Reflections...

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

“When the Many Become One”

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 7 October 2018, World Communion Sunday, Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, by Timothy Chan. The scripture readings that day were Genesis 2:18–24, Psalm 26, Mark 10:2–16.


Good morning friends, as Rev. Judy has already mentioned, today is the World Communion Sunday. You can see we have set up the communion table differently, and you may be able to find out the theme throughout the liturgy. I am also tempted to pick a scripture which fits today’s theme, but I did not, I stick to the scripture of the church calendar. As we have read the scripture just now, seemingly, it is about marriage, two become one, but I realize it is also talking about Christian unity and how God envisions our community life. Before I try to draw together the World Communion Sunday with today’s scripture, let us pray:
God of all nations, help us to understand your Word, and help us to live in peace with each other in a relationship which enriches our lives, and bring us closer to you. Hear our prayer in Jesus’ name, Amen.

1. When I first read the scripture today, particularly the Gospel of Mark, the first word coming into my mind is “divorce”. The Pharisees were testing Jesus whether he would abandon the teaching of Moses by asking him how it can be lawful to divorce one’s wife. Then Jesus simply answers, “Two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” So, seemingly Jesus did not agree with any divorce.
However, we must realize the fact that how we understand divorce in the 21st century is way too different from the understanding in the 1st century Roman empire which the Jews are influenced heavily by their own tradition. And the way we understand marriage is very different from the people in the 1st century.

In the biblical time, it was a patriarchal society, the sexuality of a woman is owed by her father, and then to her husband. Marriage was more like a family business, women have VERY little say on whom to marry, it depends on the father. The society back then was not as free as today’s where women can go to school, and choose whatever jobs they want to, to support their own living. Women have to rely on their household to maintain a position in the community. But very sadly, women had no say on whether they can be divorced or not. Therefore, the teaching of Moses is more concerned about the social system, the welfare of women after being divorced, etc. Jesus knew the Pharisees were testing him, he did not even care to respond directly.

Jesus deflects their question away from matters of the law and turns it instead to relationship and, in particular, to God’s hope that our relationships are more than legal matters. Jesus is promoting a relationship based on equality and mutual responsibility by quoting Genesis, reminding people of the Creator’s intention for us. Maybe some of you are still asking whether it is okay to divorce, but I think God is more concerned about the quality of the relationship, rather than the form of it, and how we can live a life of abundance and mutual dependence.

2. The Gospel reading today includes the story of Jesus blessing the children. It gives us a bigger picture of how Jesus envisions the kingdom of God where the weak and vulnerable are protected and welcomed. Children are welcome, women’s right are protected. In response to his disciples stopping children to approach Jesus, he said “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

How should we receive the kingdom of God as a little child? People would say, children are pure and innocent, it is really true. The way children approach a relationship is very direct and simple. I once saw online a social experiment video, it is comparing children with adults on how they react to a stranger’s need. There are different strangers they have prepared, there are black stranger, white stranger, poor stranger, and rich stranger, male or female, and the result shows that adults are more selective on who they would help, and the children would reach out to help all the strangers in need. It is not a surprising result, for our society has given people different labels and stereotypes, we are more prone to judge before we try to understand. For example, oh you divorced, you must not be a good Christian, and there are still many churches in Hong Kong wouldn’t accept a divorced person to be baptized or to serve in church.

We are called to be children, so that we can look through all these labels and stereotypes given by the society or by the church, to build relationships with understanding and respect. Today we have too many categorizations to define people, some use it to keep certain group of people out, and some use it to consolidate their status quo, but the Kingdom of God is a community of mutual dependence and sharing. Almost no one can live all by himself/herself, we are all needing some help from others to live. 

It happened long before in the Garden of Eden, when the Lord said “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” This scripture is used by men for centuries to justify their superior position over women, that women are made to be men’s helper, until a female scholar pointed out that only the weak would need help, so the women are made to rescue men. Well, it is quite true, for I look up the Hebrew dictionary, and the word “Helper” here is not someone who is inferior. Instead, the word is used to describe how God saves the Israelites, it carries a meaning of rescue.

After all, either we are the helper or someone who needs help, it is not because we are superior to any other. We must realize the original status of humankind, “It is not good that the human should be alone”, we need one another to complete each other. Therefore no one shall be excluded from the Kingdom of God, and no one shall be excluded from the fellowship of God’s people.

3. One of my favorite theologians Paul Tillich describes sin as a state of separation, of estrangement and of alienation. The biggest sin today is how we destroy the unity of God’s people, we marginalized people by their sexual orientation, by their religions, and their different skin colors. We promote fear in our society rather than promoting acceptance and understanding. We keep building invisible walls to keep people away from our comfort zone. To a point that even we need help, we would keep it to ourselves, because our trust to other people is broken.

Recent medical research points out that loneliness and isolation are growing into the biggest health threat to humankind, and it suggests that being connected socially is a fundamental need, crucial to well-being and survival. If sin is a state of alienation and separation, then the salvation and rescue would be reconciliation and reconnection. For me, the scripture today is not about marriage or about divorce, it is about how we shall build a community of mutual respect and dependence, and how we shall tear down the invisible walls we have made, to welcome people into our community and, more importantly, into our life.

4. Today is the World Communion Sunday, it is a reminder to all the Christians that we might have different theologies and traditions, and it is obvious that we have very different views on political issues or moral issues. We are challenged today, to think of what is more important, whether our differences would be bigger than the love that unites us together?


Only when we come back to the love of God, we see how he broke his body for all of us, for the Muslims, for the Christians, for the Atheists, and for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer, and for those who are married, who are single, who are divorced, and for those who are old and who are small. The salvation God has prepared for us is a relationship, in Chinese churches, we always say, believe in God so you can have eternal life. But isn’t the greatest gift of all is to reconcile and reconnect with God, so we can have a relationship with God? When Jesus says “and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.” I would take this flesh mentioned in this text as the body of Christ, through sharing the body of Christ, we are all no longer many, but one flesh. May we be reminded on this World Communion Sunday that we are called to be the peacemaker by living out a loving relationship and to include the marginalized into our community. May God help Kowloon Union Church to be the place that the many are one in Christ. Amen.

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, October 07, 2018

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