One Moment in Eden (short sermon for marriage service)

Genesis 2: 5-25
The creation of man and woman
The Bible, in Genesis chapter two, tells us about the destiny of human and also the first marriage between a man and a woman.
Genesis 2:7 says, “Then the Lord formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.”
Man’s body is a lifeless shell out of the dust of the ground, only until God brings it alive with his ‘breath of life.’ Once God removes his life-giving breath, our bodies will return to dust. Therefore, our life and worth come from God. We need to be humble before God.
Then 2: 8-14 say, “Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden in the east, and there he placed the man he had made. The Lord God made all sorts of trees grow up from the ground—trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit. In the middle of the garden he placed the ‘tree of life’ and the ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’. A river flowed from the land of Eden, watering the garden and then dividing into four branches. The garden was also filled with gold, beryllium, and onyx stones.”
Then the Lord God ‘placed’ the man in the Garden of Eden to “rest and be safe” and to fellowship with God. (Gen3:8). So the man, Adam’s responsibility is to worship God, to upkeep Eden, take dominion of creation, by obeying God’s command.
God then instructed the man, the keeper of Eden, “You may freely eat the fruit of every three in the garden; except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” (vv. 16-17)
But at this point in time, Adam did not have someone that is of his kind to interact with and reproduce descendants. Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” (2:18)
God put Adam into a deep sleep and took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. God used that rib to create a woman and brought her to Adam (vv. 21-22).
When Adam saw the woman, he exclaimed, “At last I found her! She is created from the bone of my bones and from the flesh of my flesh. She shall be called ‘woman’, because she was taken from ‘man’ ” (v. 23).
God could have made Eve from the dust of the ground. However, he chose to make her from the man’s flesh and bone. In so doing, he illustrated for us that in marriage man and woman symbolically are to be united into one.
And they are equal in terms of substance and status. She was not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.
Wherever the man has a shortfall, the woman is able to help him. The man cannot fulfil his created purpose alone. The two complement each other.
Finally, in 2:24, God established the institution of marriage by declaring: “A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” 
Marriage between a man and a woman is not just a human social construct but is rooted in the God created order. Marriage forms a physical and emotional bond. The relationship between husband and wife is the most intimate relationship that is ordained by God.
2:25 say, “At that time, the husband and wife were both naked but they felt no shame.”
This indicates that the couple was completely open to each other. They have a mutual trust for each other. There is nothing that comes in between the two of them. They do not put up their guards against each other.
So let’s sum up conclusion one:
God’s entire purpose of creation is to bless human beings so that they will live happily and blissfully on earth. Human beings are also to represent God, to govern the earth for the benefit of all creatures.
However, as the creation story develops, Adam and Eve did not manage Eden properly. Instead they fall for the serpent’s temptation and ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil represents a human desire for autonomy and wisdom that belong to God’s alone.
Choosing human wisdom over God’s instruction brings death and destruction. Human’s close relationship with God was broken. They were expelled from the Garden of Eden. They lost the blessings that were there in the beginning. They suffered ‘spiritual death’ and ultimately also suffered physical death.
Because of the sins of humankind, the world descends into painful abyss: death becomes reality; violence and struggles abound; war and killing abound; the relationship between men and women and all human relationships is filled with tension; we witness environmental harm caused by unsustainable development; personal interests and lust for power leads to political persecutions, corruption, and injustice.
However, God according to his salvation plan sent His own Son, Jesus to become a human being and dwell among us. Jesus overcame the temptation of the devil, reversing Adam’s failure; Jesus bled and died on the cross to redeem the world and sinners. And Jesus resurrected from the dead so that those who believe in Him will have a new life.
If we confess with our mouths and believing in our hearts that Jesus is the Lord of our lives. He will forgive our sins. And bless us with life abundantly.
So, let’s sum up conclusion two:
Just as the first marriage took place in Eden, every Christ-centred family is a re-establishment of Eden. In this family – new Eden, which has Jesus Christ as the head, husband and wife will receive from God, the blessing of ‘rest and safety, and multiply” to have dominion over God’s creation.
May God’s gracious presence bless and uphold these marriages; fill their marriages and lives with truth and cover them with blessing. 


这种三文治的结构,『婴孩与瞎子乞丐』紧扣着『富有的官长』在中间,乃是突出神国子民的特质,就是『抓住上帝』、『放下自我』, 还有『跟从耶稣和颂赞神』!
