On Saturday afternoon 30 January 2021, District Apostle J Kriel conducted a divine service for ministers and their families at Silvertown congregation. This divine service was conducted in English and interpreted into South African Sign Language at the altar by Beryl Botha.
He was accompanied by Apostle P Lambert, Shepherd J Nel, a small music ensemble and the NACTV crew. This divine service was made available on NACTV and the NACTV Facebook page.
For those who were unable to view the service, please find a detailed summary of the sermon:
Opening Hymn: Give of your best to the Master (EH:128 verses 1&2)
Bible word: “Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night, He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by. And when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out;”. (Mark 6:48-49)
District Apostle Kriel:
My dear brothers and sisters, I must say that when I heard this hymn, I think at school we sang the song Beautiful dreamer, queen of my song. I think I must get used to the new words because this is nice and beautiful Master - that's when we come and we gather today in the presence of our Master, the good One, our Lord Jesus Christ who is always present - He said where two or three gather in My name there I will be in the midst of them. And we pray that today that will be no exception.
Thank you all of you for making time on a Saturday for a divine service. We are in a situation where sometimes we don't even know what day it is anymore. But thank you very much that as ministers and wives, ministers and families we can gather. And again, I want to say, everybody else welcome, no one has to feel guilty that they tuned into the service today because there's no limit in the numbers. So, a hearty welcome to all because you know, when it was in normal conditions, no lockdown, then there's a divine service which we choose whether to go or not. The option was ours. But now, we haven't got that choice. Now the Lord God decides what to give us, and when to give us His word, as well as His sacraments. And as much as we desire so much, we have learnt to appreciate everything that we have and every good gift and perfect gift that God gives us. We appreciate it. And we are thankful whenever we are able to gather as we do. So, wherever you gathered your families together, allow that the Lord God may work upon us, and enter our heart and soul so that together we can experience blessed and beautiful moments. The divine service planned, was not like this, but we decided to carry on with a plan anyway so that we all as God’s servants can be strengthened.
And here I want to say, firstly I have the opportunity to say thank you. Thank you, dear brothers, all God's servants who care for God's people, who serve them, and fulfil the promise that we gave to our good Master. Thank you for your care. Thank you for loving God's people. Thank you for praying for them. Thank you for seeing to their needs. Thank you for under limited conditions, you're not able to visit as we did before, but your contact and you are concerned about those whom the Lord God has placed into our care. Please know that nothing is taken for granted that every effort and every work that is done, our God knows how we carry God's people on hands of prayer. So, to the servants, and the ministers I say thank you very much. And then I say to the wives, thank you very much, also to you because you're often in the background. Often, you get the shortest end of the stick, often you have to do with less because you have to share your husband with so many when he’s caring and serving God's people. Thank you for your work of love that is not unnoticed by our God. You are not ordained with the ministry and have the responsibility, but thank you for making it easy for your husband to do what he does. And then to the children. I want to say to you thank you very much, because often your life is also not so easy. And I thought a lot about the children. And I thought about what my parents said to me, and then I also think how relevant it is today. Do you hear your parents say, what must the people think of me if you do that? And I often thought but it's actually not about you, it's about me, it's about the children, so we are individuals. You know, I thought about it and I was reminded about two youth brothers. Their fathers were to be ordained. And they knew about it and the older one thought he must discuss this with the younger one to prepare him for what's coming. And these are two youth brothers, they weren't being ordained, the fathers were being ordained. So, the two youth brothers thought they would meet. And they set a convenient time, it was on a Friday evening, and they met in a place where we cannot meet during lockdown. And maybe you can work that out, they decided to meet in a pub, because they're going to discuss the serious matters. And when they met, I hope you can all understand what I'm saying, over the first drink, now I don't know, it must be strange for many of our young people. But these two guys, it was the first drink they had, and they spoke very nicely to each other and said look we have to get our act together you know because our parents, our fathers are going to be ministers, people will look at us and so on. And we have to do what is right and so on and it started off beautifully. If only it ended there. But I think the conclusion of this meeting came about after about the fifth drink. Then their conclusion was hey, never mind them, they are the ministers, we are not the ministers, they need to sort themselves out. I'm telling you the story because I want to make a point. Dear children, dear young brother and young sister. Be faithful, not because you're the child of a minister. Be faithful because you are a child of God. Dear young brother, young sister, dear child, don't pray because your father is a minister, pray because you are a child of God and you love Jesus, do what is right because you love Jesus. Okay, what the people say is one thing but it's more important what does God think of me. So, each one is an individual in the sight of God. And we want to ensure that remains so. Here upon the earth, we have these kinds of judgments, but be a child in your own right. We've all made our own promises to God. Accept the guidance of your parents but live your life to the honour of God. And in all honesty, once that is in place, then the relationship with God is there, and I say to parents, please don't tie your children to you, tie them to the Lord. Because as parents, we are here today and gone tomorrow. The Lord God will always be there so that this constitutes in a blessed family where God is indeed the head of our home. So, to you dear children, dear wives, dear brothers, please accept sincere thanks for all that you do, and for keeping the Church of God together. The Church of Christ together. And for caring for all God's people who look to us in this time to be cared for.
