Reflections on Albert Hung’s Sermon “The Sinner’s Friend”
By Juan Zung
Sometimes being right isn’t really the point. Sometimes being right isn’t even right.
In the case of gay rights, the fight is already over. Americans, ever devoted to the principles of freedom and opportunity, have reached a tipping point. Larger systems will take time to work out the details. But we see, in pure numbers, even among evangelical and conservative young people, the change has already happened. People accept that LGBT Americans deserve the same rights as straight ones.  This, I believe, is the right position.
The problem, and it’s a big problem, is that a lot of people that we still love still aren’t there yet, and might never get there. They still hold what many of us consider to be wrong and bigoted ideas.
I’m actually lucky. My parents have a “live-and-let-live” approach to other peoples’ love lives. They’d never interfere with who’s marrying who. It’s not a moral position, but, as they’ve told me, they just don’t want to be responsible for someone else’s future.
But other folks, like my spouse, have overtly anti-gay activist parents. Parents that lament her pro-gay positions and have engaged her in emotional debates on the politics, theology and morality of homosexuality. It’s easy for me to just write them off.
By Albert Hung
Not a week goes by without a friend sharing some kind of personal struggle with me. Some are struggling with terminal illnesses. Others are going through painful divorces. Some are battling demons from their past. Others are facing them in the present. Stories of betrayal, abuse, failed relationships, deep-seated anger, identity crisis – over my ten years in pastoral ministry, I’ve been entrusted with many secrets.
I’ve learned two things about pain:
- Everybody hurts.
- Christians are notoriously bad at helping hurting people.
By Juan Zung
Last Sunday, Pastor Albert preached about “Vision Sunday!” A vision where church is a party. Where church is fun!
But what exactly is a fun church?
And how does one make a church fun?
Big questions. I don’t have the answers. But I googled it. And found some interesting stuff.
By Albert Hung
Tony Reinke posted a blog recently that caught my attention called Why We Click Stupid Links.
So I clicked it.
By Albert Hung
I’m having what you’d call a crisis of faith.
Yesterday, our church family embarked on a 21 day period of fasting and prayer. This has become an annual ritual for us at the start of each New Year. The Christian life is a life of self-denial. We are defined not only by what we do, but by what we choose not to do. When we say “yes” to some things, we must by necessity say “no” to other things. The discipline of fasting is a practical means by which we hone our ability to say “no,” and invite God to recalibrate our hearts and refresh our spirits.
This year, I’ve chosen to fast from media and merchandise – no non-work related internet usage, television, or other media, and no non-essential spending. As a result, it’s been quieter around the house. Less noise from the world. More time to be alone with my thoughts. And as is always the case when I fast, a gnawing sense of emptiness begins to overtake me.
What does Christmas mean to you?
With Christmas only a couple days away, it brings back a lot of memories for some people. For others, it’s a time during the year where we reflect on the great gift God gave us with the birth of Jesus.
For everyone, there’s a different story about Christmas. Not everyone grew up with the same celebrations and for some, the story of Christmas is ever changing. Some have great family memories. Others have surprise presents.
We asked several people of our church to share their Christmas story. What was their favorite memory? What do they look forward to every year? What does Jesus’ birth mean to them?
Here are our stories:
What I love most about Christmas is that for one quiet morning, I feel as if God and my family have my full attention. The distractions of work and the world seem to fade away and I am fully present in the moment. I am truly content and blessed and at peace.
By Albert Hung
“A pastor and an atheist walk into a church.” It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke. But it’s not. It’s what happens every Sunday morning in America. Or at least, it should.
I have this friend named Pete who’s a bit of a mystery to some folk. He and his family have been part of our congregation for several years. He worships with us. Prays with us. Studies the Bible with us. Serves in ministry alongside us. Over time, Pete has become one of my closest friends. I love this man. My life is immensely richer because of our relationship.
