On Sunday 20 September 2020, District Apostle J Kriel conducted the morning divine service at Barberton congregation. This divine service was conducted in English.
He was accompanied by Apostle L Meyer, Bishop J Mabaso, 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: Star, to which I'm looking(EH: 210)
Bible word: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord’.” (Psalm 122:1)
My dear brothers and sisters, a hearty welcome to this Sunday and this special divine service. We are broadcasting today’s service from Barberton, a congregation more than 80 years old. And I am led to believe that it was built by the members themselves when they needed to have a church where God’s people could gather. So, today, we are here also to celebrate the retirement of Apostle Lionel Meyer.
We are still getting used to the new normal that was imposed upon us, not by our own doing. You know, there are many things in our life that we cannot control. The coronavirus for one was totally out of control – how it affects us, we have no choice in that matter. We had no choice over where we were born, we have no choice over many things, and we cannot control many things, and that is true. And sometimes we knock our head against the brick wall to try and control the things we cannot. But, let us rather use our effort to deal with the matters we can control. For example, I cannot control how someone else speaks to me, how someone else treats me or what they say to me – that’s out of my hands. But, I can control how I react, I can control if the power and the nature of Jesus is in my make up and that will determine how I react, and that is in my control. Often, the one or the other says ‘you made me mad’, but no one can make you mad or angry, we decide and we are in control.
Our Bible word comes out of a Psalm, and the scholars tell us it is a Psalm from David. It says here that it is a Song of the Ascent, meaning going up, in this aspect it means going up to the temple. And it was not a great time for the Israelites, because you must remember the temple was destroyed, the original temple of Solomon was destroyed in all its beauty of gold, silver and the beautiful wood – that temple was destroyed. But in the year 516.BC, the temple was restored, but nowhere near the beauty of the original temple. It couldn’t compare, it was not the same, and it was not a happy time for the Israelites. But here the Psalmist says that he wants to encourage them, he wants to strengthen their faith and makes the statement and says “I was glad”, and dear brothers and sisters, whether you are glad or not, that is our choice. One can live a life of being miserable – you choose that. And some people have to endure so much, but you will never say it because when you look at their countenance, and when you look at how they deal with things they are quite happy because they know that their life is in greater hands. And so, David said he was glad, that was an emotion, he was glad, he was happy. And why was he happy? It says, “I was glad when they said to me”, immediately the word ‘they’ is plural, meaning a few people. “When they said to me”, and now comes the reason for his joy, “let us go into the house of the Lord”. And here he wanted to give a message: this house of the Lord was not the as great as the old one, but it was still the house of the Lord. And the gold and the silver did not determine whether the Lord God is present. The size of the building, the beauty or the age of the building does not determine whether God is present or not. No, it is the fellowship of God’s people. He said "…where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.", and that is indeed then the house of the Lord. And so, he was motivated; he wanted to build up the faith of the people. He told the people not to worry because it may not be the same, but it is the same God yesterday, today, and forever. Dear brothers and sisters, as this Song of Ascent of David, and this feeling of joy and happiness, because they said, ‘Let us go into the house of the LORD.”
And there is, and hopefully, we can see the similarity. I, for one, must say in this time I would do a funeral and I would come back and say that it is not really the same – it is a bit strange. Here we are, a congregation of 50 people, but we couldn’t sing, and we can’t greet each other like we used to. Hopefully, that will change, but for the moment it can’t be so. Now does that mean the house of God is not for me because it’s not like it was before? The Israelites had to go to the house of God, and it was not as it was before. It was now a different experience. It was now an experience where they had to separate that which was on the outside, the external part, to the inner development and they go there because it is the house of the Lord. Does a child not want to be at home? Most children want to be home, they want to be with their parents, they want to be with their brothers and sisters, they want to be with their loved ones. Often, they ask ‘when are we going home?’ And maybe that is the cry in our hearts too: when are we going home? When am I going to be with my brothers and sisters, when am I going to be in the house of God where there is so much for me and to able to hear what He says? Sure, we have the divine services coming to us, but we do miss that because Christian worship is about being together and that remains our prayer. And when the call does come “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the LORD’.” may that feeling of joy and gladness be genuine in all of our hearts. The Psalmist was glad only because of the invitation. Just the invitation made him happy. How happy would he be when he actually went and fulfilled because that was just an invitation? And now reality is here, and we can be together, now we can be in the house of God.
Dear brothers and sisters, I write into our hearts today: let us be glad when it is said to us ‘let us go into the house of the LORD.’ And for a moment, I just want to underline and mention that this word does not say ‘you go to the house of the Lord, I will wait for you until you come back.’ No, it says ‘let us go’, this unit, this family – we are going to God, we are going to God’s house for there is blessing, there is joy. And in this time of COVID, I am convinced that many families celebrated divine services together in their homes. Let us not stop there. Let this message “go, come,” we say and we invite, let us go into the house of the Lord when things are normalised and we can go – let us not forget the joy. And let us not stay by the words ‘it’s not the same’, but let us see it as a Song of Ascent – we are going home, we are going higher - the things that are of value.
