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Get refreshed and walk further in your faith

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Title: “Get Ready”

Texts: Matthew 25: 1-13 (Amos 5: 18-24; I Thessalonians 4: 13-18)

November 06, 2005 Communion Sunday

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Parables in the Bible have given us a lot of insights not just about theological concepts but also about spiritual realities. Jesus in many instance taught in parables to make his teaching effective in the lives of people. Here is another parable about the Kingdom of God. The Rev. Dan Nelson a Lutheran minister describes the parable in this way.

The bridesmaids or parthenoi in Greek is associated with a young girl ready for marriage, possibly as young as 12 years old is intended. In verse 10 the bridesmaids seem to meet the bridegroom (and his bride?) near the place for the wedding feast probably provided by the groom and his family, so it is likely that these "bridesmaids" were representatives of the groom who were to welcome the bride. The parable mentions about the foolish and wise bridesmaids. This is the point on which the parable turns, the matter of wisely being prepared for an expected, yet not specified coming and included in the festivities, or foolishly being unprepared and excluded.

There is the mention of lamps: These would have been shallow bowls filled with oil with a wick. The lamps would have given light to the midnight wedding feast, so the oil would have had to last until dawn. To spread it out would have given more light, but for a shorter time. The foolish may have been able to conserve their oil by extinguishing their lamps while they were waiting and relighting them when the wedding party arrived, but then they were foolish. It was at midnight when the bridegroom arrived. In a culture where weddings lasted for several days (up to two weeks, Tobit 8:20) the mention of time does not imply unexpected delay, but a view of the importance of the "times of life" that does not see much significance in time schedules. Time is not of the essence but the moment of arrival itself (mine).

Moreover, the wedding banquet: "The imagery of a feast is well established in Hebrew literature as a symbol of the joys of the Kingdom (the Messianic age).... The conception of it as a marriage feast is linked with the theme of the relationship of Yahweh and his people as a marriage (accompanied by the stigmatizing of the worship of other gods as ‘adultery’ or ‘playing the harlot’—especially developed by Hosea and Ezekiel—Hos. 2:1-20; Ezek. chaps. 16 and 23). On the other hand, the marriage imagery never seems to have been carried over into the Messianic expectation.... It is a purely Christian development that Christ is conceived as the bridegroom and his church as he bride, in parallelism with the Yahweh-Israel relationship." [5]

Verses 11-12 tells that when the bridegroom arrived, the ten foolish bridesmaids were not around because they left to look for oil. When the bridegroom entered the house the door was shut. When the foolish bridesmaids came and knocked on the door, they were refused entry, the bridegroom told then “I do not know you.” Once the door is shut the assumption is that everyone who was invited is inside, so anyone left outside is a stranger. Jesus instruction is “Keep awake.” Since both wise and foolish bridesmaids slept, the meaning here is "Be prepared."

Reflections
1.     By Dan Nelson. (Lutheran)

The lessons look forward to the end of time and the day of judgment, and encourage the faithful to be prepared. In the prayer of the day we ask that we may be prepared for the last days. The Gospel is "A parable about God’s patronage is here outfitted with a new ending (v. 13) to underscore the theme of proper behavior as one awaits the soon and sudden coming of the Messiah.... As a parable about God’s patronage, the point would be something like: Be clever in your role of client and in matters of God’s patronage. As a parable about the soon and sudden coming of the Messiah, the point now is: Be ever prepared." [6] The first lesson –Amos 5: 18-23 describes the kind of life to be lived by those who would be prepared: "...let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream."

----------------

2. Rev. Bill Fletcher from New Zealand

In a final discourse to His disciples Jesus refers to the realm of heaven and His returning (Mt.24:45 - 25:46). Matthew's account helps later generations of disciples to anticipate the time of Jesus' return and 'pins down' the type of wisdom required of them, when Jesus' return is found to be delayed (Mt.25:5).

The Greek word parousia can mean 'a healing and correcting visit' by one who can powerfully effect change (Mt.24:48; 25:5; 19ff). Matthew's community was perplexed by the delay of Jesus' return. Jesus had said: "The realm of heaven will be like ten wedding attendants who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom..," (Mt.25:1ff NJB).

In Jesus' story, some of the attendants have spare oil, while others do not - and the bridgroom arrives later than expected. In Matthew the allegory of the wedding and bridegroom refers to a marriage of God with the people. The 'bridegroom' the people woo - is true love - which is God! When we speak, "God is Love"; we don't mean it is any old love - like the love of a couple that can be very selfish. Segundo says that the word for "reign" that Jesus used to describe God's new governance was at the time - as explosive as the words "revolution" is in modern times. That's like speaking of the experience of a modern "reign of terror".

