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A reflection on the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-10) and response in prayer for our city, and other cities in turmoil.
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountain and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Lord, bless those who recognize how broken we are and how desperately we need You. Raise up more humble people who value others above themselves.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Heavenly Father, comfort those who mourn: who mourn the loss of unity, who grieve over the memory of brighter days, who struggle to accept a new reality. Comfort those whose families and friendships have been divided by conflict.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Bless those who submit to Your will and who submit to the law. We pray that more of us would learn to submit to one another in love, even - and especially - when we don’t agree.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Help us to live with virtue, holiness and justice in our personal lives. May this spread and overflow into our communities, and may we taste the fruit of righteous actions soon.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Bless those who show mercy and grace to others. May we emulate them. May we be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Help us to examine our motives and our desires. Help us to crucify our sins and old selves that we may be closer to You.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Lord, please raise up and send out more of Your children. May each one of us be a peacemaker.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Comfort those who have been insulted or slandered. We pray for a fair and righteous outcome for those who have been falsely accused.
Thank You Lord that we can experience the blessing of the kingdom of heaven today. Help us to build your kingdom and fulfil Your will here on earth as it is in heaven.
I haven’t been to a family reunion in decades. I’m not sure what your family reunions are like, but our family’s reunions were very large. Now, we’d have smaller, regular family gatherings for holidays and other occasions with our extended family. But family reunions reunited generations of “our people” from far and wide.
What was interesting about these gatherings was how many people I DIDN’T know…and I was related to them! I’d meet second and third cousins for the first time, aunts and uncles whom I’d never seen before, and complete strangers who knew all about me because they grew up with my parents. It was disorienting and completely amazing. I just couldn’t get over the fact that I was related to so many people!
As we prepare to come back to 633 Kings Road on 31 May after more than 3 months of not meeting together, how beautiful is that we get to have our own family reunion?! We are so excited! And what perfect timing to be studying Nehemiah as a church and seeing how the exiled Israelites were all reunited after the completion of the wall.
For us, as believers, I’m reminded of this passage from Ephesians. The Apostle Paul writes:
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19-22).
Over the last 3 months, the church hasn’t “closed” or even stopped meeting. The Church has been “open” the whole time. We just haven’t been able to worship together in the same place for a while.
Christ has always been the cornerstone for our spiritual church “building.” And as the family of God in His household, we all stand on the foundation of the apostles and prophets to help build this holy temple together. We're all related! And currently, our “temple” is scattered all around Hong Kong and the world. And that’s OK. We’re still the Church and will continue to be the Church.
But this Sunday, we are going to have some fun when we finally get to have our family reunion in Quarry Bay!
I hate running. I’m just not very good at it. I don’t like dealing with my shin splints, nor do I like being lost in my own thoughts for a long period of time. Now I get it, running can be therapeutic for some people, but for me running is the last thing that you’ll find me doing. But it wasn’t always that way, I used to run on the track team for my school and we used to train every day in Tai Tam Country Park!
Training was interesting. We’d run the same path every day and evaluate how we paced at every turn. Did we run the hill too quickly? How fast did we start? Did we need to pick up the pace near the end? A bevy of information, processed and reflected upon, so that we could run the race better next time.
It certainly feels like we are ramping up for another race doesn’t it? The city is opening up: work activities are resuming, people are beginning to invite you out to dinner, and the MTR is as crowded as ever. And while there is an excitement over things returning back to normal, there is also a sense of dread towards the impending frenetic pace of life.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25a, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.”
I think it’s interesting that Paul focuses on training. While there are many aspects to training, one crucial aspect is reevaluating past races. Perhaps there is an opportunity here for all of us to reflect deeply about how we had been running the race before the COVID crisis. Were we running too fast? Did we prioritise our family? Did we spend time with God? Was church community just a Sunday event or was it truly a community we did life with?
There is a great danger of falling back into the same routines as if the crisis never happened. The past three months have certainly been difficult, but it provided us an opportunity to rethink how we did life, and who we did it with. Let us be intentional about evaluating our past, so that we can run this next race faithfully.
Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10
This global pandemic has brought the world to a standstill. Flights are grounded, many businesses are forced to close, children are required to stay home from school and many people have to work from home. We’ve probably had more free time and family time than we ever had before with events, dinners, conferences, trips and celebrations cancelled. We have perhaps watched more Netflix than we ever have before or started putting on our ‘quarantine fifteen’. And to be honest, many of us have found it unnerving. We’re so used to being on the go and packing our schedules in that this hiatus has been unsettling for us.
I’m not used to not being able to plan ahead and not knowing what the next couple of months will be like. I’m not used to having to change or reset my goals because my previous ones can’t be attained under these circumstances. I know for some people who have had to endure the pain of being sick or watching their loved one be sick, it’s been so tough to face the unknown and to not have loved ones nearby.
And as the world changes under the pressure of this pandemic, we can only take refuge in the fact that we have an unchanging God in this ever-changing world. In the midst of these storms of life, we have a God that can still the storms in our hearts. In the face of uncertainties of our futures, we can ‘be still and know that [He] is God’ over our lives.
This time of quiet gives us a very good opportunity to be still and to reevaluate the priorities of our lives. Usually, we are running on the ‘treadmill’ of life and don’t stop to think and reflect. We have now been given a golden opportunity to ‘be still’ and put Him first knowing that He is good and He is God.
So, in this time of quiet, what have we found our priorities to be? As we face such uncertainties, what, or Whom, have we found to be steady and unchanging?
Let us pray “be still and know” by:
Some couples exchange beautiful poetry on their romantic walks together as they explore the depths of language and imagination. Not Katie and I, we quote Dr Seuss. As we were reflecting this week on this abnormal season of life, she recalled one of her favourite, obscure lines from that profound author. In “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” Dr Seuss writes an encouragement to the reader of how they’re going to win in life, have fun and create magic as the world watches. He then follows with this line:
And then he enters a simple discourse about how every person experiences the scary reality of feeling alone when things don’t turn out as they thought. Sometimes God, and life hits the pause button without asking our permission first. It’s in the pause we’re left with that scary realisation of what’s captured in the adage - wherever you go, there you are. The great pause we’re all in has graced us with the scary opportunity to re-evaluate who we really are and what it is we’re really building.
And providentially at this time, our church is going through the book of Nehemiah, tracing how God’s hand guided him in a great rebuilding project and examining what rebuilding God might be calling us to in this city of ours. And I have to imagine the rebuilding of a healthy city starts with a rebuilding of healthy relationships and individuals.
So I want to leave us all with a reflective question and biblical guidance as we consider what this season of great pause might be revealing in your life.
First the question, one that I’ve found helpful from time to time that keeps me from casting blame and avoiding what God needs to do in me. How have I been complicit in creating the conditions that I say I don’t want? The busy schedule, the lack of spiritual discipline, misplaced priorities, rest, presence with family, etc…
Second, the guidance found in Romans 12:2. "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” We’ve had had our patterns broken for us, so now let’s focus on the transforming (rebuilding) that God can do.
Because the healthier we are, the healthier our families are, the healthier our city will be.
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