Inaugural Service of Professor Francis Ching-Wah Yip as Director of Divinity School of Chung Chi College
Date: 4th October 2020 (Sunday)
Venue: Chung Chi College Chapel, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Sermon (Pre-recorded): Professor Francis Schüssler Fiorenza (Charles Chauncey Stillman Professor of Roman Catholic Theological Studies of Harvard Divinity School)
Joseph Chan. 2013 MACS. Current DProf candidate. Convener of Business as Mission Forum. Director of Fullness Social Enterprises Society. Former professional in business sector. With extensive experience in workplace and theology knowledge, he is pushing the development of faith-based social enterprise, integrating life and faith, service to the church and transformation to society...
Ying Fuk-tsang. Director of Divinity School of Chung Chi College from 2014 to 2020, and Chairman of Christian Study Centre on Chinese Religion & Culture. Specializes in Christianity in China and Hong Kong. Winner of Vice-Chancellor’s Exemplary Teaching Award in 2010 and Outstanding Teaching Award in 2014...
‘The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days' walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.
‘When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.’ (Jonah 3:1-5, 10)
The beautiful little book of Jonah, although written in the post-exilic period several centuries before Christ, speaks in an amazing way to people today: Jonah is sent to the great and ungodly city, as we are sent out into the city to be God’s messengers. I always like to use the book of Jonah as introduction to my course on modern theology because all the features of modernity are there: the city, the plurality of faiths on the boat when Jonah tries to escape, Jonah’s initial escape from being prophetic, God’s transcendence breaking into the present in form of a storm, etc.
In this passage, Jonah is sent out a second time and, although this time he does not escape, he again fails in his duty. He offers an apocalyptic message instead of the prophetic message for which he is sent. He presents God’s wrath as a given fact (“forty days more and you will go down!”) instead of taking into account God’s graciousness and the possibility of people to repent. We know how the story ends: Jonah gets angry about God’s magnanimity. Indeed, God’s benevolence and his power to forgive are part of what makes the biblical message so scandalous and what even those called to proclaim it sometimes fail to grasp. It is a message for all of us being sent into the city, to trust in the possibility of people repenting and God being gracious. This is what makes this passage a message of hope.
Rev. Tobias Brandner (Associate Director (External Affairs) & Associate Professor)