On Sunday 18 July 2021, District Apostle John Kriel conducted the central AVT divine service at Sandton congregation. The divine service was conducted in English and translated into South African Sign Language (SASL) at the altar by sister Natasha Parkins-Maliko.
The divine service was supposed to be conducted by Apostle Abraham Page. On Saturday 17 July, the District Apostle conducted the funeral divine service of Apostle Frank Mwape. His presence in Johannesburg led to Apostle Page asking the District Apostle if it wouldn't be a good idea for the District Apostle to conduct the central AVT divine service. The District Apostle's decision to conduct the divine service resulted in a splendid surprise for all viewers.
The District Apostle was accompanied by Apostle Abraham Page, Priest Moses Malumo, 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. 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 do not ask for earthly store (EH: 85)
Bible word: ‘Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.’ (Genesis 2:15)
District Apostle Kriel:
My dear brothers and sisters, maybe my presence here today needs a little bit of explanation. I was in Johannesburg yesterday for the funeral of the Apostle Frank Mwape, and Apostle Page was scheduled to conduct today’s divine service. And I must say that he then already asked, he said, seeing that you are in Johannesburg, isn't it a good idea that you take the service. Now I don't know if I'm soft in the head or if I suffer of kindness. And then we agreed. And maybe, you know, under normal conditions we used to have surprise visits when the Apostle or Bishop would come and surprise the congregation. So maybe a little bit of normality for us all today, we are having a surprise visit. But I'm thankful that we can be together. And while we are thankful, we heard in the prayer that things are not so great here in South Africa, in certain regions in particular. We are thankful for the progress made thus far, back to normality because we have to fight on so many fronts. And I heard of a mother once, when the tremors came and the storms came, she called her children together, and under the dining room table, she said come dear children, let us pray. And maybe that's what we're doing today, come together, dear family, dear brother, dear sister, dear children, let us pray and speak to our heavenly Father about our needs and what we desire.
We have a Bible word taken out of the book of Genesis relating to the very beginning, the creation of the earth and of man. God created the earth in all its beauty and perfection. Everything was done by Him, and everything was grace because man really deserved nothing. And we praise Him, we magnify His name and are thankful for the creation that He has created. And we show this by firstly, our belief that God in fact has done that, because we want to focus a little bit today on our responsibility. We put this divine service under the heading ‘act responsibly’. That's the word given all over the world today that we want to act responsibly, and we want to fulfil our duties naturally and spiritually. We want to fulfil it because we are aware of our responsibility, because when you are given much, then you are responsible for something. So, we see God created the earth. And when we thank Him, the greatest thanks we can give to God is to believe that in fact, He has done so. Many have many theories, but I think the children put it so beautifully. When the children sing or play with their recorders out of the beautiful book that they have. They have the hymn “All things bright and beautiful… the Lord God made them all”. And that's simple, that puts it into context, they speak about the little birds, they speak about the beautiful flowers. They speak about the mountains and the seas; they speak about the cold and the heat. God made it all. And so, we acknowledge that. And we praise His name. And for this reason, we bring thanks to Him that He has created this earth, and we say thank you.
And then He created man. He created man in His image. Man was created in the image of God. He gave man the ability to reason, to speak, He gave man a personality. And that's what man was given. We were all given that by God, not because we deserved it, but it was all grace that He gave, that we could experience His grace in a special way, that He has given that beauty to us in His image. And if we want to understand ourselves, we need to look at God because we must find in us the image of God. And we've heard in the divine services of the relationship, God being Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This wanting to be together, this perfect fellowship. That's what man has to long for too because remember, we were created in the image of God. And now we're looking at our natural responsibility that we have, what we are responsible for when God said to man, ‘Then the Lord took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it’. And I want to make it very clear, man, and in the same context, woman, were created equal in the sight of God. So, this task is given to men and women, referred to now just as man. And they have a task. Man was created, as much as we think it is, not to just sit at the beach and enjoy himself and be on leave. Man was created to work. Remember, they were created in the image of God. Man had to create, he had to plant, he had to do things which God did because he was created in His image. So many people say, ah, because of the sin of Adam, I must work today, in the cold, I must get up and go and work. No. This was before man fell into sin. When God placed him in the garden of Eden, He said ‘…tend and keep it.’ So, man was born to work. Sorry to disappoint you. We weren't born to just relax and have leave and sit in the sun. There was work to be done. You know, one of my old Priests, many years ago, and I hope I don't get into trouble because of gender problems, but he said, and I'll never forget that; he said that men also get labour pains. And I thought where is this man going? What is he saying? And then he added another line, he said it pains them to labour. That means that we are not too keen to work. God wanted us to do something, not to kill us or overwork us, and therefore He gave us the responsibility to care. This is part of natural duty because we are aware of our responsibility to look after the earth that He gave us. Take care of it. Don't just reap. And don't just take. Plant as well. You know where they cut off all the trees and never planted them again, there are deserts today. So, when you eat and enjoy the fruits of the earth, make sure you put something back. Make sure you plan for tomorrow because you're enjoying the shade of a tree that somebody planted long ago. We are enjoying that today. And we want to ask ourselves what kind of earth will we leave for our children and their children? So, we don't want to act irresponsibly. We want to act responsibly. We need to share the resources of the earth, and not just by greed take it out and spoil and ruin everything else for everybody else. Today, people unscrupulously take of the riches and the wealth of the earth. And in the process, they pollute the water. In the process, they pollute the air that is given to all. So dear brothers and sisters, we need to ensure that we do and act responsibly, that we fulfil our duties in a natural sense. God created the earth. He gave it to us. And remember, He created us in God's image, and we need to work, and we need to care. And we can ask ourselves when I want to do something relating to the earth, am I acting responsibly? Am I harming someone else? Am I denying someone else access? It's not just about me. In the last few days in our country, we've experienced how everything was just about me. I take everything I want, no matter if I damage everything else. That cannot be created in the image of God. That cannot be responsible. If I do something, ask am I hurting someone? And here maybe allow me to go further, if I litter and throw away things and just litter at my heart's content, I am harming something. I'm not taking care of what God wanted me to do for His earth. When I cut down a tree, do I have to? When I don't plant and I don't clean up. So, maybe we take that as an environmental lesson for us today too. This earth, God gave it to us. Let us be responsible. Let us preserve it. And let us do our duty because that's our responsibility. God created this.
Remember, our message today is that we need to fulfil our duties naturally and spiritually and act responsibly because God created man, a total man in that he had a body and that he had a soul. That which was temporal to live on the earth and that which is to live forever. But He took care of everything. He created everything we need because the earth has everything upon it. God created everything that man needed. And now we come to the spiritual. God also created salvation. And He gives us everything we need for salvation, that we can ultimately enter His kingdom. On the one hand, we need to take care of the earth. Remember, our Chief Apostle reminded us some time ago, he said in the thousand-year kingdom of peace, those who went with the Lord in the First Resurrection, experienced the wedding feast, have to come back to earth to testify to all where they can make the decision for Jesus or not. So, we're going to need this earth for a long time. So, let's take care of it.
Now, the spiritual portion: salvation was created by God too. And for this, He gave everything we need for salvation and placed it at our disposal. Everything we need to enter His kingdom has been given to us. And so also here, we need to do our duties. We need to take responsibility. He provided because here there is also work to be done. For many, they thought, and we thought, all you need to do to enter the kingdom of heaven is to be baptized and sealed with the Holy Spirit and Bob's your uncle, as they said. No, there is work to be done. As naturally we need to work, spiritually we need to work as well. So, we have to do our share. And how do we do the spiritual work? We have been taught so beautifully on Wednesday evening by the Bishop. The word of God that you hear, go and practise it, go and do what I ask of you. So, the word we receive, let us just not put that away somewhere. We must absorb it and take it into our system and go and do what God wants us to do. It’s not always easy, but we must do the work of the word of God. He has given us the word and we must go and adjust our lives accordingly. And that takes some doing. But we cannot not do it because we need to act responsibly and say, Lord, you told me, I am doing, I have tried. I failed a little bit, and I will try again. So, we want to do the word of God. We want to keep His teaching. That's how we do the spiritual. We want to learn to love our neighbour even more. Let's face it, sometimes, our neighbour makes it difficult to love them. But that doesn't give us a right not to love them. Deal with it now. Learn to love him now, because you may have to share heaven with him one day, or heaven with her one day. So, we need to do that, we need to work on investing for the future that we are able to inherit His kingdom and not just the needs for today. We sang in the opening hymn, “I do not ask for earthly store beyond a day’s supply”. On the natural side, do I take too much? More than what I need? Spiritually, let us learn to love our neighbour and build for the future. And where much has to be forgiven, let's remember that our God has forgiven us much. And before we do something, am I acting responsibly? Ask that question all the time. Am I being responsible? So, as God created the earth, He created salvation. He gave us everything upon the earth that we need and so He gives us everything spiritually to attain salvation. And remember, we must work upon our salvation. Not that we can earn salvation. Salvation is grace from God. We cannot earn it. But our work shows