Sermon by Archdeacon Thami Tembe. Sunday 30 January 2022, St Paul’s, Durban

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Liturgy for Services

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https://youtu.be/1C2_9JAYUGs

Sermon by Archdeacon Thami Tembe (Luke 4:21-30; Jeremiah 1:4-10)

I greet you all in the name of our Lord & Saviour Jesus Christ. On this 4th Sunday of the year and 4th Sunday after the Epiphany.

Our Gospel reading for today is Gospel according to St Luke, chapter 4, verses 21-30 and I will quote for you verse 21, “ And Jesus said to them today the scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” May God bless this scripture reading. Amen.

As Christians, people of God, we need to shine in a world of darkness. We must at all time remember that we are called to shine like stars. Someone described a biblical prophet as one who comforted the disturbed and disturbed the comfortable.

If we look at our Bibles we see that Jeremiah was such a prophet. Jeremiah lived at a time when the Israelites were being threatened from all directions. It was threatened inside with corruption and from outside by military super powers. This situation, people of God, pained Jeremiah because he loved his country and its people. Perhaps this why God called Jeremiah to be a prophet for his friends and neighbours.

Jeremiah accepted God’s call with great reluctance, he knew very well the difficulty of being a prophet in one’s own country. In his preaching Jeremiah told the people bluntly that their only hope for survival was for them to reform their lives and to turn to God for help: “turn away from your sins and believe in good news.”

This, people of God, angered the people who said who does Jeremiah thinks he is, passing judgement on us his own countrymen. This situation became so bad that on one occasion the authorities flocked Jeremiah publicly but he was never discouraged.  On another occasion they put him in stocks and on a third occasion they threw him into a dungeon, yet even when he was there, God was with him.

What I like about prophet Jeremiah, people of God, is that he comforted the disturbed and disturbed the comfortable. What about you? Where you are seated now today? Are you identifying yourself with any of the things that happened to the prophet of God or are you just comfortable where you are? Do you ever challenge your own friends and family to get closer to God through Jesus Christ or you are comfortable to see them where they are? Maybe we are afraid to disturbed our loved ones who are comfortable in sin because we don’t want to lose them; we rather suffer with them in sin than tell them about the good news of Christ Jesus.

Know this, if you lose someone but find yourself you have won and God will be happy with you. In most cases we are not where God wants us to be because we are afraid to be like the prophet Jeremiah  – to turn people to God;  we end up turning them to us and leave them dry.

Sometimes our lives have to be completely shaken up, changed and rearranged to relocate us to the place where God wants us to be. So I ask you, people of God, are you where God wants you to be? What are your daily experiences in life teaching you about the purposes of God in you? What do you tell, people of God, who are still in darkness?

Like so many prophets before him, Jesus Christ was also rejected by his own people, they could not take the truth he was telling them, they could not understand how the son of Joseph can talk as he was talking to them. People of God, how many times have you been hated by Christians for standing for the truth, for telling them that “turn away from your sins and believe the good news.”

When Jesus Christ went back to his home place, Nazareth, they invited him to preach in the synagogue.  Firstly, they were astonished at the gracious words he spoke; their admiration of Jesus Christ soon turned into doubt then into hostility. Why? People of Nazareth, people of God, still saw Jesus Christ just as the son of Joseph. They thought they had all the rights to benefit on what Jesus Christ was having without showing any real faith in him. Wow! They wanted Jesus Christ to perform miracle before they showed faith in his ministry. My friend once said “They are people who loved to have champagne breakfast using the budget of Castle Lite beer.”

But Jesus Christ said “What matters is not who you are, but whether or not you have faith in me.” There is no room, people of God, in the Kingdom of God for privilege; before him we are all equal. Jesus Christ stressed that God’s charity begins wherever there is human need and the faith to receive it.

He gave two example that we find in our Gospel reading, the cure of the widow in Zeraphath and the cure of Naman. Both of these miracles, people of God, benefited Gentiles. When Jesus Christ told them that the benefit they had rejected through lack of faith in him will be offered to Gentiles who had faith in him, and people were angry; they hated him for telling the truth. How many people are we hating for telling the truth? How many people love you for not telling the truth?

Okey, let us bring it home, let us bring it closer to us. How many times have you been hated for telling the truth as it is? What do you do if the world hate you for telling the truth? How many times have you suffered because you were standing for the truth where everyone was against the truth? How many times have you suffered in the hands of your own fellow Christians because your spirit hates their demons? How many times have you been put in a box because you are outspoken about inequality in the country and even in the church? How many times have you left out or put in a box because you are outspoken about going back to the basics to make Christianity understandable and easy for people.

Our mission people of God as Christians is similar to that one of prophets. Our mission is to remind Christians that we are the salt of the earth and we are the light of the world. Jesus Christ was hated because his own belief  – he showed up what ugly things these people were doing. People of God, if you if you stay up a stagnant pond a lot of mud will rise to the surface. Do not put people in water if you do not want them to swim.

Regrettably religion sometimes brings out the worst in people, it makes people to be narrow minded. At times it make people to be judgmental, “My God is better than your God.” Yah, in many instances it makes those in power to be controlling. Others will always be neutral and look at the church of GOD going down because they don’t want to get involved and they commit the sin of omission. Others will hate and kill because of their Christian beliefs.

People of God, at the same time, religion can bring the best out of people. It makes people more tolerant and loving and it will make people to be Christ-like. What I know about religion is that true religion liberate the mind and soul. The question should be, people of God, what does religion brings out in me?

Jesus Christ suffered the fate of all prophets, rejection by his own people, rejection by his friends and rejection by those he came to save. This shows that prophecy, people of God, is not about pleasing people, but prophecy is about speaking the truth that no one wants to hear. The truth that is always setting people free.

Jesus Christ was very hurt when he was rejected by his own people but he didn’t bury his gift and calling it quit. He took his gift somewhere where it was appreciated and meant a lot. What I want you to know is, your value does not decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth. Just like Jesus Christ, don’t give up on your parish needs, don’t give up on your diocesan needs, and don’t give up on your country needs. Know this, all those institutions of power need you.

To paraphrase the words of St Luke: In all the world of darkness, we Christians are called by God to shine like stars. Letter of St Luke to the Philippians, chapter 2 verse 15. So people of God shine wherever you are. SHALOM

 

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