For nearly two thousand years, Christians have been announcing the coming of the 'reigning of heaven'. At many moments in the past it seemed that God's reigning could come at any moment. But it hasn't come yet - at least not in the definitive way that Jesus promised. In fact, the longer this expectancy remains disappointed, the more unlikely it seems that the parousia of Jesus is ever going to come about!

Matthew's account says that the wedding attendants, 'all become drowsy and fall asleep' - and so it has happened in the history of the church! Christianity has "gone to sleep", waiting for the reigning of heaven! But it is interesting to note that the wedding attendants were not reproached for falling asleep. The account simply states that some of the wedding attendants had a good supply of oil for their lamps while some did not!

The conversation between the wise and unprepared attendants (vv.7-9) recalls Jesus' words at the end of the Sermon of the Mount. In spite of professions of "Lord, Lord" and even an impressive record of religious action of some (cf. Mt.7:21-22) Jesus rejects with the words, "I never knew you" (Mt.7:23).

The parable in Matthew is clearly not directed at "outsiders". It is aimed towards so-called, "insiders", who call Jesus, "Lord" and consider themselves His disciples. The unprepared "insiders" facing a delay in Jesus' returning, ignore in the present time, their obligation to do what Jesus commands. Their failure makes them outsiders! What is exposed when the bridegroom appears, is not the adequacy of the attendants' theology or their religious achievements. It is their 'doing the commands of Jesus' (Mt.7:21).

All the attendants start by having the "oil of love". Those who ran out of oil, when the bridegroom arrives (vv.6-9), are the Christians who don't have enough love in their lives! Some Christians are on the side of justice - and others are not!! When the bridegroom comes, the ones on the side of injustice are going to look for love - but it will be too late! Love cannot be learned in a day. True disciples of Jesus learn love throughout their lives. People who have grown up with a selfish mentality and who identify with a society that is selfish, are not going to be able to change their ways suddenly.

Jesus also warns that disciples of His should not wait for other people to establish justice and love on Earth. The failure to anticipate His return prevents a faithful engagement with the present world. Being alert means, "seizing the day" - of loving God and loving neighbour in each moment. It is not a passive or speculative stance that soon despairs of the delay in the returning of Jesus.

3. Get Ready!

The kingdom or reign of God is likened to the preparedness of the ten wise bridesmaids. They came to the wedding banquet equipped with the good amount of oil for the wedding feast that lasts for several days. The foolish bridesmaids on the other hand came to the wedding banquet without adequate supply of oil, so that when they have to wait longer than expected for the bridegroom to come, their oil run out. They decided to leave the venue of the wedding. They were unprepared for the coming of the bridegroom. When they returned and most probably got the supply of oil, the bridegroom has entered the house and the door was locked. When they called on people to open for them, they were not allowed to enter. They were considered strangers.

Many countries all over the world are caught unprepared in so many instances: The September 11 attack on the World Trade Centre and other US facilities, the super hurricane Katrina devastated the southern states of Louisiana and Mississippi. Calamities unveiled the poverty situation of cultural groups in the US. Also, the tsunami in Southeast Asia particularly in Indonesia, Thailand, Sri-Lanka has brought damage to life and property and the recent earthquake in Pakistan and India—three million people are affected and a hundred thousand have died.

Getting ready for the reign of God is not a reactive stance in the midst of catastrophes in our personal and social life. The anticipation for the second coming of Jesus preoccupied the Early Christians, but its delay had changed the Christian stance for the future. In so many ways the Church of the past and the present are so preoccupied of their own hierarchical and institutional squabbles that somehow have buried the precious lessons from Gospel of Jesus Christ—seizing the day for doing justice in our world. If justice has prevailed there should be a continuing nurture of people how to live in peace and harmony with other people and the whole of creation. I believe this is where the Church failed—it failed miserably to address the questions of inequality and injustice in our world today.

Jesus did not intend that the Kingdom of God is for a life in the hereafter. In preaching about the foolishness of the ten bridesmaids in the parable, he would like us to understand that while there is opportunity to do God’s purposes in our world today—always be ready to do them, seize the day for service to God, for the time will come when the doors or service will be locked and you will no longer able to do what is best for people.  Amen.

“Overcoming Fears, Celebrating Transitions, Pursuing Goals for Abundant Life”

Texts: Isaiah 43: 1-7; John 10: 7-18

23 October 2005

 

(This sermon was delivered by Rev. Frank & Rev. Gloria Hernando during the 8th Anniversary celebration of the Ministry with Migrant Workers at Kang Nam Presbyterian Church, Seoul, South Korea.)

 

Minister 01:   Today we are happy to celebrate the 8th anniversary of the Ministry with Migrant Workers in this local church. We are as pleased for your interest in coming and participating in this event. Your presence here today is a manifestation of Christian solidarity for the ministry for migrant workers. The theme “Overcoming Fears, celebrating transitions and pursuing goals for abundant life” is an appropriate description of the present situation of migrant workers in South Korea. 

