Previous weeks’ reflections

Weekly Reflection 25th October 2020

Matthew 22. 34-46

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’

37 Jesus replied: ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’

41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 ‘What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?’

‘The son of David,’ they replied.

43 He said to them, ‘How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him “Lord”? For he says,

44 ‘“The Lord said to my Lord:
    ‘Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
    under your feet.’”[c]

45 If then David calls him “Lord”, how can he be his son?’ 46 No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.


Reflection

“Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” It might have sounded like a genuine question, but it was another testing question, trying to catch out Jesus. Then, we see him say very plainly, “Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbour”. Very simple. They must have been disappointed by this answer. The problem was they didn’t understand the scripture properly, and they were reading the Word of God differently. They never denied God, and their disciplined life-style couldn’t be compared to any other religious groups. Nevertheless, the trouble was they regarded the Word just as the law, by which people were judged and punished. And, they classified over 600 laws from the scripture, and tried to distinguish the more important from the less important. That’s why they asked this question, “Which is the greatest commandment in the law?” But, that was a question, which missed the point. They didn’t have to put them in the order from more important to less important. It’s because they are to be summed up in one sentence, as Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” That’s it. They should have noticed that at the heart of Israel’s law is ‘Love’ which embraces the whole world.

But, they didn’t perceive that point, and they were just reading the scripture backward. It is so important, how we read the Word of God and how we interpret and understand it. People find life and freedom from the scripture, but often we see some people find trouble, and struggle with it by reading it differently. As we see from this passage, for Pharisees, the problem was they knew the Scripture and they learned every word in the Scripture, but they didn’t grasp the point of God’s Word, therefore couldn’t follow the way God had shown to them.

The point is if you know the Word of God, do it, and obey it. I remember when I was at the college, one of the tutors often said, “Don’t struggle with what you don’t understand. Do what you understand.” That is exactly what the Bible says in many places. For instance, James 1. 23 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” Jesus also says in Matthew 7, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”

The Bible is about transformation, not just information. The word we’ve heard must be applied to our lives, so that they may be transformed. If not, it can be even dangerous, and its result could be disastrous.

Then, how can we love the Lord our God? Jesus says, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.” Yes, by obeying his teaching and doing what he says, we are to prove that we love the Lord our God, and his Son, Jesus. Jesus wants us to be doers of the word, not just hearers. He wants us to obey his word, not just know the word. When we are willing to obey it, God will unlock the real meaning and blessing of His Word, and we will be able to taste the great sweetness of His love. Amen.

Prayer

Lord, we are thankful to you for the gift of your Word to us. We thank you for lives changed through the centuries as people have come to know you, the Living Word. Lord, we are thankful to you for your gift of perfect love. Help us to put on the virtue of love, that you may use us to work towards perfect unity.

Lord, we are thankful to you for your gift of Jesus, the living Word. We pray that as we read the Bible and allow your Word into our hearts, you may dwell richly in us through your Spirit. And we pray that we may have opportunities to share your Word with those in our own communities, and with those around the world, that your kingdom may grow here on earth. And whatever we do, in word or deed, may we do it in your name, Jesus Christ, in the power of the Spirit, giving thanks to God our Father. Amen.

18th October 2020

Reading: Matthew 22. 15-22

Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’ But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

Reflection

I think this gospel reading is one of the stories, where we see Jesus making a brilliant counter blow against his opponents with his wisdom and the divine power. It’s wonderful to see them completely knocked out speechlessly. Here in this story, we see the Pharisees and the Herodians teaming up to trap Jesus. But, basically, they were the groups which couldn’t be joined together as a team. Actually, one was the extreme conservatives, the Pharisees, and the other, the extreme liberalists, the Herodians, who were supporting and loyal to the Roman emperor and the king Herod. Even though they were totally different groups with different ideas, they teamed up to confront Jesus. Here, we need to bear in mind that just in the previous chapter, Jesus has ridden into Jerusalem triumphant, and started telling dangerous stories, in which the religious leaders were told that even the tax collectors can be worthy of redemption. Having been challenged like that, they then approached Jesus with a question, which they thought could catch him in his words. The question was this: “Is it right to pay tax to Caesar, or not?”

We know well tax is always a hot issue, and it can cause a trouble any time and moment, if we are not careful. And, here the tax they referred to was the Poll Tax. It’s a kind of ‘Head Tax. Nowadays we do not pay the poll tax in this country. In my understanding, it was replaced by ‘the Community Charge’, and then replaced again by ‘the Council Tax’, which everyone has to pay.

The interesting thing was, in those days this tax should be paid with the Roman coins only. Any other methods of payment were not allowed, whilst the other taxes like the ground tax or the income tax could be paid with shekels, their own Jewish currency. The trouble was the general public, the ordinary people didn’t like to even carry the Roman coins in their pocket, let alone pay this tax, as it was to mean supporting the Roman Empire. But, the Herodians were different and willing to support this tax.

This question might have been an innocent and interesting one for Jesus to engage with, if it were asked in sincerity. But there was an atmosphere of tension, and the questioners were looking for mistakes. They wanted to catch Jesus out legalistically, but we see Jesus respond morally and teach them and us a lesson on perspective: do your duty, obey the law, but remember that you have a higher purpose too, that is, giving to God what is God’s.

Jesus is to instruct the listeners to give to the emperor the coins which bear his image. Those are his. Then, he asks them to apply the same logic as the coin which belongs to the emperor: let everything bearing the image of God be given to God.

What it means is that ‘Remember you are the ones created in the image of God. And, you must have His image engraved somewhere in you. Therefore, you are God’s, not yours. You belong to God. So, you should give yourself back to God.’ It’s a big challenge, demanding a total commitment.

Now then, the challenge to us is: How much are we giving ourselves back to God? In our worship, fellowship, or serving. Amen.

Prayer

Lord of all, teach us as citizens of heaven to live also as citizens of earth, conducting ourselves in such a way as to bring honour to you.

Show us what it means to be your people in the daily business of life; how best we might fulfil our responsibilities and duties to others while staying true to you, recognising your ultimate sovereignty over all.

Speak to us now, and grant us the wisdom, sincerity and faith we need to walk as your people, within your world. Amen.

Weekly Reflection

11th October 2020

Matthew 22. 1-14

Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

Reflection

This gospel reading seems to be an enigmatic story, of which some points are beyond our common sense. For example, how can we understand the invitation refused, the invitation to the royal wedding? What surprises me is that they didn’t just refuse the invitation. Moreover, they totally mistreated the servants who delivered the king’s message. They seized them and even killed them, which I find hard to understand. Who on earth could do that? It doesn’t sound sensible.

But, on the other hand, what do you think of king’s reaction? It says: “The king was very angry.” We understand that. “so, he sent his soldiers, and they killed those murderers and burnt down the city.” Well, it doesn’t sound true, because we know the king as a king of tolerance and forgiveness. So, this is not an easy parable to understand.

Then, the story goes on to the next round, where the king spotted out a man without a wedding garment in the banquet. We see, the king was so furious and he ordered his servants to bind him, and cast him into the outer darkness. It is again another part, which we find hard to believe, because we know him as a loving, gracious king. We know his patience, generosity and forgiveness. Then, how could he get so angry that he gave such a cruel punishment to that man? If he understood their situation, as they were rounded up on the street, how could he ask them to wear a proper wedding garment? It doesn’t sound fair. Although wearing a proper garment is a way of respecting the host and honouring the occasion, it doesn’t seem to be a serious mistake, for him to be treated like that. It was just a wrong dress.

But, there is one thing we need to look at carefully. If we understand a little bit more about Jewish culture and tradition in those days, I think we can get the picture more clearly. In Jewish wedding, it was their custom that the host provided all the wedding garments for the guests, before they came into the party. But, this man didn’t even make any effort to put on the proper garment. That was the trouble.

It is important to remember that accepting an invitation means accepting the terms of the invitation. We must understand the nature of the invitation, and follow its terms. But, this man without a wedding garment, knew what the invitation meant, and what he should do for the party. Nevertheless, he came to the party on his own terms, thinking his own dress was good enough, and ignoring what the king wanted for the party. That’s why he was punished so severely, although he was invited and attended the party.

We know God loves us all, as we are. And, his love reaches out to us where we are. But, it doesn’t mean he wants us to stay as we are. Rather, he wants us to grow, be transformed, healed and changed. He wants us to be more like Christ, clothing ourselves with Christ. It doesn’t matter how pretty your dress is. It doesn’t matter how much you paid for it. What matters is whether you put on the right one, the one made of Christ, his compassion, kindness, gentleness and patience. Amen.

Prayer

Loving God, we come at your invitation to celebrate, and to eat at your table and be filled. Help us to prepare our hearts and minds to receive all you offer and to clothe ourselves with your gifts of love, joy, peace, goodness, compassion, and humility – whatever is pleasing and honouring to you – freely offering ourselves in the service of Christ, who freely gave so much for us. Amen.

16th August 2020

Reading: Matthew 15. 21-28

21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.’

23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, ‘Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.’

24 He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.’

25 The woman came and knelt before him. ‘Lord, help me!’ she said.

26 He replied, ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.’

27 ‘Yes it is, Lord,’ she said. ‘Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.’

28 Then Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed at that moment.

Reflection

In this reading, Jesus doesn’t seem to be consistent in his mission policy. He clearly mentioned that his mission was only for the Israelites, then granted the request of the Gentile woman. How can we best understand his response to this woman? To do this, we need to look at this Gentile woman. She was a Canaanite, a pagan, and more likely a Baal worshipper. And, she was from the land of Tyre and Sidon. In terms of her background, I don’t think any of them seems to give her a credit.

