On Sunday 30 August 2020, Apostle Gerome Mintoor conducted the morning divine service at Silvertown congregation. This divine service was conducted in English and interpreted into South African Sign Language at the altar.
He was accompanied by District Elder Mervyn Maharage, 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. Members could also listen to the divine service by calling in from either a mobile phone or landline. This divine service 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: Worthy of worship (EH: 29)
Bible Word: "The Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad. Bring back our captivity, O Lord, as the streams in the South." (Psalm 126: 3-4)
My dear brothers and sisters, I bid you a heartfelt welcome to this divine service. And I must say that as I stand here this morning in front of a very special and unique congregation, that over these past few months I became used to these kinds of services. You know, when you are in the comfort of your home and you just enjoy the moment. And here I stand in front of the congregation, totally out of my comfort zone. And I must become used to whatever happens here – if only you had an idea – I thought I had an idea, but you need to experience this. Not too long ago, our District Apostle spoke about teaching and learning in one of our virtual meetings and he said we should put more focus on the learning part. And whether you have conducted so many divine services, I do believe that this is one of the unique services; to stand in front of the congregation in a very special way.
So, dear brothers and sisters, as we sing the opening hymn: “Worthy of worship,” and, of course, the soloist also sang “the Lord is good” and as we experience this day, we can all conclude that the Lord is good. And it is a difficult and challenging time that we find ourselves and we have to speak of the reality of our time and how this pandemic so greatly impacted all of us. It doesn’t matter where we come from, or even our social status, all of us have our experiences. And normally, the experiences are not so good. There are those who were infected, and there are those who passed on. And we have seen in these days the funerals and loss of loved ones, and how sad these occasions are. These funeral services had to be conducted under difficult circumstances, where normally when somebody passed on, we could all go and bring our sympathy and compassion. During this time, that was not always possible. Even in the congregation when someone passed on, not all the ministers could access the family because of the limitations – it was and is a very trying time. Even our children at school, they have to go through this. Sometimes, they hear they can go to school and then they hear they can’t go to school. This all forms part of our concerns and our fears. And if we consider this difficult time, then individually, we have our concerns and fears in our community, as far as the country, the health system and the economy. But we remain hopeful that we sustain our health. We look at ourselves and, of course, we have to take precautions. And, of course, the rebuilding of the community is concerned, and, if I talk country-wide, then, of course, the restoration of our economic system is concerned. And when we speak about the situation then obviously from a spiritual point of view, and allow me to read the word again: "The Lord has done great things for us,” and when the Lord has done great things for us; here we find ourselves in this problematic situation, so what is so great about the goodness and greatness of God our heavenly Father? How does this word resonate with each and every one of us to say that the Lord has done great things for us? If I make the statement ‘The Lord has done great things for us…’ can you continue the story? There are many stories that go around. Just in the week, there was a story and people heard that an announcement was going to be made that some places will be closed and some substances will become forbidden – I am sure you know about that story. And everybody ran around and there was a big turn out at certain places to make provision. And when you consider the veracity of the story it became ‘fake news.’ And today we say the Lord has done great things, and if you continue the story in your own truth; and if you listen to stories, yes someone must always tell us a story, but let us create our own story – the Lord has done great things for us. If we, from a biblical and historical point of view, we look literally at this Psalm. I am aware that last week we had a word out of Psalms, and the week before that we also had a word out of Psalms, and today again we have Psalm 126:3-4. How do we approach this word? "The Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad. Bring back our captivity, O Lord, as the streams in the South." This Psalm, in its historical context amongst others, refers to the exiles in Babylon. And when we talk about the many Psalms that I referred to, there is another word that says: “By the rivers of Babylon where we sat down, and there we remembered Zion.” I am sure that you are thinking of the festive time period when people sing this song “By the rivers of Babylon.” But, it also comes out of one of the Psalms, I am not too sure if you are aware of that, but ‘By the rivers of Babylon,’ we find in Psalm 137. And when we think of the festive time period, before we get there, I think soon we will experience our friendship service. And when we celebrate our friendship service; if I look at the congregation today, nobody is here because things are not normal for our divine service practice. So when we have our friendship service, how will we, in these trying times, invite someone to come and celebrate with us? That is a challenge, and we need to become creative. We recently spoke about the #Dare2Care. Can we dare a friend to attend? Attend in a unique way and share the link with them; sharing the ways they can connect to the divine service. We are excited about sharing the gospel and that which we are proud of. And also, our Thanksgiving – it is part of our dogmatic tradition that we will celebrate Thanksgiving. And I can only say on that Thanksgiving is an action word.
