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Edmond Fung Memorial Service

Saturday, November 11, 2023, 10:30 AM, First Chinese Baptist Church, San Francisco

Shepherd Among Giants

In San Francisco, we take the word, “giant” for granted. And when the Giants have a winning season, we bring out the “orange and black” to show our fan support. 

On this day that providentially is Veterans Day, we remember and celebrate the life and ministry of Chaplain Edmond Fung. On this day is the beginning of the APEC conference in San Francisco when many world leaders gather to make peace on economic treaties. And on this day when almost 80 years ago, the United Nations was established to end world wars and strive for world peace that we gathered today to remember Ed Fung in the context of the global stage. He is the last of his generation of American Baptist giants of faith. 

There’s a very famous picture in the early 1950s of Ed Fung when he along with Elizabeth Abbott, Maelene Quey, James Chuck and John Tan were in front of Berkeley Baptist Divinity School, now known as the Berkeley School of Theology. They were all seminarians preparing for the ministry. This picture is in Ed Fung’s own story in Chinatown: More Stories of Life and Faith, Volume 2, page 63. It’s also in a wall display on the landing between the Nursery and the third floor at First Chinese Baptist Church. It’s also here among the many pictures that we remember Ed Fung by.

Those of you who know these seminarians would also know that each of them became giants of the faith in their respective ministries. It’s no hyperbole to say that Ed Fung along with his friends made up one of the greatest generations of Chinese-American ministers and leaders in American Baptist life. 

After pastoring Community Baptist in San Mateo, Ed answered the call to become a chaplain in the US Army. Chaplains are ordained ministers but their places of ministry take them into institutions such as hospitals, prisons and in Ed’s case, into the armed forces. But Army chaplains are not issued any weapons and are not allowed to engage in combat. Rather, they provide religious duties in a military environment; often providing moral support and guidance to members of the Army and their families. 

The Fung family would have seen this. The symbol of the Army chaplain is the shepherd’s crook to represent pastoral ministry, rays to represent universal truth, and palm branches to represent spiritual victory. We can imagine Ed Fung rejoicing with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. While ordained Baptist, Ed Fung encouraged the practice of all religions, offered moral support, supported civic responsibility, and spoke about the moral role the US military has in the world. 

In Psalm 23, God is represented as the Shepherd to care for his flock. We all know this from our Sunday school days probably learning it from Debbie Allen. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, 

I fear no evil;

For you are with me;

Your rod and your staff—

They comfort me.”

Probably wearing this Army chaplain patch on his shoulders, Ed Fung comforted the men and women in uniform. To the people in crisis and in need, Ed was representing Christ as the good shepherd reassuring them that,

“Surely goodness and mercy

Shall follow them

All the days of their lives,

And they shall dwell in the house of the Lord

Their whole life long.” 

Ed Fung dedicated his life to be the shepherd wherever God called him to serve and he faithfully served “all the days of his life.”

Read Related Sermon  Fung Soon Lee Eulogy

When we talk about the Good Shepherd, we naturally would come to the Gospel of John, chapter 10, when Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” 

Both in the Psalms and in the Gospel of John, Ed, the Army chaplain with a shepherd’s crook/staff patch on his uniform gave generously and unselfishly to be the human example of Christ who comforts and if necessary, give up his life for others. 

We have heard that in 1965, Ed and Corinne were in a terrible auto accident that left Ed with disabilities that he amazingly persevered to continue his calling. He retired from the Army to care for Corinne when she needed him by her side. But for many years, 16 more years, Ed cared for the military service people sometimes at the expense of his own limitations. I can only recite what the Apostle Paul said to the Romans,

“We boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in

our sufferings, knowing the suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (5:2-5)

Ed Fung’s sufferings, probably no greater or lesser than many of us, granted him the credentials to help those who are suffering in their own particular situations. As a good shepherd, Ed brought comfort to Army service men and women, he comforted Corinne, he comforted people wherever God led him and in so doing, he was comforted by God himself.

Getting back to that famous picture of the five seminarians in front of the seminary in Berkeley, I noticed that Ed was the only one standing. The others were all sitting on the steps. I suspect that Ed was already set to travel the world. And he did that when he was stationed in so many different places around the world. They traveled to Korea, Taiwan, Germany, Hawaii and eventually back to San Francisco Chinatown. 

This thought reminded me of John Donne, the 17th century English poet who was in the Church of England and pastored St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. John Donne wrote a poem that was made into a song. Many of us probably sang it when we were in youth group. My hunch is that Ed Fung sang, “No Man is an Island.” 

In John Donne’s own words,

“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be translated; God employs several translators: some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God’s hand is in every translation; and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again, for the library where every book shall lie open to one another: As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come, so this bell calls us all…

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory (a point of high land that juts out into a large body of water.) were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore, never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”

Read Related Sermon  Melvin T.L. Ang

John Donne describes Ed Fung’s life. Indeed, we are all connected in being members of the family of God. Ed’s commitment to ecumenism means that we are all created by the one and same Author God and when we, like pages in the same book, are all in our very unique ways contributing to the marvelous story, then all of us are essential in God’s overall story of life. 

While Ed knew Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, Chaplain Ed Fung encouraged the soldiers and military leaders to have faith that works for them because all humankind is of one author God. 

When Chaplain Ed Fung met soldiers from all races, backgrounds, states, and cultures, he impressed on them that not only must they work and serve together as a team but that they are dependent and needed to trust in each other because no one is an island. 

In his role wearing the US Army chaplain patch, he is not mistaken to carry a rifle but to be the good shepherd in the eyes of the ranks and file of the military that peace on earth is possible. 

If there are giants in the US, we can easily call the US military with its different branches including now a new Space Force, mighty giants. I suspect these are formidable institutions that any of us would not like to encounter. But Ed Fung did. 

Ed wore his US Army chaplain patch with the shepherd’s crook, rays of truth, and palm branches representing spiritual victory. 

Not by might or my force, Jesus entered Jerusalem to meet his fate according to God’s salvation plan, rode his donkey on top of palm branches. And in such humility, Jesus Christ changed the world. 

In many ways, Edmond Fung, US Army chaplain also did his part as one of the giants in front of the seminary in Berkeley. He helped change this world in the name of God. 

Let us pray.

O Creator God of all time and all places, you call each of us to do our part in making this place a better place to reflect peace, justice and righteousness. Today, we thank you for calling Edmond Fung from among the giants in the early 1950s to become one of your own as an US Army chaplain. We saw the ways he comforted people and took care of his wife and their many children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Because Ed was faithful throughout his life, he was like Abraham and Sarah who were faithful in a foreign land and you blessed them with many “descendants…as many as the stars of heaven and as innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”

Thank you, Lord for giving us the long life of Ed Fung who has made a profound difference in this life that you have granted him eternal life in heaven. Lead us, Lord God to remember the life of Ed Fung so that we may also live lives of commitment, convictions, and faithfulness in our days ahead. Embolden us as you did in Ed Fung to face up to the giants in our world today and lead us to become disciples of peace and reconciliation in a world that is in so much in need of hope and love. 

In the holy name of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, we pray. Amen.

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