To the Jews, Canaanite means ‘enemy’, which had got a long history since the time of Abraham. And, even worse, she was from Tyre and Sidon. We know that in anywhere in the world, people have some kind of prejudices on some part of the country, or some part of the world. People tend to have a certain level of regional rivalry or regional favouritism, if you like. In those days, Tyre and Sidon were the personification of wickedness. They were the sin-cities, filled with immorality, corruption, and self-indulgence. So many times in the Bible, they were described as such. That was a terrible reputation. Usually, Jews didn’t have much to do with Gentiles, let alone the people from Tyre and Sidon. They wouldn’t talk to them, wouldn’t eat with them, and wouldn’t do any business with them. It’s because they thought they were the only chosen people, the elected. But, it’s a dangerous idea, not only in those days, but also today.

Jews had a special term to describe their feeling about the Gentiles; ‘koo-ohn’, which means ‘a dog’. But, it is not a pet, but a kind of scavenger, a filthy animal. Therefore, when the disciples saw this woman coming, that’s what they saw, ‘a dog’, and even worse, a dog from Tyre and Sidon, the wickedest land. So, they didn’t have any compassion on her, as she was just a nuisance. And, they just wanted to get rid of her, as she was not worthy of their Master’s attention. And, that troubled Jesus, because he knew what they had in mind. However, it seems so surprising and even strange to hear what Jesus said to this woman. He said, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their DOGS.” He seems to act as if he is as good as his disciples. He doesn’t seem to care about this woman who is desperately seeking help to save her daughter. Further than that, we see him calling her a dog.

But, here, we need to carefully notice the word he used, ‘koonar-ee-on’, which means a little dog, a puppy. He didn’t use the word ‘koo-ohn’, a filthy dog. And, we all know how we treat a puppy as a pet. We feed them, shelter them, and care for them. They are like part of the family.

And, that was a crucial moment, and the woman never missed this chance, and wise and brave as she was, she made a brilliant reply, a clean counter punch, saying “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

We see her humbly accept to be called a dog, and humbly ask just a piece of blessing, some crumbs of blessing from God. And, it is granted, because she is also part of God’s family.

And, this is actually what the disciples needed to hear and what Jesus wanted them to know. That is, God loves even this woman they despised. Does this make his mission policy inconsistent? No. it doesn’t.

Rather, he is to fulfil the Word of God, as he comes to seek and save what was lost. Amen.

Prayer

God of Love, how wonderful it is for us all to know that God loves us, no matter our background. Thank You that in the Kingdom of God we find radical welcome and inclusion for all, even ourselves. We delight in our Father’s love. In Your Kingdom there will be justice and peace, but we know that this is not the experience of everyone today. Bring Your Kingdom, Lord. Amen.

9th August 2020

Reading: Matthew 14. 22-33.

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’

28 ‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’

29 ‘Come,’ he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came towards Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’

Reflection

This week’s story is another miracle story which may provide a stumbling block for some readers. What? Really? But, what we need to look at is not ‘How it happened’ but ‘Why’. In this reading, we see the disciples struggling with a storm, which is not surprising, because we know that storms are coming any time in our lives.  For example, a storm of sudden illness, job loss, financial problems, or relationship break down, and, particularly at this time of pandemic, the loss of the loved ones. In this story, although they were the professional fishermen and they seemed to know the sea and the storm, we see them struggling and unable to make headway against the wind. They were stuck in a storm, despite all their efforts, all through the night.

That is, in a sense, a kind of picture, through which we find ourselves in our lives. In this world, we have discovered so much, and learned so much, and invented so much. We know that hi-technology, computer, internet, scientific discovery, and medical development have made a huge difference in our lives, which we couldn’t even think of just about 10 years ago. It seems we know everything.

However, we’ve got to realise that we are vulnerable human beings, unable to do anything, in the face of a few seconds of earthquake, or heavy rain or strong winds, or an unpredicted attack of virus. We’ve got to admit that we are mortal bodies and we can’t get salvation by ourselves. The disciples in the boat were facing the same situation. Although they were fighting against the storm all through the night, they didn’t know what to do. Desperately, they needed help.

But, it is interesting to see that they didn’t recognise Jesus nearby, who could be their help. Moreover, they were even frightened to see him walking on the water, saying ‘It’s a ghost!’. Now, we see Jesus become a ghost, when we are not able to relate him to our lives. In our poor eyesight, or in our blindness, when we cannot recognise Jesus properly as our Lord and Saviour, we are to make him a ghost, a frightening creature. That was exactly what the disciples did at the boat.

Nevertheless, we see Jesus never leave them alone, but give them courage, saying ‘It is I. Do not be afraid’. What he says is ‘I am the one who can save you. So, do not be afraid’.

Yes, we need to remember that Jesus is there to rescue us, when we fail and sink. Jesus knows our weaknesses and our failures, but never lets us go to sink. He reaches out his hands to rescue us, because he is our Saviour, our redeemer, and our Lord. He wants us to take courage, and get out of the boat, and feel the thrill of walking on the water, so that we may know and experience the wonder and joy of trusting in him, in this world of chaos, conflict and confusion. Amen.

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, speak your word now in the turmoil of our world, in the confusion of life, and especially in the hearts of those who find themselves all at sea, tossed about in storms of sorrow, suffering, anxiety and despair. Bring order out of chaos, confidence out of fear, faith out of doubt, and peace out of unrest – the certain knowledge that nothing, not even death itself, can finally overwhelm us. In your name we pray. Amen.

2nd August 2020

Reading: Matthew 14:13-21

13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed those who were ill.

15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so that they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.’

16 Jesus replied, ‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.’

17 ‘We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,’ they answered.

18 ‘Bring them here to me,’ he said. 19 And he told the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Reflection

This reading is one of the well-known miracle stories which is mentioned six times in all four gospels. It seems to tell us of the significance of this miraculous event. But, it would be more sensible to look at the meaning behind this event rather than explore the questions of whether it was a miracle or not. In this sense, we may need to look at the background of this story, its context.

Just before this happening, in Matthew 14, we read the terrible story of the death of John the Baptist. He was executed by the king Herod. He had been in prison, then suddenly he was beheaded while the king Herod was enjoying his birthday party. It’s a terrible execution. Jesus heard this shocking news about John, who was a forerunner, his friend and colleague, and personally his cousin. This must have made him terribly sad, devastated in his heart, and made him to think of his future seriously. So, he might have wanted to have a private time in a solitary place. We can understand the feeling he had, as a human being. Maybe he wanted to have a quiet time with God, to be comforted by Him.

However, as we see, the crowd never let him go, so they went ahead and waited for him to come, on the other side of the lake. Can you imagine how he felt, when he saw them? He could have said, “This is my day off!” But, he didn’t say that. Rather, when he saw the crowd, we see his heart go out to them and have compassion on them. Although he himself needed space and he himself was grieving, we see him not caring about himself but going out to meet their needs, whatever they might be. That is compassion. Compassion is not just a feeling of love. It is something, coming out of the gut, even out of the womb. It is something much deeper than love. And, in many stories of the gospel, we see ‘compassion’ always come first, before Jesus heals the sick or performs miracles. So, we need to notice that this compassionate heart is the source of power in performing the miracle.

And, his compassion never stops here. Although he satisfied them with healing and teaching, he never forgot their imminent need, that is, their hunger, not only physical hunger, but also their spiritual hunger. And, he couldn’t ignore this essential, basic need for their lives, even though they didn’t ask. That’s why he told his disciples to give them something to eat, although he knew they didn’t have enough. It may have sounded strange. But he insisted on it. It’s because he wanted to see their compassion. It may be a test to them, a test of whether they see the people as Jesus does, whether they have the same compassion as he has. The disciples might have thought “You’ve done a great job today. You healed them and taught them. That’s enough for today. Now, it’s time to retreat!” It may sound sensible and fair enough, but it’s not something coming out of the compassionate heart. It could be seen as a job done, but not the mission completed. Here, we need to notice that Jesus wants to meet their needs completely, physically as well as spiritually, even before they asked.

It is to show that our job is not just meeting their needs physically, but also feeding them spiritually as well as materially, to save their souls, by doing something extra with the compassionate heart. That was his ultimate goal. Amen.

Prayer

Lord, we bring you our spiritual hunger, our yearning for inner contentment, knowing that you alone can feed our souls, and do so in ways exceeding all our expectations.

So, Lord, may you come now, and reach out to us, filling us with spiritual food – bread of life and living water – so that we may go on our way, nourished, filled, truly satisfied. Amen.

26th July 2020

Reading: Matthew 13. 31-33, 44-52

31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty poundsof flour until it worked all through the dough.”

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

47 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

51 “Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked. “Yes,” they replied.

52 He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.” (NIV)

Reflection

In this week’s reading, we see Jesus tell us five parables, five snapshots of the kingdom of heaven. But, interestingly, we see most of the materials he uses for these parables are not very special ones, and don’t look very impressive. They are just ordinary things, such as mustard seed, yeast, or a fishing net, which can be found easily anywhere around us, and a farmer and a merchant who found a precious pearl are the people just like us. I think Jesus could have used something special, for example, an exotic or beautiful plant, to describe the kingdom of heaven. But, he preferred the mustard seed, very tiny little seed. Therefore, what we can catch from this story is that the kingdom of heaven is not somewhere unreachable, but available to us all amongst our everyday lives. I think this ordinariness is very important, as it gives us hope and comfort. In this sense, we are blessed as ordinary people who meet and worship at the ordinary building (although it is not possible at the moment because of coronavirus). This ordinariness is to lead us into the presence of God, as his kingdom comes little by little, slowly and quietly, as the yeast works in the flour and affects every part of the dough. What’s amazing is that just a small amount of yeast can change a large amount of flour. And, it is about not only the change in size, but also and more importantly the change in quality. Likewise, God’s Word is to change the world slowly and secretly, and surely.

