Reconciliation in 3-D


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The Door of Reconciliation. Photo taken by dahon, flickr.com, creative commons

Sermon for my ordination service as Commissioned Pastor in the role of Editor of the Banner, at Fellowship CRC, Nov 27, 2016.

Texts: 2 Corinthians 5:17-20; Ephesians 2:13-16; Colossians 1:19-20

In St. Patrick’s Cathedral, in Dublin, Ireland, there is a door hanging on display called the “door of reconciliation”. Legend has it that in 1492, two Irish families (the Butlers of Ormonde and the FitzGeralds of Kildare) were involved in a bitter feud over which family should hold the position of Lord Deputy. This feud became violent with bloodshed between the two families.

When the violence got out of control, the Butlers took refuge in the Chapter House of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. The FitzGeralds followed them into the Cathedral and asked them to come out and make peace. Afraid they would be slaughtered, the Butlers refused.

As a gesture of good faith, the head of the Kildare family, Gerald FitzGerald, ordered that a hole be cut in the door. He then thrust his arm through the door and offered his hand in peace to those on the other side. Of course, that was a huge risk. Because the Butlers could have chosen to cut his arm off. But instead, they shook hands through the hole. The Butlers emerged from the Chapter House and the two families made peace.

Apparently, this is where the British phrase “to chance your arm” gets its meaning: to chance your arm means to take a risk. And that door through which the two families shook hands and made peace is that door of reconciliation on display in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, to this day.

Well, we live in 2016, not in 1492. But I think we live in a world that is in as much need of reconciliation as ever. We live in a deeply divided and polarized world. Even though we interact with different people more than ever – from rubbing shoulders with people who are different at school or at work to interacting with people from across the planet on the internet and social media – so, despite that, we are actually increasingly divided into ideological tribes. People don’t seem to know how to disagree civilly on social media. It’s either you are my friend for agreeing with me, or you are an idiot for disagreeing and I will make sure you know that you are an idiot!

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Success through the Eyes of Faith


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Public Domain via Pixabay

My apologies for not blogging for the last four to five months! Major transitions have happened in my life. It has been pretty busy, not to mention stressful, these past months! I am no longer a campus minister serving at York University, a role I served in for the past 15 years. Since August 2016, I am serving as the Editor in Chief of The Banner, the official magazine of the Christian Reformed Church in North America. Hence, a new chapter has begun in my life of following Jesus and serving his church and the world.

I wish to make it clear here that my transition was more about following Christ’s calling rather than finding greener pastures. This “career move” can easily be made to fit into the world’s narrative of success, as in constantly moving on to bigger and better. But I had always said that I go to (and stay) where I believe God is calling me. Success, in my understanding of Scripture, means, above all, faithfulness to Christ’s call, along with the missional kingdom fruitfulness (which includes, but not exclusive to the fruit of the Spirit, Gal. 5:22-23) born of that. Continue reading

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Finding Unity in a Polarized World


pair-707509_1920 via pixabay

I recently wrote a guest editorial in Christian Courier, an independent Canadian Christian newspaper. I chose to write about biblical starting points towards finding unity in the midst of an increasingly polarized world. Here’s an excerpt from my editorial, “Towards Unity”:

There is no unity without humility. Humility is the first step towards unity and reconciliation because you need to be humble enough to admit that there might be some truth or some goodness in the other party’s position, and that, perhaps, there is the possibility that you might still have some mistaken notion in yours, and that peace and reconciliation for the common good is more important than you having your way. Humility is being willing to lay down your own ambition or pride. It is being willing to not win an argument. It is being willing to not “come out on top.”

You can read the rest here on Christian Courier’s website.

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Cast All Your Anxieties


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My daughter Bethany with her piano awards

(When my daughter Bethany – pictured here – graduated from Grade 8 last year, I was asked to deliver the “Parent’s Speech”. This post was that graduation speech I delivered to my daughter’s graduating Grade 8 class of 2015 for John Knox Christian School, Brampton on June 12, 2015)

 

Text: 1 Peter 5:7-8a

Dear graduating class of 2015,

It is dangerous to ask a pastor, even a campus pastor like myself, to speak. Because you know that I am going to give you a sermon, right? Especially when you give me a bible text! You chose as your class verse, 1 Peter 5:7-8a – “Cast all your anxiety on him because God cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert.” (NIV) My thoughts are drawn to verse 7: “Cast all your anxiety on God because God cares for you.”

Let me begin with a question: “What do the Hunger Games, Divergent, and the Maze Runner have in common?” Ok, besides being best-selling novels aimed at young adults that became movies. “What do the Hunger Games, Divergent, and the Maze Runner have in common?” I think all three have the same basic plot when you boil it down: in the future, the grown-ups have created a mess of the world, often despite their best intentions, and it is up to the youth to rise up and save the world. Does that sound like the basic plot in a nutshell? Is that why these novels are so popular among your generation of youth and young adults? Do they touch a chord or a nerve deep inside each of you? Is that a generational anxiety or fear or worry that your generation feels about the future?

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Faith in a Time of Fear


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Public Domain

(Christmas Day Sermon for Kanata Christian Reformed Church Dec. 25, 2015)

Texts: Isaiah 9:6-7; Luke 2:1-20

Isaiah 9:6-7 (NIV)

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.

Fear in Isaiah’s Judah

Every time I read that passage from Isaiah 9, I can’t help but think of Handel’s Messiah. You know that chorus, right? “For unto us a child is born, unto a son is given, unto us a son is given. For unto us a Child is born ….” And so it goes. And it’s a great song, as is the rest of the Messiah.

And of course, these words, as does the song, express joy, hope and optimism. On their own, out of their context! But when I understood the original context of Isaiah’s words, I see them in a different light. I still see joy and hope but I see them spoken in a context of fear and darkness.

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Becoming a World Changer


My fifth and final teaching video for now, Becoming a World Changer, lists out five major themes for Christians to be a Christ-centred agent of change.

I believe that Christians are called to join in God’s mission to not only “save souls,” so to speak, but also to reconcile “all things” to God, to bring about God’s shalom in the world.

Below the video is a PDF handout for group discussion.

Becoming a World Changer by Shiao Chong

To download an accompanying pdf discussion handouts suitable for a short workshop or a small group, click here: Becoming a World Changer

 

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God’s Big Story and You


My fourth teaching video, God’s Big Story and You, is my attempt at giving a panoramic summary of the Bible’s grand narrative. I am trying to summarize it into a worldview story that can help us make sense of our world, and find meaning and purpose for our lives. And I am using the concept of “shalom” as the lens through which I summarize the bible’s story. May you find it helpful and encouraging.

Below the video is a PDF handout for group discussion.

God’s Big Story and You by Shiao Chong

To download an accompanying pdf discussion handouts suitable for a short workshop or a small group, click here: God’s Big Story and You

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