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Listening to Preaching

2023.01.14/15

From the Pastor’s Desk: Rev. Jason Cheung

Dear brothers and sisters of RCAC,

“For now we see in a mirror dimly…”
1 Corinthians 13:12

As a child, I listened as best I could to the preacher every Sunday.  The red cushioned pews of my childhood church, off Main St., was cushier than our blue ones here at RCAC.  Back then it was much easier to fall asleep.

God in his grace let the preaching words of people pierce my hard heart, over time.  I heard Him, and stepped in faith more than a few times, responding to a call to repent, to love him, to live for him, to serve him.

And yet, listening to a sermon is still difficult.

I am both a preacher, and a listener.  But my big head makes me think I am more important as a preacher.  God has shown me how foremost I am to be a listener.

The preacher is a person, and not perfect.  This is true of all of us, but when a person called, and trained, and even ordained, steps behind the pulpit, that person is still a person.  Called and made an instrument by God – yes! – but still a person like every other.  As a preacher preaches there may develop over years an ego that supersedes the task.  But (I speak as one called to preach) the moment I believe I have more to say than I have to listen, then I’ve lost my call to preach.

Most every vocation requires expertise and skill, a mastery of the task.  Coaches take charge of the team.  CEOs manage large companies.  Surgeons are captains of the operating room.  These are necessary for these roles.  Preachers, too, take years to hone the skill to preach, but preachers have a different aim.  Preachers are never meant to stand out.  The most faithful preachers are forgotten, because when the Word meets the hearer’s heart the lingering ache is for Christ.  When the preacher is remembered, he has failed.

And yet, for some reason, we’ve made pastors to be coaches of people, CEOs of churches and surgeons of souls.  That’s foolhardy because pastors are not called to be any of these.  Pastors are called to preach and get out of the way of the Spirit’s work in hearts.

Kneeling
by R.S. Thomas

Moments of great calm,
Kneeling before an altar
Of wood in a stone church
In summer, waiting for the God  
To speak; the air a staircase  
For silence; the sun’s light  
Ringing me, as though I acted  
A great rôle. And the audiences  
Still; all that close throng
Of spirits waiting, as I,
For the message.

                        Prompt me, God;

But not yet. When I speak,  
Though it be you who speak  
Through me, something is lost.  
The meaning is in the waiting.

In his poem, Kneeling, R.S. Thomas opens within the anticipation of a person in the pew, “waiting for God to speak.”  Every element described of the church is space readying for the Word.  Even the air is “a staircase for silence.”  Then the poem turns, and we learn the person in the pew is actually the pastor about to preach.  And this pastor says something profound:

When I speak,  
Though it be you who speak  
Through me, something is lost.  
The meaning is in the waiting.

These lines capture well the tension of the preacher as person and the preacher as conduit of God’s holy Word.

As a preacher, I have buckled under the pressure of conveying God’s Word to God’s people.  I have  tried various voices to “improve.”  AuthorityHumourKnowledge.  But, I used all these only to prove myself worthy.  These voices have a place, for sure, but they can also get in the way.  I was in the way.  When I stopped trying to prove, and rather trusted, paused, and waited, the Spirit worked his meaning into me.

Thomas’ poem reminds us, listeners, that the preacher is merely an interpreter, and every word that comes from his or her mouth will lose something of the divine meaning.  And that’s fine.  The temptation for listeners (as it is for preachers) is to take every word spoken as if it were God’s very Word.  But biblical authority is not transferable from Word to preacher.  The only person where this authority rests perfectly is Jesus – “the Word was God” (John 1:1).

So, listen to the Word.

By all means, listen to preachers.  But, listen with the aim of listening to God.  Discard the chaff, and be nourished by whatever truth comes through.  Be gentle and gracious to preachers who try, but communicate poorly.  Be thankful for faithful preachers who highlight the text for you, for the church, and then step aside.  Be wary of preachers who demand respect based on authority.  Be open, though, to the humblest of preachers who tremble as they step into the pulpit. Be wary of preachers eloquent in speech who gain followers to themselves.

Be open, though, to the Spirit’s voice between Sundays, in the silent and in your waiting.

Listen to the Word.