 

Minister 02: The Kang Nam Church of the PROK for the last eight years has been directly involved in the migrant workers ministry and the ministers, leaders and members of this local church have supported this ministry. They have shared precious resources both human and material. They have prayed unceasingly for the ministry. They have walked with the migrant workers in overcoming fears in the life of the local church. They have participated in the various transitions in society that affected migrant workers. They have been with migrant workers in pursuing abundant life that God has promised for all.

 

Minister 01:   The life of migrant workers in this country can be characterized as a mixture of great expectation and deep frustration. All migrant workers coming from developing countries like the Philippines expect that when they work in countries with better economic situation, their lives will improve. This great expectation for improved economic life can also be the source of deep frustration in life.

 

Minister 02:   In almost all human transactions, there are two basic parties involved—the one who initiates a contract and the other agrees and accepts provisions of the contract. There was a time that the migrant workers were called by the Philippine government as “OCW” or Overseas Contract Workers, and now they are called “OFW” or Overseas Filipino Workers”.

 

Minister 01:   The term “contract” is significant here because it denotes a transaction, more so a social relation. It is within the perspective of contract that our faith in God is lived as a people. When God’s people was in bondage in Babylon in the 8th century B.C. prophet Isaiah reminded them of the contract that exists between them and their God.

 

Minister 02:   God said, “Fear not for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you: when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon you. I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour…” (43: 1-3a).

 

Minister 01:   These words from God are expressions of a contract between a sovereign person and a beneficiary. God, the sovereign person knows the life history of the beneficiary—Israel. More so God, our sovereign friend knows our lives and our common history as nations and peoples. We live in God’s created order.

 

Minister 02:   Fear is a result of violation in the contract. The worst fear and anxiety humanity knows is when God nullifies God’s contract with humanity and God’s people. But there was never a time in Biblical history that God nullified God’s contract with Israel. It was Israel or God’s people who refused to follow God’s purposes. They failed miserably in their love for God and fellow human being. As a result of failure in love, creation suffered. The natural web of life has been disrupted because of the violations in the God-human contract for abundant life.

 

Minister 01:   Thus, overcoming our fears must be grounded in faith that God will never nullify God’s contract with us, nor will we ever stray from his love. In many instances, migrant workers come to assistance centers asking for intervention for their benefits are not properly given by their employers. There are many cases especially among cultural performers who are told to perform tasks and functions which are not specified in their contracts. In various ways, their rights and dignity as human beings are threatened.

 

Minister 02:   In situations were rights are violated and human dignity is threatened, our faith in the loving God through Christ must be invoked, for our faith is not merely religious claims, but a basic claim of what it means to live in justice in society. Aside from this, we have to impress in our minds and tell others that human beings are God’s workmanship, created by God to do good works.

 

Minister 01:   God has formed us and has given us a being, and constituted us as a people, a covenant people united in the work for peace and justice in the world. In this, God has every reason to care and have concern for us and the interests of the struggling people like the migrant workers and the other underprivileged groups and sectors of people in society.

Minister 02:   Furthermore, as a people imaged in God’s being, can overcome our fears through our active participation in the various transitions of life. In every culture there is an overwhelming urge to celebrate various aspects of life. The Filipino culture is a “Fiesta” oriented culture. The Koreans have often used the term “festival” in various social activities. These simply show that we would like to celebrate transitions in life such as birthdays, weddings, baptism and many other occasions.

 

Minister 01:   Transitions is moving from one activity to another, or moving from one situation to another. There are people who would be upset if they stay in one place for a period of time. They would want to move as quickly as possible to another place. In our work with migrant workers, facing the inevitable situation such as deportation is a harsh transition. No one celebrates arrest and deportation. Many Israelites resisted the exodus from Egypt or being conscripted in Babylon. No, nobody wants any transition. Nobody will ever want to celebrate transition.

 

Minister 02:   Now, how can we celebrate transition as in the case of arrest and deportation? Fear and anxiety about arrest and deportation can only overcome by facing the truth about it. So that while the situation has not come yet, prepare for any eventuality. Preparing ourselves means doing the best we can to anticipate the future, and not being lenient in our personal and family priorities. Let not the present stop us from realizing our goals for a better future.

 

Minister 01:   When we have anticipated the end of our stay in a foreign land, our fears are removed and so we can start celebrating transitions in life. I like beginnings and endings. Transitions in life provide a clearer perspective of God’s creative purposes. This leads us to John’s understanding of God’s shepherding role in our lives.