耶稣应许神国的子民:『我实在告诉你们,谁为神的国撇下房子、妻子、兄弟、父母、儿女,没有不在今生得到许多倍,在来世the age to come得到永生的。』(29-30节)
耶稣表示就在现今时代,神国的新时代the age to come已经开启了!所有跟从耶稣的人,应该当舍弃旧有的价值观,以崭新的神国价值观来建造一个团契生活。这个群体里头有新的家,新的家庭成员,彼此互爱互助,无私的生活,共享新的机遇。






Genesis 37:1-28;
Joseph the Dreamer
We will first examine the life of Joseph from the perspective of “dreaming” in Genesis 37:1-28. Joseph was a dreamer! And then we will conclude Joseph’s life in Genesis 45:1-15, with the perspective of “mission”. He was also a man of mission.
Joseph had two dreams. In the first dream, Joseph and his brothers were binding sheaves in the field. His sheaf stood in the middle while his brothers’ sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to his sheaf.
The second dream was even more fascinating. The sun, the moon, and eleven stars bowed down to him.
The two dreams indicated that, in the future, Joseph would be lifted up high and he would govern his brothers. In fact, his whole family would bow down to him. He had two dreams of similar nature, implies that, one day, they will certainly come true.
Joseph was young and inexperienced. He was also his father’s favorite son. As a high-spirited young man, he naturally told his brothers his dreams without reservation. Joseph’s innocence ironically deepened his brothers’ jealousy and hatred towards him.
Genesis 37 records that, one day, Joseph’s brothers went to pasture their fathers’ flocks at Shechem. Joseph went to Shechem from home to visit his brothers to check if they were fine.
When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming, they recognized him in the distance. As he approached, they made plans to kill him. They said, “Here comes the dreamer!” But Reuben said, “Let’s not kill him. Why should we shed any blood? Let’s just throw him into this empty pit here in the wilderness. Then he’ll die without our laying a hand on him.”
So when Joseph arrived, his brother ripped off the beautiful robe he was wearing. Then they grabbed him and threw him into the pit. They later sat down to eat.
They looked up and saw a caravan of camels in the distance coming toward them. It was a group of Ishmaelite traders taking a load of gum, balm and aromatic resin from Gilead down to Egypt.
Judah said, “Instead of hurting him, let’s sell him to those Ishmaelite traders. After all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood. So Joseph’s brothers pulled him out of the pit and sold him to the traders. And the traders took Joseph to Egypt to be sold in the slave market.
The brothers thought they had once for all gotten rid of Joseph. They killed a young goat and dipped Joseph’s robe in its blood. They sent the beautiful robe to their father with his message: “Look at what we found. Doesn’t this robe belong to your son?”
Jacob recognized it immediately, “Yes,” he said, “It is my son’s robe. A wild animal must have eaten him. Joseph has clearly been torn to pieces. Then he mourned deeply for his son for a long time.
Let’s ponder here: what are the general characteristics of “dreamer”, like Joseph?
First of all, a dreamer stands head and shoulder above others.
As the beneficiary of his father’s favoritism, Joseph was given a robe of many colors (37:3). This, of course, resulted in his brothers being jealous of him. A person who wore a robe was not suited for manual labor. This indicates that Joseph was not required to work with his brothers. Rather, he was to supervise them from the sidelines and to report his brothers’ shortcomings to their father (37:2).
So Joseph was an outlier. His brothers were jealous of him and so they plotted against him.
Secondly, a dreamer is a visionary person.
He foresees and creates the future. If we want to be faithful and forthright servants of God, to some extent, we need to be those who dare to dream or visionary people. Such people are forward-looking and can see the opportunities and threats that lie ahead. Such forward-looking ability creates in them sharp acumen and initiative to work hard and innovate. They will create the future and make dreams come true.
Due to his or her forward-looking demeanor and creativity, a dreamer gives others the impression that he is domineering. And people generally hope to be able to dominate others and not to be dominated by others. As a result, a dreamer may bring a rebound in the lives of others.
Joseph’s dreams foretold that one day his brothers would submit to him and be governed by him, had resulted in his brothers’ brutal attack.
