On Sunday 2 August 2020, District Apostle J Kriel conducted the morning divine service at Silvertown congregation. This divine service was conducted in English and interpreted into South African Sign Language (SASL) at the altar by Beryl Botha.
He was accompanied by Bishop Bradley Adonis, a small music ensemble and the NACTV crew. This divine service was made available on NACTV, Cape Town TV on DSTV channel 263, as well as Radio KC, Radio Teemaneng and SABIE stereo. Members could also listen to the divine service by calling in from either a mobile phone or landline. This divine service was also streamed live on the NACTV Facebook page.
For members who were unable to watch the divine service, please find a detailed summary of the sermon:
Opening Hymn: In the garden (EH: 378)
Bible word: “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25
My dear brothers and sisters, I want to say welcome, and we are happy and thankful that we can be together on this Sunday. It has become for us a way of life where we can come and gather and hear the word of God. Our soloist sang “Someday, there will be peace”, and you know, someday sounds so far away. I remember, as children, we would ask ‘when am I going to get it?’ and the answer would be ‘someday you will’. And that seemed like forever. And, as much as we know, someday we will have perfect peace. But today I want to place the peace of Jesus Christ into all of your hearts; that this peace that He gives may comfort us and strengthen us so that this peace can make us calm, take away our anxiety and fills us. And where there is peace the word of God can do its work and the Holy Spirit can work upon our souls. So, let this peace be among all of us, just as when Jesus met the disciples and said: “Peace be with you.” Let this peace, that He gave, let it fill our hearts; let it fill our homes so that we are able to enjoy His blessedness.
It is not unknown; these days we cannot avoid referring to the situation we find ourselves in because it’s not normal that we gather in this way, but because of COVID-19 we have to do things a little bit differently. There are many who have cares, and let it be a comfort to us all to know that the Lord says; “I will care for you”. Place your burdens on Me, I will care for you, I will give you what you need.” And now, we have to trust. And the one or other says “Do you know I have lost my job?” Our God – He cares for us and let us allow Him to do that. We are able to trust in Him. We may not always know but let us say I am and remain in Your hands. Our Father surely will care for us. There is a responsibility on us – we need to do what we must; we need to do what God wants us to do no matter how difficult it is at times. No matter how uncomfortable it may be – let us do what God wants us to do. and He makes it known; His will is known to us. The gospel of Jesus is there. Come, let’s do that together. For sure, we are concerned about our own lives. Many are concerned about what will happen to the church because we cannot gather; we cannot sing together like we used to. We sang together; we prayed together; we came together in fellowship whereby we could strengthen each other. Now, we cannot do that anymore. But, it is important that we don’t get used to that. We cannot celebrate Holy Communion. Our children cannot be baptised. We cannot experience the joy of Holy Sealing and other ministerial acts that we looked forward to. In fact, some had been planned but had to be cancelled or postponed because we cannot do that. And, we often thought when we were active in the work of God that we were doing something for God; when we were active in the congregation we were doing something for Him. But the more we find ourselves in this situation where, across the world, and particularly in our area, we are not able to do that and gather as we used to. Now, we realise that when we worked in the congregation we allowed God to do good work upon us and that’s what we miss. And so, we want to understand, and we pray and hope that soon this time will pass and we are able to go back and to do that which we love and motivate us.