People often say: ‘Where God rules, there the kingdom is’. And, we join that kingdom, when we trust in Christ as our Saviour. I am sure you agree to this definition. But, the trouble is whether or not we obey his rules properly in his kingdom and follow his commands as we should, and therefore, enjoy all the blessings from God. It’s not that easy. What I am saying is that to choose to follow the rules and commands, is not just a matter of choosing a better life, but a matter of choosing life or death, which is much more serious than you ever thought. Once you choose life, then, you are to commit yourself to it totally, as the farmer who found treasures went away and sold everything to buy the field, because it becomes the highest priority in your agenda. Amen.

Prayer

Jesus taught us to pray: Your kingdom come, your will be done.

Let us pray that in our lives God’s kingdom may come –
surprising like the mustard seed; and in secret like the yeast.

Let us pray that God’s kingdom may seem to us as valuable as treasure or an expensive pearl.

Let us pray that we may be challenged, even in these strange times, to be committed to our part in bringing in God’s kingdom, now and always. Amen.

12th July 2020

Reading: Matthew 13. 1-9, 18-23

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered round him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.’

18 ‘Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 when anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.’

Reflection

The reading this week is one of the few parables of which the meaning is explained by Jesus himself. That may indicate the significance of this parable. What surprises me in this story is the way in which the farmer sows seed. I don’t think this farmer is a rich man. Probably a tenant farmer. And, the seed must be very precious to him. Nevertheless, we see him just choose to cast seed away carelessly, wastefully, and randomly, regardless of the places they fall. The farmer must have known that the seed fallen on the road, or rocky ground, or thorny places couldn’t survive. As far as I know, farmers nowadays sow seed very precisely, keeping the distance properly, in the good soil. Even before sowing, they usually plough the ground, and fertilise it, so that the seed may grow easily and bear more fruit. But, it seems that these basic measures are just ignored in this parable. And the farmer behaves as if this precious seed will never run out. But, this illustration is to show us something important, that God’s word is to be spread to anyone in the world, and His love is not confined to any certain areas. That means we are called to spread his word, the life-changing seed, randomly, wherever possible. But, it is a risky business to offer the chance for life, without the absolute guarantee of success.

Therefore, question to us, or challenge to us is whether we can take a risk of creating the opportunity for life, even if this may open us to failure. Can we risk this randomness in spreading the word of God?

As for this question, we have to admit that we are not very good at sharing the Word of God. We are not brave enough to take this risk. We are too shy or reluctant to share God’s Word with the people around us, let alone the people we don’t know. But, I am sure there are many ways we can try, and if we have passion and enthusiasm, I think we can get over that shyness and create an opportunity of sowing seed.

The other point we need to look at in this parable is soil, and what kind of soil we are. What I mean is that although we have received the seed already, we need to check our field, our heart and mind field. Sometimes we are surprised to see how hardened our heart is, because of busyness and all the burdens of life. Particularly at such a time as this, we may find ourselves locked down not only physically, but also spiritually, and choked up by the worries and concerns about the future. And, there may be no room for the seed to take root and grow in our hearts. Therefore, we need to see things differently and take this as an opportune time for us to plough our heart, and fertilise it, so that the seed may bear fruit a hundred times, sixty times, or thirty times what was sown, as Jesus described. Amen.

Prayer

Forgive us, Lord, for the times we dash haphazardly into your presence, finding it hard to leave behind our cares and worries.

Forgive us, for the times we don’t see what you want us to see and just take things at face value. Forgive us, Lord, for the times when we want our seed planted in neat rows, when our own plans become more important than yours, rather than letting the Holy Spirit prepare the soil of our lives and blow where the Spirit wants to. Amen

Weekly Reflection – July 6th

Reading: Matthew 11. 27-30 New Living Translation (NLT)

27 “My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Reflection

Jesus says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens”.

It is an open invitation to everyone. But, interestingly, it is an invitation to a yoke, a yoke to the tired and already burdened people. It doesn’t seem to be a proper invitation. Most of us who have been in lockdown for several months now may find it not easy. But, here, we need to carefully look at the yoke Jesus is talking about.

As we know, a yoke is a heavy wooden harness, which fits over the shoulders of oxen, so that they can pull a piece of equipment attached to it. In Jewish culture, it is said that usually two oxen are put and tied into a yoke. So, when they are put together into a yoke, immediately they start fighting fiercely and desperately, to take an initiative under the yoke. They fight and fight, until one of them kneels down and surrenders to the other. Then, the loser is to follow the winner all the time obediently. When the winner starts to go one way, the loser should follow it. When he stops, the other stops. When he turns, the other should turn. That is the situation of taking a yoke together.

So, when we are invited to Jesus’ yoke, we must understand that we should follow his way wherever he goes, walk in his pace, and when he dances, we should dance to his beat, and imitate his style, and learn from him whatever he does. That is what it means to take his yoke, through which we can live by his Spirit, walking together with Jesus in his yoke. It is not just following his way in a distance, in my own style, as if I know the steps. It is to live and walk with him humbly, in his yoke, resisting my own will.

And, the church is the place where we can practice our footsteps, which we learn from Jesus. It is the place where we move our footsteps following the tune Jesus plays, whatever the tune the world may play. In doing so, we can tame our sinful flesh, and overcome all the temptations of following the worldly steps.

Now then, have you learned any new steps from Jesus? If so, I just want you to show them, and share them in our church family, so that we all may follow his style and his way.

Prayer

Lord, we pray that in our journey, we all may go together, taking up Jesus’ yoke, and sharing the burdens with each other, so that we may become more like Jesus, walk like Jesus, dance like Jesus, talk like Jesus, and live in his freedom. Amen.

28th June 2020

Reading: Matthew 10. 40-42

40 “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

Reflection

This short passage tells us of all about welcoming, how important it is. Welcoming or accepting here doesn’t seem to be a huge task. But, we see that this simple action can be a channel which connects us with God. And what Jesus says is much more than that. He says, ‘Anyone who welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward’. It is not just to say ‘By welcoming strangers, you will get favour’. It is, in a sense, building a new community within believers, by receiving and welcoming each other. This new relationship can be understood as something which can replace the family division, as Jesus mentioned earlier in verse 35. And, for this relationship, what is needed is simply welcoming and serving each other, as his disciples. Moreover, the greater thing is, if we receive a prophet, we can also receive the prophet’s reward as well. In other words, we cannot all be shining examples of goodness. Or, we cannot all stand out to the world as righteous. But, if we can help ‘a good man’ to be good, then, we can also receive a good man’s reward as well.

As an example, I am going to introduce a story from William Barclay’s commentary.

There was a lad in a country village who, after a great struggle, reached the ministry. His helper, in his days of study, had been the village cobbler. He had done much for the lad. In due time, the lad was licensed to preach. And on that day, the cobbler said to him, “It was always my desire to be a minister of the gospel, but the circumstances of my life made it impossible. But you are achieving what was closed to me. And, I want you to promise me one thing – I want you to let me make and cobble your shoes, for nothing, and I want you to wear them in the pulpit when you preach, and then I’ll feel you are preaching the gospel that I always wanted to preach, standing in my shoes.”

Without any doubt, the cobbler was serving God as the preacher was, and his reward would one day be the same.

Our service must be all different, as we have been given all different gifts. And, it doesn’t have to be a big thing. A small kindness should be fine. As Jesus mentioned, it could be just ‘a cup of cold water’. Although the church will need a great preacher, a great teacher or a wonderful leader, we must know that the church also needs those who have a warm heart of welcoming and the caring love, and those whose hands are always busy in all their services. These actions may look very simple. But, we see that they are all counted for the final judgement. Amen.

Prayer

In the care and compassion of family and friends,
come to us with joy.
Open our hearts to receive you.

In stretches of boredom or anxious waiting,
come to us with joy.
Open our hearts to receive you.

In uncertainty, loneliness, or desperation,
come to us with joy.
Open our hearts to receive you.

In grief and desolation,
come to us with joy.
Open our hearts to receive you.

In claps of thunder or a still small voice,
come and speak to us.
May we welcome you
into the clutter and chaos of our homes and hearts.
Amen.

21st June 2020

Reading: Matthew 10. 26-39

26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn

“‘a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
36     a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

Reflection

In this passage Jesus is talking about how much it would cost to be his disciple. But, in a sense, it sounds strange and doesn’t encourage at all to follow him, as if he says “People will hate you, persecute you and even kill you. You must be prepared, and do not be afraid.”  Then, question is why should we get hated and ridiculed and persecuted, when we try to deliver the ‘Good News’? If it is the ‘good news’ to all, why isn’t everybody pleased with it, and doesn’t welcome it? Well, it’s not that simple. It is because this Good News is always preceded by some uncomfortable or unpleasant news, the news people don’t want to hear, that is, the news that we are all sinful and therefore, need a saviour. And, not everyone likes to hear this news. They don’t like it, because in order to accept a saviour, they have to accept their own moral or spiritual bankruptcy. They have to confess it. So, it is not an easy process, and that is why Jesus says in verse 34, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household”. To be honest, it’s not easy to understand. It seems contradictory, because we know him as the Prince of peace. And, he himself said in John 14, ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you’.

