On Sunday 6 September 2020, District Apostle J Kriel conducted the Friendship divine service at Silvertown congregation.

This divine service was conducted in English and interpreted into South African Sign Language (SASL) at the altar by Beryl Botha.

He was accompanied by Community Evangelist Ronald Fortune, 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: I have found a Friend in Jesus (EH: 373)

Bible word: “Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.” (Mark 2: 3-4)

District Apostle:
My dear brothers and sisters, wherever you gather, again, I bid you a most hearty welcome, here at this divine service that has become a tradition in our church, that the first Sunday in September we have a friendship day, and that we have a friendship day service in which we invite our friends and acquaintances and say come and share with us a divine service. And I thank you for accepting the invitation. When COVID was not around, you would be invited to attend the divine service and afterwards, we would have some fellowship. So, for next year I extend to you an invitation now already to attend our fellowship, because, don’t we miss being together? Don’t we miss having fellowship with each other? And, not only do we come to church for the divine service, but also to have fellowship with each other where we are able to see our friends; where these friendships have developed over the years. When you think of the word ‘friends’ then sometimes you think the word is overused sometimes, and it’s not as true as it means. When you hear the people, mostly the legal people, when they argue in court, they are not exactly friends, but they call each other ‘my learned friend.’ And I often wonder, is that true? Because at the smallest opportunity, they will get to their learned friends. I don’t want to go to other parts, but in some meetings, we hear of ‘my honourable friend,’ often in parliament, we hear that, and often we wonder, is that true. And often, you have reason to wonder because everything else does not point towards that. And I think in the modern age when we think of friends, the one or other says I have thousands of friends. I don’t know too much about it, but I think on Facebook people say will you be my friend on Facebook? And some people will tell you that they have thousands of friends. And that’s okay. But I often wonder, if you have a puncture at 2 in the morning, would those friends on Facebook help you? Would you tell them you have a problem? And then we come back to the old saying: a friend in need is a friend indeed. And when we think of the friends that we have that will fit into that description, I am sure that the thousands will whittle into a few because there we find out who our true friends really are: the one who is there for you when you need them. And sometimes when you find yourself in difficult times, the friends you thought you had you didn’t because somehow, they just were not there for you. Other times, also in this time of COVID, you discovered friends you never thought you had. So much good in the congregation and neighbourhood. And as much as you couldn’t classify them as friends, they came, and they gave their helping hand and they fulfilled that portion of the friend in need. They were really there to help. And isn’t that beautiful? That during this time and after this time, I am convinced you will have many more friends than what you had before. And sadly, friends that you had before are somehow friends no more for somehow the test they did not pass. So, we want to welcome you. The one who invited you thought enough of you to invite you and share what they have, love and what is important to them because they did not want to keep this to themselves.

We come to our Bible word out of the gospel of Mark. For many years, the gospel of Mark could be considered, I almost call it the ‘stepchild’ of the Gospels, because for centuries it was considered as a summary of the book of Matthew. But thanks to the study of the scholars, in the 19th and 20th centuries, they discovered Mark in its fulness, in its unique form. And they are of the opinion that Mark was really the basis of the gospel of Matthew and of Luke. Mark comes out as itself, and it has a unique feeling to the gospel when you read it. Mark, the author here, is in a hurry to tell us about the activity of Jesus. From one event to the next – it’s gripping reading. And I encourage you, as we have been encouraged, please, let us read the Bible a bit more. And you see how urgently he wants to tell us about Jesus and His activity. In fact, a word that comes up in Mark more often in the Gospels is the word “immediately”. You know, when we read it, it says, ‘immediately they did this; immediately the Spirit came.’ In fact, in the book of Mark, the word ‘immediately’ or the meaning thereof comes through 42 times in the gospel. And in the gospel of Matthew only 5 times, and in the gospel of Luke only once. So, here is this unique feeling and character of the gospel of Mark. And that’s where our Bible word comes out today.

