Meditations, Reflections, Bible Studies, and Sermons from Kowloon Union Church
Those Who Go Ahead of Us
A sermon preached at Kowloon Union
Church on Sunday 28 October 2018, the twenty-third Sunday after
Pentecost, by Peter Youngblood. The scripture readings that day were Job 42:1–6 , 10–17 ; Hebrews 7:23–28 Mark 10:46–52.
As we heard in the children’s sermon, this
is a very important week in our Christian faith. Wednesday is Reformation Day,
when Protestant communities will mark the 501st anniversary of the
nailing of the 95 Theses on the doors of that Church in Wittenburg, Germany.
This started the process that eventually divided European Christianity into two
main groups: Catholic and Protestant.
But Luther never intended to leave the
Catholic Church—he just wanted to change it. In his 95 Theses he listed what he
believed were mistakes or abuses by Catholic clergy. Particularly, he had a
problem with the selling of indulgences. These were basically bits of
paper—like certificates—that were supposed to reduce the amount of time a
person had to spend in Purgatory. You probably already know that for Catholics,
Purgatory is the place where some (probably even most) people go to be cleansed
of their sins. It is basically Heaven’s “waiting room”. It reminds me of the
hospitals in Hong Kong, where you have to get a number like “B237”, and then
wait for that number to be called. So basically, if you bought an indulgence,
when you died you would get a lower number, and that meant you could get to
heaven more quickly. Needless to say, Luther had a big problem with this.
Now today, over 500 years since the
Reformation, many churches tend to emphasize Christian unity. KUC has a
Protestant heritage, but we present ourselves as an ecumenical community. All
are welcome to come and worship with us, and all are welcome to our communion
table. But the Reformation had a lasting effect, and as a result there are
clear differences between us and Catholic communities. You probably already know
that Martin Luther helped develop the Protestant understanding of what we call
the “doctrine of justification.” This doctrine is meant to explain how we, as
sinful human beings, are redeemed in the eyes of God. In Luther’s understanding,
we are justified—or saved—by faith alone, not by our good works. Jesus Christ
is our salvation. There is nothing that we do ourselves—whether it be hard work,
or following all the rules, or being charitable—that can save us. We cannot buy
our way into heaven. We certainly can’t pay the local clergy for a special certificate
that says we can go to the front of the queue in Purgatory. Just as it was Bartimeus’ faith that gave him
sight, it is our faith and our faith alone that can heal and save us. The good
thing about all this is that it also means that we don’t have to worry too much
about making our situation even worse. We, like all other human beings, are
already sinful, and there is not much we can do to make ourselves more sinful.
We are already at the very bottom of the pit, and only God can bring us to the
surface. But this also means that no matter what, God will not abandon us.
Looking back on our Old Testament reading for today, it was not Job’s own sins
that caused him so much misfortune—misfortune just happens. But because of his
persistent faith in God, Job’s wealth and his family is ultimately restored to
him. Through Christ Jesus, salvation has been opened up to all, and this
salvation is fairly and evenly distributed, regardless of what sins we may have
But by focusing solely on the
Reformation belief in the power of faith, we have lost some of the traditions
that we once shared with other Christians. For the Reformers, if something
wasn’t clearly mentioned or discussed in the Gospel, or if something seemed
contrary to the doctrine of justification by faith, then in their eyes it
became unnecessary (or worse it became idolatrous). As a result, our practice
of faith has been simplified and shrunken. Out of the seven sacraments
important to Catholics, Protestants really only recognize two of them—baptism
and communion. Catholics also emphasize the importance of venerating the Saints.
Here I mean “Saints” with the capital “S”, by which I am referring those very
holy Christians who did something truly special, like die for their faith. Like
St. Valentine or St. (Mother) Theresa. Protestants talk about these Saints on
occasion, but with far less reverence; rarely do we recognize the special days
or feasts dedicated to their memory, or expect miracles from them. More
significantly, Protestant tradition does not believe in Purgatory. Instead we
have a pretty simplified understand of the afterlife. You either go to
heaven—the good place—or the bad place. And honestly we don’t like to talk too
much about the bad place (I’d like to think nobody really goes there). Because of
this maybe we feel there is far less need to pray for the souls of the dead.