Then, what does it mean, when he said ‘I did not come to bring peace, but a sword? Here, we need to look at carefully the meaning of peace.

What it means is that peace is not the absence of conflict, or being silent as if nothing happened at all. Rather, it is doing something actively to solve the conflict, which will lead to make peace. That is the real peace. Therefore, this peace-making process will probably get us into trouble from all sides. It can be mocking, persecution or cutting off. In that sense, we must be prepared to face all sorts of divisions and conflicts inevitably, and even among household, as Jesus said in this passage. As for this matter of family division, you may find it difficult to accept. However, what is clear is that your Father knows you and he is the one who can count even the hairs of your head. You are worth much more than sparrows. That is his promise, not only for the future, but for the present as well.

Discipleship is a long journey, costly and tough. Yet, Jesus asks us to ‘tread the path he trod, live the life he lived, face the death he faced, love the way he loved, and shout the truth he spoke. In return, he offers us no less than everything – to be loved totally, known intimately, and held always before God. Amen.

Prayer

Lord, help us to share the challenges of discipleship. Help us to support each other, and unite us in your steadfast goodness. Strengthen and envision us to face the challenges ahead, and may we faithfully play our part in your mission to this world. Amen.

14th June 2020

Reading: Matthew 10. 1-16

Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

“Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— 10 no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

Reflection

This passage seems to give us a clear guideline for mission: what to carry, where to go, where not to go, and so on. To be honest, mission is one of things we find not easy, particularly at this time of pandemic when travelling around and contacting people are restricted. Not only because of those restrictions, but also because of the multi-cultural context of the 21st century, often we feel it not comfortable to share our faith in Jesus publicly, let alone ‘go out and proclaim’ the good news of Jesus. But, this is one of the most important tasks we are called to do, as Jesus said to his disciples ‘go and make disciples of all nations’. You may argue that this is something the people like disciples can do, rather than the ordinary people. But here, we need to notice that unusually all the names of twelve disciples were listed in detail. They were just ordinary people like us, called by Jesus to do the extraordinary mission. Nevertheless, they were to be sent out like sheep among wolves, which was very risky, yet adventurous on the other hand. Perhaps, that would mean what mission is all about: doing something risky, even dangerous, yet fearlessly trusting God alone. It’s tough. Yes, Mission is tough. And, even tougher, when we look at Jesus’ instructions: taking no purse, no bag, nor sandals. What he says is actually “Travel light, with no extra items.” He didn’t want them to take anything for the journey. What it means is that Christian pilgrim should travel light, not burdened by the kinds of things that make progress slow. It may mean a simple life style, giving away generously, not piling up unnecessarily.

And, the final instruction is very interesting: ‘If you are not welcomed, or if they don’t listen to you, then, you should leave immediately. When you leave, shake the dust off your feet!’ What would that mean?

I think it is to show them a clear sign of separation. You don’t need to look back, or linger, but just forget everything about them. Well, it may sound easy, as it asks us to leave simply, but as human beings, I don’t think anyone finds it easy. You may feel a sense of failure. Although they rejected and did not listen to you, you may feel even guilty. And, you may not want to carry on your work any longer. Rejection may leave a deep scar on your memory. But, the good news is ‘that is not your fault’.

In Ezekiel 2, God says clearly, “Do not be afraid of what they say or terrified by them. But, you must speak my word to them.” What it means is that your job is giving them the message from God. That’s all. Whether they listen or fail to listen is not your responsibility.  Leave it to God. He will deal with it. And, that is why Jesus asks us to pray, to pray for the more co-workers, pray for peace to the house we are to enter, and pray for their hospitality. We have to rely on God alone, and fully committed to him only, because it is God’s mission ‘Missio Dei’, God’s mission for His people. Amen.

Prayer

(This week, I’d like to share with you a prayer written by Chairs of the London District)

God of the persecuted and the bereaved,

Pour Your love upon Your sorrowing servants.

In the sickening and devastating acts of human intent,

Pour out your power we pray, that we may be given hope

and an assurance of Your presence in these tumultuous times.

Open your hand of grace dear God to all the people of the USA

Enable them to find common ground, to yield to justice and to find peace.

Empower them to have compassion through the presence of your Holy Spirit.

Forgive our failing hearts as we allow these tragic events to overtake us,

Forgive our anger as we allow senseless killings to control us

And forgive our fearfulness in remaining silent and doing nothing.

Give us O Lord a glimpse of a hopeful future,

through the presence and life affirming power of Jesus Christ our Lord,

Who reigns with You in the power of the Holy Spirit, now and always, amen.

May justice, peace and love be a symbol of our unstinting solidarity;

The District Chairs,

Jongi, Nigel & Micky.

14th June 2020

Reading: Matthew 10. 1-16

Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

“Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— 10 no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

Reflection

This passage seems to give us a clear guideline for mission: what to carry, where to go, where not to go, and so on. To be honest, mission is one of things we find not easy, particularly at this time of pandemic when travelling around and contacting people are restricted. Not only because of those restrictions, but also because of the multi-cultural context of the 21st century, often we feel it not comfortable to share our faith in Jesus publicly, let alone ‘go out and proclaim’ the good news of Jesus. But, this is one of the most important tasks we are called to do, as Jesus said to his disciples ‘go and make disciples of all nations’. You may argue that this is something the people like disciples can do, rather than the ordinary people. But here, we need to notice that unusually all the names of twelve disciples were listed in detail. They were just ordinary people like us, called by Jesus to do the extraordinary mission. Nevertheless, they were to be sent out like sheep among wolves, which was very risky, yet adventurous on the other hand. Perhaps, that would mean what mission is all about: doing something risky, even dangerous, yet fearlessly trusting God alone. It’s tough. Yes, Mission is tough. And, even tougher, when we look at Jesus’ instructions: taking no purse, no bag, nor sandals. What he says is actually “Travel light, with no extra items.” He didn’t want them to take anything for the journey. What it means is that Christian pilgrim should travel light, not burdened by the kinds of things that make progress slow. It may mean a simple life style, giving away generously, not piling up unnecessarily.

And, the final instruction is very interesting: ‘If you are not welcomed, or if they don’t listen to you, then, you should leave immediately. When you leave, shake the dust off your feet!’ What would that mean?

I think it is to show them a clear sign of separation. You don’t need to look back, or linger, but just forget everything about them. Well, it may sound easy, as it asks us to leave simply, but as human beings, I don’t think anyone finds it easy. You may feel a sense of failure. Although they rejected and did not listen to you, you may feel even guilty. And, you may not want to carry on your work any longer. Rejection may leave a deep scar on your memory. But, the good news is ‘that is not your fault’.

In Ezekiel 2, God says clearly, “Do not be afraid of what they say or terrified by them. But, you must speak my word to them.” What it means is that your job is giving them the message from God. That’s all. Whether they listen or fail to listen is not your responsibility.  Leave it to God. He will deal with it. And, that is why Jesus asks us to pray, to pray for the more co-workers, pray for peace to the house we are to enter, and pray for their hospitality. We have to rely on God alone, and fully committed to him only, because it is God’s mission ‘Missio Dei’, God’s mission for His people. Amen.

Prayer

(This week, I’d like to share with you a prayer written by Chairs of the London District)

God of the persecuted and the bereaved,

Pour Your love upon Your sorrowing servants.

In the sickening and devastating acts of human intent,

Pour out your power we pray, that we may be given hope

and an assurance of Your presence in these tumultuous times.

Open your hand of grace dear God to all the people of the USA

Enable them to find common ground, to yield to justice and to find peace.

Empower them to have compassion through the presence of your Holy Spirit.

Forgive our failing hearts as we allow these tragic events to overtake us,

Forgive our anger as we allow senseless killings to control us

And forgive our fearfulness in remaining silent and doing nothing.

Give us O Lord a glimpse of a hopeful future,

through the presence and life affirming power of Jesus Christ our Lord,

Who reigns with You in the power of the Holy Spirit, now and always, amen.

May justice, peace and love be a symbol of our unstinting solidarity;

The District Chairs,

Jongi, Nigel & Micky.

7th June: Trinity Sunday

Reading: Matthew 28. 16-21

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Reflection

Today is Trinity Sunday, on which we remember God as three in one and one in three, of which the concept is not easily grasped. How can we prove or explain ‘Trinity’, then? Someone says, ‘proving the Trinity is like proving a negative’. Thomas a Kempis, in his book ‘The Imitation of the Christ’, also said “What does it profit you to argue profoundly about the Trinity, if you lack humility, and so displease the Trinity? I would rather feel contrition than define the word.”

So, I’d rather not try to explain it but show some examples of Trinity from the Scriptures which may help to understand what ‘Trinity’ means to us.

For instance, you may remember the time when Jesus was baptised at the river Jordan. There, when Jesus was coming out of the river, we hear the Father proclaiming ‘You are my Son, whom I love. With you I am well pleased’. And then, we see the Spirit descending on him like a dove. What a beautiful picture it is! Wonderful picture of the Trinity. And, this Trinitarian concept and images are continuously coming up all through the gospel. In John 16, we see John emphasise the unique relationship among God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, using the image of abiding in each other, such as Father in me, and I in Him.

And again, at the end of the Matthew’s gospel, we see Jesus give to his disciples the Great Commandment, saying ‘Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’. This commandment bears a Trinitarian concept, which might have not been understood by any of the disciples at that moment. But, it is still the mystery to us as well, and perhaps that is what the ‘Trinity’ is all about.