Dare to Be a Dreamer
Joseph’s misfortune warns us to be vigilant. As people with dreams, it is inevitable that we will face difficulties and attacks. In spite of that, we must dare to be a dream. We must not give up “dreaming” just because we hit a snag or someone sneered at us.
Throughout history, the great men and women were all dreamers. What were their most cherished and blessed moments? If we were to ask Joseph, he would say, “Being thrown into a pit by my brothers and left there to die!”
Today, if we are in a predicament that is akin to Joseph’s pit, do not forget that this pit will become our stepping stone to blessedness. Just as God preserved Joseph throughout his life, God will come to our aid too. Joseph’s fall into the pit became the opportunity for him to climb up the ranks to become the Prime Minister of Egypt.
Through means that are inconceivable to human beings, God can bring the good out of the evil. From Joseph’s persecution to his exaltation, we can see that the whole process was punctuated by a series of “coincidences.” This highlights to us God’s sovereignty and preservation behind-the-scenes.
At first, Joseph could not find his brothers. Had the story stopped here, Joseph would have escaped a very close call. However, he encountered a man at Shechem who directed him to his brothers (37:15-17). Then, Joseph was nearly murdered but he escaped death through the proposals of Reuben and Judah.
The appearance of the Ishmaelite traders was not by chance either. Joseph was ultimately sold to the Egyptians and through the various twists and turns in Egypt, he emerged as the Prime Minister. God was able to transform into good the evil plot of Joseph’s brothers to accomplish His good purpose.
Today, God is able to preserve us as we journey through our struggles. He guides us and strengthens us.  He helps us overcome all the obstacles, difficulties, and persecutions so that we may stand up again and press on!
As long as we persevere in our dreams and are patient and hardworking, one day our dreams will come true! The fact is that victory and truth belongs ultimately to those who dare to dream.
There is a Mission for the Dreamer
Joseph was sold into Egypt at the age of seventeen. Thirteen years later, his brothers came to Egypt to buy grain because the land of Canaan was experiencing severe drought and famine.
In Egypt, the brothers bowed down before Joseph. At that time, the thirty-year-old Joseph was the Prime Minister of Egypt who was responsible for the distribution of food to the victims of the famine. Joseph recognized his brothers but they could not recognize him for he was dressed like an Egyptian.
At first Joseph played several rounds of cat-and-mouse with his brothers but eventually he reconciled with them in a tearful episode. His first words of reconciliation to his brothers were, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt” (45:4). Obviously, Joseph did not forget the painful experience of the past.
Yet Joseph’s life was not imprisoned by the bitter memories of the past. He pointed out repeatedly that, “God sent me before you” (45:5, 7), and, “So it was not you who sent me here, but God” (45:8).
In other words, Joseph recognized that the events that happened in the first part of his life, including his dreams, were all according to God’s sending. Joseph did not divide his thirty years of existence into two halves – the happy and dreamy juvenile years by God’s grace and the latter thirteen years of dark and difficult years in the hands of his brothers. Perhaps we may consider our lives in this manner but that is not how Joseph saw his own life.
From Joseph’s perspective, God’s sending began from rosy, jolly, dreamy days in his father’s house all through to his brothers’ betrayal.  God’s sending extended from him, being brought into Egypt by the Ishmaelites to, from the slave market, entering into Potiphar’s house. God’s sending included the slanderous charges made by Potiphar’s wife and making acquaintance with Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer. Finally, God’s sending involved him interpreting Pharaoh’s dream and being elevated to the position of Prime Minister.
Joseph knew that these events were all part of God’s plan to send him to Egypt. They cannot be segmented into stand-alone episodes. More importantly, Joseph was clear that God sent him to Egypt to preserve the lives of his family members. Yes, the very lives of his brothers who sold him into Egypt. He realized his dreams and more importantly he lived out the mission of his life.
Today, God has chosen us out of all the people in the world while we were still sinners. It is absolutely not an accident that today we can grow in Christ and receive so much blessing from God, having had our dreams come true! This is all God’s plan. God has a plan for each and every one of us. So we must always have in mind our God-given mission to live out His plan for us.
At the age of seventeen, God sent Joseph from Canaan to Egypt without giving him any explanation or seeking his consent. He did not have a choice. But at the age of thirty, Joseph’s dreams came true. And more importantly, he had a choice to either accept or reject God’s mission for him. He could either forgive his brothers or exact revenge on them. What did Joseph choose?