Your servant in Christ,
Pastor Jason Cheung

聽道

2023.1.14/15

親愛的列宣家弟兄姊妹:

「我們現在是對著鏡子觀看,模糊不清…」(哥林多前書 13:12)

小時候,我每個星期天都盡我能力去聆聽牧者講道。我兒時的教堂位於 Main St. 附近,我坐在紅色墊子的長椅,比我們列宣的藍色長椅更舒適,那時候入睡要容易得多。

隨著時間漸漸過去,上帝在祂的恩典裡讓牧者的教導刺穿了我堅硬的心腸。我聽到了祂的聲音,並多次憑著信心踏出,回應上帝的呼召,要悔改、要愛祂、為祂而活、服侍祂。

然而,聆聽一篇講道仍然很困難。

我既是一位牧者,又是一位聆聽者。但我腦袋裡讓我覺得作為牧者更重要。上帝已經向我展示作為一個聆聽者是多麼重要的。

牧者是一個人,並不完美。我們所有人也是,當一個人被呼召、接受訓練、甚至被按立,但離開講台,那個人仍然是一個人。他被上帝呼召成為祂一個器皿,但仍然是一個人,與其他人沒有分別。當一個講員不停講道,經年累月後或許會展現出一種自我而失去其講道的真義。對我作為講員而言,當我察覺到我要說的比我必須要聽的更多時,我就失去了被呼召去講道的真義。

大多數職業都需要專業知識和技能,可以精準地掌握其職務。教練負責他的隊伍,大公司主席管理公司,外科醫生是手術室的隊長,這些角色都是理所當然的。講員也一樣,需要時間磨練講道技巧。但講員有不同的目標,他絕對不是為了脫穎而出。最忠心的講員常會被遺忘的,因為當道觸及聽者的心時,那揮之不去的痛楚是為了基督。當講員會被人們記住時,他就失敗了。

然而,某些原因,讓牧者成為人的教練、教會的主席和靈魂的外科醫生。這是愚蠢的,因為牧者沒有被呼召成為任何的一個。牧者被呼召去講道是要讓聖靈在人心中的工作。

Kneeling《跪等》R.S. Thomas

大有寧靜的片刻,
跪在木頭祭台前,
一座石頭教堂裡,
夏日,等候上帝
發聲;空氣是樓梯
伸向靜寂,太陽的光
將我環系,倒像是我出演了
一場大戲。而觀眾們
止息;所有那些聚攏近前的
靈魂們等候著,像我一樣,
為那信息。
給我提示,上帝,
但還不急。當我開口,
雖將是你通過我發聲,
仍已有部分被丟掉了。
意義在這等候裡。

R.S. Thomas的詩《跪等》中,開始時是指向在坐長椅上的一個人的期待,「等候上帝說話」。所有描述教堂內的每一個元素空間都是為聖言而準備。甚至空氣也是「寂靜的階梯」。然後這首詩轉向,我們了解到坐在長椅上的人實際上是即將要講道的牧者。這位牧者說了一些震撼的話:

當我開口,
雖將是你通過我發聲,
仍已有部分被丟掉了。
意義在這等候裡。

這些詩句很清楚表達作為人的講道者和作為上帝聖言的管道的講道者之間的張力。

作為一位講員,我在向上帝的子民傳達上帝的話語的壓力下屈服了。我嘗試用各種聲音來“改進”。 權威、 幽默、 知識。 但是,我用這一切只是為了證明自己的價值。 這些聲音肯定有一席之地,但它們也可能成為障礙,我就是被這障礙擋住了。當我停止嘗試去證明,反而是相信、止息、及等候時,聖靈就將祂的意思賜給我。

Thomas的詩提醒我們聆聽者,講員只不過是一個傳譯員,從他或她口中說出的每一句話都會失去一些神聖的意義,這也沒錯的。對聆聽者的誘惑(就像對講員的誘惑一樣)是把所說的每一句話都當成是上帝的話。但聖經的權威不能從道轉移到講員身上。唯一完全擁有這種權威的人只有是耶穌-「道就是神」(約翰福音 1:1)。

所以,要聽

無論如何,聆聽講員的話。但是,要帶著聆聽上帝的目的去聆聽。丟掉糠秕,被真理去滋養。講員或許溝通不流暢,我們要以溫柔和恩慈的心對待講員。我們要感謝默默耕耘、忠心服侍的講員。要提防那些基於權威追求自己名聲的講員;要小心警惕那些口若懸河,為自己贏得追隨者的講員。要包容那些謙卑、戰戰兢兢地踏上講壇講道的講員。

每一天,我們都要安靜和等候,敞開我們的心被聖靈的聲音去充滿。

主僕
張志成牧師

The Trappings of Leadership and the Welcome of our Lord

2022.09.24/25
From the Pastor’s Desk: Rev.Jason Cheung

Dear brothers and sisters of RCAC,

46  Jesus’ disciples were arguing about which one of them was the greatest. 47 Jesus knew what they were thinking, and he had a child stand there beside him. 48  Then he said to his disciples, “When you welcome even a child because of me, you welcome me. And when you welcome me, you welcome the one who sent me. Whichever one of you is the most humble is the greatest.”