 

Minister 02:   Jesus said, “I am the gate for the sheep.” According to the analogy Jesus presents us, we must picture the sheep as having 2 places of residence: the sheep pen and the pasture. In the sheep pen, the sheep are enclosed, and protected from predators--although Jesus concedes that thieves may make there way in (v.1). In addition to being a haven from predators, the enclosed sheep pen prevents any wandering sheep from escaping. Yet, even though sheep are relatively safe in the sheep pen, the sheep are they are most happy when they are in the pasture.

Minister 01:   As "the door of the sheep " then, Jesus claims to have some control over who comes in and who goes out. Jesus is not simply talking about sheep here--Jesus is providing a metaphor for salvation . Just as there is only one way for the sheep to enter their pen, there is only one way for us to be saved. We must enter through the door, and that door is Jesus Christ. And just as the sheep enter the pen to have refuge from predators, so we enter through Christ to seek refuge from sin and evil and from the consequences of sin and evil.

Minister 02:   Now, it is very interesting to carry this analogy through. We enter the pen through the door and are saved, but we don't remain in the pen. Jesus says we "shall go in and out " of the pen(v.9).

We do not, after gaining salvation, seclude ourselves in a "holy huddle". We are to go "in and out " through the door of Christ. We "go in " seeking the refuge and protection of Christ, but why would we ever leave? Jesus says that we "(go) out and find pasture "(v.9). We go out to be fed. Christ does not simply save us to keep us out of hell's way--Jesus saves us in order to feed us . He saves us in order to make us lie down in green pastures. Jesus saves us to lead us beside quiet waters (Ps. 23:2).

Minister 01:     Usually when Jesus speaks of salvation He refers to the quantity of it--that is, He speaks of salvation as eternal life. But when we hear the promise of eternal life, what do most of us imagine? We imagine something that exists in the future, and we imagine something of infinite length. Now listen to Jesus' statement about the quality of salvation at the end of verse 10, "I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly "(v.10).

I fear that too many people picture the Christian life as a boring and rigid existence. These people imagine that entering through "the door " means all work and no play. They imagine that life will be more fun if they are able to do as they wish. Anyone who thinks this way clearly doesn't understand the Christian life.

Minister 02:   Jesus not only gives us new life, but He gives us "abundant " life. He tells us to "find pasture ", and He is leading us to that pasture. Jesus is not simply the one time entrance to eternal life, but He is also the One who perpetually provides abundant life . Like a shepherd that leads a flock to green pastures, Jesus leads us to abundant life. Leaving the pen doesn't mean leaving Christ--Jesus the "good shepherd " goes with us.

Minister 01: What does this mean for our life? What does it mean to have Jesus, "the good shepherd ", go with us in our daily life? To help us understand the role of Christ as shepherd in my everyday life, we reconsider the responsibilities of a typical shepherd. While it is true that a good shepherd knows his sheep, it is equally true that a good shepherd knows the range. Jesus calls us to find pasture (v.9), but we will not find it on our own--we must follow Him.
 

Minister 02:   Jesus, the good shepherd, has and will continue to pursue us. The question is whether or not we will follow Him. And even in the event that harm does befall us--and we all know it often does!--please remember the Good Shepherd . Remember that He holds you in His powerful arms. Remember that He is carrying you. Remember that He is walking with you and reassuring you.

Minister 01:   There is one more thing that you should know about sheep. Sheep hate wind blowing in their face. On the range, the sheep always turn their backs to the wind, but as they follow the shepherd they face the wind head on. But why? Why would a good shepherd force his sheep to do something they hate? The answer is, although it be difficult, although it be hard, traveling into the wind is the way home to the sheep pen.

Minister 02:   Pursuing goals for abundant life causes us to get to know the  range of the pasture, the dangers and perils that awaits us in the schemes of globalization. We have to realize that oftentimes we forget about the invisible Shepherd, or just ignore the touch of the Shepherd’s staff. When we pursue goals for abundant life we are to forego some of our selfish interests so that the greater interest of the struggling peoples will prevail.

 

Minister 01:   We may find our way difficult, but if we are following Christ, it is the way home. And difficult as our way may be, it is no more difficult than the path our good shepherd took to get us home. In order to unite the flock, in order to bring us home to our heavenly Father, our shepherd died for us . Jesus didn't have to do this--but Jesus says that by "God’s own initiative "(v.18), He chose to die for His sheep. Surely, this is a shepherd worth following not the idols and lords of globalization. Amen.

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“Forgiveness Needed in the Family”

Text: 2 Samuel 14: 1-20

Fathers’ Day June 20, 2004-06-20

 

Introduction

Forgiveness is a necessary personal attitude in the context of family life. There are so many experiences in the family that no matter what one will do, others will not forgive. Stories in the Bible such as that of the family of King David of Israel shows how rape of her daughter, sons murdering each other and a son in exile put the family in a precarious situation.  What was once a happy family was now torn apart by crimes of the first order. David is a father of his children, a husband and a religio-political leader of his nation.