We have a Bible word, it speaks about the disciples, on the sea, and they were going into a bit of headwind. Here, Jesus had just fed the 5 000, if we read a little bit earlier in the chapter six of Mark, He had just fed the 5 000. This miracle of the multiplication of the loaves of bread. And now, they were to depart, and he said to the disciples you go ahead, you get in the boat to go to Bethesda, and you go, but I'm going to go into the mountains, I'm going to pray. You go ahead, and I'll meet you on the other side, I'll meet you at the destination. And so they went. But then they were in the boat, and as we read here our Bible word says, “Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them.” Now for the guys here in the Cape, they know if the Southeaster is blowing and you walk into the Southeaster, you can take many steps and not move because it's so strong. Here, they were rowing, they wanted to get to their destination, but the headwinds were too strong. They were working hard and getting nowhere. They were giving great effort, but they got nowhere. Jesus saw this, He saw this, and He saw their plight. And in spite of it being in the middle of the night, in spite of the darkness, in spite of the distance, He came to them. And He wanted to pass them by. And here we are reminded of our God, how the Lord passed by Moses and Elijah. When they, Moses and Elijah, were becoming tired. When they thought that they could not carry on anymore, they received the commission by our God, but they were not getting anywhere. Elijah went into a cave and said, I must rather die because I'm not getting done with what the Lord God wants me to do. They became despondent. Moses as well, I think God passed him by and allowed him to see his nature, and they could carry on. They were strengthened. And they could carry on and complete the mission that was given to them by God. And here the same would have happened, the same Jesus wanted this to happen for His disciples to experience Him. And then He went to them. He walked on the water. But of course, you must remember this never happened before. Here is a man walking on the water and that’s not possible by human standards. But again, Jesus loved these disciples so much, He saw them battling, He saw them working hard and He saw them getting nowhere. He wasn't going to leave it like that. And He wasn't going to let the distance, or the darkness, or even the water hinder Him from helping His disciples. And so, He went to them to pass by them, to encourage them. And then, dear brothers and sisters, they were afraid; they thought it was a ghost. They thought it was an evil spirit because they did not expect Jesus because He was far away, He was on the mountain somewhere and not walking on the water, it could only be an evil spirit. And Jesus said it is I. It says here in the 50th verse, ‘Be of good cheer! It is I, do not be afraid.’ It is I, the beautiful Master of which we sang about. ‘It is I’, I am here to help you. And when they recognized it was Jesus, they were thankful. And when He got into the boat, the wind had died down, it was calm. And He got into the boat with them, and they reached their destination. That's a beautiful story, a beautiful account here in this part when they saw Jesus and believed it was Jesus, they even did what Jesus did. Remember, this is where Peter walked on the water, he walked towards Jesus because he could do what Jesus did because he believed in Jesus. And remember, the disciples here were not in danger of losing their lives as in the other account where Jesus was asleep. Remember, and they woke Him up, and they said Lord we perish. Their lives were not in danger. And they were battling, and they were getting nowhere.