  • Luke 9:46-48

Celebrity pastors are the tip of the iceberg that is the church today.  You may have heard of the falls of pastors like Bill Hybels, Mark Driscoll, Carl Lentz, Bruxy Cavey.  Overreach of power, sexual promiscuity and marital unfaithfulness, and abuse.  And cover ups.  This isn’t the world of politics, this is the church of Jesus Christ.

Yet, we all must see the glaring warning signs, even if – especially if – we are not pastors.  Without doubt, pastors called to gospel ministry are held to a high standard.  There is great consequence given the responsibility.  But celebrities are celebrities because people follow them.  And the church today – no matter the country, denomination, size or make up – every church is susceptible to the worship of pastors.

A friend remarked to me, walking out of a session at a Christian conference (for leaders no less), that the stirring message we just heard drew us to know more about the speaker (and his marriage and his kids), than Jesus.

That observation stuck with me.

There is a reason for this phenomenon.  When preachers tell stories about themselves more than about Jesus, this interests people, it resonates relevancy, and communicates to the masses that the person on stage “is just like me.”  But the pulpit was never meant to be a platform for the preacher.  It is rather, a resounding beacon of the Gospel of Jesus.  For sure, in the art of sermon delivery, personal experience and stories certainly help communicate the gospel; but these stories should never supplant the story of the “old-rugged cross.”  If in my preaching you know more about me, than about the beauty and majesty of God, then I have failed.

Pastors who constantly refer to themselves need friends, not a congregation to love them.

Leading well is crucial.  But leading God’s people is not exercising greater faith than all those I am leading.  I hope this is a relief to you who lead bible studies, lead a Sparks or T&T group, lead a community or fellowship group, or just lead your family.  The heavy burden of expectation that you must have greater faith in order to lead, is a myth and a lie.  (Listen carefully, as those in positions of leadership often tell this lie).  The measure of “greater” is a concept of the world, creating a man-made hierarchy that hinders the flourishing of the priesthood of all believers.  The gospel doesn’t nurture greater Christians and lesser Christians, just faithful Christians.

You only need the faith of a child.  Jesus taught this very thing to his grumbling, power-grabbing disciples.  Just faith.  Simple, child-like faith.  Not greater education.  Not greater experiences.  Not greater ability.  Not greater credentials.  Just faith.

Perhaps we have made too much of leaders among us, and not enough of our Lord.

Notice how Jesus turns the disciples’ attention away from themselves, and onto how to commune deeper with him and the Father.  Jesus masterfully disciples us, like this:  “You want to be great?  Then, humble yourself and open your arms to welcome the least of all.  This is how you are to be great in my kingdom.  Humility.

Pastors (who are people) will almost always disappoint us in some way.  Give them grace, for they are not perfect.  But also etch this clear in your mind: faithful pastors point you to Jesus  and not to themselves.   There is no place in God’s church for celebrity pastors.  Let’s not elevate these brothers and sisters to an expectation that will ultimately crush them.  Rather, thank God, for faithful leaders who point us with quiet assuredness to the glory and goodness of Jesus, our Lord and our Redeemer

Your servant in Christ,
Pastor Jason Cheung

跟從牧者還是跟從耶穌

2022.09.24/25

 親愛的列宣家弟兄姊妹:

有名氣的牧師可能是當今教會的冰山一角。你可能聽過Bill Hybels、Mark Driscoll、Carl Lentz、Bruxy Cavey 等牧師,這些有名氣的牧師都因著戀棧權力或者是在婚姻上不忠而讓他們的事奉蒙上陰影。是的,這些問題不只是在政治上,也會在屬於耶穌基督的教會中發生。

毫無疑問,牧者是被呼召作福音工作,需要有高的標準,責任重大,否則後果堪虞。但是為什麼這些牧者會被定為有名氣的牧師,因為有很多會眾追隨他們。今天的教會,無論是在任何地方,任何宗派,任何規模都無一倖免,都會有機會墮入了一個問題,就是追隨牧者,而不是追隨基督的行列。

記得有一位朋友,和我在離開一個基督教的會議的時候,和我分享就是在會議上所聽到的訊息像是知道更多關於牧者的事多過於耶穌基督。

這個分享讓我印象深刻。

這種現像是有原因的。當牧者講述他們自己的故事多於耶穌的時候,一開始的目的可能是想引起人們的興趣,並產生共鳴,並向會眾傳達牧者其實“就像你們一樣”。但講台從來都不是牧者的平台。相反,它是用來宣講耶穌基督的福音。當然,在講道中,個人經歷和故事是可以幫助會眾更了解福音。但這些故事絕不應該完全取代“古舊十架”的故事。如果在我的講道中,你對我的了解多於對神的榮美的理解,那我就是徹底失敗了。

