On Sunday 21 February 2021, Apostle Robert Worship conducted the central AVT divine service at Silvertown congregation. The divine service was conducted in English and translated into South African Sign Language (SASL) at the altar by Beryl Botha.
He was accompanied by District Elder Baron Gaskin, 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. For members who were unable to watch the divine service, please find a detailed summary of the sermon:
Opening Hymn: Christ triumphant, ever reigning (EH:509)
Bible word: “When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’ Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise.’ So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother.” (Luke 7: 13–15)
My dear brothers and sisters, dear friends and guests, once again, a warm welcome to this spiritual hour with our heavenly Father. We know how we miss these moments in the Lord's house. I know there are some of our members who are not connected at all today, who long for a divine service. They do not have any internet connection and do not have electricity. They do not have access to the divine service in the congregations, they must wait until their turn comes up. And so, we live in very unusual times, I don't need to explain that to anybody. One misses the activity of the Church. I was booked in this congregation a year ago. In fact, it was January last year. Attending that divine service was 480 orchestra players, they sat in the entire gallery. And I was reminded of that when I heard the orchestra playing now. There was not a seat left for the orchestra players. Today, we have to be 50 in this church building, sorry we're just a small group today. But that's how things have changed for us. And so, the Lord reminds us through the divine service today that things are different, but I am with you as the baritone soloist sang for us. And we want to always be in a position to say, as we translate that hymn, it's not quite an accurate translation of the original text, but the translated word sang that we are led by our heavenly Father, that He plays a part in our lives, that no matter whether life throws us this way or that way, that we are led by our heavenly Father.
Beloved, for this divine service the Bible word I think we all know. Maybe I must remind us about the facts. Jesus comes to Nain and He witnesses a funeral procession. He sees the coffin of a young man being carried. He sees his mother who's a widow. And Jesus is moved by what He sees. He has compassion for her. He didn't know her works. He wasn't interested in the works of the boy; He was simply touched by what He saw in that moment of that lady. What did He do? He walked over as our Bible word says here, He touched the coffin. He told the mother not to weep and then told this young man to rise and he arose from the dead. And beloved, that's a very good image for what Jesus does in our lives, that even the things that we regard as a lost cause, that's died already in my life, that's not part of who I am anymore. When Jesus touches our lives, He brings to life those things which are important to Him. Whenever Jesus performed a miracle in the Bible, and all those who did miracles, the prophets and the apostles also performed miracles. Whenever they did it, it was always about the message which the miracle signalled; and with Jesus, it was particularly so. When He performed any miracle, it was always about the message. We see that in this instance, His message here is that there is salvation from spiritual death. That's the message. He gives the message here to say that I consider the suffering of everyone, even the widow who in those years were not considered to be important by people, in fact, society frowned upon them. He showed that He was the Saviour and that's important.
Jesus didn't only perform miracles, there were times when He refused to perform miracles. He always focused on His message and the receptiveness of the one for whom the miracle was intended to His message. We know of the account of Jesus when He was in the desert. Really at His last having been for so long without any sustenance, any food or water in the desert, and the evil one comes to Him and says, if you're the Son of God, make that stones into bread and then you can eat. Jesus didn't do that. Do you know why? Because He knew that the evil one wouldn't be interested in His message and that His message wouldn't change who he was. The same way, we know Herod, when Jesus appeared before Herod, Herod also said make a miracle, show us something. And the Lord Jesus didn't respond. Once again, He realized that the message wouldn’t change this individual, and the message would be lost. And so, we see that Jesus didn't perform miracles at every event, but where He did, it was about the special message that He brought.
And so today, as in Christian tradition, the Church is always compared to a mother, like Mother Mary, we know of that, we know of women in general, so the Church is compared to the mother. And the message of our Chief Apostle today is that the Church is going through a particular weeping at the moment. There is a sadness. There are challenges for the Church which we all have to face. When we look at the global Church, we see that attendance to divine services is decreasing. We see the growth in unaffiliated Christians. I belong to a church, but I don't go there often. We see this tussle between the young and the old members, the traditions of the Church and what the young people want. A modern hip and yuppie churche, that happens even in the Church. The Church is a microcosm of society. So, one can expect that. And so beloved, we noticed this, and at a global level one could look and say yes, the Church is in trouble. But if we look at it, that's at a global level.
Who is the Church? What is the Church made up of? The Church is not just the organization, the church buildings, the infrastructure. You and I are the Church. And today, the Lord Jesus comes to us through His Spirit to say I need to touch components of my Church so that they can rise and be strong again. That's the important bit; we break down the Church in all its greatness today, 1 billion Christians around the world, we break it down to the smallest unit of the Church, you and I. The Lord comes to us today and He says, certain components of this Church, you and I, we must respond to, if the Church is to survive and be strong in the future.