 

David’s family life was in shambles. It looks like a modern day soap opera. This is a continual tale of mistake after mistake. Sin follows sin, wrong follows wrong, until it is virtually impossible to assign blame (wala na ituturo kon sino ang dapat sisihin sa mga nangyayari) of who is at fault. But that’s not always easy. Let us get a closer look at the main characters and see how they acted, how each has a part of blame to assume, and in the process, discover principles for forgiveness in family relationships.

 

ONE

First, David: father, husband and king of Israel. In the early years of his reign as king of the united Israel committed sin of adultery with Batsheba and murder of Uriah, his army commander. Was it because of his guilt that David did not condemn Amnon as he should, or because Amnon was his first born son? Who knows? The result is the same: David did not punish Amnon for the reape of Tamar, and in so doing, sowed the seeds of bitterness and murder in the heart of Absalom.

 

How easy it is for us to overlook the seriousness of the sin of our family members! Far too often we make excuses for their behaviour and, in so doing, aid and abet their journey down the path of disaster. How many other deeds of Amnon or his brothers had David overlooked? How many times before David ignored their wrongdoing? We do not know, but we know this: a life of disobedience and wrongdoing does not begin with rape, David’s undecisiveness and vacillation gave Amnon license, and he took it.

 

Further, by not punishing Amnon as he should, David sowed a seed of resentment in the heart of Absalom. Here is a father who has lost control of his household and can do nothing but stand in the shadows and watch his children rape and murder each other. Nawawalan ng control ang isang ama sa kanyang  pamilya kong wala siyang panahon para sa kanila. Mas lalo na kong hindi siya kapiling nga asawa’t mga anak. Kahit na mayroong ina ang mga anak, sa experience ng karamihan, iba talaga ang karanasan nga mga bata na magkasama ang ama at ina sa kanilang paglaki. In the absence of the father at home, it needs a superhuman mother to assume both responsibilities of mother and father (ina-itay).

 

Can we learn a lesson at this point? Not only do we pay for our undecisiveness or sins, our families do, too. Because of his own guilt, David would not punish a sinful son but Absalom as well. As parents, our duty to discipline is not incumbent upon our own righteousness, but our ability to discipline often is directly related to our feelings of guilt.

 

TWO

Second: Amnon, the first born son. Amnon surely must bear his blame. Rather than asking his father if he could marry his half-sister, something that David might have allowed as Tamar suggests, he rapes her and vilely throws her away like some used goods for which he no longer has a purpose. There is no excuse here, and surely Amnon received his due when he was killed by Absalom.

 

Amnon is a character study in how either we will control our desires and emotions, especially what the New Testament calls “the flesh,” or else we will be controlled and destroyed by them. Prior to the first murder, God warned Cain, “An if you do not well, sin is crouching at the door, and its desire is for you, but you must master it. (Gen. 4:7). Or as God’s Word tells us in Romans, “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts (Rom. 6:12). Either you will control your desires and passions or they will control you. There is no middle of the road here.

 

THREE

Third, Absalom: the avenger of Tamar. Here is a lesson in bitterness and revenge. Absalom was so angry at Amnon that he did not speak to him for two years, but anger smoldered in his heart, and he waited for a change to get even. Absalom was guilty of murder.

 

Whenever we seek revenge on another, whether we are standing up for ourselves or for another, we are violating the will of God. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord (Deut. 32:35). God in his wisdom knew the difficulty that demanding vengeance would cause, for it builds a cycle of revenge that spirals higher and higher with no limit or control.

 


Ang paghihiganti ay nasa Diyos at hindi sa tawo. Maraming paraan na tayo ay mabigyan ng katarungan. Lalo na ang mga tao na naghihirap dahil sa masamang gawain ng ibang tao. Hindi matapos-tapos ang paghihiganti ng tawo. Pero kung ang Diyos ang magparusa sa mga masamang damo, wala na silang hahabolin pa.

 

Absalom is also a study of failed forgiveness. When David allowed Absalom to return to Jerusalem from exile in Geshur, he refused to allow him to come to David’s house. What shallow form of forgiveness! How often is our forgiveness like this! With our lips we forgive, but with our hearts we never forget, and we carry others deep within us, refusing to let go.

 

True forgiveness always requires restoration, and that is why true forgiveness is very difficult. In a short while, Absalom begins to undercut his father, and before long he has fomented a full scale rebellion that only ends with Absalom’s death, an outcome that David never desired. Our refusal to fully forgive and to restore the relationship will mean only greater pain in the future.

