On 18 April 2021, Apostle Peter Thompson conducted the central AVT Sunday divine service at Silvertown congregation. The divine service was conducted in English and interpreted into South African Sign Language (SASL) at the altar by Beryl Botha.
He was accompanied by Priest Michael Hardenberg, 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. For members who were unable to watch the divine service, please find a detailed summary of the sermon:
Opening Hymn: A wonderful Saviour is Jesus (EH: 363)
Bible word: ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.’ (John 15:5)
My dear brothers and sisters, I welcome all of you here today, those who are here, as well as those well connected to us audio-visually. And I want to immediately align myself with what has just been sung. This beautiful hymn says that the love of God leads to grace. And yes, His love allows us to experience His grace over and over again here on earth. But I want to refer to the ultimate act of grace to which His love will lead us. That's the grace that Jesus Christ will bestow upon us at His return. Because no matter how hard we have striven, no matter how much we have tried to overcome sin, which includes the old Adam and evil when Jesus comes, we still would not have achieved enough to enter His kingdom. Therefore, at that moment when He returns, those who have striven until the end, who have persevered until the end, will experience Jesus' last act of grace, which will enable us to enter His kingdom. And that is why we come together here today, for that future in Christ. And may our hearts be open to receive that which will contribute to that moment when we meet our Bridegroom, Jesus on His day.
I have read this Bible word to you; I suppose a very well-known word in Scripture. And these words of our Bible word, these words of Jesus are part of His second farewell discourse. What is happening here is Jesus is about to make His way back to His Father and is now preparing His disciples for this. And this was quite a distressing time for the disciples because everything pointed to Him being separated from them. This One, the Master, the Saviour, the One that they've been with for quite a while. The One that they've grown to love. He's no longer going to be with them. This is the only indication as to the way He is speaking. I'm going to leave you; I'm going back to my Father. And this then raises in their hearts, a question, what is to become of them if Jesus will no longer be with them? What will become of them? We've become so attached to this One. And there's a fair amount of anxiety in their hearts. But now with this image of the vine and the branches, Jesus rejects any idea of separation. He rather emphasizes that those who believe in Him, those who follow Him will have everlasting fellowship with Him in the kingdom of God. Don’t think about separation. I will be with you; you will have everlasting fellowship with Me. We will not be separated. And with this image of the vine and the branches, Jesus assures us as the Church, those who believe, that He remains connected with us, just as the vine and the branches are connected with each other. There can never be a separation. Jesus and His disciples, those that believe in Him, will forever be connected as the vine is connected to the branches.
And let me add, Jesus is very deliberate in His usage of this image of the vine and the branches. In the first verse He says something very important, He says, ‘I am the true vine’. In the Old Testament, Israel is pictured as the vine, brought out of Egypt by God, and planted in the new land, but so often failing to yield the fruits that God expects. So, that’s where it originated, this usage of this term, this image – Israel is the vine, brought out of Egypt by God, planted in the new land, but failing to yield the fruits that God expects. Now Jesus comes, He says, I am the true vine, fulfilling God's purpose where Israel failed, and bringing into being a new people. That is the branches, the new people. Those who believe in Him, and those who follow Him. So, Jesus is the true vine. Dear brothers and sisters, this means that only Jesus can provide us with access to God. And this affirms His words, well-known words, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’. Access to God can only be brought through Jesus Christ. And these words about the vine also further underlines Jesus’ teaching. But He's not just a messenger of God, someone sent, seen by many as a prophet. But these words underline that He is God. He is true God. We can therefore trust in this promise that He gives to us that there will be a lasting connection with Him because He is God and what God promises, He will fulfil. Nothing can prevent that which He promises us. And that connection between Jesus and us as the disciples, we can trust that connection will be an everlasting connection.
The branches are the image of true discipleship. Only when the branches are connected and remain on the vine, can they bring forth life and bring forth fruit. That is this image of discipleship - you must be connected to the vine. Only then can you bring forth life and can you bring forth fruit. And our discipleship brothers and sisters, is dependent, absolutely, on our fellowship, our connection with Jesus Christ. Only if we abide in Jesus, only if remain in Him, can we be active, and can we bear fruit. So that is extremely important. Therefore, for us as disciples, any sort of existence or activity, independent of Jesus Christ is unthinkable. In our Bible word, it says, ‘for without Me you can do nothing.’ We cannot operate independently of Jesus Christ. We cannot operate in a way that we are disconnected from Him. And here, may I bring caution to us.
You know, as brothers and sisters in faith, we value, and we appreciate the fellowship that we have. We value and appreciate that we can be together in the congregation. We value and appreciate that we can enjoy various activities organized by the congregation or by the Church, and all the things we experience in our lives as children of God in our congregation, that binds us to the Church and to each other, and that's important. It's important that we are bound to the Church and to each other through the various things that happened in the congregation. But what saves us? What brings salvation is our connection with Christ. That's very, very important to remember. It’s good to have a connection with the Church and with each other. But what saves us, what brings salvation is our connection to Christ. And at times, you're put to the test to verify our connection with Christ. As an example, in this time that we live, we can't have the kinds of fellowships that we had before. We can't enjoy the various activities in the congregation that we did before. We can't even come to church as regularly as we did before. And at times, the Lord even allows that we are disappointed by someone in the Church. And this is a test that the Lord allows. And this test is for us to determine what is the strength of my personal bond with Christ. What is the strength of my personal bond with Christ, is that connection there? I say again, the connection to the Church, the connection to the congregation, wonderful, important, it must be like that. But what is our connection, our personal bond with Christ? And this is what this is all about, this word that we are truly as disciples connected to Christ.