牧者是需要朋友的,但不需要會眾來仰慕他們。

好的領導是關鍵。但領導神的子民並不需要比這些會眾有更大的信心。我希望這對於那些在不同崗位事奉的同工們,你們可以鬆一口氣。期望你必須有更大的信心才能領導是一個沉重負擔,載著,這是一個謊言。“更多”,“更好”的尺度是一個從世界而來的觀念,並因此造成了很多人為的等級制度,並因此阻礙了所有信徒屬靈生命的成長。福音不會培育更好的基督徒和不好的基督徒,只會建立忠心的基督徒。

你只需要一個孩子的信心。路加福音9:46-48耶穌透過這個方法來教導那些經常抱怨、以權力為一切的門徒。需要的是一顆單純的信心,一顆像孩子般的信心。而不是更高的學歷;不是更多的經驗;不是更多的才能;也不是更多的見證。只是需要有信心。

也許我們是在高舉領袖,而不是高舉耶穌了。

請注意耶穌如何將門徒的注意力從他們自己的身上轉移到如何與天父有更深的溝通。耶穌巧妙地透過一個問題來教導我們:“你想成為大的?首先,要謙卑自己,張開雙臂歡迎最小的。這就是你如何在我的國度裡能夠成為大的-你需要謙卑。”

牧者都是人,他們並不完美,會在某些事情上讓我們失望,我們要恩慈對待我們的牧者。但也要在自己的腦海中清楚記住這一點:忠心的牧者會指向耶穌,而不是他們自己。在神的教會裡沒有有名氣的牧師的位置。讓我們不要把這些牧者抬高到一個地步最終會壓垮他們。相反,感謝神給予我們忠心的牧者,以一種確信的心指向耶穌基督的榮美,因為祂是我們的主,我們的救贖主。

主僕
張志成牧師

Art and Faith: Receiving, Giving, Creating for the Glory of God

2022.05.21/22

From the Pastor’s Desk: Rev. Jason Cheung

Dear brothers and sisters of RCAC,

Growing up I don’t remember saying much at all at the dinner table.  One night, soon after the end of my first year of university, my father showed his curiosity about my meanderings.  “What’s your plan?  What are you going to study?”

I knew this question was coming, and I had prepared for some time to give an answer.  It felt right, because I grew to love the direction no matter how unpredictable the future would be. “I want to study film.  I want to be a film director.”

The movie theatre was where I grew up, most impacted.  I recall fondly the double-bills of Hong Kong films in Chinatown – I learned to read English through subtitles (and also Cantonese slang).  It was the only regular time our whole family went out, and we did so to receive art.

As a 19 year old I had grown drawn to stories through film that expressed things my heart could not articulate or understand.  And I loved the medium of sight and sound, angles and music, script and acting – and the beautiful medley of it all.  Love and laughter, sin and suffering, truths and the human struggle to grapple truth, carefully crafted on screen for me to receive and consider.

My dad responded (I recall this vividly):  “It’s going to be hard to find a job.”

His response was no surprise to me, but my dream deflated at that very moment.

God is good and his plans are greater than mine.  My love for film has not diminished (though the number of hours I spend watching has plummeted!).  As a pastor, like a filmmaker, I get to tell a story – but in a different way.  My imagination is grounded in the revelation of God, in the Word, and my vocation is to ignite the vision of Jesus to people.  A painter or a poet does the same, generally, cultivating an imagination prompted to stir wonder on truth, goodness and beauty within the beholder.

A question I have grappled with in recent years:  Is art helpful to faith?  Might it even be essential?

We often, I think, unhelpfully divide people into one of two camps:  those who are “artsy” and those who are not.  But here’s what I’ve learned.  As we are created in the image of God, and as God himself is a designer and all-world Creator, we share a little of this with Him, in this call to create.  Just as we are made to love and be loved (like our loving God), so we are also made to create (like our creator God).

To be clear, we’re not all called to be artists (vocationally).  But I do think art in our world exists more than just as a hobby.  Art can point us–whether we make it or receive it– to the Great Designer and Maker of this world.

I enjoy films.  I also love exploring new music, even while I have my playlists of old favourites.  Within the last two years, in this pandemic, I have discovered the silent strength of poetry for my soul.

You may have unique interests: short or long fiction, graphic design or architecture, landscaping or the complex design of cities. Or paintings.

Whatever art you enjoy, or however you engage with it, your faith can be strengthened with art.  What I have found helpful is to listen to artists and the reasons they do what they do.   I also read and learn how others view and experience art – their reflections and critiques, but mostly to see what they see.  Art helps me understand points of view I would not be able to consider by myself.

