Sunday, December 08, 2013

Sermon notes

Isaiah 11:1-10  
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19 
Romans 15:4-13   
Matthew 3:1-12

Almighty God. This week we heard the news of Tata Madiba’s passing. We know that no-one is immune to death, but this news has still moved us. It is in times of mourning that we are led to remember, to contemplate, to show and receive acts of compassion and comfort.
And so we remember the life of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and we give thanks for the gift of his life (Time of silence)
We thank you for displaying in him the gift of life
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo (God bless us, your children) - sung
We thank you for displaying in him the gift of letting go of self
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo (God bless us, your children) - sung
We thank you for displaying in him the gift of hope
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo (God bless us, your children) - sung
We thank you for displaying in him the gift of striving for justice
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo (God bless us, your children) - sung
We thank you for displaying in him the gift of tenaciously working for the realisation of equality, forgives and reconciliation in society
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo (God bless us, your children) – sung
We pray for his loved ones, that they may know your peace and comfort. (Silence)
And so, too we contemplate our own lives
We pray Lord, that we will be moved by the testimony of your servants throughout the ages, but more so by the life of Christ
May our lives be a gift to others
Lord, hear our prayer
May we let go of self and accept more of Thee
Lord, hear our prayer
May our voices be filled with hope
Lord, hear our prayer
May our hands never tire of working for justice
Lord, hear our prayer
May our lives be a testimony to your call for equality, forgiveness and reconciliation
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer
We pray for the people of South Africa, that we may be united in our journey, bound together by your gifts of faith, hope and love.
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo
We thank you Lord, that for Nelson Mandela, the tribulations of this world are over and death is past. We commend him into Your hands of eternal love and comfort.
In Jesus name we pray.
When we were in Israel, we visited the Garden of Gethsemane. There, in the garden, stand olive trees that are close to two thousand years old. The only signs of their age is the visible portrayal of life and death, death and life intertwined. There are old, thick branches that have died. But where there is death, there is life, for the signs of renewal break through the old, dry wood and fresh saplings appear. At places you can see that this has happened numerous times, three, four, five layers of new life sprouting out of that which went before. To me, this picture encapsulated the image of resurrection – that death never has the final say. It spoke to me profoundly of the importance of hope – that there is never such a thing as finality or conclusion. God uses the gift of former lives to become the foundation for something new. I am sure you know where I am going with this. But before we get there, it would be important for us to remember something from the nation of Israel.
God continuously raises up leaders, prophets, priests and kings
When Abraham died (the father of the nation), God blessed Isaac, when Isaac died, he blessed Jacob, when Moses died, God blessed Joshua, when Elijah died, he blessed Elisha, when David died, he blessed Solomon. I can imagine that every time a giant in Israel’s history passed on, the people asked the question: “What now? – It will never be the same”. And yes, history tells us that things are never the same, but extraordinary people never close off their legacies in finality. In our nation, a giant has passed away. The olive branch has split open. Do not think for a moment that life has ceased. Here is an opportunity for new life to break through. God has blessed us with a tremendous person, a gift to humanity. The opportunity is there for us to continue the gift that God has placed in this man’s care. And what a tragedy it would be if we fail to heed the call to continue in this country God’s gift of striving for equality, peace, forgiveness and reconciliation.

But wait, there’s more!
And this is the story of Advent – there is more! This is not all there is to life. The story of advent is not the story of great people being raised up. Advent is the story of God’s promise that God is with us! It is not just the dream of the great ones among us for what can be. Advent is the story, the promise of what God dreams can be! And it is only possible in the presence of Christ, here in between us. Listen to the promise again as recorded by Isaiah! Out of all the legacies, breaks through a new branch – and He is unlike any other. He will work for justice, he will make sure there is peace, he will bring together those who thought that they were irreconcilable! If you want to see unity, then look no further! And the bonus is this: His Kingdom shall have no end! Isn;t this good news? Isn’t this something to hope for, to life for, to die for?

Friends, we need to get ready. The change happens through us, not to us. Repent! Turn around! Let us life for justice and life with integrity. Let us lose ourselves in striving for godliness. Let us seek the life for the downcast and not the bulging of our wallets. Repent! Let us speak truth in love, let us get our hands dirty and not folded in apathy. Let our minds be filled with thoughts of purity and not pollute it with the toxins of desire. Let us live and let us die for freedom, not only for the sake of our country, not only for the continuing of the legacy of Tata Madiba and other great people in history, not for the sake of our own self-preservation, but repent, for the Kingdom of God is near!

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