Diocese of Hong Kong IslandDiocese of Hong Kong Island   Hong Kong Sheng Kung HuiHong Kong Sheng Kung Hui   St. John's Cathedral, Hong KongSt. John's Cathedral, Hong Kong



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Fragmentation into Wholeness

From Fragmentation to Wholeness

Sermon on Christ the King Sunday 2021 at St Stephen’s Stanley

Today is Christ the King Sunday, and our bible readings and hymns are all about the Kingship of Christ. But for a change, I’m not going to speak about the bible readings. I want to talk instead about the study book for Advent written for the Anglican Church of Hong Kong. It looks like a big thick book but you only have to read half of it because it’s bilingual, the first half is in Chinese, and the second half is in English.

The author is a very experienced Roman Catholic priest, Fr Thomas Kwan, and the title is ‘From Fragmentation to Wholeness, in the Realm of Life’. Fr Kwan came and spoke to the HK Anglican clergy last Thursday, and much of what he said resonated with me, and I’d like to pass it on to you, together with some of my own thoughts and questions raised by the book.

Fr Kwan started by telling us that looking back over 50 years of ministry as an ordained priest prompts him to question himself. What sort of believers have I trained? How do we face challenges? What sort of cultures do we create? What is missing?

Notice that the questions quickly change from singular ‘I’ to collective ‘We’, because these questions are not only personal, they are also questions for the Christian community. What sort of culture have I, have We, created at St Stephen’s? The culture of St Stephen’s was mentioned in our Parish Retreat least weekend. St Stephen’s has a strong culture. What are the features of that culture? What makes St Stephen’s what it is? And what’s missing?

One of the things we did on the Retreat was to look at the familiar parable of the Good Samaritan from the perspectives of the different characters: the Samaritan, the priest, the inn-keeper, and the wounded man. It’s very easy for us to think of ourselves as either the Good Samaritan or the priest, deciding whether to stop and help, or pass by on the other side. But there are times when I, when you, are the wounded man who needs help. We don’t always show it, we present a brave face to the world even though we may be hurting inside. Marlon and Elaine came up with a great phrase, very American – an English person would never say it like this: ‘Check up on the strong.’ People may look strong on the outside, but in reality they need help. Do we look out for each other, are we there for each other? Are others there for us when we need it? You don’t have to tell the whole congregation your troubles, but I hope there is someone in the congregation that you feel you can turn to when you need it.

Father Kwan talks about fragmentation in a different context. He saw that in 2019 some faithful Catholics and Christians including clergy started to hate each other because of different political opinions. How could that happen? How could essentially good people hate each other? Is there a limit to the power of our faith? It seems that although we may believe in Christ, yet we follow our own bias. Father Kwan says, ‘If we do not view the world through the perspective of a loving God, we are lost.’

From fragmentation to wholeness. After this exploration of some of the elements of personal and collective fragmentation that we experience, the 3rd chapter of the book is about wholeness and integrity, integrity of body, mind and spirit. Fr Kwan writes about non-dualistic thinking: our world seems to encourage us to think in terms of opposites: right and wrong, good and bad, true and false. We often see things in these binary terms. But in reality the world is not dualistic; it’s not as clear-cut as I’m right, you’re wrong. At seminary, Father Kwan studied church history and learnt about every heresy down the centuries; but his wise teacher taught him that every heresy has an element of truth.

Contemplative living can help us to get around binary thinking, so that instead of seeing the world in terms of judgement and condemnation, we learn to gaze at the world with love and compassion. And so Fr Kwan introduces us briefly to three spiritual traditions that have helped him, and may help us to nurture this contemplative way of thinking: the Benedictine tradition, the Ignatian tradition, and the Franciscan tradition. Each path emphasises different elements of a spiritual life, such as the value of stability; searching for the footsteps of God in the world; an attitude of thankfulness, being able to receive, rather than thinking we are the giver; and a spirit of camaraderie, that sees other people, and indeed all creation, as our brothers and sisters. You need to read the book to get the full introduction.

Jesus went into the wilderness to be silent and alone.

Fr Kwan suggests creating your own wilderness.

Know yourself without a mask; know your true identity.

Cultivate an attitude of thankfulness; and when you pray, let your prayer be not only asking, but thanking.

Like a child, be open to surprises; be innocent, joyful, playful! Regard everything as a learning opportunity.

Do not hold on to obsessions, but learn to let go.

This is our Advent Book, ‘From Fragmentation to Wholeness.’ I’m going to run a course online on Wednesday evenings, starting December 8th, and if you would like to join, you’ll need a copy of the book. I will have copies of the book here next Sunday, or you can buy it from the cathedral bookstore.

Let us pray. Lord God, heal our wounds, and lead each of us from fragmentation to wholeness. Amen.