The Purpose of Art?

When I was 19, my dad had a specific concern for me: How would I earn a living?  He determined a vocation in the arts would not be promising.  Though I disagreed, I am grateful for his guidance.

I do think, still, one of the reasons we engage so little with art is because it seems impractical.  This begs the question: If the net result of engaging with art is mostly an interior benefit, is that enough?  I emphatically say, yes!  As followers of Jesus, we serve a Lord who rescues us and transforms us spiritually; we are a people being changed from the inside-out.  Put another way: Can the Spirit use art to help us see, know and respond to the Triune God?  Absolutely.

One of the ways the Spirit has helped me through art is to learn to grieve.  When my grandfather died when I was young, I knew nothing about death.  For years, I was a mess inside and I didn’t even know it.   Eventually, as I took in movies and read stories that touched the topic of grief – I found myself unusually moved.  Why was I weeping in the theatre?  These stories told with care helped me see a person struggling with loss.  That was my experience too.  And I learned art can serve us well by providing emotional grips to journey through the inevitable valleys of life.  When I observe a face, a tone, a lyric or a rhyme – I sense the Spirit moving me to see what he sees.

Heaven and Earth:  “A Hidden Life” Screenshot

Those hands, with the heavens as backdrop, belong to a wife and husband.  The husband is Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian farmer who would not fight with the Nazis during WWII.  This is a true story: he was beheaded for his “conscientious objection.”

This film by Terence Malick is more a meditation on Jägerstätter’s struggle – including a difficult emotional struggle with his wife.  She loves him dearly, supports him even in his objection, but the cost is clear before them.  Their dilemma: Fight in a cause their faith does not align with, or risk losing their way of life, their family, one another?

Malick is an atypical director, choosing long shots with few words and selective music.  And this scene, with husband and wife lying free in the alps in embrace and belonging, also reflects the aching strain of Jägerstätter’s decision.  Lives together, embracing both beauty and brokenness, grasping for heaven to be on earth.

Art and Your Faith?

How many of you are artists?  I want to know who you are, and encourage you.  Too long, I believe, artists among us are used more than celebrated.  Artists need to be encouraged, even nurtured.  There is so much that artists in our community can add to our spiritual life together.  ReflectionChallenge.  Questions.  And, similar to preachers, pointing to Christ all in all.

Who wants to explore how art helps us to be more human, and one with God?

I have rummaged through these questions for some time, and I’m curious if any of you have as well.  Let me know.

For now, I encourage you to be curious, pause and to take note of how art – any art – might be leading you to hear the Spirit’s voice, reverberating Scripture and highlighting Christ.

Your servant in Christ,
Pastor Jason Cheung

藝術與信仰:榮耀歸予上帝

2022.05.21/22

列宣家親愛的兄弟姊妹:

在我大學一年級結束後不久的一個晚上,我父親問我:“你有什麼計劃?打算讀什麼?”我回答說:“我想學電影,我想當電影導演。”我記得很清楚我父親回答:“會很困難找工作”。他的回應我一點也不覺得意外,但我的夢想在那一刻破滅了。

電影院是我成長的地方。我很喜歡到唐人街看香港電影,透過字幕我學會了閱讀英語以及廣東話俚語。舉家出外看電影是我們唯一的家庭活動,也因此讓我接觸了藝術。我19 歲的時候,我開始被電影中的故事所吸引,我會去思考。這些故事表達了我內心無法表達或理解的事物。我喜歡那些視聽效果和演員精湛的演繹。愛與笑、罪惡與苦難、真理和為真理掙扎求全,都一一呈現在屏幕前。

上帝是美善的,祂的計劃大過我的。我對電影的熱愛並沒有減少。作為一個牧者,就像電影製作人一樣,只不過是以不同的方式去講述故事。我的想像力植根於上帝的啟示和話語,我的使命是向人們點燃耶穌的異象。

近年,我一直努力思考一個問題:藝術有助信仰嗎?甚至可能是不可或缺的?

一般人會被劃分為兩伙:“懂藝術”和不懂。但我所領悟到的是,我們都是按照上帝的形像被造的,而上帝本身是一位設計師和創造萬物的創造者,因此我們也分享了上帝的一點特質。就像我們慈愛的上帝一樣,我們被造去愛和被愛;又像我們的創造者上帝,我們也被造去創造。雖然不是每一個人都要成為藝術家,但我確實認為藝術不僅是一種愛好,藝術可以帶我們指向那偉大的設計者和創造者。

我喜歡電影,我也喜歡探索新音樂。在這場疫症大流行裡,我發現詩歌是我靈魂的無聲力量。無論您喜歡或如何參與藝術,藝術可以強化您的信仰。藝術幫助我理解我自己察看不到的觀點與角度。

藝術的目的?