So, I am going to conclude my reflection by quoting from NT Wright: “The doctrine of the Trinity, properly understood, is as much a way of saying ‘we don’t know’ as of saying ‘we do know.’ To say that the true God is Three and One is to recognize that if there is a God then of course we shouldn’t expect him to fit neatly into our little categories. If he did, he wouldn’t be God at all, merely a god, a god we might perhaps have wanted…. the doctrine of the Trinity is, if you like, a signpost pointing ahead into the dark, saying: ‘Trust me; follow me; my love will keep you safe.’ […] The doctrine of the Trinity affirms the rightness, the propriety, of speaking intelligently that the true God must always transcend our grasp of him, even our most intelligent grasp of him.’”

Let us pray.

Eternal Father, we praise and adore you.

You are the source of life and truth,

You long for your children’s growth,

And your creative power sustains and holds us.

Lord Jesus Christ, we praise and adore you.

You are the visible evidence of the Father’s love,

You long to raise us to our full height,

Your teaching is our guide and your presence is our hope.

And, Holy Spirit of God, we praise and adore you.

You are the sign of God within us,

You take the things of Christ and show them to us,

And you lead us in the search for truth.

Father, Son, and Spirit: Origin of creation, sign of eternal love, goal of all wisdom, we praise and adore you. Amen

31st May 2020 (Pentecost)

Reading: Acts 2. 1-21

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” (vs. 1-12, NIV)

Reflection

Today, our reading tells us about what happened on the day of Pentecost. Pentecost was actually one of the Jewish festivals, called ‘Shavuot’. On Shavuot, they celebrated the harvest, and also remembered the giving of the law on Mount Sinai, the event when Moses received ‘Ten Commandments’ from God.  And it was to take place fifty days after the festival of Passover. The purpose of this celebration was to remind them of how to live their lives as God’s people, following the law.

Then, what we see from this passage is that fifty days after Easter, the coming of the Holy Spirit is to teach us how to serve God, and how to live as the Spirit-filled people. And, if we compare these two events a bit more in details, we can find some remarkable overlaps between them. On Mount Sinai, for example, there was a loud sound like a trumpet, and fire. And then, we hear, at Pentecost, a sound like a violent wind and see tongues like fire. It’s very interesting that ‘wind and fire’ appear in these two events. These elements are some of the things we, human beings, find difficult to handle, as they are known to us as typical characteristics of divine presence.

While we see some similarities in these two events, we also need to notice that there is one very important difference between them. The difference is: when Moses went up to Mount Sinai, people were warned not to come near. God’s presence could only be encountered by Moses, or Moses and Aaron. In the Old Testament, only a few special people like Moses, Elijah, or Isaiah, could have access to the presence of God. All others were kept away. It was, in a sense, very hierarchical and discriminating. However, as we see from the Acts 2, no one is kept away. We are to see that the Holy Spirit did not just descend on Peter, or on Peter, James, and John, but it did descend upon all of the people gathered there. That is the beauty of this event. Nothing is secret or exclusive. Everything is open to everyone. We should remember that it is one of the vital elements, I can say, that runs through the gospel, although we still struggle to deal with it. To be honest, all sorts of Christian gatherings tend to easily fall into exclusivity: where some belong and others do not; where some feel themselves at the centre and others marginalised or unwelcome. In a sense, it may seem natural to form small cliques in any human society.

But, what we need to notice at the great event of Pentecost is that the Holy Spirit has broken down the boundaries, which separate the people who are in, and those who are out. The coming of the Spirit has flung wide the doors, declaring that all are welcome, and that no one is to keep away. Based on this, a new faith community, the Church is to be born, and the Body of Christ to be built up. Amen.

Prayer

Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, ignite in us Your holy fire; strengthen Your people with the gift of faith, revive Your Church with the breath of love, and renew the face of the earth, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

24th May 2020 (Wesley Day)

Reading: Luke 4. 18-19

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

Reflection

In Bristol, near the city centre, there is a street called ‘Bread Street’. At the corner of that street, there can be found a small, bronze plaque, which reads “This is the place, where John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, first preached in the open air, on the 2nd of April 1739.” And, Luke 4. 18-19 is inscribed on it, as it was the text John preached on. It’s not surprising that he chose this passage for his first open air preaching, because he knew that the good news of salvation should go to everyone, particularly to the poor, the prisoners, the sick, and the oppressed. On that day, he preached to about three thousand people in the Brickfield. Amazing! This must have been his firm belief which was later on developed to the foundation of the Methodist doctrine. As Methodists, we are to agree to follow this doctrine which is kindly unpacked as so-called ‘Four Alls’: All need to be saved. All can be saved. All can know they are saved. All can be saved completely. These Four Alls are what we believe as Methodists. It doesn’t mean, however, we don’t believe what other Christians believe, or other churches don’t believe these four Alls. They may have slightly different interpretations. But, I don’t think they are different from the gospel truth. These Four Alls are the beliefs we are focusing on more in our church life. And, John Wesley articulated them, from his personal conversion experience on 24th May 1738.

But, to be honest, that’s not a new thing. That’s not something he discovered first. That is almost the same as what Jesus said to the crowds, to sinners and tax collectors: ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’ It means, all of you can be saved, if you trust me. And, Paul also said it so many times in his letters. For example, in Romans 4. 5, he says “To the man who does not work but trusts God, who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” It is to say, “You don’t need to prove your own life’s worth. You are delivered from that pressure. I accept you anyway, as you trust me”. That is so called, ‘salvation by faith, not by any goodness.

And, this is good news for all who struggle for acceptance, struggle for appreciation and recognition for themselves, especially for those who have the feeling that their lives are worthless, because it is God tells them: ‘I love you. You are precious to me. Believe me. I need you’.

This is actually, the most wonderful, the greatest invitation to real life, which we shouldn’t miss out. And, our response should be simply saying: ‘Thank you, Lord, for

your love. Thank you that you said Yes to me. I believe it. Use me as an instrument of your love. I trust you.’

With this conviction, John Wesley carried on going out to preach the gospel to the people who may not have heard it before. He committed himself fully to preaching the gospel, in all the ways he could, and he wants us to follow his example, as Methodists, by all the means we can, in all the ways we can, in all the places we can, at all the times we can, as long as we can, until we can be saved completely. Well, we may find these words depressing as we are all locked down. But, I am sure there must be something we can do in our own places if we try to apply the principle of ‘All we can’ to our everyday lives. Amen.

Let us pray.

Lord our God, as we try to follow with all our hearts the examples of our forefathers, help us to offer to you our true thanksgiving, genuine penitence, sacrificial commitment, and a real hunger and thirst to know and serve you better. Lord, work within us now, as you did with our forerunners, so that what we declare with our lips we may believe in our hearts and display in our lives, to your glory. Amen.

Reflection for Sunday 17th May

Reading: John 14. 15-21

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

18 “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” (NRSV)

Reflection: If you really love me,

The gospel reading this week is part of Jesus’ farewell address, which was made just after the Last Supper with his disciples and washing their feet. Final moment is always difficult, but, here, we see Jesus promise them the Holy Spirit who will be with them always, not leaving them as orphans. And then, he asks them to obey his commands as they love him. There are many commandments we need to remember and keep. But, for our sake, Jesus summed them up in one, that is, ‘Love one another’. It’s simple. However, we all know that it’s not that simple. Trouble is we love only those whom we want to love. We do love only those who we think deserve to be loved.

But, we must know that what is meant by this commandment is actually not about our natural liking or fondness, but more about something we have to learn, in loving the ones we don’t like or even hate. But, we know it’s not easy. Often we are told, “Hate the sin, but not the sinner!” But, how can we hate what a man did and not hate the man? It seems impossible! Who on earth can do that? However, on this matter, C. S. Lewis gives us a striking confession, saying ‘There was one person to whom I had been doing this all my life – namely myself’. And, I am pretty sure that we all have done this to ourselves. We do hate what we’ve done wrong, but never stop loving ourselves. This is an important point, because, up to that level, Jesus asks us to love one another and love our neighbours, whoever they are, including even enemies. But, how can we do that, in this self-centred, me-first society? To be honest, we find it difficult. We don’t know where to start. However, in this dilemma, we see hope, the hope from Jesus. We see him saying ‘I will ask the Father to send you another Helper’. And, he will be with you all the time. He will guide you and give you advice and defend you. What it means is that the Holy Spirit will guide you and empower you to love even your enemies, if you are in him.

We see so many times, in the gospel, Jesus, filled with compassion, touch the sick and heal them, and make them whole, with the power of the Spirit. So, when we are willing to move and act with compassion and in love, I believe the same Spirit will come and move and act with us. And, that is his promise, which is affirming and assuring.

And, what’s more is that if you live the life like this, with full of compassion and love, you will be in full relationship with the Father, as Jesus said ‘I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and you are in me’.

It is such a lovely, and such a promising picture we can ever imagine. And, what is guaranteed in this relationship is that we are to be loved by the Father and the Christ. It is such a privilege to be loved by the Father as His children. Amen.

Let us pray.

Spirit of truth, come close to us and unite us into the body of Christ, as we love you and keep your words in our lives. In your love, help us to support and encourage each other, so that we may know and feel your presence in us, even when we have to face the unprecedented time of turmoil. Amen.