Catholics, on the other hand, do pray that those stuck in Purgatory may be
finally admitted into heaven.
Ironically (and probably intentionally)
the day Luther nailed his 95 Theses up was actually a very important day in the
Christian tradition called All Hallow’s Eve, better known to us as Halloween. If
you remember, Luther had a big problem with indulgences—the idea that people could
buy their way into heaven or buy their loved ones way into heaven. So, it’s
fitting that Luther would criticize the way people think about the afterlife,
on a day when people have already started to think about the afterlife! Halloween
is a time when we confront those things that scare us the most. And one of the
things that scare us the most is death. Not just the act of dying, but the
thought of what happens after we die.
Now the very next day—November 1st
–is All Saints Day, the time of the year where we remember those in our
community that have died. But “Allhallowtide”, the whole holiday that includes
Halloween and All Saints Day, is celebrated differently by Catholics and Protestants. As a Methodist growing up, we usually
recognized this holiday by reading the names of those who have died over the
past year, but that’s about it. I honestly don’t remember much about All
Saint’s Day or All Saints Sunday. Instead, I was always far more excited about
putting on my Spider-Man costume and going trick-or-treating on Halloween.
But for Catholics the celebration of
Allhallowtide is more complex and arguably more important. You first have Halloween,
the day before All Saints, which probably began as a Pagan holiday. Then of
course you have All Saints Day, and that is the day you remember those have
reached heaven. But the very the next day is All Souls Day, and this the day
you remember and pray for those who have died, but have not yet reached heaven: here again, we are talking about Purgatory.
We are talking about the waiting room. In Mexico, a predominantly Catholic
country, they have the Dia De Muertos, or “Day of the Dead” on November 2nd. Some of you have probably seen the movie
“Coco.” Don’t worry, if you haven’t I won’t spoil it for you. In the movie, you
get to see what I think is a good interpretation of Purgatory. The dead lead
lives very similar to what they had one Earth. This can be both comforting and
frightening. It would be nice to think that, after we die, we can still do all
the things we used to do. On the other hand, if our lives weren’t so great on
Earth—if we were “outcasts” like in the Disney Song we just heard—that probably
wouldn’t be so fun. Even in Purgatory, we have to survive difficult world.
What’s more scary is that the dead in that movie rely on the living to remember
them, and this is what sustains them. If their living relatives forget about
them, they just disappear. It’s scary, but it is also meaningful. There is this everlasting connection between
the living and the dead in Mexican-Catholic culture that we don’t have the
Now having said all this about
Reformation Day and All Saints day, I don’t mean to suggest that Catholics
don’t believe in the doctrine of justification (they do). Nor do I mean to say
that Protestants never remember the dead. I think we think quite a bit about
those who have died. When we lose a loved one, it is heartbreaking and it can
take a long time for us grieve. But in some ways we also quickly sever our
connection with the dead. We stop our communication with those who have gone
before us. When someone dies, we hold a short funeral and that is sort of the
end of the relationship. We are sad, but this sadness has little to do with the
actual person that we’ve lost. What we mourn, what we are sad about, is the
loss of the connection, something that is part of ourselves. Whether it be
sadness, anger or peace, what we feel has less to do with the person who died
than with our own pain. It’s actually a very selfish feeling, but that doesn’t
mean there is anything wrong about it.
We could say the same thing about
faith. We are encouraged to concentrate on how God’s grace works our own lives,
and to mind how the law is written on our own hearts. What others do is up to
them. What’s more important is that I am a faithful Christian. But the
doctrine of justification doesn’t mean that we don’t care about our choices and
our actions. Nor does it mean we are not to care how these choices and actions
affect others. Quite to the contrary, through our faith we receive God’s Spirit,
and because we receive the Spirit we are able to live more compassionate and
less selfish lives. It is through God’s grace we are able to do good works and to
support each other and our community. I think KUC community is a good example
of how this kind of grace works. Unfortunately, for too many Christians, it has
become more important to think and behave self-centeredly when it comes to
faith. We only think: Is my faith strong enough? Is my
heart pure enough? Will I go to heaven? By doing this we
lose sight of how our individual choices and actions relate to those around us.
