This week we will hear a message from the Rev. Dr. Daniel Wong, Associate Professor of Christian Ministries (Undergraduate Studies), that has been prepared for our community. The title is “Post-Easter Living in a COVID-19 World”.
Dr. Wong has taught at Tyndale University since 2000. He taught preaching at Tyndale Seminary from 1997 to 2005. He had extensive pastoral experience at the Toronto Chinese Baptist Church in English ministry since 1982, and when the church expanded to two locations in 1986, he pastored at the Scarborough Chinese Baptist Church before assuming his current ministry at Tyndale. In 1986, he was ordained with the Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec (now Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec). Dr. Wong has spoken at many churches and conferences in Canada and the United States. He is a member of the Academy of Homiletics, where he has presented papers. He is also a member of the Evangelical Homiletics Society. Dr. Wong’s research interests include preaching and culture, pastoral theology and practice and Christian spirituality.
Speaker: Rev. Dr. Daniel Wong
Chapel Date: Tuesday April 14, 2020
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Dr. Daniel Wong: Hello Tyndale community. Today is two days after Easter Sunday. Easter Sunday was called the most uncommon Easter of our time by Dan Ryland and the first digital Easter in history by Carey Nieuwhof. Most of us worshiped online instead of gathering and houses of worship. We are now adjusting to this new normal. At Tyndale our instructors exited the four walls of the classroom and taught classes online. Many like myself teaching online for the first time. Students took classes online and many staff worked from home. Kevin Livingston spoke about anxiety and worry with our current COVID–19 situation. What word or phrase would you describe how you’re feeling, maybe you could use an emoji. My Word is adjusting. Frankly, I have not taught or taken an online course. Unlike many of you, for many of us is hard. working from home, loss of job, restriction and movements
Our Tyndale President, Dr. Gary Nelson, wrote Leading in Disorienting Times, Navigating Church and Organizational Change, in 2015. And that’s an apt description isn’t it — disorienting times. The apostle Paul also lived in disorienting times. He wrote to a church that was pulled by Gnosticism that teaching that denied Jesus rose from the dead. In Colossians, he addresses this teaching and our focus of Scripture is from Colossians three, one to four and I’ll read it in the New International Version.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your[a] life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. [Colossians 3:1–4 NIV]
Here we see that there is a past, a present and future aspects of the teaching. The apostle Paul, it’s us remember when we used to take the ferry over to Centre Island. And if you were on the boat, you could look behind you, and see as you were heading over to Centre Island, the CN Tower that was quite high in the sky. You could see the Roger Centre where the Blue Jays played, and you could see the skyline. That’s the past behind you. You could look around you and see the people, the children, those that are bringing the picnic baskets and things over to the island. Alongside of you could be those seagulls that are following that boat across the water. And then your goal or destination the future on the other side, where you would have on Center Island those activities that you can be involved in. And so the Apostle Paul as well, he looks at the believers in relationship to Christ, our past, our present, and our future. Our past, we are dead and resurrected with Christ. In the book of Colossians, he focuses on the supremacy of Christ, and also this aspect that Christ is above all and so no wonder he talks about this resurrection aspect that we celebrate at this time of Easter. Looking at our past, that we have died, and we have resurrected with Christ.
In some of our traditions like my own, we have baptism by immersion and that means that we bring the candidate into the water, and they go completely under the water, and then they are brought out — I haven’t lost anybody yet — but that aspect and I make sure that they go completely under the water as they are going through these waters of baptism. And what does that represent that Christ, we died with Christ and we were buried, and as we come out we are resurrected with Christ. And so this is the aspect of who we are. In this passage, it’s a focus on the aspect of we have died and been resurrected with Christ. It’s in the past in history. But as we have died, as Christ has died, we have died with him and they call this the coal crucifixion and also we call this the co-resurrection with Christ.
Follow this carefully what I’ve heard, if your great grandfather had died when he was three years old, where would you be? You would have died with him, not been born, your experience is bound up with him. And in the same way when Christ died, we died with him. We often memorize Galatians 2:20 I’m crucified with Christ and then there’s no longer I who live but Christ who lives with me in me, and the life that I now live in the flesh. I live by faith and the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Yes, we are bound up in Christ. But it doesn’t mean that our life ends, just like Christ.
