On Sunday 10 October 2021, Apostle Gerome Mintoor conducted the central AVT 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 District Elder Theo Wagenaar, a 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: Let us sing with joyful voices (EH:45)
Bible word: ‘Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.’ (John 16:32)
My dear brothers and sisters, a heartfelt welcome to all those who are connected with us from wherever you are. We heard a beautiful rendition from the soloist that we can come to the Lord today. I'm very thankful to see all those who are in attendance. Over this time period, it is a very nice development for me to observe the congregation. A few months ago, when I stood here, there was nobody. And then we were all in isolation. Things have changed and there is a bit of a bigger congregation. Life seems to continue now. I think you have the same feeling as well. We all came and we all have the same desire. I am sure about that. We've prepared ourselves. And here we are and we can say, Lord, please teach me. I'm sure if there are teachers here in the congregation and teachers elsewhere, wherever they find themselves, maybe they also say, let the children come to school tomorrow and the children will say to the teacher, please teach me. And when the school starts tomorrow right up until the end of the day, I'm here for one purpose and that is for you teacher, to teach me. When it comes to the point of teaching, today is another opportunity for us to come under the ministration of the Holy Spirit. And as we celebrate this Sunday, again, we all came. And I want to say that again in the season of Thanksgiving in which we find ourselves. Last week, we celebrated the harvest, Thanksgiving. And here we are again today. And when we entered the house of the Lord, we came here with a thankful heart. And so, our Thanksgiving continues.
Last weekend, I was fortunate to be with our District Apostle in Gqebergha. Upon his arrival, he was so excited and filled with joy and happiness, and he wanted to visit some congregations on his way. There's a congregation right next to the airport. And there he came, visited that congregation, the brothers and sisters were happy, and they were all preparing the church, cleaning the hall and decorating the altar. You have also experienced this in your local congregation. And then, he also stopped at another two congregations on his way to his accommodation. But in the conversations which he had with our brothers and sisters, it was all about Thanksgiving. And Thanksgiving is also a teaching which we receive. And Thanksgiving is a teaching that we continue to give to the next generation. So, we continue with our Thanksgiving. And of course, with Thanksgiving, he mentioned amongst others that it is not only just a once-off event. But it becomes an attitude. And an attitude becomes a way of life. And may our way of life always be a life of Thanksgiving. And with that way of life, and with that attitude, as we are here this morning, to come again with a thankful heart, Lord, teach me. And now, with the teaching part, I know there is a well-known saying amongst the teachers that says, if you tell me, I forget. So, some are connected to this divine service via radio means, and they only have to listen. So, when you listen, maybe sometimes it is easy to forget. But then again, some of us are connected via visual means. So, if you show me, I might remember. But otherwise, if you involve me, I understand. And so, may our experience today be one of involvement, that maybe we don't take a backseat. We need to take in what is given unto us in this form of teaching. Let us get actively involved in what the Holy Spirit inspires.
Here is a very special word where Jesus spoke to His disciples. And if we read in John, and especially the chapters 14-17, it is known as the Farewell Discourse of Jesus. He was with His disciples for a long time. But there came a time where He had to prepare them. He was not going to be with them forever and He would have to leave them at some point. So, there are these farewell discussions that He started with them. I want to come back to the point, teach me. And the first verse of chapter 16 says, “These things I have spoken to you...”. Sometimes, you find students, if they have to write an examination or they have to do an assignment or something like that. And there comes a question. And then it looks as if it is the first time, they hear this concept. Where does this come from? I have never heard this. Teacher or lecturer or professor, when did you speak to me about this? Were we actively listening when the teacher spoke? And constantly, throughout the chapter, quite interestingly, “These things I have spoken to you...”. And I'm sure the parents, if you look at your relationship with the children, and children, when you look at your parents, and they speak a lot of things to us. Take note - ‘things’. And those things include many things. And they can say to the children, “I've spoken to you.” “I've mentioned these things to you.” And maybe sometimes when they are out there alone, they can say to others that my parents spoke to me about these things. It could be good things. It could be bad things. It could be anything. But they spoke to me. And Jesus clearly says, “These things I have spoken to you...”. When the Lord Jesus started to speak to His disciples, preparing them. Now you have in this situation, those who are immediately with Him. But then again, in the understanding of John, there is also the Johannine community. So, in the distant future, Jesus also prepares those who come after them. And even where we find ourselves, He is still preparing a place. We are waiting for His return. And at that particular point in time, He informed His disciples, “A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father.” It was like a riddle. And they could not understand what He meant. Then He made it very clear. In no uncertain terms, He said to them, “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father.” And now He says to them these specific words which is our focus. And as we go through this month of October, last Sunday we celebrated Thanksgiving. And today we have this word. The central theme for our divine service for this month of October will focus on our experiences of faith. Again, if you tell me, I might forget. If you show me, I might remember. But if you involve me, then I might understand. And so today, we have the opportunity to get actively involved as far as our faith is concerned.