The captives, here in their situation, Psalm 126 is a Psalm of restoration and it is a Psalm of new beginnings. When we look at restorations and new beginnings, and the reality in which we find ourselves today, we can already identify with how the word speaks to us. As to what we were exposed to, what we lost in this time and what went wrong, and what we need to recover we are given a Psalm of restoration. And what we need to restore, maybe in our lives, in our family life, in our country and worldwide, the things that need to be restored. And then, going forward, new beginnings. What will be those new beginnings? The Chief Apostle, in one of his services, he clearly mentions that when we eventually are permitted to return to church, how will it be with me? Will I be a new person that can actively contribute to my congregation life? Things must change; so – new beginnings. And when we talk of the historical context of these people in exile, maybe to give a background – some of the prophets that come to mind in the exilic period. Not too long ago, we were also encouraged to read the Bible, so I don’t know if you think of any prophets that come to mind in this time period of the exiles. Maybe one of these prophets I can mention to you is the prophet, Ezekiel. And the core purpose of his prophecy was to speak to the people in captivity while in exile. And God told him: “You will speak to a rebellious nation.” God knew His people. They were in exile and dependent on His grace, but He knew that they are rebellious. So, when this prophet had to bring his prophecy, he was very decisive in his approach. As to the revelations which God brought to him, he could not be influenced or swayed in any way by the people. What was most important for him was to bring the message of God and to prepare them for the national restoration that will take place for them to make them hopeful for the future. That was the prophet, Ezekiel, in that time under difficult situations – in captivity. And where we are today, in lockdown, if you can still remember, it is day 157 of our lockdown period. This people in exile, according to scripture – 70 years. Let us think about that. If we compare the two, they were in exile for 70 years – from their homes, from their comfort zone, from Jerusalem, from the temple – they were removed. And in our period of lockdown, I can simply say in uncomfortable situations, we are also removed from the sacraments. That’s maybe in the history of prophet Ezekiel. There is another prophet, and maybe you can identify with it, if you didn’t get another answer. This man was thrown in the den of lions – Daniel. And if you look at Daniel in this time period in which they were in exile, there were those around him who also had their own agendas – they were very jealous of this man. And maybe I can use the word corruption – something we find all over these days – he also had some colleagues who were quite corrupt and could influence the king to change the law to bring him to fall. And that happened, and the king was very sorry about it. But, the very next day, the king was the first to go and find out if Daniel was still alive. And we know the story. But Daniel, in difficult times, did not give in. we are also exposed to difficult times, and do we give in? Or can we stand up firm as far as our promise and our commitments are concerned?
The last prophet that comes to mind out of this exilic period is the prophet, Nehemiah. And when they went back to Jerusalem, he looked at the condition and saw that everything was destroyed. And he called upon the people. If we read the book of Nehemiah we will find and discover that he was a creative leader. And in his creativity, he could encourage everybody to restore and rebuild what is lost and damaged. The Bible clearly says that they rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in 52 days. So, some creative leadership came to the fore. And where we find ourselves, dear brothers and sisters, the question is asked when we return, am I going to be the same, or am I going to be a different person as our Chief Apostle encouraged us? Our District Apostle also spoke to us and encouraged us to start our own pandemic of love, obedience, of caring and being kind. We look at ourselves, and when we look at Psalm 126 in its entirety, it says in the first verse: “And when the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter; and our tongue with singing. Then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them’. ‘The Lord has done great things for us, And we are glad’.” That is the first three verses of this Psalm. It is a prayer of looking back at what the Lord has done for us. So, looking back into the past, we can also look back to our past and look at what the Lord has done for us.
And then comes verse four: “Bring back our captivity, O Lord, As the streams in the South.” In their present reality, they remained concerned about those who were still in captivity – “Please Lord, bring them back.” When we look at the past and what the Lord has done for us, and now in our present time and what the Lord is doing for us today. And then comes verse 5 and 6: “Those who sow in tears Shall reap in joy.” There is an expectation as far as the future is concerned. Do you know how you can remember this, the past, the present and the expectation? It simply comes down to PPE; and during this time, there are many connotations with the letters PPE; positive yes, because we need to protect ourselves in these days, but there is also some negative forms of the letters PPE, but it is to protect yourself and protect others. I came here today with my mask; I had to sanitise my hands; they had to take my temperature, and this shows the importance of PPE in this difficult time. In the past, of course, we have the history as far as the captivities is concerned, and here in our present reality, we look at the past; God in His creation work, He sent His Son, the Holy Spirit came, Jesus commissioned His Apostles, the church of Christ was established. God has done all this for us and here we are because of what the Lord has done for us in our present reality. Yes, we are all baptised with water – the washing away of original sin. And I can imagine that there are so many who now need to be baptised. And this raises questions like when will my child be baptised? When will this one be baptised? In the course of time, this will take place. Baptised with water, and receive the Holy Spirit through the act of Holy Sealing. And of course today, the Holy Spirit continues to guide and transform us into the new creature. And into the future dear brothers and sisters, yes we have an expectation for the future, even if it is difficult, even if you suffer, even if you have lost a loved one, it doesn’t matter what our situation is, we remain firm, loyal and committed to our calling. And we know the future brings for us the return of Christ. And when we prepare ourselves today under the word and the forgiveness of sins, then we always pray for the Lord to shorten to time, to send His Son and accept us all in grace. We want to be worthy, and we wait for the return of Christ. The Lord has done great things that He has called and elected us that we can participate and be called a child of Christ and belong to the bridal congregation.
And then comes the marriage of the lamb; then comes the thousand-year kingdom of peace. There is the great tribulation. And finally, the word says, “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, ...”
So we have a future – Psalm 126 says that the Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad. Glad for what the Lord has done for us in the past. We are glad for what the Lord is doing for us today even in trying situations. Look at the example of Daniel, Ezekiel and Nehemiah – certain personalities of faith – what is the personality that I portray in this difficult time? Is it about to give in? Dear brothers and sisters, be reminded of the great love of God, He has called us, He has made us His children and there is a future for all of us. Amen.
Thoughts from Apostle Gerome Mintoor