On Wednesday 2 September 2020, Bishop Trevor Stephens conducted the midweek divine service at Silvertown congregation.
He was accompanied by Shepherd Colin Esau, 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: Heart with heart in love united (EH:368) verses 1 & 3
Bible word: “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share.” 1 Timothy 6:17-18
My dear brothers and sisters, I welcome you to this divine service. We are in the first divine service in September. September signifies a change in season. In 20 days, we will officially be in Spring. And this marks a change in season. Spring symbolises new life and new hope. As a church, we also move into a new season and that season is Thanksgiving. Usually, at this time, the Rector and his team will gather together and plan the decorations of the altar in their congregations. And this Bible word also encourages us to change.
In scripture, we find many examples that call for needing change. Some changed, some did not. One biblical example thereof was Zacchaeus. He was a rich man. He lived in Jericho and he did not have a very good rapport with the citizens. He was of Jewish descent, but because he was a tax-collector, he worked for the Roman government. We know that tax collectors at that time did not have a very good name. He heard that Jesus was coming into their town and he wanted to see Jesus. But because he was a small man in stature, he decided to get into a sycamore tree, and when Jesus came through He decided to stop and He said: "Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house." They did this. And what transpired there? I do not know. But there was a tremendous change in the life of Zacchaeus because he could say to Jesus: “…I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” So, something happened in Zacchaeus after a meeting with Jesus; that there was this change that spirituality and pleasing God became more important than his wealth.
Our Bible word calls for change and it does it quite harshly because it says: “Command those who are rich.” Now, at this point, I would like to say that Apostle here did not address the riches of these individuals, but rather the attitudes they portrayed in the congregation that was not according to the teachings and the gospel of Christ. We remember that Jesus said: “…love one another as I have loved you.” and that was not happening in these congregations by those who felt they were better than others because of what they possessed. And, I would like to say that those who are blessed with natural affluence need not feel guilty over what they possess. Our Bible word says that God gives richly to enjoy. So, enjoy it! God blessed you with it; use it and use it wisely.
But, we are admonished to do good and to be rich in good works. What are these good works that we are admonished to do? It says in our Bible word: “Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give.” What can we give? We can give our offerings. It is a good work. And it brings to mind that which is written in Luke 21: the widow’s mite. Here, whilst our Bible word speaks of the rich, Luke 21 speaks of when Jesus looked up and saw those who were rich offering, but He also saw this woman offering. So, our desire to offer should be in every one of us, whether we are rich or poor. And we never want to do this because we feel obligated to do it, but rather a need to bring thanks to God. And when we do this, we firstly acknowledge God who is the giver of all good gifts, and we acknowledge that what we have comes from Him – He opened the gates of blessing and we want to say thank you to Him by bringing our offerings to Him – our offerings of thanks.
Another thing that we can give to God is our time and our talents. We can ask our Rector what we can do to bring joy in our congregations. We can speak to our section Priest and ask him how we can help in the section. And I think a very important part in the work of a congregation is the work in Sunday School because there we build the foundation of the future of God’s work – a very important work. And now in this COVID period, we see the effort that is put into the lessons so that our children can be equipped with the knowledge of Christ and God. And we want to be part of that joy and building and securing the future of the work of God.
Our Bible word also speaks of “ready to give, willing to share.” What can we share? We live through a beautiful time even though we are living in a pandemic and through a very cold period. And we experienced how willing members and human beings are to share with others who were in need. And at this point, allow me to say thank you to you on behalf of the church for that which you have done. We have also had beautiful experiences in this venture that those who received perhaps a loaf of bread, and the person said thank you for this, but that they would also share it with their neighbour because there is also a need. Even that little bit they received they were willing to share. And that was beautiful that we shared that which we had and could give to others.
Dear brothers and sisters, we can also share God’s grace, God’s word, by sharing it with our neighbour. On Sunday, we will celebrate friendship day service. We can share that joy of being part of this congregation. We cannot invite them to the church because we are limited, but we can invite them by saying to them come and share with us in the joy in the congregation. Come and share in this friendship day service by offering them the link to the divine service. Dear brothers and sisters, so we can become rich in good works by giving and by sharing that which our heavenly Father has given us.
I would like to summarize the divine service with the following: we are called to change into a new season of Thanksgiving and thankfulness by becoming rich in good works; ready to give and willing to share both our natural and spiritual gifts which God gives us. Amen.
Thoughts from Bishop Trevor Stephens