So, what does this mean for us? And today, our lesson, dear ministers, dear families, dear brothers and sisters, dear guests, dear friends, the Lord has called us and has given us a mission to work on our salvation and to prepare for His return. That's our job. He has made us part of His church and part of the body of Christ to serve Him and to serve each other. And here I'm thankful again for every servant who does not only see to their own salvation but wants to help many to attain this too, to encourage many to say come along, come pray, the Lord God is indeed coming. We have no fear, no doubt about that. But we also have headwinds. We also have setbacks. In this time, when we see that we work hard and we seem to be getting nowhere. We plan; every month and we have years ahead; we plan, and we cannot fulfil our plans. We sometimes become despondent and say, Lord, what must we do next because everything seems to be pointless. And nothing seems to stop the sadness and the burdens that God's people must carry; it goes on. And we cry out. And we say, Lord, we need to move on, we need to move ahead. The Lord does not sit back and let us just be. Just as the disciples, He will not leave us alone. When we've tried our best and we see so much happening, we do our best and then what do we get in return? Somebody said once no good deed goes unpunished because we try our best and then people are upset. We make decisions and then, we don't get the desired results and we say, after all, this is not our work. This is God's work. And dear brothers, I want to say remember that it's God's work, and He will give what is needed, at the right time. Remember, He allowed the headwinds. But one lesson we take out of this, the headwinds did not prevent the disciples from reaching their destination. It could not, nothing could, because the Lord God, His Son Jesus Christ was there to help them along the way; He is with us. And likewise, He also comes now into our midst into our lives, and He comes despite the headwinds. He is there and we allow, and we experience Him. We can experience Him in that He allows us to be part of His glory in so many ways. How often do we receive in the divine service a word and we go and we say that word was just for me because that's what I needed. That's what the Lord God gave me; that's the miracle. He allows us and He joins us and He walks past us that we are able also like the disciples to be strengthened where He says, don't give up, don't give up on our goal; don't give up on anyone. Dear Priest, don't give up on any member. Don't give up. Jesus did not give up on His disciples and let them be and say okay let the wind take them wherever it wants to. No, He intervened. And as servants of God, let us be sensitive to the impulse of God's Spirit, of the Holy Spirit, and do what we need to do. The Lord God comes into divine services and serves us. He even answers our prayers at times and allows us to make this experience. And He sends us an angel at the right time. When we are at our lowest, somebody comes, somebody phones, somebody speaks to us; that angel comes and brings us what we need. Let us receive the angel graciously and be the angel when we need to. Because our God inspires us also to be that angel, that angel to help another and to bring them closer to where they want to be. We all have different circumstances. We all have to deal with it, various areas in our vast area of responsibility. Some have too much sunshine, others have too much rain, others have too much wind, as was experienced in Mozambique recently, and other parts of the country have to deal with that. But it's the same God who wants to take care of us and who wants to guide us to the destination. Don't lose sight. Don't forget, our God, He says, I died for you. We don't know, sometimes we have to deal with so much, and we say, Lord, how much more must we take. Our Father says, My Son died for you, and nothing has changed. He wants to give us His kingdom. And He says to us, fear not, little flock. And He comes, and we, as I said before we experience Him in so many ways. But, we also become afraid. Just like the disciples became afraid. We become afraid in many ways and maybe just look at a few examples, how we can become afraid when we look at the circumstances that man has to pass through. We have to deal with so much. We have to deal with things we never dreamt about. We didn't have to think about it, but now it's here. And it doesn't seem to change. This morning, I was part of a divine service where a husband and wife, a memorial service was conducted for them. And one can only imagine the pain of the family. Just before I was on my way here; I'm almost too scared to look at my phone because every time I hear of another one who has passed on. And somebody asked how many more. And we don't know. Our God allows that. And we have to deal with that. And then, let us be comforted to know that our path has not changed the destination, we shall reach. Never mind the headwinds, our Lord and Master is with us. And He will get us to our destination. He says to us, I have gone ahead of you; I'm waiting at the destination. And I will make sure that you get there because everything is grace and grace is everything. At the end, we will experience that. You know we sometimes also are fearful because we don't understand sometimes, we don't understand the ways of God. We were taught and I remember as a child, we were taught that you must work for the Lord, you must be obedient, and you must bring offerings and work for Him and all will be well with you. But it doesn't seem to work anymore. We do our best. We do what we must do. And yet, we have to deal with so many things. And again, our Heavenly Father says your redemption is sure, fear not little flock. It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom, and we are going to endeavour. Remember, the winds did not prevent the disciples from reaching their destination. As long as they allowed Jesus into their lives and into the whole story, He made it possible. And with us, it is no different.