how much importance we place upon salvation, that it is so important to us that we do the work, and we work upon our salvation with no end. We continue to do so until we reach our goal. And as He placed man in the natural habitat of the earth, so spiritually, He has placed us in a natural habitat, the habitat of the church. Here He has placed us, giving us everything that we need for salvation. And we want to acknowledge that. He said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God”. Here in the church, we find the opportunity to be baptized with water and the Spirit. “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” Here in the church, we can experience that. Here in the church, we experience the fellowship of God's children. And we don't ever want to treat that as a burden or as a restriction. We want to accept it as grace, out of God's hand, because He placed us here. He has brought us together. Here in the congregation, we learn to forgive because not everyone is the same. Everyone is different. Everyone has been brought together. And not everybody is kind. So, we have to forgive. We have to learn to work together, we have to come together to prepare for a divine service. We have people together here that do the AVT. They did not know each other a few years ago, but they had to come together for the benefit of God's work and His people. In the congregations where they are so many doing the COVID protocols. Here is the natural habitat of our spiritual being, where we work for our salvation. And we want to do that. Dear brothers and sisters, how do we work in the congregation? Here in the congregation, we want to take our gifts and our talents, and dedicate it to our God. We have the singers, the organists, the pianists and those who play instruments, our children who play the recorder. They are willing to share their gifts and talents. That’s how we work in the congregation, it's not just about me. But what God gave me, I want to share with others. And we all have something to share. If you cannot sing, there is something else you can do. We can pray together, we can work together, we can build together. Many people come together to destroy. Sometimes that is so simple. It is so easy to break down that which took years to build. It's destroyed so easily. That’s not acting responsibly.
So, we want to build in the congregation. We want to experience that our gifts, and our talents, are used to the benefit of God's work. We've heard about conversation in the hymn that was sung after the Bible word. What do we speak about? Let's protect our congregation. We don't want to spread poison. We want to talk about that which is good. Before I say something, ask, is this a responsible act of me? If I cannot say something good, I often say then don't say it. Because what I say sometimes can bring so much hurt and so much destruction. In the old days that was okay to say what you say, but I must be honest, now we can say what you SMS, what you tweet. Is it going to bring joy or is it going to hurt? Let’s protect our congregation. Let's see that we don't do that because this is our habitat, like the earth for the nature. So, for the spiritual, the Lord God has placed us in this church to look after it. Preserve it. Invest for the future. Invest in the church of tomorrow. That no matter what I do today, if I don't reap, somebody will, and it will be for the benefit for others. Many people do such good work. And they won't benefit themselves. It's for the future. And so, we want to ensure that the church is solid for tomorrow to make sure that through the Apostles, the church can continue to offer what it needs to do until the Lord fulfils His promise. Let’s make the positive contribution. Let’s act responsibly in preserving the church, in ensuring that as all of us are responsible for ensuring the continuation and the benefit that this earth has, so we are all individually and collectively responsible for the atmosphere in the congregation. Let it be a blessed atmosphere. Let people feel heaven in our presence, because what is there was given by God. And we want to ensure that nothing is taken away, that nothing is destroyed. And it's all about each one of us, that we need to respect the church. Some people think the church is here for my personal benefit. What I want, the church must change everything so that I can get what I want. And what I want is the most important. No. The gospel is the most important. And that which the church does, let it do it, and let my personal needs and preferences not come to the fore. You know, sometimes, not everything is always okay for us in the church. Sometimes the music is not what I would like it to be. Sometimes, maybe I would have chosen a different preacher. Let's focus more on the message, on what is being said. God is talking to me. Who He uses, that's irrelevant. He's talking to me like He talks to us. And as we ask the question, what kind of earth would I leave for tomorrow? Let's pause and ask what kind of church do I leave for tomorrow for our children, for our children's children? Know that in this church, God gave the Apostolate. He gave the benefit of becoming a child of God. This is important to us. So, dear brothers and sisters, we want to fulfil our duties naturally and spiritually. And we want to, because we are aware of our responsibilities, and act responsibly. As we take care of the earth, let's take care of the creation of salvation. And let's draw each other with the love that God gave us, that He placed in our hearts, with the ability to do what God wants me to do so that together, the Lord can complete His work. The creation of the earth was not the end of what God's plan was. The creation of salvation, no, that's not the end. We are in the process. The end will be when we are with Him forever. And let us do all that we can so that we all form part of that completion when we can be with our God for all eternity. Amen.
Thoughts from District Apostle John Kriel