Our Bible word today comes out of the book of Hebrews. Now, we don’t know who wrote Hebrews – there is a big debate and there are some options – but we do not know who wrote the letter to the Hebrews; we just remain thankful that we have it because it is a well-written and an organised letter that was written to the Hebrews and is of benefit to us and Christianity. But, whoever wrote Hebrews, we know, had a good knowledge of the Old Testament because he could tell us what the customs and laws were at that time. But, that was not all, because many, at the time, had a good knowledge of the laws that existed at the time, what the prophets spoke about – they knew it back to front and they could apply it. But this author of the Hebrews did not only know the Old Testament well; he also knew Jesus Christ. And, for that reason, when we read the book of Hebrews which I encourage you all to do, we will find out that the author really knew what he was talking about. And, I love the way he introduced Jesus. You know, when you want to tell something to somebody and they have no idea what you are talking about, you have to find something to which they can relate. When you want to tell someone about how big something is you will think what does the person know? Then you might say it’s as big as two rugby fields; then the person will know it’s really big. Or you say its many cars; then you can relate it to something the person might know. The author wanted to introduce Jesus, and he wanted to talk about Jesus to those who knew the Old Testament well. And he could relate Jesus to the prophets. He said: “The prophets, they are great.” And then he said: “But, Jesus is superior to the prophets.” And that put Jesus in a special place that they could understand and we can understand. He said: “The angels are great, but Jesus is superior to the angels.” And then he spoke about Moses who was well-thought-of and held in high esteem, but he says: “Jesus is superior to Moses and also superior to Joshua.” Here, he shows us what position Jesus should have in our hearts. And that is what He is for and to us, and we are thankful that we have Jesus. And remember, when things get stormy, like the disciples were in the boat and the storm was coming, the boat was filling with water – they became scared and they forgot they had Jesus. Dear brothers and sisters, we don’t want to forget that. We have Jesus who is superior to the angels because He brought about the one sacrifice that was valid and credible for all.
In the Old Testament, sacrifices and burnt offerings were made for sins by the Priest. But, it was inadequate, imperfect and they had to do it regularly. Jesus came and we read in the same chapter that He brought about the one sacrifice for all. In the time of Hebrews, when this letter was written, the Christians were persecuted, they suffered, and they were marginalised. And, at one time, everybody cared for each other. When one was in prison - when Paul was in prison, they cared for him and brought him food – they cared, they considered the needs of others. Sadly, this did not stay that way because, soon, their sacrifices became a burden. Soon, they no longer wanted to care as they used to. And as it says in our Bible word: “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.” Even when they could come together; as we know it as church, as a gathering, because often they had to gather privately in homes in fear of persecution. But, when they could gather they didn’t want to anymore. That’s why our Bible word says they forsook the assembling of being together. And now, this letter of Hebrews invites and says: “Come re-establish your faith. Come back to where you were.” It says further in the book that we are not as those who drawback – we want to confirm our faith. We want to confirm the conviction of our faith and place ourselves on that foundation. And that is what this letter was about to the Hebrews to say come, we need to come back, we need to draw near, we need to confirm the conviction of our faith.
I want to draw some similarities between the Hebrews of that time and between us. We cannot come to church as we know it. We cannot celebrate Holy Communion as we know it, and so on as I mentioned earlier. But dear brothers and sisters, please allow that we never get used to it – that we never become used to it and allow this to become the new way of life so that when we are able to gather then we forsake the assembly. No. we want to go back. And, let us consider one another. Love your neighbour; I am my brother’s keeper. In the beginning, we did good, like the Hebrews. Are we still able to do that? Or have I grown tired and say no, I think I have given enough. When is enough? We want to give to our brothers and sisters and our neighbour – we want to care for them; we want to consider them. I have heard in this time, the one or the other say they went to take food parcels, but I found the person smoking, and they thought that’s the end – if they can smoke then they can buy themselves some bread. Let that not be the reason why we stop. We want to say that the neighbour of mine disqualified themselves of my love because of a mistake that he made. We have no right to do that. We want to consider one another in order to stir up love and good works. We rather want to encourage love. We want to encourage good works and say, “don’t stop doing good.” I only heard yesterday that in one of our areas, 4000 people were fed – and that made my heart happy. And one can ask: “Were they all good people? Were they all perfect people? Were they all people without faults?” We couldn’t care – they were God’s people; God made them, and for that reason, we want to consider them. And when you consider another you do not judge them; you do not say you do not qualify for God’s love because of A, B and C. We have all failed. We have all come short of the glory of God, and we all need to help. And, dear brothers and sisters, as we find ourselves in this time, we want to know that this is temporary. The time will come when we are able to assemble again and then we do not want to forsake the assembly.