The first aspect which the Lord Jesus wants to address today in us as the Church, we are the Church, is that we must continue, we must engender, we must grow again, we must ignite again, the culture of sacrifice and offering. The Lord's work, the Church as a whole has been built on offerings and sacrifices. And so, one could say, the younger ones especially could say yes, that belonged to a time when my mother and my father were in the Church, you know, when the Church was in its development phase. That's an excuse we can use today. I speak to you young man and to you young woman and to us as the congregation - sacrifice is part of this blessed tradition of the Church. Sacrifice means, what does the Lord want me to do in the congregation? What does He want me to do in society? And the Lord has given all of us gifts, He has given us talents, He has given us abilities, He
has given us experience that we can plough back into the Church. And we want to be able to do that. I remember a time where brothers and families were sent from one part of the country to another, one part of the world to another part of the world. And when you look at their lives, you see, I think they had no material gain, nothing really. In fact, some of them had great jobs, they got to the other side, they didn't have work, or they had to take a level down, a step-down. But for the Church, there are congregations today, there is a following today, there is a Christian message today. And that's what the Lord asks of us to do today. Sacrifice means I do the things which do not come naturally to me.
Offerings, I know some people don't like to talk about offerings, but we have to talk about offerings. I believe the Lord does things in my life for me. I contribute to the Church through my thankfulness to the Lord Jesus and for the salvation plan. And beloved, today we have all sorts of schemes. We cannot get away from the teaching. We teach that it is good to offer a tenth, it is Old Testament teaching, it's not a bad way to continue to do that. But beloved, it's about the separation of that which I have to give to the Lord God. May the Lord grant us the ability to do that. Over the last few weeks, the Rectors have told me about members who have really suffered because they cannot bring an offering. And I've heard some stories, beloved, if I must tell you, you would cry if you must hear how members go out of their way to bring an offering to the Lord. Let's keep the offering and sacrifice culture in our Church. Dear parents, let us teach it to the children, and we know with children, offering is equal to money, they don't quite understand it. Let's continue to teach that we give to the Lord, based on what He means for us in our lives.
The second aspect of this Church which the Lord Jesus wants to touch today in our lives is making experiences of faith. When last have you made an experience of faith where you say to yourself, wow!, that was experiencing the Lord God in my life. And sure, Corona has happened, we cannot do what we normally do. But experiences of faith strengthen our relationship with the Lord God. Experiences of faith are so personal. It was the Chief Apostle Leber who taught us that your experience may be great in your life but for the next guy, he says this is just average, that's not quite the same for me. But to me, it's really a special experience. You know when I was preparing for the service, I thought of little experiences that we make, sometimes we look for the big ones, but here is just a small one. This morning, after six o'clock I was really worried about this divine service and one point in particular. And I thought to myself, I wonder how District Apostle would think and speak about this point. And that very minute, I got a WhatsApp from the District Apostle to say, Robert, I'm thinking about you for this morning. Is that not a great experience? If I must tell someone else, they will say okay, not quite exciting. For me, it touched my life at the moment I needed it. Beloved, each of us can make an experience like that. I remember travelling with the District Apostle Helper Mkhwanazi in Mozambique, he did a soul-care visit to a family who had lost a loved one, some years ago already, he went and he visited, we sat there with them. He conducted the visit and there was a translator who did the Portuguese. And while he spoke, one of the sisters started singing a hymn. She started singing Sweet hour of prayer in Portuguese. It was an experience I will never forget. We saw the pain. We saw their tears; we saw what they went through. And in that moment, as a family, they just united, they started to sing together. That's what I'm talking about, those things that happen in our lives that you just say to yourself, wow the Lord was in that moment. I have so many examples but maybe just for little illustrative purposes, I was travelling with Bishop Van Wyk, we did some work also in Mozambique, it's a lot about Mozambique today. And we were driving, the trip to the airport was two hours long. And while we were driving, we saw the people in the rice paddies on the side of the road. And then we asked the late Apostle Semba, if we can stop to have a look and see what it looks like. And then we stopped in the middle of nowhere, got out of the vehicle, we walked, he called some of the people, they showed us the rice and showed us the sickle and how they use it. And then they wanted to know now who are you guys, what are you doing here? We live in the field. And then the late Apostle Semba explained to them that we are from the Church and so on. And one of the ladies said the New Apostolic Church? She said that is my Church. She said we live near the field here, but that's my Church. She mentioned the Apostle Atucumana. Of all the places we could have stopped, we stopped at that place. Now maybe the one or the other would say that's not a great experience. For us and for that sister, it meant that the Lord had visited her just by being present. Beloved, that's what we want to get to. If this Church is to survive, the Lord Jesus touches us today to say, hey, go make an experience with me again.