 

CONCLUSION

How can we forgive a deeply felt wrong? Only through the love of Jesus Christ and the power love brings. What does Paul teach us about love? “Love is patient…keeps no record of wrongs…Love never fails” (I Cor. 13:5,8). We cannot of our own resolve forgive and restore, but through the love of Christ we can. “God does not take away life but plans ways that the banished one may not be cast out from him (2 Samuel 14:14).

 

Tag. Trans:

Mamamatay tayong lahat at matutulad sa tubig na matapos matapon, hindi mapupulot. Kung hindi man ibinabalik ng Diyos ang buhay ng isang patay, ginagawan man niya ng paraang mabalik ang isang ipinatapon (2 Sam. 14:14).

 

Where are you and your family today? Do you need forgiveness? Do you need to forgive? Do you need to stop the pain of bitterness and retaliation through selfless act of reconciliation? Do you need the forgiveness that Jesus Christ brings in order to have the love to forgive or ask for forgiveness? It is available right now, this very moment, through Jesus Christ, who died that all might be forgiven: even me and you.

 

LET US PRAY

Most loving God, you desire mercy and forgiveness in our lives and in our families. We are guilty of the wrongs we have done and the forgiveness we have left unsaid and undone. We are sorry, O God for our vindictive and unforgiving spirit. Let the love of Jesus Christ transform us and restore us to right relationships with you, with our family members and those who have caused pain and misery in our lives. We draw near to the living water that cleanses us from our guilt. This is our prayer through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, Amen.

 

 

“JOURNEY WITH GOD”

Text: Exodus  16: 22-30

27 June 2004

 

INTRODUCTION

           

            For several days we saw on TV how the Korean people empathized with the family of Kim Sun il, the slain migrant worker in Iraq. He was working with a Korean supplier company to the U.S. military camp in Iraq. He was abducted by Iraqi militants and was beheaded few days ago. We empathize with the Korean people because we are on the same situation with Kim Sun il, a migrant worker and sojourner in the world who wish to live a fuller life.

           

            Life is a journey. This journey is long and arduous, say 70 to 80 years or more, growing and maturing physically and spiritually. Motivations for our journey are determined by our early years of socialization together with our parents, brothers and sisters and community. Right now we journey in life motivated by the will to live fuller lives. Our motivations in life determine the direction of our journey and how we can overcome obstacles along the way.

             

ONE

            With the resolved to sojourn with God in life, we make necessary preparations for the journey. In the Exodus experience, Israel with the able leadership of Moses, Aaron and other leaders led the people out of their bondage in Egypt and journeyed towards the land of Canaanites. In the Passover narrative, the people were instructed to make the necessary preparations for their exit from Egypt. They baked unleavened bread, packed important things and the spiritual preparation is the determination to live in a land flowing with milk and honey and be guided by God.

            The provisions for their journey did not last for months. In their journey in the wilderness they asked for food, water, meat and other things. So they asked for bread and God gave them manna, which they gathered from the ground. Water gushed out from the rock to quench their thirst. Quail from the air came and became their supply for meat.

 

            But those were not enough for them. They complained about so many things, a sign of dissatisfaction and lack of faith in God who liberated them from bondage. From our text we know that they were instructed to gather manna for six days. On the seventh day, they are to refrain from gathering manna. What they are to eat on the 7th day should be gathered on the 6th day, because there will be no manna on the Sabbath day. The supply is exhausted for six days.

 

            Manna is symbolic of their faith in God. In contemporary times manna is understood as the Word of God. Taken in context, this means that six days of feeding on the Word of God and not one day only. We believe that God supplies our physical needs such as food and other basic things so that we may live and work. For a day, we are to feed our souls with spiritual nourishment. Both physical and spiritual nourishment are necessary in our journey through life.

 

TWO

           

            Moreover, our journey with God needs faith and trust in God.  Israelites complained about so many things, especially basic needs such as food, water and security. Moses taught them that they have to trust God who brought them out of Egypt. By this, Israelites must grow and mature in their faith with God. Many difficult situations in their journey were overcome primarily because they placed their faith in God.

 

            The Israelite experience in the wilderness and even in their settlement in Canaan give us lessons in our contemporary life. In the instruction given about manna, they had to gather it fresh each day but not on the Sabbath. Many persons think they can “feed” on God and then “store” up that experience without seeking a fresh experience. They worship God occasionally (paminsan-minsan lang) and then wonder why their life goes stale and flat. They do not understand why their religion seems worthless and does not sustain them during difficult times.

 

            Our Christian faith must be experienced anew each day. Every experience and human encounter must be viewed in the context of our faith in God who revealed Godself in Christ. A person who is able to see the divine will of God disclosed in the ordinary experiences in life is a person of faith. This is what we mean by daily sojourn with Christ in our lives. Our thinking and acting processes are enlightened by our faith in God.