And here I am referring not just to the
living, but also to the dead. Too often we think that, after someone dies, and
after we have had their funeral, our relationship with them is over for the
most part. But I think we still have a continuing spiritual relationship with
the dead. More than that, I think we have an obligation to them. What we do can
affect those who went ahead of us, just as they can still touch us in our lives.
But after the Reformation we lost this
kind of spirituality. We are focused on our own, living faith, and disconnected
from those who went before us. As a result, we don’t think enough about our continuing
relationships with deceased family and friends. Fortunately, this spirituality
is something we can re-learn. We can relearn it not just Catholics and their
prayers for the dead veneration of the Saints. We can also learn it from
Chinese culture! In Hong Kong, the spiritual bond between the living and the
dead is just as strong as between living persons. To give you an example, the
Wednesday before last was the Chung Yeung festival, a time when Chinese families
visit the graves of their ancestors. As with many other cultures, it is common
to leave flowers out of respect, but in Hong Kong people will do a lot more.
They will leave fruits for the dead to eat in the afterlife, or even burn money
made out of joss paper for them to spend. There are rituals to ward away bad
spirits, and prayers to free the souls of deceased loved ones from Hell. People
pray to receive their ancestors’ blessings and some believe that the dead can
grant wishes or bring good (or bad) luck.
As Protestants, we don’t really believe
in this transactional relationship with the dead. We leave flowers but don’t
leave food offerings or burn joss sticks. We don’t expect our ancestors to
bless us with good luck (but they certainly can if they would like!). But at
the same time, our relationship with the deceased remains important. Our
ancestors, our forebears, lived the life that we are now living. They already
know of our desires and struggles, because they had them too. Furthermore,
however difficult life may seem to us today, it was probably a lot more difficult
for our ancestors. Because they went ahead of us on the same journey, their
wisdom and their blessing means so much.
This week gives us two things to think
about. On the one hand, it is a time to reflect on the meaning of our faith.
Are we strong because of what we do, or are we strong because of what God has
done for us? But it is also a time to remember another source of strength—that
is, those around us: our family and our friends. And not just those family and
friends who are living, but also those who have gone ahead of us. Those that
have gone ahead of us have left us the gifts that allow us to lead the lives we
have today. They gave birth to us. They provided us with food and shelter. They
founded this church. It’s thanks to them that we are so lucky to be able to be
hear the Word of God and share fellowship in a community like KUC. Because of
this they deserve not just our respect, but also our remembrance. The dead are
not far away from us. They are close. Part of our Christian faith is remaining
connected to the loved ones who lived before us. Faith is remembering those who
made it possible for us to have faith. Amen.
To Whom We Give?
A sermon preached at Kowloon
Union Church on Sunday 21 October 2018 by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings
that day were Psalm 104:1-9;
May our mind, heart and soul
be enriched by your word. May the Holy Spirit within us enlighten us to understand
and Jesus Christ our Saviour empower us to walk in his way. Amen.
Why poverty matters to Christians and Church?
On 17 October, the world
was commemorating the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. This
day was designated by the United Nations 25 years ago to appeal to leaders and
communities all over the world to end poverty. The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres,
clearly stated that poverty is not a matter of charity but a
question of justice. There is a fundamental connection between eradicating
extreme poverty and upholding the equal rights of all people. The theme for the
poverty day this year is “Coming
together with those furthest behind to build an inclusive world of universal
respect for human rights and dignity.”
Poverty matters to Church and every Christian, rich or poor. Why? It is because God created human beings in His
holy image. Anyone whose basic human rights and dignity are deprived because of
poverty is a violation of God’s holiness. It is a sin that we need to repent.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to the world to share our humanity and identified
himself with the poor. He was born humble from a young poor girl in an
un-respected place. Jesus, the incarnated God who came to the world to be with
us, revealed to us the God of the poor.
Christians are called not only to serve for the poor but to become
friends of the poor and church of the poor. In our congregation at Kowloon Union Church,
we have dedicated ourselves in supporting migrant domestic workers, ethnic
minorities, asylum seekers and refugees through our social ministries. Every
year the church sets a budget line to provide small grants to projects serving
communities in need both local and overseas.
