講題：自然成長 Natural Growth
日期：14th June 2015
It has been twenty year since I last spoke at the Chung Chi Sunday Service as I left the Chaplaincy in 1995. I thank the Chaplain Revd Dr Daniel Hui imitating me to preach this morning in the Chung Chi Church, a place that is full of fond memories.
Today’s scriptural lesson used the analogy of Mustard seed, a well-known example that had inspired many in ages to illustrate the paradoxical nature of the Kingdom of God.
1) Background.. Roman Empire, Kingdom
At that time the Jews were under the governance of the Roman Empire and there existed certain autonomy for the Jews, as the Jew could of their own law, the law of Moses, underneath of the Roman Law. It has its own court, the Sanhedrin. In fact we recalled that Jesus was not condemned by the Roman Law, as the Roman governor washed his hand; rather he was condemned by the Jewish law of blasphemy. It was somewhat like a Special Administrative Region with its own law and court, within the Roman Empire. There had been many independent movements among the Jews hoping to re-establish an independent Jewish state. All were brutally crushed by the Romans. Now this Jewish teacher is building a kingdom?
Imagine if it happens today. How ? Independent HK, flag, strategy, Color Revolution with outside forces or like a cat who scratches the furniture??
Also the followers may perhaps trying to get more information on when are we going to thrown out the Roman ? An Independent Jewish state ? How are we going to do it ? Feed the hunger? .. as the anticipated audience are clinging their ear to this new revolutionary leaders … on the Kingdom that will be coming… Jesus proclaimed his Kingdom. In this passage He used parables of the seeds-daily examples well known to the people in the Palestine to explain the intangibles –the Heavenly Kingdom..
1.Parable of the seed: Natural occurrence
Jesus is talking about a new community, a spiritual—not political –community. A community that eventually spreads beyond any political, racial and social boundaries—the post Pentecost Christian community. A community that is to be known after the Pentecost. Surely not comprehend by followers of the pre-resurrected Jesus. One may doubt if any, at that moment who heard of this parable, would know what Jesus was talking about as it convey massages to those who are the member of the spiritual community. The message is extremely simple: the development of the Christian Spiritual community is a very natural one.
Jesus used an example commonly known in the agricultural society, the growth of a plant. Nowadays it may not be the best analogy for our children. I once heard a mother asking a child: where does the apple coming from.. he said, supermarket. But in those days, everyone had intimate knowledge of farming.
It is about one simple truth.. let nature takes its own course. A seed has its own potential to develop into a plant. If you sow a seed, all you have to do is to water it. As to how it grows and when it grow, and when it bears fruit, we can hardly have too much control over it. Although today you can trick it a bit by change the environment such as green house, or lighting .. etc, but its own developmental course has been fixed. Furthermore, it also gives a very clear message that if you do your own job, it will bear fruit.. and it is natural to have fruit.
Similarly to a spiritual community, if we do our share, namely, to have wholesome teaching, constant caring, the send of the Gospel would germinate in its own time. In due course it will bear fruit. There is no short cut and no quick fix and no way to accelerate this course. Growth is natural. We may have heard the old story of “pulling the shots to accelerate the growth.’
We have to trust that the seed that we have sown will one day germinate into a shot and will bear fruit. Just like you share the good news with a friend, you may not see the result immediately. You trust that the seed has already been sowed. It is a challenge to our faith. Often impatient may prompt us to do something that may go against nature. Be natural and let life takes it sown course. Often I have come across workshops or courses that may claim the ability to enhance church growth, especially many evangelistic methods. I had come across a course that should one follows its method it would double the growth in a year ! These courses may help a Christian to consolidate one’s faith, but whether it is effective to bring in converts is rather questionable. For sowing the seed is one thing, even for watering the plants is another thing. However to bear fruit is not in our hands. In seems that the most sure way is to let nature to take its course, and to be a diligent farmer, regardless of the result.
2.The parable of the Mustard Seed: unpredictable results.
Mustard plant is rather common in the Middle East and usually have a full-grown eight of 3 meters, taller than an average adult. However its seed is rather small in size. Size. The message is very simple, do not just by its humble appearance—a principle of the Kingdom. It go against our current principle of judging by appearance. Often we easily ignore a simple act of mercy, a polite smile, a kind deed, and we easily ignore those who are not prominent, who are at the fringe, without frame, achievement, success, wealth…etc. It is a reminder to us that in this spiritual community, very thing can be a mustard seed !
I was often reminded by an event. We all know of Dr Sun Yet-sen, the founding father of modern China. We may have lots of legend about him, top of his class in medical school! yes, there was only two graduates in that year and he was one of them. Also he could not practice medicine as his diplomat was not recognized by the Hong Kong authority, nor the Macau authority. It was meant to be practice in China where there was no regulation! so he was an illegal doctor in macaw ! One of his teacher, Dr (and later Sir) James Cantlie (康德黎) as ked him to go to England to do a make up degree course so that he can get licence to practice medicine. While in London he was kidnapped by the Chinese Legation ready to send back to trail. It was in this period tha he had a spiritual awakening –in the darkest moment he prayer to God for rescue. He try to bride the English servants at the Legation to send letters to Dr Cantiles for help, several time, and with all the money that he had with him, those people pocketed his money and did not deliver. He tried to throw letter s out of the window, but was picked up by those servants and they told the Chinese authority.. Later order his window to be nailed up. At this moment, a Christian lady who was a maid at the Legation, saw the poor Sun, took mercy on him, wrote a letter to Cantiles.. and Cantiles began his dramatic rescue operation.. eventually a servant, Mr Cole who had once pocketed the money given by Sun, and also got rewarded from the Legation by blowing the whistle of Sun’s messages for help, at the Legation decided to help the delivery of message, after the urging from his colleague this Christian lady Mrs Howe (wrongly mistaken as Mrs Cole, the wife of this servant, by some books) informing Cole that Dr Cantile had already knew this matter from her letter. After Sun was free, he wrote a book on this incident,. Most importantly, he said that he is like the prodigal son and the lost sheep…he would pledge his life for revolution because of the grace of God ! His action changed the course of history. A mustard seed indeed. Who would imagine this Chinese man, held in prison, could one day changed the course of several hundred million people !
Mrs. Howe who wrote a letter to Mr. Cantlie on Saturday, October 17th, 1896, and so set the machinery going. The note reached Devonshire Street at 11 p.m. Imagine the Doctor’s feelings when he read the following:
“There is a friend of yours imprisoned in the Chinese Legation here since last Sunday. They intend sending him out to China, where it is certain they will hang him. It is very sad for the poor man, and unless something is done at once, he will be taken away and no one will know it. I dare not sign my name; but this is the truth, so believe what I say. Whatever you do must be done at once, or it will be too late. His name is, I believe, Lin Yin Sen.”