Jesus had started His ministry and He did many miracles. He had to prove to the people and Jews of the time that He was sent by God and He could do all that the prophets did because God empowered Him to do so. And so, He performed man miracles, and as a result, they brought many sick people to Him to be healed. So, he had a great following. And here, this account out of our chapter when He came to Capernaum, He came to the house preaching the word. The house was full. There were so many people there. In fact, you couldn’t even get in at the door – that’s how full it was. And here we read of four men. The gospel does not exactly describe them as friends. But if we use the saying ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed,’ here they did something for someone and I think we can happily give them this special title of a friend where they took this, and here I just want to make myself clear, it says here: “a paralytic man,” they carried him on his bed. And maybe, I want to use the word paraplegic because I do know our young people and the word ‘paralytic’ may have other connotations for them. And so, I want to say for understanding, this was a man that was ill. He suffered from paralysis. He could not walk himself. As much as he might have believed that Jesus could heal him, he could not get himself to Jesus. And here, these four men, they saw the need of this man and did not only feel sorry for him. No, they decided to do something for him. They could not help him themselves, but they knew who could. They knew Jesus was there. He could help him. And for him to be helped by Jesus, they had to get him there – and they made a plan. They picked up the bed, and I think each one took a corner to themself and they carried him. And now they came to the house; they couldn’t get in. This house was full, the door was blocked – they couldn’t get in at all. And at that point, they may have said to this man that it was their desire to help him, but as you can see we can’t get you in here because it’s just not possible, there are too many people around Jesus. But not these guys. The need of, let me call it their friend on the bed – the paraplegic man – his need to see Jesus was greater than this little obstacle in their way and they decided that they will do something about it. And as we read, they went and lifted the roof. Now, in Capernaum, the houses were made of the local stone, and the roof was branches crisscrossed from the walls filled with straw and with earth. So, they made a plan – they opened the roof and lowered him down to Jesus’ feet. And there Jesus saw their faith. And this faith was rewarded. In fact, this man had a special bonus, He did not heal the man immediately, he first said, “…your sins are forgiven…” Of course, that caused quite an uproar. And Jesus posed the question: “Is it easier for me to do that or the other?”, but we come back to that. Jesus said to him: “…take up your bed and go to your house,” and he was healed. And out of this, we want to take a lesson. Here, with these four, let’s call them friends, what was important for them? They needed to get this man to Jesus. He had needs.

I would like to say, dear brothers and sisters, that was the purpose of the invitation to you dear friends. Your friend thought they need to get you to Jesus; they need to get you to the word of God; they need to get you to where Jesus is revealed, where He is active today. They needed to get you to the greatest friend of all. We sang in the opening hymn “I have found a Friend in Jesus”, and that is the friend we would like to introduce to everyone today. Maybe He is a forgotten friend. Maybe you knew Him once before. Come, we want to reintroduce you to Jesus. If you didn’t know Him, come here is a true friend. And true friends are rare. True friends are a treasure. And friendship needs an investment. How often were we disappointed when we had friends who we thought were friends, but they never had your best interest at heart. Sometimes friends are friends just because they can get something from you. And when that benefit is gone, the friendship goes with that too. Is that a true friend? When they can only get what is good for them and do not consider you in any way? Often, we have that kind of friendships, and then we realise, sometimes too late, that I only sit with hurt, I only sit with sorrow. But now we come and we say this friend that I have come to know; this friend Jesus can be your friend too. And that’s the invitation that we give to all. Come, let us get to know Him. Let us get to experience this friendship. The benefit of these four men bringing the paralytic man to Jesus was nothing. The benefit was all for him. He could walk, his sins were forgiven, but they did it anyway. Dear brothers and sisters, we want to learn from a friend like Jesus – the truest friend that anyone can have. And if we look at the basis and the value of His friendship, He wants to be our friend not of what he can get out of it, but what He can give to us. In fact, He proved it. He died for our benefit – not for His. In fact, He was with the Father. He gave up the benefit and privilege of heaven to prove His friendship to us by dying for us. He came, as He said, to serve and not to be served. He came to give us something. He came to help us carry our burden. He came to wipe our tears away, that when we are sad, He will still be with us. When we are happy, He will be with us too. This is the friendship on offer for all of us today. Jesus is here. And that hand of friendship from Him. He is saying to us that He will be our friend. And He has already given us so much, come, be My friend too. And my prayer is that we are able to go and leave this divine service with a friend that we, again maybe, have forgotten that we have, or a new friend in Jesus because He will provide for us so much. And what is our duty? These friends, who brought this man to Jesus, they overcame all obstacles – they went out of their way to bring this man to Jesus. Will I do the same for my friend and give them maybe the greatest gift I can? Friendship with Jesus. He is ready. Jesus is ready. He died for all. He wants to be everyone’s friend. Come, let us make Him our friend too that as He did in the past, He will also wipe our tears away. He will also give us the comfort that we need. He will also give us, and share with us, doesn’t a friend share? Jesus wants to share the best that He has. That’s what good friends do. Sometimes friends that are not so good give you stuff that they don’t want. God gave us His Son – the only one He had, and Jesus gave His life. Can we have a better friend? Friends sometimes disappoint. He will never disappoint us. As I said, he will be with us when we are sad – He will wipe our tears away. Don’t we sometimes have friends that when we make a mistake, we say a wrong word and they never forget that? They hold it against us forever, and we are all poorer for it because we lose friendship. Jesus does not do that. He said if we make a mistake, He will forgive us. And He says something else. Once I heard a husband had a bit of an argument, and he shared with me, and he said it’s always difficult when we have to fix up an argument that we made because whenever we have an argument, my wife becomes terribly historical. I smiled and said surely you mean hysterical? He said no, historical, because when I must hear what I did 30 years ago and 25 years ago, I must hear all those stories and we cannot move on. Our God, this friendship, this Jesus, He forgives us and remember our sins no more. That’s the friend we have. That’s available to us. Come, let us embrace this friend that we have found in our Lord Jesus Christ who has already done so much for us, and He wants to do so much more for us.