當我19 歲的時候,父親尤其關心我將來如何謀生?他認定藝術職業不會有前途。我雖不認同,但我很感謝他的指導。

的而且確,很少人投入藝術行業的原因之一是因為它似乎不切實際。但另一方面,我確信藝術足夠給予人內在的益處!作為耶穌的跟隨者,我們侍奉那一位拯救我們並在靈性上更新我們的主;我們是一個裡外更新的人。換句話說:聖靈絕對能透過藝術幫助我們看見、認識和回應三一神。

此外,聖靈藉著藝術幫助我學會哀傷。我祖父在我年輕的時候去世當時我對死亡一無所知。後來,讀到悲傷話題的文章和電影,我會異常感動,我會在電影院哭泣,感受到失去摯親的哀痛。我了解到藝術可以幫助我們在情感上穿越人生的高山低谷。一張臉、一個音調、一首歌詞、一個韻律-我感覺到聖靈在觸動我,讓我看到他所看到的。(中文簡譯、全文參閱網上英語原文)

主僕
張志成牧師

The Surprise of the Spirit: Curated Content or Awakened Curiosity?

2022.01.29/30
From the Pastor’s Desk: Rev. Jason Cheung

Dear brothers and sisters of RCAC,

Twitter, Instagram, Facebook – whatever social media we use, the media also chooses for us.  Algorithms fueled by our history present a future to us that is so much better than “our now.”  Whatever I like or whatever I dwell on, whatever quote I retweet, or photo I share, I’m not just expressing my preferences, but creating a forever-profile for corporations to target me with restaurant deals, goods and services.  And yet – knowing this – I still do what I do, and go ahead and like that Gif of a dog surprised by itself while walking by a mirror for the first time.  (I don’t regret this, of course)

Yes, we can carefully choose our content, but we’re also programmatically fed content.  And this is a very real possibility: We encounter only the things an algorithm has determined we will like and enjoy.  But what if there is so much more than what other people/computers say?

Now picture this:  A toddler having just learned to walk a few months ago, steps for the first time into a large uncut grassy field, brimming with dandelions and grasshoppers and baby butterflies.  And she is running, laughing, seeing fluttering canvases of colour through the gentle glare of the morning sun.  The child is elated, giggling and chasing every fresh beauty that meets her senses.  Her curiosity is awakened.  Her heart is erupting in joy, and she cannot yet even spell “joy.”

What can we learn from such a child, who seems a natural in the kingdom of heaven?

I do wonder, sometimes, how our senses to the Spirit have grown dull as it has?  Is it because we are unfamiliar with his prompts?  Unaware of his presence?  Perhaps we have curated our own expectations for God to meet us exactly when and where we want him to meet us.

But, what if God meets us whenever he chooses, and however he chooses?

Scripture is full of stories where God meets people unexpectedly.  Paul on his way to Damascus, knocked down by the light from heaven – the LORD met him.  The Samaritan woman at the well – Jesus met her.  Jonah while running away from LORD.  Job met by God through his sufferings.  Adam and Eve try to hide from God, and yet God searches and finds them.

God is always after us, always speaking, always revealing, always awakening our fickle hearts to his glory and his salvation.  But are we attentive?

One of the things I have missed most – because of COVID – is travelling to new places.  Exploring.  Discovering.  Meeting a place and people I have never met before.  I recall walks through the streets of New York, hikes atop mountains in Switzerland, and that hidden trail between houses to a quiet beach in Oahu.  The thrill is what lies around the next corner, past those trees, over that hill, through that corridor.  The morning commute to work, or other daily rhythms have their place.  But also, new and unfamiliar roads that beckon us to see what’s next, what is ahead, and most importantly – where God is leading.

In what surprising way is the Spirit reaching you?
What of God’s wisdom and will, do you sense as his call to you?
What beauty in this world makes your child-like heart arise in joy?
Go and see what’s around the corner.

Your servant in Christ,
Rev. Jason Cheung

聖靈的驚訝:是策劃的內容還是喚醒好奇心?

2022.01.29/30
作者: 張志成牧師

列宣家親愛的弟兄弟姊妹:

 Twitter、Instagram、Facebook-無論我們使用什麼社交媒體,媒體也會為我們選擇。透過我們搜尋的記錄會幫我們計算一個比「我們的現在」更好的未來。無論我喜歡什麼,我談論什麼,我轉發什麼訊息,或者我分享什麼照片,我都不僅是在表達我的喜好,並且是為商家創建一個檔案,成為餐廳、百貨公司和消費服務的客戶目標。雖然如此,我仍然會做我要做的事,就好像一隻小狗第一次走過鏡子時,驚訝見到自己樣子,然後施施然繼續向前走。

當然,我們可以仔細選擇我們的搜尋內容,但同時我們也提供了資料給程式編寫內容。這是一種非常現實的可能性:我們只會見到計算程式決定我們所喜歡和享受的內容。但是,還有其他人和電腦計算的內容呢?

