Heritage Sunday. Sunday 26 September 2021. Sermon by Revd Thami Tembe

Services are this Sunday at 7.30am and 9.15am. Mask wearing, sanitising and social distancing are essential. Temperatures and tracing details of those attending will be taken.

The full Service Slides including the hymns and prayers for this Sunday may be found on our website .

Please watch this video regarding vaccination (and the text of it), received from the Archbishop’s COVID advisory team.

Sermon by Revd Thami Tembe (Mark 9:38-50)

I greet you, people of God, on this the 26th Sunday of the year, the 18th Sunday after Pentecost. Today people of God we are celebrating Heritage Day in our parish of St Paul’s in Durban.

Today’s gospel is from St Mark 9:38-50.  I will read verses 38 and 39, which read thus.  “John said to Jesus Christ, master, we saw a man driving out devils in your name and as he was not one of us we tried to stop him.”  Jesus said, “do not stop him. No-one who does a work of divine power in my name will be able at the same time to speak of evil of me.”

People of God, Heritage Month is celebrated annually in the month of September. And Heritage Day is on 24 September each year.  During Heritage Month we celebrate our nation’s diverse culture and heritage. During Heritage Month we need to work together to create awareness to what many of us have been exposed to in our country, South Africa: things like poverty, inequality, unemployment, violence, lack of tolerance, and how xenophobia has divided the church of God.  How xenophobia has divided us as people of love.

Heritage Month, people of God, should help us understand that we are created in the image of God; we are equal before the eyes of God; and God loves us all.  On that note we need to respect and love each other unconditionally. This month, people of God, as it comes to an end, we need to create awareness in us of how much we are loved by God and we are expected to give that love to one another so that all will know that we are full of love.  If we love as we were loved then positive social values will be instilled to all of us and we will enjoy each other’s culture and heritage.  And that, people of God, will help us to foster social cohesion, nation-building and a shared national identity. We will enjoy each other.

Modern life has brought us closer to one another than ever before.  We influence one another in all sorts of ways. That is what God wants of us.  He wants us to be stepping stones for one another.  Instead of us becoming the stepping stones of one another we are becoming stumbling blocks to one another.  Instead of enhancing one another to give the best we look down on each other. We hate each other, we don’t show any respect to each other.  We treat each another with arrogance and ask, who is he or who is she to tell me what to do. We fail to tolerate each another.

What a gospel reading today where Jesus Christ utters a grim warning against anyone who will hurt or harm the little ones. Jesus Christ, here, people of God, by little ones he is referring to the insignificant members of our community; insignificant members of our parish of St Pauls.  Why is Jesus Christ so concerned about those people? It is because he knows the inclusiveness of the Kingdom of God.  Here Jesus Christ is saying, avoid things that will make you not enjoy your diversity.  Avoid things that will make you look down upon each other because you are created in my image. Avoid anything that will make you look down upon each other’s culture and heritage. Avoid shooting down good things that are done by people who are different from us. Avoid any form of jealousy that will make you kill your other brother or sister because he or she is not having culture and heritage similar to yours.

In our gospel reading today, Apostle John came across a man not of their company, as he was not in their clique, he was doing good joy in healing people in the name of Christ Jesus. Boom! Jealousy came – they tried to stop him.  Why? Because he was not one of them. They were jealous of what he was doing that they cannot do.

People of God, this reminds me of the narrow attitude we have towards Christians of other denominations – if they are not Anglicans they are not Christians at all. It also reminds me of our stereotype ways of treating one another in the continent of Africa. I am not sure why we are so intolerant of one another. Why are we so selective in accepting one another as bothers and sisters and help each other to develop what is not developed in me. When Jesus Christ told them not to forbid him they were surprised. The fact that he was not acting in Jesus’ name meant that he was not against them.  This is a good lecture in openness and tolerance.

How many times, people of God, have we behaved like John and told our children how much we are uncomfortable with so and so. How much we are uncomfortable with such a culture. How much we are uncomfortable with people from this country and from this country.  Instead of saying what can I learn from that culture and from that heritage.  Instead of checking or doing introspection to check what is the purpose for this person to be here. Why am I exposed to him or her? What is he or she bringing to my own development?  And what are they bringing in the development of the parish of St Pauls.

Some people are judging the people of God by the gifts or achievements of others.  If only they had a more open attitude they would find themselves enriched rather than diminished by the gifts of others.

People of God, for us to be true disciples and people who embrace each other’s heritage and culture we need to welcome the gifts that God brings to us and to others in any form. Some of us, people of God will fail to entertain angels if angels come to their lives in different form.

Our calling, people of God, in this month is to give a cup of cold water to each other. We are called to do small things for each other. Small kindness, people of God, can turn winter into summer for other people. Give quality love to each other and God will bless us. Christ Jesus warns us about the cause of sin in ourselves. A person’s enemy may be within himself or herself. Christ is saying, let’s learn to sacrifice because sacrifice will help us to see God in everyone. Sacrifice will help us to do away with inequality that we create. Sacrifice will help us to stop violence that we do to each other. Sacrifice will help us to do away with all forms of arrogance that is within us.

As always the words of Jesus Christ give us much food for thought as South Africans and in the region of Africa. My question to all of you is why are we so intolerant to each other?  Why are we so jealous of each other’s talents and gifts. Why as Christians are we committing the sin of omission by failing to call sin a sin when xenophobia happens to our fellow friends and our fellow brothers and sisters. Why is the church of God afraid to preach against xenophobia and its effects to the Kingdom of God in the region of Africa?

People of God, we need to open our eyes and our hearts so to see Christ in each other.  As the family of St Pauls I want us to say from today that any success that happens at the expense of my other brothers and my other sisters is not a success at all. Real success will only happen when we all love one another as Christ Jesus loved us. This Heritage Month must help us to work together to celebrate awareness of the unconditional awareness of God that he gave to us through Christ Jesus. In Christ Jesus we are all free and loved. And in Christ Jesus we are called to love one another.  Let us love one another as we were loved. Do not stop anyone who does a work of divine power in Christ Jesus will be unable in the next moment to speak evil of Christ Jesus. Amen. Grace and Peace.

During this difficult time of the global pandemic, you are invited to make a contribution to the ministry and mission of our church by making a donation to the following account:   Account Name: St Paul’s Church      Account Number: 50854628623     Bank: First National Bank (FNB)     Branch Code: 221426