He died. We consider that the Good Friday message in the tomb, that Holy Saturday, and then that Resurrection Sunday when he arose. And this is the aspect that’s talked about in a number of passages like Romans six, where we have died and resurrected with Christ. Remember, Romans seven that talks about the struggle that each of us face in relationship with our own selves, our own struggles? Is that the believers life, or Paul’s pre conversion life? Well, certainly there are aspects of both those aren’t there. But we know that the struggle in the eye is prominent in chapter seven before he gets to chapter eight, in which he set free in relationship to living in the life of the resurrection and the Holy Spirit’s active involvement. And so we see that we have died and we have been resurrected with Christ.
Now, when we think about the past, that’s not always so pleasant. I don’t know about you, but during this time of isolation, quarantine, it’s difficult. I often encourage my students and ask and warn the students that when you’re alone, or you’re exploring your spirituality, it’s going into the deeper life. It’s exploring a bit of our past and who we are. It’s the inward aspects. And that’s hard, isn’t it? When you see yourself that closely in the mirror, you see all the blemishes, you see all the sins and the struggles that you have. That’s important that you are struggling that you are developing this aspect of, of working through a number of different things. Many people today have been working through a book called life together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Interestingly enough, it’s a focus on community, which is his first chapter. But in chapter two, he talks about life together, this aspect of, time with others. And that’s community, isn’t it? Whether it’s a virtual online community, or physical the community like we used to have in church or fellowship groups.
But what we’re looking at is not only experiencing community, and that’s important, but as next chapter is that time alone, not only time with others, but time alone, and that’s personal reflection, that solitude, that is helping us to understand ourselves in relationship to Christ. But experiencing this, this new life, so many of us have been forced to slow down, to come face to face with ourselves and with God, often confined by four walls of a house or apartment. I’m more of an extrovert and it’s difficult to be confined at home. I can get out for individually or with my wife or sometimes two to go out but it is difficult, you don’t have those same activities, particularly with people with my students with church people., but it’s important it’s to reflect on our past and Who we are particularly in Christ. Now we seem to have more time to get into the scriptures and pray and, and reflect a lot more and that’s important. And so that is our past, that we have a life that is, we are crucified, and we are resurrected with Christ more of a past but it’s also relationship to our position.
Then in the present, our present is heavenly living on Earth. The aspect that we died and we’re resurrected with Christ, but we struggled to live out our Christian life, we faced temptations, or attempted to cheat on our exam. We get angry when we get cut off we see cars in somebody else’s driveway and we shamed them. And we have difficulty practicing this social distance what somebody called to be a hockey stick apart — I like that Canadian analogy. And so it is a struggle and it’s good that we struggle, isn’t it? But the emphasis here is to set your hearts on things above, not on the earthly things. That literally it means to seek. Like Matthew 6:33 that we seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness. The emphasis on setting our hearts, setting our attention our mind, on things above, not on things on the earth. Of course things on the earth are important. Aren’t we surprised how things became more important? Before it was the cell phone it might have been the new car or, or the something else that was so important to us. But what’s important now it’s like toilet paper, and other items like milk and eggs and other things we are getting to the heart of things, aren’t we, as we think about what is important, and that’s important to think through what is important for our lives at this time, what are the necessities of life that we need, and that are important to us relationships, connecting through zoom, and with other means, and yet it is hard. A few people were telling me that they were on three zoom calls that day, it’s tiring. Someone else said that. I’m tired of looking at my own face, and hearing my own voice on all of these calls. That’s important to you to think through of the things that we’re going through the things that we’re adjusting in this quote—unquote, new normal. But we’re called upon to start thinking in a different way to start thinking more creatively. People are looking at, you know, home baking, and activities for children at home — amazing.
My granddaughter baked Fruit Loops, cupcakes at home. No, they didn’t put the Fruit Loops on the top of the cupcake. They baked it in the cupcake, I’ve never seen that before, or heard of that before when I saw the pictures. This is some new creativity that we’re having. But we’re thinking out of the box. We’re thinking new ways of doing things. Churches and pastors are thrust online and thinking about how do we communicate connect with others, so important — that we can’t depend on those old methods. The tried and the true, were thrown for a loop.