The Gospel reading we heard today is taken from Mark 10: 17-31. It is a
good passage to share about wealth and poverty, that touches upon the core
teaching of Jesus.
The passage talked about a rich man. He was a decent law-abiding Jew as
he kept all the laws required of him since he was a boy. He went to Jesus
asking him what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him to sell what
he owned, and to give the money to the poor, and then come follow him. Obviously, Jesus cared for the poor, and he
called the rich man to share with them his wealth. For sure Jesus loved the
poor. But we should notice that Jesus loved the rich man too. Jesus was serious
about the question this rich man asked about eternal life.
The rich man who was seeking eternal life was required to share his
possessions with the poor so that he will have treasure in heaven and enter the
Kingdom of God.
In addressing the wealth and poverty issue, the challenges that Jesus
gave to the rich man give us some insights.
The rich man was challenged to give up what he did not need. Poverty is
caused not by inadequate resources. Poverty is caused by social injustice –
unequal distribution of power and resources. The people who have more power and
possession accumulate wealth for their own interests. This is greed and unjust
social structure that make poverty worsen and the wealth gap keep widening, in
Hong Kong and in many parts of the world.
To inherit eternal life and enter the Kingdom of God, faithful people
need to tackle the sin of greed and the structural sin of injustice.
It is not possessions and wealth that Jesus disapproved of. He did not
insist that Zacchaeus, the tax collector sell all his possessions and give to
the poor. After meeting Jesus, Zacchaeus voluntarily gave up his possessions
and restored fourfold whatever he had gained by fraud (Luke 19:8-9). In Jesus’
earthly ministries, he had been supported by many people who owned possessions
and were rich.
What Jesus challenged the rich man was his willingness to share and let
go of his sense of security that was based on earthly materials. The rich man
reflected many people’s life reality, Christians included
Jesus was asking the rich man to let go of his earthly possessions and
focus his life in God and with God. This is what Jesus asked from all of his
disciples – including you and me, to follow him and walk in his way with full
There are rich and super rich Christians from Hong Kong and other parts
of the world who accumulated lands, properties and other kinds of possessions
for their own benefits. Even though they are so rich, they still try to exploit
and manipulate the poor so that they can gain more profits.
Possessions are indeed great temptations to human beings. The more people
possess, the more people want to accumulate. There is a saying “money is the root
of all evil.”
Jesus’ radical command to the rich man to sell all his possessions and
share with the poor can be taken as a divine way to liberation – liberate from
greed, liberate from materialistic attachment, liberate from fear of insecurity
Jesus’ radical command to the rich man to sell all his possessions and
share with the poor can be taken as a divine way to love – love to share with
others, love to connect with others.
Sharing of wealth with the poor as a divine way to love led me to
remember a lady from Taiwan. Her name is Chen Shu Chu, 67 years old. She was
recognized by Time Magazine as one of the Top 100 most influential people in
2010. She was a hawker selling vegetables in a wet market. What had she done
for such an appreciation? She saved up most of the money she earned and donated
to schools to help poor children. Do you know how much she donated? Ten million New Taiwan Dollars (equivalent to
2.5 million HK dollars).
Ms Chen’s generous giving is impressive. What’s more touching and
profound is her philosophy about money. She said if money is not used for the
needy, that money is useless and meaningless. Paraphrasing her statement on the
recent Lantau Tomorrow Vision proposed by the government to build artificial
islands to create more land for future use: Land which is not used for common
good and to be shared by all people especially the have-not would be useless
I don’t know whether Ms Chen is a Christian or not. But what she did
was Jesus’ radical command of sharing wealth with the poor. In this regard, she
has kept her treasure in heaven and she is not far away from the Kingdom of
For friends who are literally poor without good income or without any earned
income to have the means to meet ends may say the story about the rich man is
not speaking to me because I have no possessions to sell and share. I can
understand that feeling, but still I find there are messages that speak to people
living in poverty.
Many people think if they have nice house and a lot of money they would
be happy and their lives will be secured. Look at this rich man, although he had
a lot of possessions, he was not happy and satisfied because within his heart
he has no joy.
