to bear their cross. More importantly, he was not
sent by Jesus. If this is so, his authority and power to cast out demons was an
abuse of the name of Jesus. Third, since the man was not following “us” (the
disciples, not Jesus), he was not subject to the disciples. In other words, the
disciples no longer had the monopoly of Jesus’ teaching. When we take all
these concerns into consideration, we can say that the core
issue is not simply about how to keep the authenticity of faith, but it
is the fear of the loss of status, prestige and position of John among the
followers of Jesus. This was especially true in
the early church when Jesus was no longer present. Apparently, it is about
setting up criterion in order to distinguish between orthodoxy and heresy, but
it is more about protecting one’s status, prestige and position.
What is the nature of
protecting one’s status, prestige and position? Is it about a matter of
dignity, respect or a matter of pride? Pride is to see himself/herself beyond
what he/she is, and to refuse admitting
limitations and shortcomings. Pride is to
himself/herself only, and even greedily to get what is not his/hers. In order
not to lose one’s status, prestige and position, he/she not only lies and over-boasts about
his/her achievements, but also uses all means to disqualify the achievements of
others. In fact, pride is the result of fear,
self-pity and lack of confidence. Does it mean that people always having the words of
“Thanks, God” or Hallelujah in their mouths are humble? This is
not necessary, for there is something called spiritual pride. This is what
Jesus criticizes in the Pharisees and scribes. How about the Gay Pride? Are they
arrogant? It is important to distinguish between what Gay Pride is talking about
- pride as dignity and what we are talking about - pride as sin.
Pride is sin, because first, it does not help one to have an honest and authentic
self-understanding, but rather it leads one into self-deception, and
consciously and unconsciously live in self-deception. Second, pride is sin,
because competition, not fellowship, is its logic of relationship. It does not
have the capacity to appreciate and allow people better than him/her. Third,
pride is sin, because its nature is a work ethics, and it denies that what we
are graciously gifted from day 1. Pride
is a kind of self-love, but it is a misguided self-love. Pride makes one to say
“I am the only one,” but in fact, he/she
In order not to let
John fall into the trap of pride, Jesus says to him, “Do not stop him” (vs. 39).
First, Jesus explains that “for no one who does a deed of power in my
name will be able soon afterwards to speak evil of me.” It is true that some
people abuse the name of Jesus for their own sake, but there are many people
who are faithful to Jesus Christ. We
may not fully agree with their interpretations of the faith,
but we should
not simply use our own yardstick to measure them. Rather
to be open, to be listening and even to bless their work. In fact, they have done something that we are not able to do. This is
what Kowloon Union Church is doing for our little congregation, One Body in
Christ. I have to be honest that most churches in Hong Kong would have
hesitation to receive us, but you welcome us and share your resources with us. You have shown us what it means by “We are not the only ones.”
Second, Jesus explains that “whoever is not against us is for
us.” We sometimes may victimize ourselves by saying that no
one is standing beside us, but Jesus reminds us
that we may not receive positive support, but support can be expressed in terms of not against us. If we see in this
way, we are not alone as what we think.
saying this, Jesus makes a positive statement, “For truly I tell you, whoever
gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by
no means lose the reward” (vs. 41). This is what the
Kowloon Union Church has been doing for the asylum seekers, overseas domestic workers,
“We are not the only ones”
is to remind us that we are one of the many to inherit the Christian faith and traditions. We do not have the franchise of
the faith. We should not fear losing our status, prestige and position, but we learn
to appreciate the diversified expressions of faith through the work of the Holy
Spirit. We have experienced the graciousness of God in our church, but “we are
not the only ones.” So, we happily share our resources with others and bless
A sermon preached at Kowloon
Union Church on Sunday 2 September 2018 by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings
that day were Psalm 15; James 1:17-27; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
You are our Great Teacher. May
Your Word enlighten us and the Holy Spirit guide us the way of life in Christ.
After going through the
lectionary readings of this week, the word ‘integrity’ stood out to me.
from Wikipedia, this free encyclopaedia defined integrity as “the quality of
being honest and having strong moral principles, or moral uprightness. It is a
personal choice to hold one's self to consistent standards.” For me, one man stood out
as a good example that fits this definition.
Our dear senior member and
friend Bishop Samuel passed away on Thursday at the age of 88 after a stroke on
last Sunday and fell unconscious. As I
prepared the sermon today and shared the message about integrity, I remembered him
a lot. He had lived a life and faith of integrity as God’s beloved child and faithful
Therefore, my message this
morning will talk about the life of Bishop Samuel and how we may learn from him
as a man living his faith of integrity in Christ.
Maybe I begin by briefly introducing some
background of Bishop Samuel. He was from Pakistan originally. He joined KUC as
member in the 1990s when he served as Christian Conference of Asia’s (CCA)
General Secretary from 1990-1995 in Hong Kong. He joined our community again
when he was back to Hong Kong staying with his son eldest son Ajmal in 2007. At
the end of 2015, he and Mrs Samuel moved back to his hometown in Pakistan.
The Letter of James we heard this morning highlighted a
vital message: be doers of the word, and not merely hearers. It is important
for believers to live out our faith. Knowledge and faith without action are
Bishop Samuel had set us a
great example that he did not only hear the word as believer and preach the
word as pastor, he lived out God’s word.
The core of God’s word is love.