Sunday 10th May 2020
Reading: Acts 2. 42-47

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every
day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Reflection

This passage seems to present an ideal which is far from what we experience in our congregation today. This model of community, fellowship and service is perhaps not realistic in our context. In a sense, it sounds like a story of a ‘model church’, the best example of a successful church, as is said ‘their number grew and grew every day.’ Yet, it helps us to
focus our attention on how our daily lives may better reflect the genuine discipleship in this 21st century. In these short verses, we cannot find any particular rules, regulations or structures for Christian living, but it clearly shows us a picture of how the life of a Christian community, the Church, can reflect the glory of God which was proclaimed through the life,
death and resurrection of Jesus.
In this respect, it is interesting to see that their principle was rather simple. They just fully committed themselves to the church. The church was not just part of their life. It was their whole life. It may sound a bit radical, but it seems that they just followed what they were told to do, that is, learning from the apostles, enjoying the fellowship, sharing the meal, and
praying together every day. Actually, all they did, doesn’t look any special. Those are all we are supposed to do as Christians. But, how much do you spend your time on reading or learning the Scriptures. According to a survey, only 27% of churchgoers read the bible during the week. And, we see how generously they shared with one another. It says, “They were
together and had everything in common”. Even further than that, ‘they sold their possessions and goods, and they gave to anyone as he had need’. I wonder how we can follow this example. But, the point is their selflessness, and caring hearts to help one another in any possible way. And, interestingly, in this short passage, we see, ‘breaking bread’ is mentioned
twice. That shows how important it is to have a meal together in the church life, not only in a sacramental way, but also in an ordinary way. It is so important to have a table fellowship generously and cheerfully. We see, all these elements are very basic. But, the point is they devoted themselves fully to these activities: learning, sharing, praying, and breaking bread
together, as they knew that those were the best way of following Jesus, the Way. It is challenging, perhaps more challenging to us, especially as we are in lockdown and not allowed to have any form of social gathering. However, we may need to get aware that these basic elements can be practiced differently in this unusual context and may be exercised
more in a completely new setup, with more prayers and supports. It still challenges us to check our commitment to these elements. Amen.

Let us pray.
Lord our God, draw us together, although we are not able to get together physically. Help us to be united in faith, love, and purpose, and with Christ and one another, having the same
mind among us and same goal: to seek your kingdom and do your will. Teach us what it means to be your children, your people, your family, and challenge us to commit ourselves
fully to the community we belong to. Amen.

Sunday 3rd May 2020

John 10. 1-16

Therefore Jesus said again, ‘Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

11 ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

Reflection

The gospel reading this week shows us a clear image of Jesus as the Saviour, Guide and Protector, through a metaphor of shepherd. Nowadays shepherd is a rare job, not only in this country but also in the Middle Eastern countries. In my visit to the Holy Land last February, I hardly saw sheep in the field, and shepherds either. But, it was an important job in the past and shepherds had got crucial roles and responsibilities in sheep farming, particularly as they had to travel afar with a flock of sheep to find the green pastures. But, it wasn’t a popular job at all, because the work was hard, and the working environment was very tough. Therefore, they were the people who belonged to one of the lowest classes in society, despised and neglected. However, it is interesting to see that in the Scriptures, shepherd is often described as an image of ideal king or leader. We see an example from Ezekiel 34, saying, “I myself will tend my sheep and make them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.”

It is a clear picture, which shows the role of the king through that of the shepherd. We see the image of shepherd is used here to describe the model king, not because of its status, but because of its nature. So, it is interesting to see that the role of the highest job is to be explained through the role of the lowest one. It’s very symbolic, and a metaphor which tells us of what kind of leader he or she should be. And, Jesus never hesitated to use this title ‘shepherd’ to describe himself, saying ‘I am the shepherd, and the gate for the sheep. Whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture’. It is actually what the shepherd does. It is said that in many Middle Eastern sheepfolds, shepherds often lie down at night in the gateway, to stop the sheep getting out, and to stop predators getting in. It is an important job to keep them safe. But, what we need to notice is that Jesus is not just talking about the safety of life by locking them in, but also about the fulfilment of life, as he says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly”.

Well, you may find it not easy to accept this passage as it is, as most of us are just managing to live everyday life in lockdown and find certain items are far from abundant. You may say it is far from abundant life. However, what we need to remember is that Jesus, as the shepherd and the gate, will lead us out to the green pastures, where the abundant life (the life to the full) can be experienced. The only question to us is whether we listen to his voice and follow him alone. One of the issues we face today is that there are too many voices around us, and we are constantly annoyed by the news and information, unchecked or source-unknown. Even in this time of unprecedented pandemic crisis, we are to hear so many voices, of which some are unproved or contradictory, and therefore, we are easily confused or distracted so much. Not only that, but also if we look at the commercials and adverts, what they are saying is too good to be true. The former bishop of Durham, Tom Wright says, “The modern world has discovered how unsatisfying materialism really is, and is looking for something more, something beyond. Many thieves have told lies, and have deceived the sheep, stolen them and left them for dead. The call today to Jesus’ true sheep is to listen for his voice, and to find in him and him alone the life, which is overflowing life indeed”.

Are we listening to the right voice, then?

Let us pray.

Lord Jesus, we thank you that you have called us to be part of your flock. So, help us to continue to hear your voice, to hear your leading: who we should contact, and what we should pray for. And, help us to know that we are not alone, and open our eyes to the abundance of your presence with us. Amen.

Sunday 26th April

Reading: Luke 24. 13-35 (on the road to Emmaus)

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going further. 29 But they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them.

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, ‘It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognised by them when he broke the bread. (vs. 28-35)

Reflection

The gospel reading this week may be one of the beautiful stories in the gospel, and the finest picture Luke ever painted in his books. It is a brilliant stuff which provides us so many lessons in our faith journey.

Firstly, we can think of their walk down to a village called Emmaus, about 7 miles away from Jerusalem, westward, where the sun set. Although I haven’t got any superstition about direction, it looks a bit doom and gloomy as they walked towards west, where the sun set, as if something’s wrong. And, actually, what’s wrong was their direction.

Here, we need to remember that in the O.T, the book of Numbers 21:11, the Israelites were told to journey towards the sunrise in the desert, not to the sunset. Of course, it is a symbolic message, but the one they should bear in mind, in whatever situation they are. In this sense, they were in a wrong direction, mixed with sorrow and disappointment.

We may understand their feelings, their loss, their shock and bewilderment. But, we know how important it is to keep the right direction in a journey, in any journey. A wrong direction not only leads us to a disaster, but also to a serious danger. Think of driving in a wrong direction. That must be the end. That is why Jesus was walking along with them to correct their direction.

But, we see human beings are so stubborn, and it is very hard to change their mindset. We just accept as much as we understand. Even our imagination doesn’t go over our understanding. In their trapped mindset, therefore, they couldn’t recognise Jesus in his appearance and voice.

In a wrong direction, they couldn’t see the truth, and they couldn’t hear the truth.

Nevertheless, the great thing is that we see Jesus finding them, walking along with them, listening to them, and teaching them again and again through the Scripture, and making their hearts warm, so that they might understand what happened to Jesus and realise the presence of the risen Christ, who was actually with them.

Here, what’s interesting is that although their hearts were warmed, they still didn’t recognise Jesus, the risen Lord.

It seems that they might have understood through their heads what Jesus had taught them, but they didn’t and couldn’t accept it in their hearts. Their hearts were not opened wide enough to receive the risen Christ. It wasn’t until they invited him to their home, and invited him to their table that they could recognise the risen Jesus. The invitation, their hospitality, saying ‘Stay with us, and come to our table’ was crucial, because he had been waiting for this invitation. Then, we are to see the guest become a host, the host of the table, as he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to them. This action of breaking and sharing bread is actually a simple but powerful action which enables us to recognise Jesus, the risen Lord.

And, we need to notice that this amazing experience of encountering the risen Christ doesn’t end at this point. We see, when their eyes were opened, they found themselves in a wrong direction, and immediately got up and went back to Jerusalem, to share with their friends, the good news, the news that Jesus is risen!

This is an amazing story, a beautiful picture, and a wonderful testimony of encountering the risen Christ. Amen.

Let us pray.

Lord Jesus, when things happen that we find hard to deal with, when our head goes down and our eyes see no further than our own feet, help us to be honest with you even if it’s through tears or rage. Help us to trust that you are there even when we cannot see or feel you. Help us to look into you to find there limitless compassion, endless understanding and patience and the courage we need to begin again. We bring to you those who carry forever in their hearts, the pain of losing their loved ones… we bring to you those who are struggling to cope with loneliness at this time of isolation. Lord, we pray that you may grant us strength and courage and re-kindle the flame of hope. In the name of Jesus Christ, the risen Lord, we pray. Amen.