 

            In April 1988 the evening news reported on a photographer who was a skydiver. He had jumped from a plane along with numerous other skydivers and filmed the group as they fell and opened their parachutes. On the film shown on the telecast, as the final skydiver opened his chute, the picture went berserk. The announcer reported that the cameraman had fallen to his death, having jumped out of the plane without his parachute. It wasn't until he reached for the absent ripcord that he realized he was freefalling without a parachute. Until that point, the jump probably seemed exciting and fun. But tragically, he had acted with thoughtless haste and deadly foolishness. Nothing could save him, for his faith was in a parachute never buckled on. Faith in anything but an all-sufficient God can be just as tragic spiritually. Only with faith in Jesus Christ dare we step into the dangerous excitement of life. (Source: Unknown.)

THREE

            Finally, our journey with God is a continuing search for authentic personhood. Our life is measured in terms of what we have (kung ano ang meron ka) but in terms of who we are (kung sino ka). This precludes our understanding of who God is in Christ. For Israelites God is Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer (Manlilikha, Tagapaligtas at Gabay) who guided them on their journey to the Promised Land.

 

            Authentic personhood (ang totoong pagkatawo ng tawo) is determined by our faith in God, for others by their philosophy for some by their values—of things important to them. God in Christ showed us how to live as truly human by loving us and sharing God’s life with human beings. Our capacity to love and be loved is God’s life in us. Thus, even if we are faced with difficult situations in life we are not afraid to go on.

 

            As we journey in life we are encouraged to show forth our love for God and for other people in need. Our true humanity is seen in how we share our life and our resources with others. Our beings are anchored on the very life of Christ. So we move on in life with faith and hope that we can overcome even the most difficult situations in life. Let us thank God for what we have and what we can become through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

            Let us pray:  Most loving God we are amazed how you continue to sustain our lives with your love and grace. We cannot live less than what you wish us to live. May our faith in the Living Christ cause us to participate in a life of peace and harmony in the world.  Let not greed, violence and exploitation continue to be the basis of wealth and prosperity. Let love be the first motive of all laws and actions. Make us real and authentic persons imbued with the person of Jesus Christ our Lord, in his name we pray. Amen.

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Sermon Title: “Into the Cup of Life”

Text: I Corinthians 10:14-22

By Rev. Frank J. Hernando

World-wide Communion Sunday

02 October 2005 Seoul, Korea

I Corinthians 10: 14-22

/14/ Therefore, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols. /15/ I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. /16/ The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? /17/ Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. /18/ Consider the people of Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices partners in the altar? /19/ What do I imply then? That food sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? /20/ No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons. /21/ You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. /22/ Or are we provoking the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

INTRODUCTION

          I am thankful indeed for the invitation of your pastor to share with you the message on this World-wide Communion Sunday. For the ten (10) long years of pastoring a local church in my Presbytery in central Philippines, my wife Gloria and I always ensure that World-wide Communion Sunday would be a meaningful experience for the members. Even here in South Korea, my wife and I normally prepare a special kind of worship service for this very important Sunday in the life of the Church.

 

In our migrant workers community in Kang Nam Presbyterian Church we are celebrating World-wide Communion Sunday as well. In the light of this occasion let me share with you insights into the text written by Paul for the first century Christians in Corinth.

 

ONE

        Into the cup of life, believers are poured in as catalysts for transforming the character of life in society. There are many people including Christians who are indifferent to the plight of the suffering ones. Thus it is not wise for Christians to maintain its bystander attitude or go on with their sheer indifference towards actual life situations in society.

 

Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians thinks that the worship of idols is irreconcilable with the worship of God in Jesus Christ. The idols that Paul refers to are those which demand obedience and replace God in the life of believers. These gods are not represented as sculpted images or icons in temples. These are things, spiritual and moral values that oppose God. The attitude of Corinthian Christians toward these gods is one which competes and even displaces belief in God in Jesus Christ.  This is disgusting before the community of faith in the church in Corinth. Christian unity was disrupted in the Church in Corinth.

 

It is within this purview that Paul admonishes the Corinthian Christians to stay away from idolatry or the paying allegiance to things such as wealth, money, prestige and icons of power and politics. It is not right for Christians to be enslaved by idols, rather their life as community of faith must show forth the life of Jesus Christ. He asked them, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? “(v.16).

 

The point of unity of among Christians is the sharing in the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thus, every time we bless the cup and break the bread, we are reminded that we had been redeemed by the life of Jesus Christ. In drinking from the cup of blessing that we bless is sharing in the sufferings and death of many people in our world today. We bleed with those who are wounded of the wars of aggression. We are in solidarity with those who are hungry and sick in our world today, because we are all poured into the cup of life. The bread that we break today is participation in the life of Christ—the life that anticipates the realization of a peaceful and abundant life for all.

