On Sunday 26 April 2020, Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider conducted a divine service in Strasbourg, France. The divine service was made available to large parts of Africa, the United States of America and Canada.
The original plan was for the Chief Apostle to be in South Africa where he would conduct a divine service in Bloemfontein. The visit was meant to be a historic one as it would have been the first service conducted by a Chief Apostle in the area.
In hindsight, this divine service was still an historic one, because it was the first time that so many members across the DA Area Southern Africa have been served by the Chief Apostle twice in such a short space of time, i.e. the same month on Easter, 12th April & Sunday, April 26th.
The divine service commenced at 9 am (CAT), and was made available in South Africa on the following media platforms:
1. NACTV (Set-top box and YouTube)
2. NACTV Facebook page
3. CTV (Cape Town TV) and on DSTV channel 263
4. Radio KC
5. Radio Teemaneng
6. Sabie Radio
7. Members could also listen to the divine service by calling in from either a mobile phone or landline.
For members who were unable to watch the divine service, please find a detailed summary of the sermon:
Thomas said to Him, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14: 5-6)
Beloved brothers and sisters, wherever you are, we are grateful that we can experience this service even if it’s a very special one. According to the programme, I should have been today in South Africa, in the midst of a big congregation enjoying a wonderful choir. And now, I am here in my home congregation in an empty church with just a few brothers and you at home. I must say, it is a little bit disappointing and a little bit sad. But I am grateful that we can experience together this service because it was my wish; I could even say it was a need for me to be united with you in spirit and in prayer and to share with you God’s blessing and God’s grace. Due to the lockdown, I am physically stuck here, in Strasbourg, France. But I tell you, my thoughts and my heart are quite often in Africa, with you.
Being in lockdown is a kind of special life; I’ve got plenty of time to catch up on things I should have done much earlier, but maybe that’s a blessing too. For instance, just a short story – all the children will laugh at me: last year, we bought some pots and some flower seeds, and I was supposed to plant them last year. I didn’t – no time. But, okay, now I could do it – so I sowed my flower seeds and put some ground in a pot and watered them, and then I waited. And every morning, I went to these pots and I looked into it. What happened? Nothing. First day, the second day, after one week – just nothing. So, I became upset and I thought they sold me seeds of poor quality – it doesn’t work. Okay, I must say, I didn’t consider the possibility that I could have done something wrong. I must admit, I didn’t do that – maybe I should work on this point, but that’s another topic. After 2 weeks, or a little bit more, something happened – and yes they were tiny stems and some small leaves. So I was happy; but when I looked at them I thought that’s not the flowers I wanted to have, that doesn’t look like the flowers pictured on the seedbox. So, again, I got upset – they sold me the wrong seed. But then I checked on the internet – as all of us do – and I realised it’s just the phase; in time it will become the flowers I wanted to have. So that’s the story, but that helped me to reconsider my prayers. It’s a nice image for our prayers. You know, we used to consider our prayers like orders we place. We have a wish or a need, we express it we pray and we expect God to deliver what we wish or need. We think we will get this in a few hours or a few days. Quite often, we consider our prayers like an order we place and we expect God to deliver the product as soon as possible. But these days, I changed my mind saying: maybe we should consider our prayers like a seed we sow. Each time we pray, it’s like a seed that we sow. We trust it to our God, and then God begins to work. Quite often, we see just nothing. And maybe we get upset and say: no, God didn’t listen to me – He does nothing. Let Him do; He’s already working. After some time, we see something. Somethings happening, but it’s not what we have expected. We expected something else. Trust God: the seed is growing. And if we do the right thing, and if we pray in the right manner, God will provide us with what we need: trust Him. Maybe you are just in the phase where nothing happens; but if you have sowed in the right manner, if you have prayed with faith, with God fear and trust, God will hear your prayer and He will answer it. He will provide you with what you need. That’s the flower story.
