Fall Worship Series
with Rev Dr Richard Chung
5 Characters We Meet in Heaven
What kind of people do we likely meet in heaven? We will likely meet the men and women of great faith, like Abraham and Sarah, Mary and Joseph among many. And, yes, we will likely meet the men and women of ordinary faith, like our uncles and aunts, our friends and neighbours. And yes, we will also likely meet the men and women of Christian faith, other faith, no faith, and even the outcasts and misfits of our society. How is this possible? Because, God’s grace and mercy in Jesus Christ is deeper and wider than we can ever imagine and tougher than we can ever tolerate. Jesus came to earth to welcome us all into God’s Brand-New-World (Jesus called it, the Kingdom of God/Heaven). In the Gospel of Luke (chapters 18 to 23), we meet certain outcasts and misfits of society whose world go through a radical change with the coming of heavenly kingdom: the Gritty Widow who got her justice; the Corrupt Tax Collector who became generous; the Seven-Time Unlucky Widow who would receive her freedom; the Wolf and the Lamb who would become playmates; and the Two Thieves who received two different fates. Yes, their story is our story. Their redemption is our hope. Yes, we meet each one of these characters in heaven, now and later.
October 27: Luke 18:1-8 “The Gritty Widow”
What do you do when you are down and out, without wealth, power, influence, and connection, and you have been wrongly treated and you have no one or nowhere to turn to get your justice? Well, you go after the one who can grant you justice, even if he is a corrupt judge who would not likely hear your case, let alone grant you the justice you seek. And, you persist and pester like the Gritty Widow (Luke 18:1-8) who kept badging at the judge until she received her justice. Grit is a character trait of the people we meet in heaven. Being persistent, even to the point of pestering, and even to be seen as a pest, is the hallmark of character that pleases God and whose prayers God answers.
November 3: Luke 19:1-10 “The Little Zach” (All Saints’ Sunday)
In the core of every human being there is a yearning that nothing or no one can satisfy. No amount of money or power, success or happiness, knowledge or wisdom can ever satisfy the deep yearning of human soul. This yearning resides and comes from a deep place within human soul. This the sacred place where God desires to dwell, where human soul finds true home. Until we find home where our soul takes rest, we will wander aimlessly. And, in desperation, we will try to fill the void with little wealth, little power, and little success like the Little Zach (Luke 19:1-10) did. But we are left feeling more desperate and lost than before. The truth is, nothing or no one will ever be able to fill that void. We can hide and mask our yearning. We can try to patch and stuff our desperation temporarily with many little things. But the deep ache remains at the core of our soul. When the heaven descends in Jesus Christ, all of our littleness will be lifted, our deep yearning will be satisfied, and our soul will be ready to receive our salvation. Only Jesus can satisfy our yearning and set us free to truly live as a citizen of heaven.
November 10: Luke 20:27-38 “The Seven-Time Unlucky Widow” (Remembrance Sunday)
Have you ever had a series of unfortunate and tragic events happened to you? Not just once, twice or three times – but seven times in a row? How would you react? What would you do? How would you go on? I have heard of women who have been divorced 7 times, but never heard of a woman who has lost 7 husbands, all brothers from the same family (Luke 20:27-38). As preposterous as it might sound, and yes, it is a preposterous scenario, however, we know people who have had much tragedies in their life. We don’t hear much about their tragedies, because they bury and go on with their life in silence. Each time they find themselves flat on their face, they pick themselves up and get back in the race. Because, for them, in their own resolve, that’s life. But, when the heaven comes in Jesus Christ, the Seven-Time Unlucky Widow’s story and groan will be heard, and their voiceless existence will be lifted up and restored.
November 17: Isaiah 65:17-25 “The Wolf and the Lamb”
The wolves must hunt and kill to survive. The lambs will be hunted and be killed by wolves. But the lambs will not be wiped away. The wolves will only hunt enough to survive. So, there will always be a few lambs who will survive to give birth to next generations. So, the cycle continues. That is the way of nature and how the wolves and the lambs, the predators and the preys in the nature work. There is no right or wrong in this struggle in the wild kingdom. But often, in our struggle to advance, we have seen our human kingdom degenerated into this savage cycle of hunter and hunted, the struggle between the predators and the preys, the bullies and the victims. Unlike the animal kingdom, however, the human kingdom will not sustain or succeed for too long in this relationship. We are called to reimagine our future world and the advancement of human spices into one of Shalom (Isaiah 65:17-25), and to live out that imagination here and now, where the wolves and the lambs of our world would play together as playmates, not as predators and preys.
November 24: Luke 23:33-43 “The Two Thieves” (Reign of Christ, Stewardship Sunday)
When you are at the end of your life, what would your last words be? There were Two Thieves who met the Savior at the end of their lives, hanging on the cross, one on the right, one on the left of the Savior (Luke 23:33-43). Both men uttered their last words. Both made their last choices. Both received their fates – two radically different: Two Thieves, two different words, two different choices, and two different fates. Every day, we are being confronted to make the last rite, to utter last words. What and how we live our last words everyday will determine our fate, here and later. Some choose to live in hell. Some choose to live in heaven. But, ultimately, the Saviour’s outstretched arms will overcome the harshest and most hatred part of us, and embrace even the hellish people we know.