Joseph did not smooth over his brothers’ fault. He said, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (50:20). The word “good” harkens back to the beginning of the book of Genesis, where God deemed His creation to be “good” (Gen 1:10, 12, 18, 25, 31).
After experiencing the highs and the lows of life, the days of comfort and of trouble, the times of joy and of sorrow, the long time ago dreams came true, Joseph had God’s mission for his life in mind. He was also grateful to God because he saw that he could become a channel of blessing for his family and human society. More importantly, he was able to fulfill God’s plan for his life.
From non-believers to having faith in Christ; in Christ we have grown in many aspects and dreams came true. These advancements are not just for our own good, blessing, and joy. It is all about God’s plan. God chose us to be His children and gave to us the mission of accomplishing His plan.
Let us seek instruction from the Lord, obey His leading, and consecrate our whole lives unto God. Let us now resolve to participate in God’s plan, God’s will, and fulfill our God-given mission, whether in season or out of season, in times of refreshing or in times of shortages, so that we may be worthy servants of God.

Only through such commitment and mission-mindedness can we live a life that is being sanctified from the world, set apart for God’s use. This life although is rather short in years, but will be visionary, meaningful and wholesome!





Sitting at the Feet of Jesus

Luke 10:38-42
Mary Sitting 
at the Feet of Jesus
Jesus and his disciples arrived at Bethany, a village near Jerusalem, where Martha, Mary and Lazarus lived. They were good friends of Jesus and they welcomed these preachers of the Word warmly into their house.
Martha was busy with food preparation as she desired to serve the needs of others. She felt frustrated and she approached Jesus with her complain, “Mary is just sitting there listening to your words. Why don’t you bother about this? Tell her to help me, please!
How then did Jesus reply?
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Jesus corrected Martha for being too occupied with her table serving, for she was worried and upset about many things. He commended Mary for making the right choice to sit under His feet and to listen to His teaching.
Jesus said this to teach those who offer their hospitality to ministers of God, that they ought to differentiate between what is urgent and important, and what is not. Jesus emphasized that the ultimate purpose of fellowship for believers should focus on God and His Word. God’s Word must be preached and heard. This is a good model of fellowship and ministry for the community of faith.
There Must Be 
a Balance between 
Busy Serving and Listening to God’s Word
Martha said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” (v.40b)
Martha made “I” as her prime concern in her conversation with Jesus. She did not put her focus on the Lord Jesus Christ. Though Martha had addressed Jesus as her Lord, somehow, she still murmured over His failure in meeting her needs. Instead of listening to Jesus, Martha commanded Jesus to do and say as she wished.
Jesus reminded Martha that a prophet had come to her house with the Word of God. The primary focus of the host should then be attending to and serving the prophet by listening to His words and not to be busy with her house chores. God desires us to receive Him by drawing near to Him and by listening to His Word attentively, just like how Mary did by sitting at the feet of Jesus.
In the context of the Gospel of Luke, ‘sitting at one’s feet’ means submitting to one’s authority. God wants to bless those who receive Him by sitting at His feet. Jesus diverted their focus from serving, as a community lifestyle, to receiving the grace of God.
Martha liked to serve while Mary loved to listen and ponder upon the Word of God. Both of them were Jesus’ disciples, and they loved Jesus dearly. However, those who are occupied with ministering and serving must guard themselves well, so that they do not ignore the importance of feeding themselves with the Word of God or drawing near to Him.
Sometimes, a conspicuous ministry which draws attention as well as applauses from the crowd tends to draw us away from God too. We end up neglecting God and we refuse to think in line with His Word. In such situations, whatever we do become self-serving rather than serving God and His Word. Worse still, we overlook God’s sovereignty above all.
There are issues which can be settled later in the midst of our busy schedule. There is a time for ministry and there is a time for us to listen to the Word of God. We must balance our serving with listening, meditating and getting deeper into the Word of God. We need to guard ourselves against the possibility of missing out the abundant grace that God has in store for us. It is because we usually sacrifice our personal times with God and forget to rely on Him fully when we are too occupied with our work.
Men and women in the business world enrol themselves in MBA courses so that they can advance their career. For us who serve God, there is a need for us to constantly quiet our hearts before God in order to listen, meditate and learn the Word to be equipped further in His truth.