If we listen to this word, it says, ‘Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone…’ It speaks about our experience as well. We have to now know, in terms of this word, where we stand. Let us have a look at what happens in this month of experiences of faith. And today we focus on our community and staying together. It speaks here about scattered. And here we all came from different directions. We all come together in fellowship. We all want to be together. And I know, maybe there's an outcry in the congregations as to when can we have fellowship. We miss the fellowship. We miss the togetherness. And as we slowly come back to church, here we are and we enjoy these moments. And again, I'm sure after every divine service, the brothers, they remind the congregation to please maintain your social distance. And you know what I mean when I speak about fellowship. It's when we come together and it’s not just standing together, but it's eating together and celebrating and all those things. And there are strict regulations as far as that is concerned. We are not out of this problem yet. And so, we still have to take the necessary precautions. So, when Jesus speaks today and the Holy Spirit encourages us, prepares us and leads us, let us take heed in terms of our experience.
So, our message is quite clear. God helps us to resist the evil one. And again, we look at our own experiences. Here is God. Here is His love. Here is His grace, His mercy, our calling and our election as children of God. And then there are the works of the evil one. It reminds me of what the confirmands say, ‘I renounce satan and all his works and ways.’ Jesus speaks to His disciples. He is giving them this teaching, “A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father.” And when He says, “…that you will be scattered…”, it also refers to a previous word in the Old Testament where the prophet Zechariah spoke to his contemporaries. And he said, “… Strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; Then I will turn My hand against the little ones. And it shall come to pass in all the land,” Says the Lord, ‟That two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, But one-third shall be left in it: I will bring the one-third through the fire, will refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested.” That means it is not an easy process.
Here we are as children of God, and we come and we worship God. We have received the gift of the Holy Spirit. We praise the name of God and we bring our offerings and we bring our sacrifices. And when we do all this, I am sure we also have an expectation. Nothing must happen to me because I serve God. And I pray and I worship. And nothing should happen. And then Jesus made it clear. Because He was not spared from the trouble. And then He informed His disciples about the situation. He told them that some of them would withdraw from Him. Some of them would abandon Him. And even amongst themselves, they would become estranged from one another. To make it clear, there was a time when Jesus went to go and pray in the Garden of Gethsemane. And then He took a few of His disciples with Him. And then He said to them, “Sit here while I pray.” “Stay here and watch.” Just hang on. Just watch with me. I go and I pray. And then He prayed, and He returned. And when He came back, they were all asleep. And then we can read in the Scripture that Jesus went for a second and third time. He went for a third time, and He was quite clear that they could not even watch with Him for one hour. He went to go pray alone.