I spoke to a young man a few days ago when I heard the schools were closing again, and I thought that if I was in school and someone brought me that message I think I would be happy. And I asked him if he missed school, he said yes, he misses his friends. They continue to receive work and there are things that need to be completed online, but he misses his friends. And this young man can’t wait to get back to school. And us? When we ask each other if we miss church, we say yes because we have a period where we are, in a sense, starving. You know, I met some people who lived through the World War, and I know of one particular person who can’t tolerate that when you have a meal you leave something on your plate – he will take your plate from you and eat what you left because he cannot allow food to be wasted. For the people who lived through the World War when there was no food, they realised that you cannot waste food because so many are hungry. When we are denied access to Holy Communion; to a divine service, do we get used to that? You know, when some people finish school they decide they are going to have a gap year. This is a year that many try to discover what they want, and, for many, it works. But, after the gap year, they say they didn’t have what I wanted; I want to go and do that because I was a waitress and had to serve people that were very rude and I don’t want to do that for the rest of my life, I am going to study – and the gap year actually did them good. It showed them the true value of that which they seek after. For others, the gap year is not so kind to them because they actually don’t have a gap year; they have a gap life because they never find work they can stay in because they always find a gap. So, we don’t want to allow ourselves to be used to being without. We want to return when we can, and we do not want to forsake the assembly. We want to return, we want to be part of that which our Lord provides for us, namely His word – by which we live – the fellowship by which we are strengthened. Dear brothers and sisters, as we pass through this time, today the message is: this will not last forever; this too will end. And, when it does, remember, how I longed for Holy Communion. Remember how I longed to be part of the fellowship. Remember how I longed to serve and to do something. When it comes that I will be ready to say yes, now it is there, I will not forsake the assembly. I will not forsake coming back. I will embrace it.
We do not want to get used to being without that which is good. And, when the opportunity comes for us to experience it, let us hasten and gather. I thought of someone, who as a child, grows up without love – that is so sad – the child never learns to love or to be loved, and they grow up like that. And, in the end, the person doesn’t know love and just wants to hurt, kill, harm and damage because they have learnt to live without love. Let us never fall into that situation. Let us not learn to live without the gifts and blessings of our God. We don’t want to get used to not having – our Father will give us and the time will come like in the times of the Hebrews when they could gather; let us not forsake the assembly, but let us come. Because, sometimes, you know whenever it comes to the Lord’s work we say we can’t go to church because it’s too dangerous. This might be the same people who travel in a taxi with many other people, but when it comes to church it’s too dangerous. So, dear brothers and sisters, let this divine service be a preparation to say we are in this situation, don’t get used to it; the time will come when we can return. And let us use this time as preparation for that to happen. Our leaders are busy; they are sacrificing; they are making sure that the churches are ready so that we can receive a congregation again – and that is hard work, and I am thankful to all – the COVID-19 committee who is steering this whole process. As much as it is hard work, there is harder work for each one of us: come, let’s prepare our hearts to return that when the call comes then you do not forsake the assembly as it says here, as some do, but we rather exhort one another, we rather say to one another: come. And as we read in the same chapter, we want to draw near to God with a true heart – that’s what we want to do. In this divine service, come, draw near to God. How far are we away from God? We don’t know that, but we can all come a little bit nearer. Let’s draw nearer. Let’s hold fast the confession of our faith so that we don’t lose that. Let us consider one another: my brother, my sister, without judging. Let us have empathy and let’s understand their way. And, when the call comes for us to return, let us come back with joy knowing what it was to be without – now we appreciate more the godly gifts our Father wants to give us that we don’t take it for granted. We all know that we cannot visit our parents; we cannot visit each other. Did we do so when we could? Maybe we neglected it a long time ago. So, when it is renewed, make good use of the time because how long you have, that we do not know. Amen.
Thoughts from District Apostle J Kriel