The greatest commandment of God is to love God and love our neighbour as
In the moving tribute written by Bishop
Samuel’s children, they highly praised their father. Here is what they said
about him – “Our dad was our hero: kind, compassionate, idealistic and so full
of love. He always had time for each of us in all our life's choices, listening
and advising, encouraging and supporting. Imagine this doubled for his
While I heard
many complaints and sad stories about pastors who neglected their own children
and families because they were too busy with their church ministry, Bishop Samuel had
done very well as a loving and responsible husband and father. He and Mrs Samuel
always came and left the church hand in hand. His love and devotion to his wife
His love was not limited to
his own family, I cannot agree more with his family that his pastoral heart was
offered freely to everyone. He dedicated his life to God by offering his love
wherever he went.
I knew Bishop Samuel since
2007 when I started my ministry in KUC. He was such a kind and encouraging
person. Whenever he was in church joining the Worship Service and fellowship or
during my visit to him in his home, he always asked about my family, my
children, as well as the church. Even when he was sick and staying in hospital,
he still demonstrated his care and concerns to others. He had always kept us in
his prayers. We can see his sincere love of others in all circumstances.
As a Christian priest, and as the first
Pakistani Bishop of the Methodist Church, Bishop Samuel was a pioneer in
ensuring that the community was encompassing, welcoming and behaved as good
neighbours in his predominantly Muslim land. He worked tirelessly for
interfaith relations, as well as the unity of the church in Pakistan, being one
of the founders of the Church of Pakistan.
His passion to bring peace and unity was not
confined to Pakistan. He was
keen for inter-faith dialogue in Hong Kong. On behalf of the church, he invited
the Iman, a Muslim leader from Tsimshashui Mosque, to speak in an interfaith
forum some years ago. When he did that forum, he was already 80 years old.
Another meaning of integrity is “the state of being whole, unified and
undivided.” Christians are called to be
ambassadors of Christ to bring peace and unity. Again,
Bishop Samuel in all his life not only preached unity and harmony, but lived it
The Letter of James
highlighted the law of God is to bring liberation.
The Gospel of Mark reminded
us that we should not blindly follow human tradition but to truly follow the
commandment of God that would set people free. In criticizing the Pharisees as
hypocrites, Jesus reminded his disciples to live a moral life with honesty and
consistency. These are qualities from the heart within.
Carol Cheung, Bishop Samuel’s
daughter-in-law, Ajmal’s wife is a Chinese from Hong Kong. I married Carol and
Ajmal in this church in 2015. Carol shared in her Facebook about her father-in-law.
She said Bishop Samuel encouraged her to do well in her career. He gave her
full trust as she excelled. When she was upset, he gave her hugs and
comfort. He was also a very forgiving
person as they would reconcile with each other after arguing with one another. It is not easy indeed for elderly people as
they tend to be stubborn. Such a close relationship between father-in-law and
daughter-in-law was admirable. Not only did he treat his daughter-in-law so
well, he was also very kind to their domestic helper.
Bishop Samuel was one of the
senior pastors in the Ecumenical Council examining and supporting Maggie’s and my
ordination. He was the one who preached at my Ordination Service ten years ago.
He apparently was happy to see two ordained women ministers serving in KUC. Unlike
many old men in his age and from conservative culture, Bishop Samuel did not
uphold the male-dominant traditional values and gender stereotypes as golden
rule that cannot be broken. After his
death, I learned from Carol that he loved the songs of Abida Paveen. He shared
with Carol that Paveen’s songs gave him peace of mind and brought him close to
God. Paveen is a Sufi Muslim musician.
Bishop Samuel had incredibly
lived a life with true love and true respect to people regardless of gender,
race, class and religion.
On every first Sunday of the
month, we celebrate Holy Communion here at KUC. I was very impressed by Bishop
Samuel’s humble manner and his reverence to God in the way he received the elements
at the Communion. He always bowed his head and uplifted his hands to receive
the bread. He was a man fearing of God and had deep gratitude for the love and
sacrifice of Christ. He was very attentive and present at the service. In one Communion
service, I shortened the liturgy. His mind was so clear that he noticed it.
After the service he came to and gave me critical feedback for something he
considered vital was missing.
Besides, he and Mrs Samuel
were always punctual and never been late to the Sunday Worship.
Psalm 15 is the summary of
the moral conduct. The Psalmist asked God this question:
God, who can find a home in
Who can dwell on your holy
who walk blamelessly, and do what is right, and speak the truth from their
heart; who do not slander with their tongue, and do no evil to their friends,
nor take up a reproach against their neighbors, in whose eyes the wicked are
despised, but who honor those who fear the Lord.
life of Bishop Samuel had demonstrated such a quality that the Psalmist has
highlighted. We thank God that he is now home resting in his tent and dwelling
on his holy mountain.
“Every precious act of giving, with every
perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom
there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17)
Samuel is perfect gift given to us from above the Father of lights. We will
remember him. And the best way to remember is to do what he has done and receive
what he has given us.
Let us spend some time
to remember him, to give thanks to God for his abundant life, for the grace he
had shared with us in God and for his new journey to the eternal home. Let us
also pray for Mrs Samuel and their family in this time of loss.
Inkyu will play the
song ‘Bless Assurance’ in this time of silence.
This was a favourite song of Bishop Samuel and Mrs Samuel.
thank you for the abundant life of our beloved brother and friend John Victor
You had blessed him with an admirable marriage of mutual devotion and
service, a beautiful and successful family and a fulfilling vocation that
impacted so many people.
It is hard to say goodbye. But knowing that he lived a good life and is
now with You resting in eternal home, we can say farewell with peace and joy.
the presence of death, we ask you to comfort Mrs Samuel, his family and those
who mourn for the passing of Bishop Samuel. Give them hope that in the love of
God there is no separation.
us grace to love you, and to trust in your goodness and mercy. Assure us that
because Christ lives, we shall live also; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
University Press. 2010. p. 12.