Another example which we know very well is the time of Peter. We know he was the great symbol of faith and how strong he was in terms of his personality and his character. And then Jesus also told him you will deny Me. And then there came the time when Jesus was arrested. And when we see the things that happen when they start to arrest people, others run away. And unfortunately, the disciples did the same. Jesus was arrested. And now some people came to Peter and they said but we saw you with Him. He denied this. And then, on another occasion, some other people came. And on a third occasion, another person came and said, but you were with Him. We even saw you with Him in the garden. And he denied it. And then of course we know the Scripture tells us that the rooster crowed. That was the indication that he denied Jesus. And that was I think heated moments because he knew what the consequences would be. What we learn out of that is in times of trouble, in times of difficulties, it is maybe in those moments when we are vulnerable that we are also tempted. And when temptation sets in, we can quickly forget about what it's all about. And today, we understand, out of this word, the evil one seeks to scatter us. There were those two disciples on their way to Emmaus. They were also a little bit disappointed. They were in Jerusalem with all the happenings there with Jesus. And then He appeared unto them. And He spoke to them for a long time. And on their way, it became clear when He started to break bread with them. When He had fellowship with them and made things clear, they realized but didn't our hearts burn when He spoke to us? And out of that experience, when they realized, who was talking to them. Brothers and sisters, they went back to Jerusalem. Remember, they left Jerusalem. And after the encounter with Jesus, they returned to Jerusalem. And if we look at ourselves today in our situations. Maybe in the family situation, in our circle of friends, in the congregation, in the work of the Lord, maybe at our place of work from a natural point of view. We always find ourselves in relationships. And then you have nice relationships and there are good people. And you know when you meet up with them it's such a pleasant occasion to meet some of them. I'm sure brothers and sisters, there are also other characters. And when you meet with them, unfortunately, there is trouble. And we know them as troublemakers. And when we deal with the troublemakers, we wish that a troublemaker can become a peacemaker: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.” And even in our situations, wherever we find ourselves, and especially in life and in our home situation. Personally, when we deal with these matters, when there is chaos and when there's conflict, the togetherness is never pleasant. Then sometimes it's rather better to withdraw. And you stay in your own corner. But when things are good and happy, it's nice for people to come together. Let's come back to the word.
The evil one seeks to scatter us. And when we talk about what Jesus did, He brought them together. God helps us to resist the evil one. And as we have come together today, and I'm sure as we've experienced last weekend as well, where the Rector depended on the congregation. The support of brothers and sisters to come together. Maybe to prepare the altar. We need to work together. Sometimes when we are scattered, when we start to remove ourselves from the fellowship, from the congregation, from the work of God, other things become more important. Then we find ourselves in a situation where we have distanced ourselves from the work of God because other matters are now a little bit more important. We give great importance to other things. Seek first the kingdom of God. Let us have our priorities in order as far as that is concerned. Maybe there are times when we start to ignore the importance of the gospel because of other matters. And sometimes when we find that we have withdrawn ourselves from the fellowship, we have withdrawn ourselves from the work of the Lord, we see that nothing is happening. God is not punishing us. When you grew up, your parents told you, if you don't go to church, you must be careful, things might happen because you must go to church. And that was maybe the threats that were given. But what is most important, is that we have a love for God and we want to experience Him. And we don't serve Him under threat. We serve Him because we love Him. And when we are overwhelmed in that state of vulnerability, the gospel is not important. The work of God is not important. Other matters are important. Let me put it this way: materialistic matters become more important. And when we are filled with materialism, the danger unfortunately is now what stands out maybe in the congregation, in our life, at work, at home, wherever, maybe we become more aware of our social status. And people sometimes want to make it known to you, do you know who I am? They want to make it clear to you. Now, look at when we talk about fellowship and being together. Now you need to stand out. Do you know who I am? My social status. You need to know to who you are talking to, etc. People become more aware of that. And how sad is it when that happens in the congregation? How sad is that when it happens in the family circle? Unfortunately, that brings about division because I am a little bit higher up and maybe you are down there - social division. Maybe you become aware of the income that you earn. There's so much unemployment. And when you can earn an income, be thankful for that. But sometimes people even measure your income. And you measure your income versus what you think is the income of somebody else. That becomes the most important thing. See how people are scattered? Then maybe the issue of culture. This is my culture. This is your culture. The one is more dominant than the other one. That becomes another problem. And there are cultural differences because we have a diverse congregation. We have a diverse country. And that diversity also brings about division. Maybe the level of education becomes another problem as well. The evil one seeks to scatter us. And when I find myself withdrawn, distanced, the gospel is not important anymore. Those things become more important. Jesus came from the Father. He returned to the Father. He came to start the work of salvation for our redemption. And we ask ourselves all those things which are often of a material nature, what does that have to do with salvation? We all came today to be redeemed. We all came today to enjoy salvation. Therefore, we need the word, and we need the sacrament. Let us continue to remain in fellowship. Amen.
Thoughts from Apostle Gerome Mintoor