試想像:一個剛學會走路數月的小孩,蹣跚學步第一次踏入一片未被修剪的大草地,滿地蒲公英、蚱蜢和小蝴蝶。她邊跑邊笑,在柔和的晨光下,見到一片色彩斑斕的景象。小孩子興高彩烈,咯咯地笑著,追逐著每一個滿足她感官的新鮮美。她的好奇心被喚醒了,她連「喜悅」這個字也不會說,但她的內心有說不出的喜悅。

我們能從這樣一個在天國裡看來很純真的小孩子身上學到什麼?

有時,我確實想知道,如何我們對聖靈的觸覺變得如此遲鈍?是因為我們不熟悉祂的提醒嗎?不知道祂的存在?也許我們已經制定了自己的期望,讓上帝在我們希望祂與我們見面的時間和地點與我們見面。

但是,假若上帝在祂選擇的時間和如何與我們相遇呢?

聖經中充滿了上帝出乎意料地與人相遇的故事。保羅在去大馬士革的路上,被天上的榮光擊倒-神與他相遇。井傍的撒瑪利亞婦人-耶穌遇見了她。約拿逃避耶和華,約伯在苦難中遇見神,亞當和夏娃試圖躲避上帝,但上帝卻尋找並找到了他們。

上帝總是在我們身後,總是說話,總是啟示,總是喚醒我們善變的心去體驗祂的榮耀和祂的救恩。但是,我們是否察覺到

由於新冠疫情,我最想念的一件事就是去外地旅遊。去探索、去發現。去一個自己從未到過的地方,與從未遇見過的人見面。我回憶走過紐約的街道,在瑞士的山頂遠足,以及在瓦胡島小屋隱蔽的小徑慢步走到寧靜的海灘。令人興奮的就在下一個拐角,越過那些叢林、越過那座山,穿過那條走廊。早上上班,或其他日常生活節奏都有它們的位置。但是,一些新的道路在召喚我們去查看接下來會發生什麼,前方會發生什麼,最重要的是-上帝正在引領我們走向何方。

聖靈以什麼驚訝的方式臨到你?
神的智慧和旨意,你感受到祂向你呼喚嗎?
世界有什麼美好的事物讓你童心如初?
去吧,看看拐角處有什麼!

主僕,
張志成牧師

The More Important Question: Who Follows Us? or Who Do We Follow?

Oct 23-24, 2021
From the Pastor’s Desk: Rev. Jason Cheung

To have a following is a weighty thing!

People gravitate to people.  Charisma and character attract attention.  Numerical follows on social media platforms can be a nice hobby, or a full-time, monetized income generator.  But numbers carry a weight that can become a burden.

As Christians, careful discernment is needed to understand which of these two questions is foremost in our minds and hearts.

Who follows us?

or

Who do we follow?

One of the traps of pastoral ministry, I’ve been warned, is the track to become “a better leader.”  The goals are admirable, and local churches can become well-tuned and efficient.  I have nothing against organizing well, as administration is indeed a gift of the Spirit.  (Right now, if you look at my desk, it needs some work-of-the-Spirit organizing!)  But, administration – like all spiritual gifts – are mere tools for the building up of God’s church, for the glory of Christ.  Leadership, however, in the church today has become such a principal focus that our call to follow Jesus has been blurred.

John Goldingay, an Old Testament professor, made this comment about this kind of obsession with leadership:

When my students are reading the part of the Old Testament that includes Nehemiah, they often want to write papers on leadership.  Come to think of it, whatever parts of the Old Testament they are studying, they want to write papers on leadership.  My heart sinks when they ask if they can do so, though I don’t ever expect them to understand why it does.  Our culture is deeply preoccupied with leadership, and so people assume that the Bible must be preoccupied with leadership, because we expect the Bible to focus on the questions that concern us.  Part of the reason the Bible itself is not very interested in the question is that it is more interested in what God has done to put the world right.  If you like, it is interested in God’s leadership not ours. 

Picture Christ’s church as counter-cultural families in which hierarchical structures are not what we’re known for, but rather sacrificial love (John 15:13).  Imagine a kingdom-minded church where mutual dependence and sharing is the norm and not the exception (Acts 2:42-47).   Envision a church where its mission is not first concerned of its own well-being, but that of the neighbour (Luke 10:25-37).