My dear friends, thank you for accepting the invitation. And you know, we may not be as dramatic to remove the roof for you. But I know, for this divine service some people said they can come but they haven’t got this, and then they said here is the link. And then they said they haven’t got data, they even sent them data so that they could be part of this divine service. That is a practical means of making it easy for a friend. Making it possible and taking away the obstacles that you can come to Jesus, and that’s what we need to do through our life and our teaching. And we want to measure our friendship with the measure that Jesus sets for us. Am I prepared to forgive like my friend Jesus did? Am I prepared to forget the faults and the failings like my friend Jesus did? Or do I hold onto it? And, sometimes, we make our lives poorer for it. Let us celebrate the benefit of friendship. I dare say, and I want to say that again, how do we not miss being with friends in this time of lockdown? It’s painful. And we pray that soon it will return to normal. Soon we will be able to gather again. Soon we will be able to visit again. Soon we will be able to enjoy the benefit of friendship. But the greatest friend we have, Jesus, He is available to us always.

My dear brothers and sisters, there is a friendship to celebrate – the friendship with Jesus. In fact, we hear about it, Jesus says to His disciples: “I don’t call you disciples anymore, but now you have become my friends.” (cf. John 15: 15) And that’s available. Because He says the disciples don’t know everything, but I share everything with my friends. And so, on this friendship day 2020, let it be a renewal. Let us renew our friendship with Jesus Christ. Let us cultivate. And remember, friendship needs investment. We need to be there for each other. Jesus will always be there for you and for me. Will we be there for Him? That’s up to us that we are able to create this beautiful and this blessed feeling, this blessed benefit of friendship.

Many years ago, I went to see someone off who immigrated to an overseas country, and it was not a nice picture at the airport – there was much sadness and sorrow. And when it came to that point when they left, somebody said to me: “look, I don’t know how much money they have, I don’t know the extent of their wealth, but what I want to say is this is the riches they leave behind – all their friends that they have cultivated, that they have invested in so much.” So, let us appreciate our friendship and measure it against the friendship we have with Jesus. Am I a friend as Jesus is a friend to me? We can all do that. He will help us. We make mistakes for sure, but He will help us and He will provide for us all that we need – a friend in need is a friend indeed – that we are able to embrace that. And once we evaluate the friendships that we have, see what it is worth. And maybe to our young people, see what that friendship is worth. Is it worth sacrificing so much? Remember, when we have friendship with Jesus, this becomes the template for the friendships we can experience, and we want to celebrate that. Jesus is a friend that tells us the truth, and if I have a friend that tells me the truth then treasure it because that’s not so common that we have a friend that will tell me what he thinks and when he sees me going to make a mistake he will ask me if that’s the wisest thing you’re doing. And again, dear brothers and sisters, thank you again for accepting the invitation today and thank you for allowing that you received this message that Jesus can become our true friend always and that we can do our share, go out of our way to make it possible for another to come to Jesus. Amen.
Thoughts from District Apostle J Kriel