On Wednesday 26 August 2020, Bishop Gerhard Kotze conducted the midweek divine service at Silvertown congregation.
He was accompanied by District Evangelist James Faure, 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: God of grace and God of glory (EH: 129) verses 1 & 4
Bible word: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5
My dear brothers and sisters, I must say to you that I am excited to be here. And, maybe, you can say what is there to be excited about? Well, first of all, for me, I think of the fact that wherever we are, we are part of a huge congregation, and I always think when we have combined services and we have this huge gathering of people it is always a festive occasion. And so, it feels to me as if we are having a festive occasion. And then I must say to you that it occurred to me that the reality is that each and every meeting we have with our Father; each and every time we can come together in His house that we may be together and experience His word; experience that He is with us – every time this happens, it is a festive occasion. It is a reason to be joyful. And so, I must say to you that I certainly wish that wherever you find yourself; and maybe the one or the other is alone and experiencing circumstances where they didn’t really desire to be, but that each and everyone knows that God loves them and that He is there with them.
We look at our Bible word out of the epistle of James, and I must say to you that the scholars in theology tell us that this letter was written about 62 years after the crucifixion of Jesus. And unlike many of the letters that Paul wrote to specific congregations addressing specific matters, this letter was written as a general letter to the Christian congregations wherever they were. So, it was a letter of encouragement; a letter expressing the knowledge that the members in the early Christian church found themselves in circumstances. And helping them, advising them how to live a good and wonderful Christian life, how to live a life close to God even in these circumstances. And so, when we look at the beginning of verse 5, it says to us: “If any of you lacks wisdom.” It is a very small part of our verse but I thought about that and it’s a question – ‘if any of you lacks wisdom’ – so it may well mean that if any of you, that some of you, do not lack wisdom. And I wondered if there are any of us who would say that we do not lack wisdom. I certainly know that I would not say that. And I thought of the case where they brought the woman who had committed adultery before Jesus and told Him that the law says she must be stoned. And His reaction was basically to say that the one who is without sin, let him throw the first stone. And each individual who was there at the time had to decide for themselves and ask if they were without sin. We know that everybody walked away, and they were disappointed. It would appear, and one wonders about the nature of mankind at times like that because it would appear as if some people were excited about the probability of stoning this woman. And they walked away, and they were quiet. Do we lack wisdom? I believe that each and every one of us answers for themself.
Then we come to the second part: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God.” There is a very clear answer: if you then realise that you lack something, that you need something to know how to live your life because you are not doing exactly what is necessary and you are not living as close to my fellow man and God as I should. And because of that, my life is not as it should be. Then it says to us: “ask of God.” And you know, I must say when I thought about that I also thought that I heard the one or other say that they don’t understand why they need to ask God because He is almighty, He is omnipotent, He knows, so why doesn’t He just give it to us? And then I remember, many years ago in a Christmas church service where a former Rector indicated how there is great excitement on Christmas Day when presents are handed out. And then we find sometimes in January, in the classified adverts in the local newspaper, there are goods offered for sale at a very discounted price, and it says there ‘this is still in the box – unwanted gift.’ And if God gives us something without us asking for it, without us desiring for it, what happens? Do we sell it? Do we put it away in a closet? So He says to us: “If you desire wisdom, there is a simple answer: ask for it.” So my beloved brothers and sisters, dear friends, let us ask. And then, what is wonderful, what follows after that: “Let him ask of God, who gives all liberally.” Isn’t that wonderful? He is not stingy - we do not have a stingy God - we have a God who gives. And He gives liberally and without reproach. And it says that if you ask, this God who gives liberally without reproach, it will be given. I wish all things in life was that simple – just ask for it and you will receive it. So, we need to recognise that we need wisdom, we need to recognise that we need this in our life, and we want to then ask God. And if we do, He will give it to us.
Now we can come to the subject of what is wisdom. I must tell you that if you have this wisdom, and if you have asked and God has given it to us, it should be visible in our lives – we should be able to see it. It should be visible in what we say, it should be visible in what we do. When we look in chapter 3:13, it says: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in meekness….” With our brother and sister, how we interact with our neighbour when they are at the shop or the garage. And, also very important, is how we act and interact with our brother and sister, children, parents at home. What would wisdom be and that it be seen in our life? First of all, it is a wise person who acts with peacefulness, who is peaceable, who is not confrontational. I am sure that all of us are able to say that we recognise and we know of the one or the other, you know when you speak to that person, somewhere along the line they will find a reason to disagree with you. And sometimes they will disagree aggressively. But it is not only other people; we have to look at ourselves. And I thought about being peaceable, and you know how often it happens that our peace is disturbed. I am thinking of a situation where maybe you have been to a service on a Sunday morning and you are in a good mood, you are feeling good because it was a wonderful experience. And now you are on your way to the shop, and when you get to the queue at the till you find that the person in front of you forgot their pin number and now there is a delay. What is our reaction? It may be that we are delayed for 2-3 minutes. Does it take away our joy? I must tell you that I am thinking about this because I have experienced that somebody who has got a basket of goods puts it down and he walks out because he did not want to wait anymore. And how we look at that situation and see that the peace that you had is changed in a moment.
And then we look at goodness – how important it is to act with goodness. We look at the example that Jesus Christ set. He always acted with goodness towards His neighbour. How wonderful. People loved to be with Him, people loved to listen to Him because of this goodness. How are we? And what do people say about you and me? Is it so that sometimes they avoid us because they say; well that guy never has anything good to say? Jesus was on the cross, enduring pain, and He said: “Father, forgive them,” acting with goodness and showing the compassion that goes with goodness. We read in Scripture about the parable of the Good Samaritan, and we see there the wonderful example of compassion – feeling for somebody else. Can we live a life like that? Can we act like that? Do we look at our brother and sister in need and say I will make a plan, I want to help you, I cannot bear to see my neighbour in this kind of circumstance? If we have compassion and act with compassion, then we can say, indeed we are wise.
And the last thing I would like to say is to avoid hypocrisy. This is indeed a huge problem. Let us not, sometimes as we tend to do, be boastful about the one thing or the other while in our heart we are feeling not so nice about our brother or sister. When you are talking about the wonderful things you have done but, in your heart, there is a totally different feeling – that is being hypocritical. And the wise person does not do that.
So, my beloved brothers and sisters, let us look at what this letter from James teaches us. And it teaches us that if we lack wisdom, let us ask God. And if we ask God, He is a wonderful and free-giving God; He will give us wisdom and then it will be seen in our lives that there is peace and peaceability. That there is compassion, goodness and a total lack of hypocrisy. And if we are able to live like this, let us be sure that we as Christians will then be a truly legible letter of Christ. Amen.
Thoughts from Bishop Gerhard Kotze