Sunday 19th April

Reading: John 20. 24-29
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when
Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’
But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the
nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the
doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with
you!’ 27 Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand
and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’
28 Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’
29 Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those
who have not seen and yet have believed.’ (NIV)


Reflection: My Lord and my God!
Thomas is often known as ‘doubting Thomas’. In a sense, he is stereotyped as such due to the story above. But, it seems a bit unfair to him as all of them actually didn’t believe that Jesus was alive, until Jesus appeared and showed them his scars and nail marks. In that respect, Thomas was not the only one who doubted. So, we may need to see Thomas in a
different aspect, as he was a mixture of doubt and strong belief.
You may remember that he appears three times in John’s gospel. The first time is when Jesus was on his way to raise Lazarus from the dead. At that time, all the other disciples were urging him not to go, because the Jews were trying to stone him. But, Thomas was the only one who insisted they should go with him to his death. Then, he appears again for the
second time, when Jesus was talking about his Father’s house and going there to prepare the place for them, and saying they knew the way. Then, Thomas stood up bluntly with a question, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Here, we see his honesty, his courage, and his passionate belief. Then, this time, one week after
Easter, he appears to be doubtful of the resurrection of Jesus. For some reasons, Thomas was absent from the disciples and didn’t see Jesus that night. Now, the other disciples are sharing the wonderful news with him, saying “We have seen the Lord!” But, what proof do they bring? Only their words. Then, who could believe this kind of news only by the words? It
is too easy to blame him of his doubt. I think it is our very nature to doubt what we cannot see. And, you may be surprised that the Bible is full of stories of doubters, such as Abraham, Moses, David, John the Baptist, and Peter. They all doubted whether God was there or not, or if God had called them to do certain things.
Thomas doubted. Yet, graciously, that was not the end of the story. He was not left alone doubting. The good news is that Jesus appears again before Thomas, because Jesus knows his doubt and what the whole last week must have been like for Thomas, the one wrestling with his doubts. And, in his appearing, we see, Jesus not rebuke Thomas, nor discipline him
for doubting, but show him evidence, nail marks and scars, for him to move beyond his doubt. That is grace, the amazing grace, which embraces all in his care, and never leaves behind anyone alone doubting.
Then, what’s more amazing is that we see Thomas proclaim “My Lord, and my God!” What it means is that he became the first person to recognise Jesus as God, while the others were still working out that Jesus was risen. He got it, understood it, and proclaimed its meaning.
Jesus who was once just Lord has now become Lord and God. That was an amazing discovery in his faith, graciously revealed to him.
Now then, what challenges us in this story is that we have to believe without seeing. Although Jesus said ‘Blessed are those who believe without seeing me, that’s not easy. We so often struggle to get the right picture on Jesus’ resurrection, and we often find ourselves living in the pre-resurrection ways, still thinking that things are impossible, bleak, and without hope.
Particularly when we face difficulties and hard times, we stumble and start doubting. But,living the resurrection is to see the world through different eyes, to see life, where there appears to be only death, possibility in the impossible, hope and renewal in despair.
In our journey, there are times we will be challenged and we may doubt. But, we don’t need to feel discouraged. The very good news is that we will not be left doubting, but will be visited by Jesus in his Spirit, when we continue to search for truth.

Let us pray.
Lord Jesus Christ, meet with us now through your Spirit, reminding us of your living presence and risen power. In a world, where so much questions faith, denies love, and threatens hope, may your resurrection life flow within us, convincing us of your eternal purpose: the blessings
you hold in store – imperishable, unfading, kept in heaven – and may that assurance sustain us now and always. Amen

Reflection for Good Friday

Reading: Luke 23. 32-43

32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.’

36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, ‘If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.’

38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.

Reflection

Good Friday is a difficult day for us all, as Christians. There seems to be no reason why it is called Good Friday. But, Good Friday is good, only because Christ showed his great love for us on the cross. However, it was a terribly cruel day we can imagine, as Jesus, the Son of God, had to suffer all those cruelty on the cross and died. Here we need to notice the mockery spread out in this horrible event.

We see, at the heart of this picture of the cross is the mocking of Jesus as king of the Jews.  Firstly, being crucified with other criminals was mocking, as it showed that he was dying the death of the criminal. It was in mockery that he was hailed as king at last. And, his royal placard was announcing his kingship, as king of the Jews. But, it was in fact his criminal charge, which explained his cruel death. All these settings were well weaved in mockery. Not only this, but also, we see people around the cross mocking him. Religious leaders, soldiers, and by-passers hurled insults and mocked him, saying ‘If you are the Messiah, if you are the king of the Jews’.

We know well that being mocked is painful. It is another form of torturing, mental and spiritual torture. But, he suffered all those dreadful pains on the cross, agonising humiliation, total abandonment, and horror on his own. He carried them all in his body, and died. Yes, he offered his life freely, and willingly in the conviction that, through his dying, we might truly live. He died that we might live? How on earth this could happen? Who on earth ever did this paradox? And, why?

The answer is:

It was to show us how much he loved us. And, it was to show us how to live our lives if we wanted to follow him. He wants us to take up our crosses and follow him, humbling ourselves, forgiving those who hate us, accepting and embracing those who don’t look like us. It’s because they, too, are the ones whom Jesus loved as much as he died on the cross. He showed no favouritism. He showed no prejudice, but loved us all whoever we are.

And now, as his followers, he wants us to nail down on the cross our greed, our selfishness, our arrogance and pride, and our indifference, and follow him as his witnesses. In doing so, we are not to make his death null and void. Amen.

Prayer of Intercession

Living God, in so many ways this is the blackest of days, recalling the darkest of moments – a day on which hearts were broken and faith tested to the limit, a day of appalling suffering and agonising death, a day when all hell wad let loose and love seemed overwhelmed. Yet we can call this day ‘Good Friday’, for in all of that horror you were there. In the despair, in the pain, in the humiliation, in the sorrow, you were supremely at work, demonstrating the immensity of your love. Living God, as we recall those terrible yet wonderful events, give us new insight into what you did that day, for us and for all, and guide us to pray for others.

So, we pray for all those who suffer today as the result of the actions of others; the victims of greed, violence, warfare, oppression, and injustice.

And, we bring before you our brothers and sisters, from every land and race, who are suffering today. Especially, at this time of the unprecedented crisis of pandemic, we pray for those who have lost their loved ones due to the coronavirus.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lord, we pray for those who know the suffering of total despair: for the terminally ill, and for the depressed and those who are isolated at this time of social distancing.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lord, we pray that you may fill each one of us with the life of your Spirit, so that we may respond to the calls that you give, and follow your Son on his healing, teaching, forgiving, and accepting, until the end of our lives, and into life everlasting with you. In the name of our crucified Saviour, our Risen and Living Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen

Rev Choi’s reflection for Palm Sunday 5th April

Opening Prayer
Today we come into the presence of God. We come to worship in a different way. But we come.
So, draw near to us, Lord. Come and open us to your loving Spirit, and free us to worship you in spirit and truth. Jesus Christ who, by your death and resurrection, opened the gate to salvation for all, we worship you today, recognising that we need you. Holy Spirit, mediator and energiser,
come amongst us. Come amongst our friends and family, so that the gate of heaven may be opened and lives transformed by your power and to the glory of God. Amen.


Reading: Matthew 21. 1-11
They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’
‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the
Lord!’
‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’
The crowds answered, ‘This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.’
(Matthew 21. 7-11)

REFLECTION
Palm Sunday is typically known as the Sunday on which we celebrate Jesus’ entering into Jerusalem riding on a donkey. And, we sing and shout ‘Hosanna’, waving palm crosses. What does ‘Hosanna’ mean, then? That word Hosanna means ‘Save us’, but it is, in a sense, a cry
which recognises two things; a need for help and that Jesus is the one who can meet that need.
And, Jerusalem was the city of which the needs were countless and the people were suffering in various ways. It was not a peaceful city, not a prosperous city. And, it had got a history of repeated invasions and attacks, from everywhere. And it is still the same. It was a city, full of
rumours, threat, divisions, and discontent. And, there, the poorest had to suffer most, and cried out for a change. And also, because of their political situation, they all had been desperately waiting for the Messiah to deliver them from that Roman occupation, perhaps thinking of sweeping them away with military forces.
Then, what about the city we live in, and other cities in this world?
It seems that the actual situations people face, haven’t changed a lot. We still see the people with all sorts of problems in the city: homeless, jobless people, powerless and hopeless people, struggling to survive in the endless competition of everyday lives, in their business, in their relationships, or in their social status. And, currently, most of the cities in the world are
struggling with COVID-19 pandemic and experiencing unusual practices, such as social distancing and self-isolation. In this time of turmoil, we see some of the so-called ‘key workers’ suffer more. For example, NHS staffs, those who work in food shops, those who deliver the mail, those who collect our rubbish, and so on.
Now then, in this unprecedented situation, are we all waiting for the Messiah coming into our city? 2000 years ago, many people in Jerusalem, maybe most of them were waiting and waiting for a great leader, a warrior hero, to save them. And, at that time, rumours spread all through
Jerusalem, that Jesus might be that leader. So, they were quite excited about his entry into the city. But, they were wrong! They completely misunderstood who Jesus was, and why he was entering the city. And, even his disciples didn’t understand what he was going to do.
As we move into this week, the Holy Week, we see Jesus give us the New Commandment –
‘Love each other’ at the last meal with his disciples, and we see him arrested and eventually crucified. This picture of the Holy Week seems to challenge us in the present circumstances to love our neighbours in a new way by staying a bit away from them. Amen.

Holy God, as we enter this most solemn week in the Christian year,
in these extraordinary times,
help us to lament with the psalmist.
As we are restricted in what we can do
and must worship in households rather than in church buildings,
help us to remember that the church is not closed –
for church is people not buildings.
We pray for all with whom we normally worship Sunday by Sunday…
God in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Holy God, we pray for those in authority as they grapple with the unexpected.
Guide those who are giving the world’s leaders knowledge and expertise in these times.
Give wisdom and courage to all in leadership,
and when this is all over may humankind emerge strengthened.
God in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
Holy God, as we hear and see the news
and exchange thoughts on social media,
help us to remember all those less fortunate than ourselves, among them:
those who are lonely,
those who are angry,
those who are distressed,
those who are at their wits end,
those who are struggling to get home,
those who cannot get the help they need…
God in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
Holy God, we remember all those who are working to keep things going:
those working in the NHS and those around it helping to keep things working,
those keeping our streets clean and collecting our rubbish,
those harvesting, delivering and selling the food in our shops,
those keeping us secure and our utilities functioning,
those looking after the children of key workers,
those helping to care for the elderly and vulnerable,
clergy of all religions seeking to minister in difficult times…
God in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
Holy God, we remember those who have died,
whether from Covid-19 or from other causes.
We pray for their families and friends
especially as they arrange funerals so different from what they expected.
We pray that they and we may come at the last to find peace in your presence.
God in your mercy,
Hear our prayer. (Prayer, written by Dudley Coates)

Sunday 29th March

Opening Prayer

God of new life, God of risen hope, as we worship together, may we know your resurrection power in our lives. May our spirits be renewed. May our bodies be restored. Amen.