 

I had the chance to participate in the 90th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK) in Gwangju, Jeolanamdo. Gloria and I had the chance to chat with the Rev. Samuel Muriguh, general secretary of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa. We asked him about the extent of HIV-AIDS infection in his country and other nearby countries in Africa. He mentioned that in Kenya alone 400 people die of HIV-AIDS everyday. Life expectancy in his country is only 45 years old. He is personally saddened by the reality of this pandemic disease which has infected even his relatives.

 

There are many people in our world today who feel the dread of this disease, yet unable to do something to help. Rev. Samuel Muriguh has best hopes that someday healing will surely come to his own people. He believes that God has a plan for the healing of peoples. While listening to this young church leader, I was challenged. My hope is reinvigorated in the saving power of God in Christ. But neither I can hope alone nor act by myself for I need the great number of committed Christians like you to hope and act in synchronized manner to overcome difficult situations. You are part of this. If we can act for the poor family next door, we can as well act for the hungry, sick and dying in other parts of the world.

 

TWO

          Furthermore, from the cup of life we are being poured out. We who have received the power of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are expected to serve at our best. This means that, as Paul has reminded the Corinthian Christians we are not to participate in idolatry whether to offer sacrifices to gods or to act in a ways that violate the Spirit of Christ in us.

 

Inasmuch that we profess the Lordship of Jesus Christ in society we are expected to live out our monotheistic belief and initiate community oriented programs that enhance our faith and witness. By giving allegiance to gods of modern times such as wealth, power, prestige and comfort we are in fact making sacrifices to them. The only possible means of restoring our affinity and identity with God in Christ is by being poured out. When our lives are poured out, we become means of inspiration to live an exemplary Christian life.

 

          Working with migrant workers coming from different countries in Asia has given me a deeper understanding of my faith in the context of Korean society. I am saddened by the experiences of many migrants workers who have worked in factories but their wages are not paid by their employers. The phenomenon of migration is a result of uneven economic development in the world. For many migrant workers their lives are being poured out or sacrificed for the sake of their families and relatives. They continue to endure long hours of work in the factories. They let pass the demeaning remarks of their Korean managers and supervisors. There are times of homesickness but they resist it. There are many other types of unexpected circumstances like arrest and deportation which I as a pastoral counselor can only assure migrant workers that there is life after South Korea. Migrant workers’ identity is so molded by their struggle for abundant life and not by the amount of money they have earned in working abroad.

 

          People’s identity is formed by culture and the political economy of a family, tribe or nation. For Christians their identity is grounded on their faith in Jesus Christ. This means that human constructs such as culture and political economy can be transcended when Christians live in love and unity. When Christians pour out their lives not just for their own selves but for those who are in dire need, Christian unity is not far from reality. While there remain distinct cultural heritages, we strive to live in solidarity with struggling peoples in the world.

 

THREE

 

Finally, Christians all over the world ought to have the collective consciousness of being part of the one loaf—the body of Christ. Paul said, “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (v.17).  The broken bread and the poured wine are the rich theological Christian symbolism that must be never oversimplified in the nice pictures of freshly baked bread or by the advertisement of gentlemanly effect of expensive wines. What I’m saying is that even our theological symbolism such as bread and wine and the unity of the Body had been co-opted and used by the market place—and clichés of capitalist advertisements. Thus our community life has become captive of the consumerist values. I even heard people measuring love for the other person or loved ones in terms of monetary value. It is not only awkward, but shameful for Christians to think that way.

 

There is one loaf—the Body of Christ. As members of Christian communities we participate in the life of Christ in the world. Christian unity is expressed in various ways. Prior to my appointment as UCCP mission co-worker to PROK 2004 I was teaching the Old Testament and Contemporary Theology at Saint Paul’s Theological Seminary of the Philippine Independent Church in Iloilo City. This Christian Church has a type of Anglican tradition. Our dean Rev. Father Larry Herrera would complain to me when I would skip the Eucharist. He would remind me that I have missed half of the service because I did not take the communion. I would reply to him saying, “That’s my concern Fr. Larry, because as one coming from the Presbyterian tradition, I would only take communion once a month and not as frequent as you do.”

 

My dear sisters and brother in Christ: our lives are poured out for the healing of those who are sick and dying. We are poured as a balm that not only soothes the pain, but cures the disease. Our lives can truly be the cup of passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, where our lives are joined together with the Spirit. Our lives reach out to hundreds and thousands of people near or far because of the enduring faith and committed service we have to the struggling and suffering peoples. We should never take for granted our witness and service to the life of God in Christ. In doing of our Christian witness we are in forefront of the overcoming the demonic powers of our times. May God bless you all. Amen.

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