Now we’ve heard a Bible word: it’s about Thomas. You know, when Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He intended to go to Jerusalem, they tried to dissuade Him. They said: Lord, they want to kill you there – why do you want to go to Jerusalem? You will be killed, stay here. They tried to dissuade Him, but He insisted. And finally, Thomas, because he loved the Lord, and couldn’t imagine letting the Lord going alone to Jerusalem, and he said to the disciples; okay I say it with my words: let’s go with Him that we may die with Him – he wanted to follow the Lord! They went to Jerusalem and once they were there many unexpected things occurred. It was very strange I must say. Many things happened and the disciples couldn’t understand. Judas betrayed the Lord; Judas told Peter than he would deny Him; He told the disciples that they cannot follow Him, they could not go where He was going. Everything became so strange and unexpected that Thomas, and maybe all the disciples were totally confused. They didn’t know what was going on. And that is why he says here we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way? What should we do? What do you want us to do? They were lost. And then came the answer of the Lord: I am the way; I am the truth; I am the life. I am not sure if they got it immediately. I don’t think they got the meaning immediately, but later on, they understood. Dear brothers and sisters, in our days, we experience such a period in our life too. We have decided that we follow the Lord. We love Him. We want to remain faithful. We want to go with Him – where He goes we follow Him. But in the meantime, things change. And we have to face really unexpected situations – things we do not know how to deal with. We no longer understand what the Lord is doing; where does He want to go? And Jesus gives us the same answer: don’t fear; I am the way; I am the truth; I am the life. And this is the comfort of the Holy Spirit for all of us in these days. Jesus is the way. Sure, the first meaning of this saying ‘Jesus is the way’ means nobody can come to God except through Jesus. To enter the kingdom of God, we have to believe in Jesus Christ; we have to follow Him; we have to believe in His teaching, and we have to do His word. To enter the kingdom of God, we need His grace and His sacrifice. Without Him, we can do nothing.
That’s the basic meaning of this saying. But ‘I am the way’ also means that we have to follow His example – that He is our model – we should imitate and conform to His example. Let me quote some events of His life: He was led by the Holy Spirit – that’s to say by God – into the desert. He had no food. He fasted for 40 days, and it’s hard to imagine for me, after 40 days - He must have been very, very hungry and very, very tired. And precisely then, satan came and tempted Him. The purpose of satan was he wanted to destroy the relationship between Jesus and God. He wanted to damage His love, His fellowship with God. But despite the fact that He was very hungry and very tired, Jesus resisted temptation. His love for God was stronger than His hunger and His suffering. Jesus didn’t only suffer physically; He also suffered from injustice. Just remember, He was the totally innocent One and He was sentenced to death, and Barabbas the true criminal, the awful guy, he was released. Think about that. That must have been a great suffering for Jesus too – being treated in such an incredibly unfair manner. That was really a great and incredible injustice – unfair treatment. At the very end of His life on earth, He suffered from feeling abandoned by His God. And He expressed His great sorrow in this terrible question: My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? That was a very big, huge sorrow. That’s the way.
We cannot compare ourselves with Jesus and the suffering of Jesus – that would be a lack of respect. But nevertheless, think about our situation. In our days, now, we suffer from a kind of spiritual famine. We cannot come together to celebrate divine service; we cannot celebrate Holy Communion. I am aware that many brothers and sisters, many people are struggling to find enough food for their family. I am not talking about spiritual food, but just the food we need to live. They struggle to provide what they need for their natural life. They cannot even manage to get what they need for their basic needs. And we have many, many brothers and sisters who are precisely in this situation. Talking about unfair treatment, when I look especially at Africa, sometimes it’s very difficult for me to understand our heavenly Father. And, me too, I ask Him why? Why is it always the same people who have to suffer? Why do these people have to suffer from hunger, from war, from diseases? And precisely these ones, the poor; they have just nothing. They are involved in war; they have no food and now they have war. Here, there are floods, there there’s a drought. There are diseases, always the same. They experience hardship after hardship. They experience adversity after adversity. That’s really unfair – why? And there is no answer. The answer is: Jesus says – I am the way – remember, I want to lead you into My kingdom. And in My kingdom, You will be delivered of all evil; of all suffering: I am the way; I want to deliver you to make you free from these sufferings – I am the way. If you follow My example; if you remain faithful and steadfast in faith, love and trust you will enter My kingdom – I will deliver you; I am the way. I am the way, also in these difficult days follow and conform to My example; love your neighbour as I loved my neighbour – help him; provide him with what he needs as far as you are able to do it. I don’t need to emphasise this point because I have heard and I know that many, many things are being done by the church, by our brothers and sisters, and I am grateful for that. Jesus is the way. He wants to lead us out of the sufferings to lead us into His kingdom where we will be delivered. If we go His way, the way of faith and obedience, the way of trust, the way of love – we will enter this kingdom. And even now, we want to try and release the sufferings of our neighbour by going the way of Jesus. I am the way.