We will experience burnt out situations quickly in our spiritual walk and come to our bottleneck if we focus merely on our ministries and lack in listening, learning and studying the Word of God. God is not pleased with such a serving model.
Why not Examine 
Own Self First?
The narrator projected Martha as someone who was over-concerned for others. She questioned Mary’s priority in life, and she expected Mary to flow in line with her ideal way of serving. She complaint to Jesus about Mary, and asked Him to uphold justice by commanding Mary to rise and give her a hand.
Nevertheless, Jesus pointed out Martha indeed was at fault. She was worried and upset about many things. Hence, she was unable to concentrate on listening to the Word of the Lord, and was distracted in her worship as well.
Jesus once shared a parable of seeds sowing. When seeds are sowed among thorns which stand for worries and anxieties of this life, the growth and fruits-bearing are halted (8:14). Jesus also warned His disciples to get rid of worrying about what to eat and what to wear on earth. All the worries of this life become a barrier to men when they want to focus on seeking God’s kingdom (12:22; 21:34).
Jesus knew Martha intended to do everything in order to serve Him, but she did not receive Him nor listen to Him wholeheartedly. God was not at the centre of her life. In view of this, what made Martha different from Mary was not because she was busy with work while Mary was sitting there listening to Jesus. The distinction was about Martha’s distraction and Mary’s concentration.
Jesus said whoever obeyed His Word were truly His servants and whoever followed Him wholeheartedly would inherit the kingdom of God. Therefore, Mary had the right attitude whereas Martha was to change her response to God.
We might be concerned about criticizing others without considering our own deeds. What have we done for God? Do we do the right thing? Why do we do it?
Martha was called to serve the table, yet she also spent most of her energy criticizing others. There are people who do so little in church but are enthusiastic in airing their opinions and being critical and judgmental towards those who serve. They do not realize that they are indeed wrong while others might be doing the right things. A community will not be effective if too much time is spent by people scrutinizing and judging one another.
People who only bother to look outwardly but unwilling to look within themselves are inclined to see a world full with injustice and ugliness. They will automatically see themselves victimized. They complaint, “Why should I keep my hands clean when everybody does evil?”
They raise more and more questions and they start rationalizing their faults. They end up deceiving themselves to be the righteous ones, so that their conscience will not be troubled.
We should be aggressive in our self-reflection and be willing to be responsible for our actions. We have to be strict in self-discipline while be lenient to others.
What are you complaining now?
Do you feel that you have lost your peace and your joy, and you are defiant and everything seems to be loathsome in your eyes?
What you need to do is to sit down and do a self-searching. You might have a wrong expectation of others or you might have an attitude problem of over-concerning about others’ businesses. Let’s get our emotion right and do our part faithfully. By so doing, you will be a happier man or woman on earth!
Do Silly Things for Jesus
In the ancient society where Jesus lived, people expected women to play the role and responsibility of serving their guests and making them feel at home. Martha’s complaint seemed to be reasonable under the expectation of such a culture. What Mary did, signified a breakthrough in their tradition – to sit down and to listen to Jesus. Jewish women had no right to access to proper education.
Yet, Mary loved the Lord and she hungered for Him. She set her heart to want to hear the Word of the prophet as a way of receiving Him personally. She owned no significant ministry, yet she was blessed to take her bold step to break free from the bondage of Jewish tradition, and became then a silent witness for Christ.
Martha was trapped in the bondage of tradition where people thought that women were supposed to occupy themselves in serving others.
Jesus did not completely deny her worries and upset, but He considered Mary’s desire for His Word and the fact that she did listen to Him attentively, to be something better (v. 42). It was something that could not be taken away by their social value and expectation.
Indirectly, Jesus set women free from their role which was defined and confined by their culture. He enabled the role and position of the women to be enhanced.
The power of the Gospel breaks every boundary! Those who hunger for God and those who love God must break free from fear of being demeaned and doubted in order to accomplish a new thing for the Lord. The Holy Spirit shall give us grace and strength as we move a step forward.
Do you experience any breakthrough in your journey of faith this day? Have you ever done something for Jesus out of expectation of others, something that is silly? What is the most important thing in your life you feel worthwhile to invest your time and money?
May God, grant you wisdom to make a right choice.