The third thing, we need to find creative ways to use this gift which the Lord God has given to us in His Holy Spirit to enlighten about things in our lives, to touch our neighbours, and we really need to be creative about it. We cannot say, you see we can't do anything we need to stay in our houses. Sure, we need to stay in our houses for all our safety. We can't go to church. Yes, we can't all go to church, but that cannot be enough of an excuse. If we are to create life in our Church which is us, we need to work with the gift of the Holy Spirit, which the Lord has given to everyone in the congregation. You know the Apostle Paul when he travelled, they looked for letters of commendation. Tell us who you are as an Apostle when he travelled between the places and he was quite simple, he said, if you want to see the fruits of my work, look in the congregation. That's where you'll find the effects of my work and dear brothers and sisters, that's really what we're talking about today, that we find a creative way to show to our brothers and sisters, to our neighbours that I possess the gift of the Holy Spirit. Two years ago, we had a meeting for Priests, we were over 1 000 priests at one meeting. During the meeting there was a slide that said, do you know of somebody who could do with getting a message from you today. And if you answered yes, then the message said on the slide take out your mobile phone and send them a message. Beloved, I tell you, I had over 300 messages on my phone of Priests who said to me, Apostle, that contact changed my relationship. That member said, I thought you forgot about me. Somebody said, why would you think to call me on this day. Some even said, Oh, you didn't know, but it's my birthday, thank you for the message you sent me. Just making a contact, using the gift of the Spirit will always be given for the benefit of the congregation. Dear brothers and sisters District Apostle, at the time of the start of this pandemic, spoke about having our own pandemic of love. Maybe I give us all homework today. We should be over 100 or 200 000 members connected today. If you send a message today, if I send a message, just one SMS, one WhatsApp to send the Bible Word of today’s service, or to just say we are thinking about you, promise we will remember you. That's when the Church is active, we don't leave it to the ministers, we don't leave it to the coordinators, I'm the Church. I create the activity.
Number four, beloved. We need to become active again in our Church. We as the Church need to become active, again we can give reasons for lockdowns and all sorts of things. We need to do that because there is a building up to that which needs to happen in the congregations. I love the portion in Scripture in Nehemiah chapter two and Nehemiah chapter four, where He rallies people to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. What is so special about it? He went, he scouted, he saw work needed to be done there. Allow me to just read a portion of it, when he said in Nehemiah two, he spoke to the people and “So they said, ‘Let us rise up and build.’ Then they set their hands to this good work.” And in the fourth chapter, it says they worked because the people had a mind to work. That's activity. So, we are sitting on our couches, sure we've become couch Christians over the last few months. Sure, we can't do this or the other thing, but to become active, I do the things which are in my power to do - as the Church. Remember, today the message is we are the Church and we want to be able to carry that forward.
And the last point, beloved, that we want to do to keep this Church alive growing and active, is that we want to attend the divine services. Again, you can say, but we cannot go, we'd like to go. Of course, we can attend the divine service. At the moment we do it on a rotational basis here, there are other congregation areas that cannot do it. But when the opportunity is there. Let’s just look at what attendance does: Attendance places me in fellowship with God's people, Attendance to the divine service exposes me to word and sacrament, Attendance to the divine service makes a name for the Saviour. Why? Our neighbours look at us. They know we have problems. They know we are suffering; they know we are sick. They know of what's happening, and they see every Sunday we go to church; every opportunity we go to church. I promise you, if we just pick ourselves up and go to church, we make a name for the Saviour. That's how we want to show that the Church lives. We are the Church, we are alive and things are really ticking in our congregations, we haven't died down with COVID, it hasn't taken away the life. Jesus comes to all of us today. He touches our lives, and He says, arise, dear brother, arise dear sister. And I know how it is, some of us can say, you know, years ago, oh I was so active being younger. Today we say, restart that again. The one or the other may say, oh, when I used to be in this area or this congregation or had this responsibility. I want to take away the excuses today and say, let us find a reason to arise!
Our offering culture, our sacrifice culture. Let that be picked up again. Let us make experiences of faith again that just confirms to me in a small way that the Lord is with me. Let us find creative ways to take this gift of the Holy Spirit and ignite that in the lives of other people. Let us become active again, as with Nehemiah, that we have a heart to work. And finally, beloved brothers and sisters, let us get ourselves back to church again. And that's the way we ensure that this Church continues to live. Amen.
Thoughts from Apostle R Worship