On Wednesday 5 August 2020, Bishop Ivor Adams conducted the midweek divine service at Silvertown congregation. This divine service was conducted in Afrikaans.
He was accompanied by District Elder Joseph Lee, a small NACTV crew and an organist. This divine service was made available on NACTV, YouTube and 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: Met U, o Heer, verbonde (Afr: 128)
Bible Word: "For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world …" 1 Corinthians 1:26-27a
My dear brothers and sisters, I welcome you to the divine service this evening and believe that our heavenly Father will grant unto each one that which is needed. We gather under abnormal circumstances but also normal because our God is present. And when He is present it is normal. But I believe beloved that the circumstances will soon change so that we will have the opportunity to all be together, to praise and worship Him; to have fellowship with Jesus Christ and to experience the sacraments at the altar. Until then, we have to communicate with one another in this manner.
Beloved to be able to have a deeper understanding of our Bible word, it is necessary to have a look at what the circumstances were in Corinth. What did the city look like? What was the composition of the congregation? What were the challenges at the time? The Apostle Paul started the congregation - at that stage, it was a very young congregation. He was very active; he was busy in Ephesus when he received a message. Some writers are of the opinion that the writing was from someone of Chloe’s household. Others are not in agreement concerning this, but it does not matter. He came to know that there were challenges in this young congregation. The challenges were based on fear due to the factions. Some in the congregation sided with a certain leader; there were misunderstandings about the sacrament at the altar; there were disagreements in families -to the extent that families threatened one another with the law; lawyers’ letters were written. The Apostle Paul decided that he had to talk with them. And it was because of this that the first letter was written to the Corinthians. The Apostle spoke with them in the manner of a shepherd, as a father, by encouraging them. This is how this word came about - “brethren of Corinth, remember your calling; your election.”
I have mentioned that we must look deeper into the background of the city. On the one hand, there were the Greeks who studied at the University of Athens; they studied philosophy in which they were masters. They were in the congregation. There were the Jews who wanted concrete proof of Jesus’ resurrection. They did not just want to believe that He arose. They considered the message of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross too simplistic. And the Apostle came and reminded them to give thought to their calling and remember it.
And beloved, there are many similar incidents which occurred in the city of Corinth and prevailed in the congregation. And it is the same in our time. There are influences, there are ideas and there are opinions. And the Apostle Paul came and encouraged the Corinthians to not forget who called them. He also reminded them that He who called also set out the path for them.” The Apostle also mentioned to them that He who ordained them has chosen them as His people. And He who chose them and they were called to walk on His path. And now beloved, this gives us the assurance that He who called set out the path. And He who set out the path, He guides us on this path.
But we know beloved, this is not an easy path. The way of life is not easy. If we look at Jesus’ path – Jesus in the desert, thereafter His entrance into Jerusalem and on to Gethsemane and then I can imagine - He carried the cross along the main road on His way to Golgotha. He came to Golgotha after different stops on His way; on the cross and with His last breath He said: Father it is finished. Beloved, we are called onto a path not without challenges and not without concerns. And, the buzz word of our time is Covid-19 – that is the buzz word – the pandemic. Beloved, it is not the first pandemic and will not be the last. There are other pandemics which have been with us for many years. The spiritual pandemic of disbelief, doubt, such as the pandemic of the Greek spirit in the congregation of Corinth. We can debate about it; we want to win the argument. Or on the other hand, the Jews, we are looking for concrete proof.
Beloved, let us accept what the Lord gives us, and use it to become worthy in this unworthy world. But the path we walk on has challenges. And the challenges are concerns. Concerns are problems. And those problems to a large extent bring about in us darkness, gloom, loneliness. Let us use the example of Jesus Christ. While He was busy proclaiming the salvation plan of His Father, there were thousands of followers. But as time went on, they all disappeared, they left. And after some time, He was alone. And in His loneliness, he connected with His God: “My Father help now, take this cup away if it is Thy will, but I will do it if You expect it from me.” In our lives beloved, we also have times of being alone. And loneliness brings about fear. Loneliness makes one scared. And in the dark night, we call to our Father and ask where He is, answer please. I do not have an answer, I do not know what to do, I do not know where to from here.
And beloved, God listens. He will not change His laws of nature and change the night into day. What He does for us, He shows us where the candle stands, and He shows us how to light the candle, and then we can understand as the candle burns and the dark begins to disperse, and then we understand. There is a nice proverb with its origin in the East which says it is better to light a small candle than to curse the darkness. We are in the dark dear beloved, let us light a small candle. The candle of faith, of trust, of love. And what happens then? We move through this life like Jesus who was alone, but with His Father. We can also experience this. Alone, yes; sad, yes; lonely, yes; bewildered, yes. Alone, but alone with God. Remember this. This is our take-home message. Alone, but alone with God. If we can attain this in our lives, then we will walk the path and believe that God is in control and we need not fear. As a human being, we fear but we trust. The trust is given to us in a promise: “I am going to prepare a place for you; when this is completed, I will come fetch those who belong to me.” Until then we protect the assurance of our election: “I called you; I called you by your name, you are Mine.” We have that assurance beloved and know that we will be alone in this life, but alone with God. Let this be our watchword in the future. And we know beloved we will fight the battle and we shall overcome. This makes me think, I see a picture: There is much stress in the world, there is much tension in homes, in families, even in marriages, parents about their children, children about their parents. I see a picture: A concerned mother, she is crying, she is alone, she says: Lord I brought the child before the altar. I brought him to be baptised. I made the vow to rear the child with the fear of the Lord. I did it in my weakness and what now? I do not know where my child is. It is dark. It is part of the path that we must walk beloved. But remember to burn the candle of trust and curse the dark and our God will not desert us. He chose us. He called us. He is truthful. God bless you beloved. Amen.
Thoughts from Bishop Ivor Adams
(English summary of divine service conducted in Afrikaans)