Now our Bible word says, ‘He who abides in Me,’. What does it mean to abide in Jesus Christ? In verse nine, it makes it clear, ‘abide in My love’. To abide in Jesus means to abide in His love. And when we abide in the love of Jesus, then we follow His teachings. His teaching of the gospel. We follow the gospel, we try to live the gospel, because to believe in the gospel is one thing, but to live the gospel, that is important. When we love the Lord, then we will follow the gospel, we will follow the teachings of Christ. When we abide in the love of Jesus, we will keep the commandments. The 10 commands are still applicable in our time, it has not been nullified, it is still applicable. We obey the commandments because we love the Lord. Those are the commandments He gave us so that we can live a life that is pleasing to Him. When we abide in the love of Jesus Christ, we will seek an intimate fellowship with Jesus Christ through our prayers. We know that when we come to the Lord in our prayers, He will hear us, and He will grant unto us what we need. And this I want to stress, when we pray, let us ensure that our prayers are in line with the will of God. And when we pray, He will grant us what we need. What do we need? We need that which will serve to our salvation. Obviously, the Lord also grants what we need in our natural lives according to His will. But He grants, particularly what we need for our salvation.
And dear brothers and sisters, when we abide in the love of Jesus, we can be sure of that which was promised, that we will bear fruit. And true fruit doesn't consist of great output of accomplishments or achievements. True fruit consists of the love of which forms our actions, that is true fruit, the actions that are born out of love. That is the fruit that our heavenly Father wants us to produce. Our words and our deeds, only count before God, if they are founded upon love. If I make an example, I listened to the beautiful music, rendered today. If you join the choir just because you like singing, then you are doing it for yourself. Look, if you join the choir, I'm sure you must like singing, but if that's the only reason why you join the choir because you like singing, well that's fine but then you're doing it for yourself. But when you join the choir as an expression of your love for God and for your neighbour, because through what you're doing in the choir, you can serve God and serve your neighbour out of love when you do it for the right reason; then that is acceptable to God, and you will experience His favour and His blessing. Only love- inspired deeds can glorify God and bring honour to His name. It says in verse eight, ‘By this My Father is glorified that you bear much fruit;’. So, when we bear fruit born out of love, then we glorify God, not ourselves. And that must be our purpose. The fruits that I produce must glorify God and bring honour to His name. Only when we lead a life of love to God and to our neighbour do we show that we are true disciples of Jesus. When we are filled with love for God and for our neighbour, then there are certain things very evident in our lives. We will remain faithful to God. We will remain faithful to what we have promised. We will serve Him out of love. We will serve our neighbour. We will also be concerned about the salvation of my neighbour. We love God, and we love our neighbour, and dear brothers and sisters, through that love, we show true discipleship. And only as true disciples, can we expect to attain eternal life with God in His Kingdom.
So, brothers and sisters, when we abide in the love of God, of Jesus, then God remains present in the world through us, and that's also important. When we abide in the love of Jesus, then the love of God remains present in the world through us. Then aspects of the kingdom of God can be revealed and experienced through us. That's wonderful. Then the light of Jesus shines in us, and we can be true witnesses of Christ in word and deed, and we can draw others to Christ, through our conduct and through our true discipleship. Of course, the kingdom of God will be revealed in its fullest perfection when Jesus returns. And when we can finally be with Him and the Father in His kingdom forever.
Our message is clear and simple: to be connected with Jesus Christ, and to abide in Him is a feature of true discipleship and a guarantee of eternal life. And just to summarize the main points of our service today - the vine and the branches are images for Christ and His disciples. If we as disciples, the branches, abide in Jesus, the vine, we will bear fruits of love, will experience the Lord in and through our prayers, we will keep the commandments and obey the Gospel and experience the blessing of God. And finally, if you abide in the love of Jesus, you'll be allowed to participate in the day of the Lord. And when Jesus comes, we will be taken with Him. So, may we continue to stay connected to Jesus, our Lord, dear brothers and sisters. And let us live our lives as true disciples. May the Lord bless us in our endeavours. Amen.
Thoughts from Apostle P Thompson
For the benefit of those who were not connected to the divine service, please find the announcements below:
The first announcement is for the information of all members across Southern Africa:
The NACTV team has compiled a survey that aims to ascertain and verify which platforms our members use to connect to the AVT divine services. Please note that the information in the completed surveys will assist us in our decisions in relation to broadcasting and expanding our reach to members. If you have yet to complete the survey, please contact your local Rector or Priest to assist you.
On Sunday 25 April, District Apostle Helper Mandla Mkhwanazi will conduct the central AVT divine service from Sandton congregation. This divine service will commence at 9 am and will be made available via all current radio, television and online platforms.