Possessions and money do not necessarily bring happiness. Don’t take me
wrong I am not justifying poverty. People who are rich could be very poor in
spirit and love. On the other hand, people who are poor in material life could
be very rich in love and joyful at heart.
Here I would like to share with you another old lady who is from Hong
Kong. I call her Mrs Heung. She is now over 80 years old. She is a widow with
five children. When she carried her youngest daughter in the 1960s, her husband
passed away. All her children were very
small. She was the only one to take care of the whole family. Like many other
poor families at that time, she lived a very meagre and difficult life. One day
she heard children crying next door. When she went to see them, she felt great
pity on the children because they were starving without food. Their mother just
gave birth to a new born baby. Mrs Heung went home to give some rice to that
family. She said at that very moment, she did not consider at all whether she
had enough for her own children tomorrow. Out of deep compassion she just gave
and shared what she had. Mrs Heung is a very devoted Christian and I always
find smiles on her face. Although she was poor and yet she is so rich in love. From
Mrs Heung’s generous giving, I found one truth, the giving to the little one
and to the needy made the givers rich.
Pope Francis once said: “No
one is so poor they cannot give what they have, but first and foremost who they
Sisters and brothers,
remember what Jesus assured us that we are God’s beloved children. Psalm 104 reminds us also that the
earth and the whole world is God’s creation. We are God’s loving and beautiful
creatures, full of dignity and worthy of his love. God will take responsibility
to protect and provide everything that He made. Not only for our own goodself
but all creatures. In God we lack nothing. In Jesus’ teaching and his
sacrificing love, he assured us also all things are possible with God. (v27)
The passage from Mark 10:31
– many who are first will be last, and the last first.
These are radical teachings
and affirmation of Jesus. Jesus Christ came to radically change the human order
and norm of the world. In Jesus’ own
death and resurrection, in the loving acts of Ms Chen from Taiwan and Mrs Heung
from Hong Kong, we may see how God’s power works in His people. Both ladies
were giving to Jesus Christ who is fully present in the little ones and the
Their giving with love generates divine wealth that is the treasure God
receives in heaven.
Today I gave my sermon a
title: to whom we give? Are you ready to give what you have and what you are to
God and follow Jesus?
I will end my sermon by singing a song with Janet.
It is a song of thanksgiving.
It is a song of commitment to the radical command of Jesus.
It is a song of divine love that lead us to eternal life.
It is a song to manifest the beauty of God’s kingdom.
TRANSFORMATION MEMORIES: CLAIMING THE LIVING PAST--Luke 9: 28-36
A sermon preached at
Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 14 October 2018, Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost, by Rev. Dr. Jerry Moye. The scripture readings
that day were Psalm 90:12-17, Luke 9:28-36.
My 94 year old mother died one year ago; blessed memories
Gift of this text, in Catholic church two days
Ongoing power of the text
2—Scriptural Account &
Luke describes event as a prayer experience
Jesus needs retreat time; takes inner circle
of 3 friends
Preparation gift from God facing end of life
Two mentors from the past rise up to give
Moses & Elijah, two major voices for
Jewish faith & teaching
Identifying Power: special calling & work,
rejection & vindication
Moses & mountaintop experiences: Sinai
Elijah & mountaintop experiences: Carmel
Everyone needs experiences of feeling special presence &
power of God
God has great power coming to us through
special friends & mentors
Jesus has friendship power from three sources
He takes inner circle of 3 friends to share
He communes with 2 mentors from a living past
He is empowered by Holy Spirit; Spirit speaks
to 3 friends
4—Invitation of the Gospel
given us the church, his special family, to teach & ground us
God has given us a Messiah Brother to share
our humanity & redeem it
God has given us Holy Spirit to illuminate,
awaken well springs of heart
Story gives a beautiful image of the Christ:
He is the Beautiful Shining Christ
He gives a liberating power, calling power,
II Corinthians 3:28—Where the Spirit of the
Lord is, there is freedom.
And we with faces uncovered reflect the
glory, the beauty of the Lord.
And we are being continually transformed into
his likeness, an ever-increasing glory.
This comes from the Lord who is the
“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
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
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.
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Archived sermons by the Barksdales