We also are fearful sometimes when we are overwhelmed by the imperfections of the ordained ministers in the church. They make mistakes, and maybe as the family, we know that the congregation thinks the Rector is perfect, the daughter and son of the Rector may have other thoughts. And we are sometimes fearful of the faults and the mistakes of the ordained ministers, but be of good comfort that when they preach and bring us the gospel, it is valid. It is valid because that comes from God and He knows, He sent the servant. I often think of John the Baptist, he baptised Jesus. At the end, he doubted. It did not make the baptism of Jesus invalid because what was done in the name of God remains, and it was true. And so, the ministers, dear ministers, we work on our faults, we work on our failings, don't stop. But remember, we're not alone. Our Lord and God is with us no matter what the headwinds are, no matter how despondent we could become at times, and say we're getting nowhere. We're doing so much. We're getting nowhere. Our Lord comes, no matter where He is. Remember, distance, darkness, not even the water because God the Father gave him the authority to do that. And He says to us, don't be afraid. He says to us, come, finish the mission that you started. Finish the promise that you gave our Heavenly Father, there is still work to be done, as He said to Moses and Elijah. He calls to us and the disciples in the wind, He says to all of us, don't be afraid. Don't even be afraid of the faults and the failings, work upon it, but it is and remains valid before our Father, the sacraments that have been dispensed by God's servants, sinful as they may be. And when they announced to us the forgiveness of sins, it is valid. And it will remain valid because God said so. And we trust Him with our whole heart in this time. We trust Him as never before.
We may even be afraid when we see the high standard that Jesus sets for us. Remember, He says, look, you must forgive. You must forgive seventy times seven. Now that's quite a lot of forgiveness. I think that's a day. So that's a lot of forgiveness. And you wonder, you are afraid; can I make it? One or the other may say to you, you must forget. I invited a man to service one day and he said, listen ‘Johnny, don't worry about me, I'm too evil man, you go and go to church and so on’. No, we can never say that. He wants all men to be saved and all to come to the knowledge of the truth. So don't be afraid. There is a long way to go but start the journey. If you haven’t started it yet, start the journey. Because the sooner you start the sooner we will complete it. So, even this high standard that is set by our Lord, that we can achieve, and we will achieve it, because the Lord God is on our side, and the end of the story is already written, we know who the victors will be - the Lord God, and those on His side. And that's where we have chosen to be. So, let us take the headwinds when they come, and those who remain and persevere until the end, our situation won't last forever, our Lord God will bring about a change. He may change it now, but it will not go longer than the day when He sends His Son. We all will be changed, and we will be with Him forever, together with our loved ones who have gone before us, and we will not remember the pain and the sorrow anymore. We will be with Him forever, no matter how strong the winds get. We want to take this word. Let us not give up. The work in the last year has not been easy. But it's necessary. We don't know why the Lord allows that, you know, that's why we are afraid, we don't understand sometimes. We thought, if we do this then that will happen. But sometimes it doesn’t. And when it doesn't, don't give up. Things don't always go our way. Don't give up. His disciples rowed and got nowhere. They sweated; they were tired. And Jesus saw them. He sees us today too; that when we go on our knees and we say, Lord, what are we going to ask you now again, don't get tired of asking, don't get tired of comforting. Don't get tired of sacrificing; don't get tired of building. Because together we can, and as a family, as husbands and wives and children, come let's support each other because of the Lord's work. Blessed families make blessed congregations. So, let us strengthen each other. And in this circle, allow the Lord our God to be the ruler, and to guide us. And remember dear children, I say to you, be a child of God in your own right, and the Lord's blessing will be there for you and for all of us, that we are able to go and serve the Lord God. And to the servants, I say, dear servants, dear brothers, don't give up. It's not easy. We know that. And I got the feeling our God knows that too. But we have been called to serve Him. And we cannot just serve Him in ideal conditions. We serve Him in whichever way we have to. And as long as we have to endure, let's endure that. But the destination, we will reach. Our Lord Jesus - I am there already, everything is prepared for you, everything is ready and waiting for you to come. Let us go on that journey and complete it and our additional tasks. Let us take those whom the Lord has entrusted into our care, let us take them with us so that together we can meet the good Master, never to part from Him again. Amen.
Thoughts from District Apostle JL Kriel