I am the truth – that means from a theological point of view, Jesus is the truth because He revealed God as He is. Through Jesus Christ, we can know God, we can know the true nature of God. He revealed to us God’s will and His nature as they are: He is the truth. But the other meaning is also that Jesus is the truth because His teaching is true. His words are true – He tells us the truth. And it’s not always easy to believe. Remember, He told His disciples: I am not alone, my Father is with Me; don’t be afraid, I have overcome the world. Okay, nice, but what happened when He was arrested, tortured, when He was sentenced to death, when He was killed? His Father did just nothing. He said He has overcome the world, but now the world won the battle and He is dying on the cross. Later on, when they met the Risen One, they realised that He is the truth. What He told us is the truth. What about us today? Jesus told His Apostles; I am with you, always – even to the end of the ages. Nice promise; and now, the Apostles are not even able to celebrate divine services. We are in a situation where they can’t even dispense the sacraments. Where is Jesus? Jesus taught us how to pray in the Lord ’s Prayer. He taught: give us this day our daily bread. And He promised if you pray that way it will be given to you. The Father will provide you with what you need. He even added that if the Father won’t give you a stone if you ask Him to give you some bread. How often do we pray: dear Father, we need Holy Communion – and we get nothing. Is that the truth? Jesus tells us: trust Me – I am the truth – My word won’t pass away; they are and remain true. It says in Proverbs: trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. I have to deal quite often with this word, but it’s a nice one. Trust in the Lord with all your heart; don’t lean on your own understanding – you won’t find an answer – our understanding adds questions and we are not able to find the beginning of an answer. Trust the Lord with your heart. Think about Jesus – He died for you. Think about all the things He already did, He does and will do for you. Trust Him – He tells you the truth. His word is and will remain true – trust the truth of Jesus.
And then Jesus said: I am the life. Dear brothers and sisters, that means that Jesus is the Living One. We know that. He rose from death, death couldn’t refrain Him. He was the strongest – He is the life. His life means also that His life is the true life. He lived in the communion; the oneness with God His Father. And that is the true life - being one with God. Having fellowship with God - that’s the true life. And that’s the life He wants to give us. He wants to give us His life in order for us to live in fellowship with God in eternity. He wants to give us His life in order to give us right now that we are one with God, and that God is with us. May I add something: He is also our life insurance. Remember, one day Jesus said: the one who hears My word, and does it is like a man who has built his on the rock. The flood came; the storm came, but His house did not fall. That is our spiritual life insurance in these very difficult days. We remain faithful and do and act according to the will of God and we do the words of God. We don’t have Holy Communion, but thanks to God we can hear God’s word. Thanks to God, we can read His word and we do it. And if we do it will all our heart, all our soul with faith and with love our house will not fall.
Dear brothers and sisters, that’s today’s message for us in this difficult situation where we cannot understand everything. Many things we just cannot explain. We go the way of Jesus. We follow His example, remain steadfast in faith, in love and we trust whatever happens. We trust His truth! And in doing so, He will give us His life in His kingdom. He will help us to experience right now His life, having the certainty that God is with me. That is my wish for all of us. Amen.