How strange was it when we went to high school. It wasn’t the same because in the old days it was standard 5, and when you came from primary school you were a ‘big shot’, now you come to high school, standard 6, and everybody messes you around, and you say you wish you were at the old school. But after a few days, somebody asks you if you want to go back and you say no because you have moved on. We have gone up, we have grown. And so, dear brothers and sisters, the Psalmist says, “I was glad when they said to me, let us go into the house of the LORD.” Let each one say that, that you have an invitation, each mother, father, child, each one has an invitation to say, “come, let us go to the house of the Lord,” as a unit, as a togetherness, and that we can come back together as a congregation.
Okay, I can promise you that it is not going to be the same – we have got new legislation that says we can have 250 members in attendance, but you must have social distancing. So, our congregations may not look the same as it was before COVID. You may not be able to gather in that school hall as you used to. Now, are you still glad to say let us go into the house of the Lord when the distance is a bit greater, when the weather is not so good, when my circumstances are not so great, when I may have to walk to church? Will I still be glad when I say come, let us go into the house of the Lord? So, each one, in his or her circumstance, has to find the means to continue to be glad. And that dear brothers and sisters is my wish and my desire for all of us. Let us rejoice; let us be glad, not just for the invitation, but let us rejoice when we are able to fulfil that invitation to say that you have asked me, let us go into the house of the Lord. We want to say, ‘we will go!’ not as individuals; we will go into the house of the Lord. Those who have never been, you are welcome. Those who have been and didn’t come anymore, you are welcome too. And those who are always here – this is a message and an invitation to all of us – come, let us go into the house of the Lord, for there in the house of the Lord is benefits for all of us. Here we hear God’s word, we have His teaching and soon we will be able to celebrate the sacraments, see our brothers and sisters and know that we are not alone in the battle. And that invitation then goes to all of us.
And while reading this word, I thought that we want to go into the house of the Lord, and maybe we want to pause for a moment and ask, ‘in which house do I find myself today?’ Some find themselves in a house of sorrow and sadness – there are tears, they have lost loved ones, they have circumstances. But, to you, I say, that if you leave that house of sorrow, come to the house of the Lord where your sorrow will be turned to joy. Some of us live in a house of unbelief and doubt and we are confused because we don’t know which way to go. Leave that house; you don’t have to stay in that house. You can come to the house of the Lord where Jesus says: “I am the way, the truth and the life,” no more are you confused because here your faith will be strengthened by hearing the word of God. Maybe, the one or the other finds themselves in a house of revenge who wants to repay evil for evil. Come out of that house. Because when you come to the house of the Lord you cannot stay in the old house you were in – you need to move – you need to leave behind that old house you were busy with and come. Each one can decide for themselves where they find themselves, what is your situation? In which house are you living? Dear brothers and sisters, if that is not a good house, you don’t have to stay there. For here, today, be glad, for they said to me: “let us go into the house of the LORD.” Leave that house of misery. Leave that house of carrying my own burdens and not wanting the Lord God to take control of my life. Here in the house of God, there is place for all. When we come, we come here and we can pray to Him, love Him, praise, and magnify His name.
And also, as we find ourselves in the season of Thanksgiving, it says here in Psalm 122:4, “…To give thanks to the name of the LORD,” that we are able to come and give our thanks, bring our offerings to God. And dear brothers and sisters, as we are now in this season of Thanksgiving, the one or the other finds themselves in dire circumstances, the one or the other lost their job, they used to bring an offering to God and thanked Him for the blessing He had given them, but this Thanksgiving season does not depend on how much you bring to the Lord. We can rejoice. There are many reasons the one or other says they cannot. No reason is big enough to not accept this invitation that is written into all of our hearts. Let us go into the house of the Lord. Mothers say that to your children. Often you don’t know, but the Lord knows everything. His house is open for us; in His house, we will be blessed. In His house, we will be sanctified. In His house, we will be safe.
As we grew up, we were told to be home at a certain time. And I must be honest that if I wasn’t home at that time I knew something bad would happen to me. I suppose that is just how our parents taught us. But yes, when the storms are around us, we have a haven, we have a place of safety, we have a place here in God’s house where His embrace is. He is here. We need to come, not just in a physical way, but really be here so that the house of God becomes our refuge.
The Psalmist, he went through great lengths – he wanted to give hope to those who had no more hope. He wanted to help strengthen the faith where the faith became weakened. And I think the devil uses that power to divide and separate us from the fellowship of God’s people. And when he succeeds in that, he gets to one or the other, and that is always sad. But we have the opportunity, and the invitation to us is renewed, come, let us together, all of us, go into the house of the Lord, accept the invitation, and say that You have invited me, but I will come. Because if I was glad about the invitation, my joy for fulfilling that invitation will be so great that together we are able to celebrate and be with our Father. Amen.
Thoughts from District Apostle J Kriel
Before the conclusion of the divine service, the District Apostle, through the commission of the Chief Apostle, placed Apostle Lionel Meyer into retirement. He served as a minister for 44 years, 10 of which was an Apostle. The Apostle was supposed to be retired in a divine service conducted by the Chief Apostle in Bloemfontein during the month of May 2020. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, alternative arrangements had to be made. The District Apostle used the opportunity to thank the Apostle and his wife, Hannie, for their unselfish acts of love and for all they have done for God's people and His servants.