Pete’s somewhat of an enigma because although he is an active participant in all the rituals of the church, he doesn’t believe in God. He’s an atheist. An atheist who practices Christianity. He doesn’t believe in many of the things we sing about or read about in Scripture. But he believes in the power of spiritual community to bring about positive change both in the individual and society as a whole. Sure, he’s jaded. So am I. We’re both tired of the shallow, insular, and pretentious brand of spirituality that characterizes Christianity in this country. The damage that is often done in the name of religion makes us want to throw in the towel at times. But there’s something that keeps drawing us back to the church, as broken and dysfunctional as it is. For me, that something is the very real, living, person of Jesus Christ. For Pete, it’s the psychological and social benefits of living in community with people who share a common set of values. And so, every Sunday, a pastor and an atheist walk into a church, and try to make sense of the world we live in, together.
This doesn’t just happen at Trinity. It’s happens all over the country, whether we know it or not. Sitting in our pews are thousands of people who attend church but do not believe. Some were dragged there by their spouses. Others are like Pete, people who choose to participate despite their doubts. And I’m glad he does. Continue reading
By Albert Hung
I’ve never really been a drinking man. My parents didn’t keep alcohol in the home, except for a few bottles of whiskey – gifts from visiting relatives – which are probably still gathering dust in the back of some cabinet. My dad would drink a beer at Christmas (just one), get really red in the face, laugh hysterically at his own jokes for about an hour, and then wouldn’t touch another drop for another twelve months. At my 13th birthday party, a friend smuggled in a bottle of vodka he’d stolen from his uncle, and he and a few of the other boys each took a tiny sip under the ping-pong table in our basement. I was too scared to have any. In high school, booze started making a regular appearance at parties (though never at our house after that first incident).
And then came college. Six-packs were replaced by kegs, beer funnels, and Jell-O shooters. I was always the sober one. The prude. The designated driver. Not because I was a Christian – because I wasn’t, not back then. But because I was afraid of what might happen if I got drunk. What if I lost control? What if I ended up puking my guts out, slumped over a dirty toilet seat, like so many of my friends? I guess I lost any remaining interest in alcohol when this girl I thought was cute threw up on me. She wasn’t so cute after that.
As a pastor in the Church of the Nazarene, I’m supposed to abstain from all alcohol. Not because we think it’s a sin to drink or that alcohol is inherently evil (after all, Jesus drank wine and even provided a few barrels at a wedding party). Continue reading
Pastor Albert Hung will be a discussion panelist and workshop leader at the upcoming ISAAC (Institute for the Study of Asian American Christianity) Symposium, held on October 5th at Evergreen Baptist Church, San Gabriel Valley. The Symposium is an annual conference aimed at equipping this generation of Asian American Christians to be healthier and more effective leaders in their homes, churches and communities.
This upcoming event is titled “Healing of Memories and Healing of Finances.” The morning session, focused on money matters, features members of the business and finance world, discussing how to lead healthy financial lives while also living out our faith. Pastor Albert, as the “lay person” of this group, will add his “wealth” of personal wisdom and insights from his Lifestyles of the Rich and Faithful sermon series. Other workshop leaders are: Shana Won, Jeffery Wong and Sal Mendoza.
By Albert Hung
We’re living in an age where Christianity is losing its influence in the Western world. Many would argue it’s already too late for the church. Our presence is no longer welcome. Our voice is no longer relevant. The church is seen as out of touch, behind the times, a cultural dinosaur that will one day fade into oblivion. Truth be told, were that to happen, there are many who would not mourn its passing.
There is a lot of vitriol towards Christians these days, and for good reason. A Barna Poll asked thousands of people across the country what they thought of Christians. Their top responses? Judgmental. Hypocritical. Homophobic.
We’ve earned this reputation, I’m afraid.
photo credit: Westword
Earlier this week I came across a startling statement written by the Apostle Paul: “We have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.” (1 Corinthians 4:13)