But we’re looking for God aren’t we? We’re depending upon God on what is God’s direction as opposed to our own direction and it is good, it causes us to be more dependent on the Lord, to be looking up to the Lord for wisdom, and guidance and strength. Following our passage, the apostle Paul talks about taking off the old and putting on the new to dispense with those vices and to attain more of the virtues of our spiritual life. Just like when a person has their clothing that is soiled or they think that there might be a virus on it, they dispense of those, they put them into the washer. They try to get things taken care of.
Have you ever played paintball before? I’ve done that with some of our students. That is a challenge, you get completely covered with paint residue. And you don’t bring that into the house. You have to dispense with those garments. Get them into the washer and put on the new garments. And the Apostle Paul loves that analogy of taking off and putting on the old life and putting on the new life. Frankly, during this difficult time, it brings out the best and the worst of people. The worst in terms of people that are speeding because there’s less traffic on the highway. Maybe getting more tense with other people and testy. On the other hand, there’s been some wonderful stories of people that are helping out others, checking in on others, sharing online, some of their good stories and some of the things that the products that they have with others. There are many goods, wonderful stories and we as believers need to be part of those stories of sharing the good news of Christ, the good news of what Christ can do and how we can be empowered to assist others in their needs, at all times were called upon to be those type of people. But I do see that we need to put off and we need to put on those good aspects of our life.
And then we need to also look to our future our life with Christ. This passage encourages us when Christ who is our life appears, then we will also appear with Him in glory, a wonderful expectation of the future. I think all of us are looking for the at the future. We’re looking for the time that we’ll be out of quarantine, when things will be back to normal, but it’ll be again a new normal. But we’re preparing for the future. We’re thinking about places we want to travel where we want to look up those restaurants and we’d love to sit down and eat. We’re preparing for with people we want to see. I know of weddings that have been postponed and other plans that are being made or our students that want to experience a graduation ceremony. So many things that we want to look forward to, but it’s coming. That’s the hope we have based on the resurrection, but based on the hope that we have in Christ, that we can look up and look toward the Lord. So that we keep looking up, that’s the aspect. We miss our Tyndale chapel, don’t we? But every time I walk into the chapel, you’ll look up. It’s unlike some of the churches today which look more like warehouses and very practical, but our chapel with all of its history, you look up. You look to the front and it’s, it may be a worship team. It may be a preacher, but they look very small in relationship to the height of our chapel. It’s important to have that aspect that we look up to the Lord in relationship to our life, and the Lord’s coming in the future. That’s something to look forward to, like our chapel causing us to look up
Morning, a couple of mornings ago, I was up early, looking to see whether there would be a wonderful sunset. But as I looked up into the sky, there was the moon. It wasn’t a completely full moon. It was actually a little bit distorted. It seemed like but you know what it reminded me of it reminded me look like an egg, and you could see that on my social media, under Daniel L Wong, about that picture of the moon that I just took with a handheld camera, and shot.
If I didn’t look up, I wouldn’t have experienced that beautiful picture. You know what it’s like we’re kind of looking down around us where we have anxiety. We have worries about the things that are going on around us. We got to stay distant from other people, so that you were not infected. Those are all important things, looking down that we don’t step on something we don’t. We’re looking around. But I encourage us to continue to look up to the Lord, that we live out this resurrection life, every single day. Putting aside those evil practices that we’re tempted to fall into, we’re drawing from God’s strength and the strength of the Holy Spirit, to be able to live with the virtues of life, as you look into the latter part of Colossians. It’s a wonderful day. It’s a post Resurrection Day that we can live because Christ lives, we can live.
And I encourage you again that we do some personal reflection. It’s hard going inward, but come out with the love and the grace of God. Experience the Lord, the living Lord. And as we move forward through this time, of pandemic of COVID–19, we have hope. We have hope with based on the resurrection of Christ, based on the Lord’s coming soon for us, and we live out our life in relationships with others, family, neighbours, classmates, colleagues, remember those that are outside of the church body, a faithful life, a life that is led by God. Thank you very much.
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