On Wednesday 19 August 2020, Bishop Anthony Hartzenberg conducted the midweek divine service at Silvertown congregation.
He was accompanied by Priest Nathan Jacobus, 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: O Son of God, we wait for Thee (EH:417) verses 1 & 4
Bible Word: “You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” James 5:8
My dear brothers and sisters, we are thankful that we have this opportunity to come into the temple of the Lord and be in His presence and listen to His word. And we know that we need new strength. We also need renewed peace. And this is what our heavenly Father will give to us.
Our Bible word, as it says: “You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord, is at hand.” And when we look at the word, at the time, the author wrote to the congregation of the time and he had one concern: the congregation had many difficulties. But in their difficulties, some of them moved away from that sincere desire to wait on the return of Jesus. And then the writer used the image of a farmer who waits for the first rains to come and then the latter rain, to show that we must be patient in waiting for our bridegroom Jesus.
I want to start with that we need to wait for our bridegroom Jesus. This is our belief. This is what we have been taught. I remember since I was a little boy, that is what our parents taught us, our Sunday School teachers, that Jesus will come again and we will go with Him and we will go to heaven, and we will live forever. That grew within us and it became a desire. And for us, it is something that we believe, it is part of our faith and therefore it is also recorded in the creed of our church, the ninth creed: “ I believe that the Lord Jesus will return as surely as He ascended into heaven and that He will take to Himself the firstfruits of the dead and living who have hoped for and were prepared for His coming;” Those who have hoped, our loved ones, those who have gone before us, whilst being among us on the face of the earth they hoped, they were prepared – that is the desire. And for us still today, that is our longing; our desire is to be with Jesus. And now, for us to wait for Jesus to come and to be prepared and ready, it is imperative for us to be, as our Bible word says: “You also be patient.” The farmer, as it is written in Holy Scripture, the farmer must first wait for the first rains and then he can sow the seeds, and then he waits for the latter rain so that the harvest can be ripened and be successful. But the farmer, he or she, cannot influence the elements of the weather; when and how the seeds must germinate. They must also be patient; they must wait for that to transpire, and that they must do so with patience. For us, we also go, like the congregation of the time, also go through difficulties. We go through difficulties in the time that we find ourselves in. This time of the pandemic. But even before that. Today we have brothers and sisters who are unemployed; those who are affected and infected; those who have the fear for this virus, and many other things surround their lives. And before that, people also had difficulties.
Dear brothers and sisters, in our difficulties, we also want to be patient – that is very important. Patience is the ability to tolerate delays. It is when we have problems, it is when we are severely tested, then our patience must come to the fore and carry us through. At times, we become impatient and we become frustrated because we are not in control of things. We are impatient about things happening around us – at home, at work, in the community, even in the church. Recently, one of our senior sisters called me during lockdown, and she said: “Bishop, when are we going back to church?” I said to her: “Please be patient, the time will come.” A week later she called again and asked if there was no news yet. I said to her please be patient, and she agreed and said she will be patient. And then the third week she called and said that she is patient, but she is a member of the Golden Voices and she loves to sing and missed the singing, and she wanted to know when they will be able to start singing again. And I said to her that the answer is the same: please be patient. And then she said the following: “My time is running out; I am no longer so young and I am waiting.” The answer is: please be patient. And then, dear brothers and sisters, she called back some time after that and she said: “Bishop, I have learnt to be patient, because as much as I love singing, I have learnt to sing that my times are in Your hands Lord – I have learnt to do that.” There was a transformation; she learnt patience in waiting.
And now says our word for us furthermore, apart from you also being patient, it says “establish your hearts”, meaning you must be firm, you must be courageous, you must be stout-hearted, you must stand your ground and keep your faith – that is very important for us to do as children of God. That we do not give in no matter what the circumstances are of our time; that is what we will do. And, in times of trials and temptations, that is what we need to do. In times when doubt wants to set in, then we need to be strong. We read in Holy Scripture: “And when you are strengthened, go and strengthen your brother”, meaning when we are strengthened, we will go strengthen our neighbour, our fellow brother and sister in Christ. That is what we will do. How will we keep this faith strong? It is when we remind ourselves of the faithful vows we have made to our Lord and God. The vows when we were baptised, when we brought our children for Holy Baptism and Holy Sealing. The vows that we made to God when we were confirmed that we will remain faithful to Him until our end. The vows that we made when we received our ministries when we were ordained and anointed, and we promised the Lord that we will remain faithful, care for His children, love His work and that we will spread the gospel. Let us think about the vows and promises we have made; all those we have made when we were in the congregation publicly, in the presence of the congregation. But there are also vows we have made privately when we spoke to God; when we went through tests and trials in our lives we made it known unto the Lord, we vowed to the Lord and promised that we would remain faithful and that is what we want to do right until the time when the Lord Jesus will come.
So, dear brothers and sisters, we, in short, want to summarise very importantly: you also be patient no matter the situation, the circumstances, the difficulties – be patient in waiting – for when we wait, we will see the day of the Lord. When we wait, we will be present when our Bridegroom will come and fetch us, and then we need to establish our hearts, we need to stand our ground and we must remain faithful. And when the Lord Jesus will come, certainly we will go with Him. Amen.
Thoughts from Bishop Anthony Hartzenberg