Bible reading: John 11. 1-45

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 ‘Take away the stone,’ he said.

‘But, Lord,’ said Martha, the sister of the dead man, ‘by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days.’

40 Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’

41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.’

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth round his face.

Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’ (vs. 38-44)

Reflection

This story, the raising of Lazarus, is one of the highlights in John’s Gospel, as it signals the great event of Jesus’ resurrection. But, what we hear is that this miraculous happening eventually caused Jewish leaders to seek Jesus’ death. Ironically we are to see Jesus under threat because of bringing life to someone else. Yet, in a sense, that is what the message of the Gospel is all about.

In this story, we see Jesus perform this miracle very carefully, like a well-planned drama. He does not rush to rescue his ill friend. He deliberately delays his journey for two days, to see him. Why didn’t he rush right over and save his friend? Isn’t that his definition of friendship: a friend is someone who cares enough to drop everything, even his life. What was Jesus doing that was more important than helping a friend in a desperate need?

In this respect, it’s not surprising to see Mary and Martha grumbling about his late turning up, saying ‘Our brother would have been saved if you had come earlier. He’s been dead for four days.’ Martha stresses on four days. Why do you think she was stressing on four days? It is because in Jewish culture, they thought and believed that the spirit was to leave the body after three days of being dead.

Therefore, it means that although they had seen Jesus raising the dead, healing the sick, and driving out the demons, they were still stuck and bound to their own mind-set, their tradition and their limited human understanding.

They might have thought, ‘life-giving miracle could be happening within three days’.

But, they should have known that Jesus is not bound by death, or death’s timetable. Rather, they are subject to Jesus. And, the time is in his hands. God only knows the right time. And, we need to make it clear that in this story, Jesus didn’t take ‘death’ lightly. He didn’t mean ‘death is nothing at all’. Jesus knew the reality of death. Death is real. However, in God’s hands, death is the raw material of resurrection, if you like.

That’s why Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life”. As we believe this in our hearts, we are to see him at work, amongst us, through us, with the word given to us.

And, what we see in the raising of Lazarus is just a foretaste of that hope, which is offered to us all through Jesus’ own death and resurrection.

With this hope, we are to look beyond death to the new life promised by God. Amen.

Prayer of Intercession

Lord, our God, in this time of uncertainty and fear, time of challenge, help us to stand firm, trusting you and your never-changing love. Guide us and strengthen us with your Spirit, so that we may continue to serve you and your people, particularly those who are vulnerable, those who have lost their jobs, those who find it more difficult to stay isolated. Yes, Lord, being alone is hard. We were created for community, not for confinement. But, we are grateful that no matter how alone we may feel, you never leave or forsake us. So, Lord, give us strength to endure this difficult time, and deepen our connection with you and your people. Empower us with an extra amount of your love, peace, hope, and joy. And, Lord, give us your wisdom to continue to worship in different ways, and to continue to be the church, as we support each other and share your love with one another. And, bless each one of us, as we live in your promises. Amen.

Sunday 22nd March

Opening Prayer
Here we are Lord, we have come –we have come in body,
mind and spirit, to worship you this day, even if we are
worshipping in a different way from our usual Sunday. We
have come, needy, hopeful, tired, joyful, broken and
optimistic. However we have come, we have come to meet
with you. We have come, Come Lord Jesus. Amen.


Bible Reading: Exodus 2. 1-10
“Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite
woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son.
When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three
months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a
papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then
she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along
the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see
what would happen to him.” (vs 1-4)
Reflection
This is a wonderful story, through which we can see the
great courage and wisdom of a mother, Jochebed, and
God’s plan in there. And also, we are to see her great faith in
God. Unless she had believed God would save him, she
wouldn’t have put him in the basket and let him go into the
crocodile invested Nile River. And then, we see a wonderful
reversal happening, that this boy, Moses is to be saved and
adopted by an Egyptian princess, and therefore to live his
first 40 years under the royal protection. Jochebed didn’t
understand God’s plan, but she trusted God with her son.
And, its reward was enormous, and unbelievable. By her
faithful determination, we see, not only Moses was saved,
but also she was paid to care for him until he was weaned.
It’s a double blessing, if you like. If she was not brave
enough, or faithful enough to let him go, Moses couldn’t have
survived the baby massacre ordered by the Pharaoh. It’s a
great story of a brave mum.
But, we often see mum’s great deal of love and sacrifice from
the ordinary mothers, and our own mothers. In their every
day lives, they do everything for their children.
So, I just want you to think of your mother, what she has
done for you, and still does for you. If she is no longer with
you, just think of what she did for you. And, think of this
question ‘What is a mother?’
In my definition, she is the one who does all things you don’t
like doing or can’t be bothered doing. She is the one who
does things for you that no one else would do.
But, more importantly, mother is the one who loves you, and
loves you more than she loves herself. Amen.


Thanksgiving Prayer
Loving God, father and mother of us all, hear us as we give
thanks for mothers, and for mothering, on this special day.
We remember before you with deep gratitude our own
mothers.
We also give thanks for all in our immediate family and in our
wide circle of friends and relatives, both women and men,
who shared in our nurturing and growth.
We thank you that we can offer a motherly care like yours to
others: loving them unconditionally, meeting their physical
and emotional needs.
Loving God, we thank you that in Jesus you have come
close to us like a mother. Amen.
Prayers of Intercession and Blessing
In these uncertain times, dear Lord, we pray for peace. We
hold before you all those who are putting others before
themselves. We pray for those who are worried about their
financial situation, not knowing how they will cope in the
coming weeks. We pray for the people and situations close
to our heart… We pray for those who feel more isolated by
not being able to attend and act of worship today. We hold
before you the governments and leaders of the world, those
making many difficult decisions… So in these uncertain times may we reach out to support each other, our families,
our friends, our neighbours. May we speak using words of
grace and comfort. May we reflect your love for all of
creation. And may we be a reassurance and a blessing to all
we speak to this week.
And may the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be
with you this day and forever more. Amen

Weekly Reflection

Sunday 3rd May 2020

John 10. 1-16

Therefore Jesus said again, ‘Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

11 ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

Reflection

The gospel reading this week shows us a clear image of Jesus as the Saviour, Guide and Protector, through a metaphor of shepherd. Nowadays shepherd is a rare job, not only in this country but also in the Middle Eastern countries. In my visit to the Holy Land last February, I hardly saw sheep in the field, and shepherds either. But, it was an important job in the past and shepherds had got crucial roles and responsibilities in sheep farming, particularly as they had to travel afar with a flock of sheep to find the green pastures. But, it wasn’t a popular job at all, because the work was hard, and the working environment was very tough. Therefore, they were the people who belonged to one of the lowest classes in society, despised and neglected. However, it is interesting to see that in the Scriptures, shepherd is often described as an image of ideal king or leader. We see an example from Ezekiel 34, saying, “I myself will tend my sheep and make them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.”

It is a clear picture, which shows the role of the king through that of the shepherd. We see the image of shepherd is used here to describe the model king, not because of its status, but because of its nature. So, it is interesting to see that the role of the highest job is to be explained through the role of the lowest one. It’s very symbolic, and a metaphor which tells us of what kind of leader he or she should be. And, Jesus never hesitated to use this title ‘shepherd’ to describe himself, saying ‘I am the shepherd, and the gate for the sheep. Whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture’. It is actually what the shepherd does. It is said that in many Middle Eastern sheepfolds, shepherds often lie down at night in the gateway, to stop the sheep getting out, and to stop predators getting in. It is an important job to keep them safe. But, what we need to notice is that Jesus is not just talking about the safety of life by locking them in, but also about the fulfilment of life, as he says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly”.

Well, you may find it not easy to accept this passage as it is, as most of us are just managing to live everyday life in lockdown and find certain items are far from abundant. You may say it is far from abundant life. However, what we need to remember is that Jesus, as the shepherd and the gate, will lead us out to the green pastures, where the abundant life (the life to the full) can be experienced. The only question to us is whether we listen to his voice and follow him alone. One of the issues we face today is that there are too many voices around us, and we are constantly annoyed by the news and information, unchecked or source-unknown. Even in this time of unprecedented pandemic crisis, we are to hear so many voices, of which some are unproved or contradictory, and therefore, we are easily confused or distracted so much. Not only that, but also if we look at the commercials and adverts, what they are saying is too good to be true. The former bishop of Durham, Tom Wright says, “The modern world has discovered how unsatisfying materialism really is, and is looking for something more, something beyond. Many thieves have told lies, and have deceived the sheep, stolen them and left them for dead. The call today to Jesus’ true sheep is to listen for his voice, and to find in him and him alone the life, which is overflowing life indeed”.

Are we listening to the right voice, then?

Let us pray.

Lord Jesus, we thank you that you have called us to be part of your flock. So, help us to continue to hear your voice, to hear your leading: who we should contact, and what we should pray for. And, help us to know that we are not alone, and open our eyes to the abundance of your presence with us. Amen.

Read previous week’s reflections here