The way for our church to become like this is to determine which of these questions is top-of-mind, and at the centre of our heart:

 Who follows us? 

or

Who do we follow?

Jesus has inaugurated an upside-down kingdom where the poor will become rich, and the weak will become strong.  And in his church, any leader of any kind must be the servant of all (Mark 9:35).  So, strange as it may sound, if you want to be a leader in Christ’s church, stoop and serve.

And if this is too difficult to imagine, pause — and look very closely at Jesus, the Son of God, the Son of Man.

He dined with sinners and outcasts.

He washed the filthy feet of his disciples, his followers.

He carried the cross and bore the punishment for the sin of all.

Why do we even care how many people follow us

Our lives belong to Jesus, and our basic call is to faithfully live and speak and love in such ways that usher people toward Jesus.  Not to gain a following.  But to guide others to become followers of Jesus. 

And so, let us deny ourselves, pick up the cross and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23). 

Our own importance is replaced with the glory of Christ.

Our way now is the sacrificial way of the cross.

Our only leader is none other than the Lord Jesus himself, our Good Shepherd.

Let’s faithfully follow him.

 

 

 

一個更重要的問題:誰跟隨我們?或者我們跟隨誰?

Oct 23-24, 2021
張志成牧師

擁有追隨者是非常沉重的事!

人與人之間互相吸引,是因個人的魅力和性格吸引別人的注意。在社交媒體平台上能帶動有追隨者原是不錯的「嗜好」,甚至如果是全職,可以帶來經濟收入。但追隨者數字上升也同時可能會成為負擔。

作為基督徒,需要仔細辨別了解這兩個問題,哪一個在我們的思想和內心最為重要。

誰跟隨我們?或者我們跟隨誰?

我被提醒在牧養事工其中一個陷阱,是走上作 「更好的領導者」的途徑。作領導的目標本身是令人敬佩的,使地方教會可以變得協調和高效率。我不反對要有好的組織,因為行政管理確實是屬靈的恩賜。(此刻,你看看我的辦公桌,它需要一些管理屬靈恩賜去執拾!)但是,行政管理 - 就像所有屬靈恩賜一樣 - 是為建立上帝的教會、榮耀基督的工具。然而,領導-已成為今天教會一個主要的焦點,以至我們對跟隨耶穌的呼召變得模糊不清。

舊約聖經教授約翰戈爾丁蓋 (John Goldingay) 對迷戀這種領導的學生有以下的評論:

當我的學生研讀舊約尼希米的部分時,​​他們會想寫關於領導的論文。試想想,無論他們在研讀舊約的任何部分,他們都會想寫關於領導的論文。當他們諮詢我可否這樣行,我的心沉了下來,但我也不期望他們明白我為何沮喪。我們的文化非常重視領導,因此人們認為聖經也必然是關注領導,因為我們希望聖經是關心我們關心的問題。聖經本身對這個問題不在乎的部分原因是,它更在乎的是上帝做了什麼使世界變得正確。無論你同意與否,聖經是指向上帝的領導,而不是我們的。

把基督的教會想像成抗文化的家庭,其中的等級架構不是我們所熟識的,它是犧牲的愛(約翰福音 15:13)。想像一個有神國度的教會,在那裡互相扶持和分享是常態而不是例外(使徒行傳 2:42-47)。試思想一個教會,它的使命首先不是關心自己的福祉,而是關心鄰舍的福祉(路加福音 10:25-37)。

我們的教會能否成為這樣的模式是確定以下哪個問題是最重要的,並且是我們的核心:

誰跟隨我們?或者我們跟隨誰?

耶穌開創了一個顛覆的國度,讓窮人變富,弱者變強。在祂的教會裡,任何類型的領袖都必須是所有人的僕人(馬可福音 9:35)。所以,雖然聽起來很奇怪,但如果你想成為基督教會的領袖,就屈身服侍吧。

如果這太難以想像,停一停  ‒ 仔細看看耶穌,神的兒子,也是人子。

祂與罪人和被拒絕的人共進晚餐。

祂為跟隨祂的門徒洗腳。

祂背起十字架,承擔了所有人的罪債。

為什麼我們關心是有多少人跟隨我們?

我們的生命是屬於耶穌,我們被呼召是要忠心跟隨耶穌,作好見證,領人歸向耶穌;不是為贏得追隨者,而是引導他成為耶穌的跟隨者。

就當捨己,天天背起他的十字架來跟從我(路加福音 9:23)。

我們個人的榮縟被基督的榮耀所取代。

我們現在的道路是十字架犧牲的道路。

我們唯一的領袖就是我們的好牧人主耶穌。

讓我們忠心跟隨祂。