“Can We Believe in the Resurrection?” sermon by Shiao Chong
Preached on April 19, 2020 for Fellowship CRC, Etobicoke; Text: John 20:1-10, 19-31
Many people today can probably relate to the apostle Thomas when faced with the claim that Jesus rose from the dead. Non-believers they will probably say, “Show me the proof! Show me empirical, scientific, measurable, and something that I can see, touch and know for certain that this is true then I’ll believe it! Otherwise, why should I believe you?” And I don’t blame them. When it is something as miraculous and as far-fetched as the physical, bodily resurrection, I don’t blame anyone if they are skeptical and would like some tangible proof.
And let’s face it – the resurrection of Jesus is something that is difficult to believe. Even the apostles, like Thomas, couldn’t believe it either. Ancient people back then knew as well as we do that dead people don’t come back to life.
So, do we have any proof that Jesus rose from the dead? Or have we been believing a fiction?
Today, I will give some rational reasons that support our belief in the resurrection. We may not have proofs beyond any doubt but we do have good rational reasons to believe in the resurrection. It is not irrational. For the sake of time, I will give you three reasons why I think the resurrection of Jesus was not made-up by the early Christians. Here are my three reasons:
My third teaching video, Helping Those Who Suffer, focus on how, on a personal level, to be alongside people who suffer. I am not dealing here with large-scale questions of how to rid the world of evil and suffering, even though that is an important question to ponder.
But my focus here is narrow, at the level of friends helping friends face adversity or tragedy. Hence, the examples in the video are of that nature.
Below the video is a PDF handout for group discussion.
Helping Those Who Suffer by Shiao Chong
To download an accompanying pdf discussion handouts suitable for a short workshop or a small group, click here: Helping Those Who Suffer
(This was published as a guest editorial in Christian Courier, Jan. 28, 2013 issue, p.4.)
As a young Christian, I grew up with the ever popular mantra that Christianity is not a religion but rather a personal relationship with God. But I am now strongly opposed to this dichotomy. Why?
It’s a False Dichotomy. To say that Christianity is only a relationship and not a religion is like saying marriage is only a relationship and not an institution! It’s simply false. Yes, I understand the desire to get back to the authentic love for God rather than simply religious ritualism. But a marriage based only on a loving relationship without the rings, legalities or blessings of families and friends that mark it a social institution would be called “living in sin”! At least, we used to call it that. It was God’s idea in the Old Testament to set up the priesthood with its offerings and sacrifices, as well as the covenant laws and the ritual of circumcision as more formal (yes, religious) ways of expressing His relationship with Israel. In the New Testament, Jesus came not to abolish these OT Laws or the Prophets but to more deeply fulfill them. (Matt. 5:17) And Jesus also gave us at least two rituals – the Lord’s Supper and Baptism. And the apostle James did not throw out religion but defined what true religion is all about: “to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27)
(This post was originally published as an article in The Banner, Feb, 2010)
Are you a perfectionist? Is your boss one? Perhaps you have a perfectionist parent or sibling? In any case, you probably know that perfectionists can be hard to please.
The pressure to be perfect is hard to escape. We live in a culture that demands, especially at work, things and products to be just right. Some of us, like me, also have perfectionist tendencies. When I try too hard and expect too much of myself—trying to write that perfect sermon or that perfect article—it can really slow me down or even paralyze me from doing what I can.
Perfectionism is a tough critic and master.
And how many of us expect perfection of our local church and/or worship experiences? How many of us expect perfection in our spiritual walk with God? Moreover, how many of us think that God expects perfection from us?
Jesus commands us in Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” That sounds impossible to live up to. What kind of perfection does Jesus expect from us? Are we doomed to failure and frustration?
To answer such questions, let’s first consider what biblical perfection is not. Then, digging deeper, let’s look at the Old Testament view of perfection, followed by the New Testament view and the Matthew text in particular. You may be surprised by what we find.
In our society’s popular mindset, religion and science are at war with each other. Often, people see faith as connected to emotions and values, while science is connected to evidence and truth. And, furthermore, people link religion with theism and science with atheism.
So, what we have in popular mindset is a war between theism, religion, faith and emotions on one hand, and atheism, science, reason and evidence on the other hand, as the table below shows. And science is seen as leading us to truth while religion is only leading us to values, at best or delusions, at worst.
I think this popular mindset is inaccurate. I want to go down these two columns in the table and talk a bit about: 1) Theism and Atheism, 2) Religion and Science, 3) Faith and Reason. In summary, I want to suggest that only theism and atheism are incompatible but religion and science are complementary to each other, and faith and reason are both necessary for us to find truth.
Perhaps we can put this story in better context, my current context, the Deep South. Imagine the Syrophoenician woman as an African-American woman who comes to Jesus, a white male, seeking to be healed. In response, Jesus dehumanizes her, calls her an animal, a female dog, a bitch, even! Maybe he goes further, criticizes her for seeking a medical handout and labels her a welfare queen. He asks her why the good things meant for whites only should be given to the sweet little n*****s.
If those slurs are too harsh, choose a different one: a House Negro, an Uncle Tom, an Oreo. Boy. Dominant, oppressive cultures have a long history of assuaging their own latent guilt with terms of endearment for those they are abusing.
Do these diminutive forms, even when they have been used affectionately by whites, soften the sting of raw racism in the words? Clearly not, and I don’t think Jesus’ diminutive case of “dog” in this text softens the bite of his own racism either.
So what are we to make of this exchange? … This, I think, is the great lesson of the Syrophoenician woman. It teaches us the dynamics of racism, of how even the best of humanity — the Incarnation himself — can get caught up in systems of oppression, in a culture of supremacy. As a good Jew, Jesus would have been reared to give thanks daily that he was born a Jew, not a Gentile, a man and not a woman. Jesus could not help but become entangled by such a sexist and racist snare.
Jesus, given his embedded culture, could not be colorblind. And neither can we.
This created a little stir among my Facebook friends, which was how I was alerted to the article in the first place. Was Jesus racist? My position is that, YES, Jesus was not colorblind (in the way that most people use the term in North America in relation to racism) – Jesus would acknowledge and affirm everyone’s ethnic and cultural backgrounds – God created them as such! BUT Jesus (and God) shows no partiality to any persons or groups or peoples (Deuteronomy 10:17; Luke 20:21).