This is a Palm Sunday sermon I delivered (in digitally pre-recorded slideshow video) for Fellowship Christian Reformed Church, Etobicoke, ON on April 5, 2020 during the COVID-19 global pandemic. Video is above, text is below.
Texts: Matt. 21:1-11; Zechariah 9:9-10; John 14:27
This Sunday is Palm Sunday. And we have often read our Matthew 21 passage during Palm Sunday to remember and celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem that marks, what we call, Holy Week, leading up to Good Friday and Easter.
Now, have you ever thought to yourself, “Why the donkey?” Why not a horse? When you think of a donkey, the first attributes that might come to mind are stubborn, or dumb, or even silly looking. You are probably not thinking of words like, beautiful or majestic. Those are adjectives more likely linked to horses rather than donkeys.
Therefore, it may surprise you – well, it surprised me at least – that a donkey in ancient times and in the Bible was a symbol of kingship and peace. A donkey was a staple of ancient Near Eastern royal ceremonies. For example, if you read in the Bible’s Old Testament 1 Kings 1:33-44, you will find there that Solomon rode on his father David’s mule to Gihon to be anointed king. There’s a connection there between kingship and the donkey or mule. Other non-Israelite or non-biblical ancient texts of the time also spoke of kings riding on donkeys for ceremonial entries or parades into cities. Donkeys, in the ancient eastern world, were symbols of royalty.
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
(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.
This is an edited excerpt from my previously published article, “Racism, Revelation and Recipes: Towards Christian Inter-Cultural Communities” (Christian Educator’s Journal, April 2008). It lays out a biblical-theological perspective on ethnic diversity and racism. I regard this as still a work-in-progress.
A Biblical-Theological Perspective on Diversity & Racism
1. Diversity, in and of itself, is a God-created good that reflects the unity (oneness) and diversity (three-ness) of the Triune God.
On my family vacation last summer, we visited Avonlea Village of Green of Gables in Prince Edward Island. My girls loved Anne of Green Gables, and so we knew that we had to insert it into our trip to the Canadian East Coast. It was a fun day at Avonlea. What fascinated me was how the actors stayed in character throughout. When we got there first thing in the morning, we met Anne Shirley waiting at the “train station” for Matthew Cuthbert to pick her up. And my second daughter was very soon getting teased by Charlie Sloane, the village brat. The Charlie Sloane actor probably worked the hardest in keeping character all day long – teasing tourists, menacing the other characters, as this video shows. Although there were times in the day where they played out famous scenes from the novel, the actors improvised in their interactions with the visitors. They had to be creative but consistent with their characters and the plot of the novel. I find this to be a good analogy to how Christians need to live out of the Bible’s authority.
I ended my last post by making the point that Scripture is not authoritative on everything but only on matters of salvation and church beliefs and practices. This might give the impression that I am suggesting that Scripture is irrelevant to everyday life and to learning. That is not the case. Just because the Bible is not an authority or a textbook on science, history or other matters, does not mean that it cannot speak or inform those areas at all. An old article by Sidney Greidanus, “The Use of the Bible in Christian Scholarship” (Christian Scholar’s Review 1982, Vol. XI. No. 2) provides some helpful guidelines. In adapting Greidanus’ points, I will use three metaphors to help us see the three visions for how Scripture relates to life.