Sunday 2 January 2022, St Paul’s, Durban. Sermon by Revd Andrew Warmback

Services are on Sundays at 7.30am and 9.15am. Mask wearing, sanitising and social distancing are essential. No singing is permitted. Temperatures and tracing details of those attending will be taken.

The full Service Slides, including the hymns, readings, prayers, other liturgy and notices may be found on our website at

A video regarding vaccination (and the text of it), received from the Archbishop’s COVID advisory team can be found here.

For a copy of the Liturgy for Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s Funeral service yesterday see our website.

Sermon by Revd Andrew Warmback (Matthew 2:1-12)

Jesus was born to a Jewish family and was brought up in those traditions.  Through Joseph his descendants can be traced way back to Abraham himself. But he is not defined or limited by this background. Even at his birth these boundaries are crossed as we see in our celebration of the Epiphany.

In today’s gospel reading we hear of the wise men or Magi who travel from the East seeking the One born to be king of the Jews.  They are directed to Bethlehem where they find the Christ Child in the manger.

The importance of Jesus’ epiphany or manifestation is that he has come not only to bring deliverance or freedom, to the Jews but to be the Saviour of the world. The Good News, as defined in the Book of Revelation, is for those of ‘every tribe and language, people and nation’ (Rev 5:9).

The Magi represent part of this diversity of people who are drawn to Christ.  They were outsiders, non-Jews, or gentiles.  Someone has called them “representatives of the science and philosophy of the ancient world.” We are not sure how many they were, but they brought three gifts: frankincense, symbolising worship, gold symbolising kingship and myrrh symbolising the suffering Jesus would endure.  Strangely, the chief priests and scribes who gave them the directions to find Jesus, did not themselves to go and see what was happening.

Jesus is described as “the Light of the World” and invites all to respond to him. In this Season of Epiphany our readings both move us away from any narrow view of an individual understanding of our faith in Jesus to a wider view of God’s intention for the whole of creation. We are also encouraged to continue to the work of Jesus in the world.

Over this past week we have been both mourning and celebrating the legacy of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu who passed away last Monday. At this time of Epiphany his life can be an inspiration to us – the life of one who showed a concern for all of life and as one who desired to further the work of Jesus in many areas.

I give a few biographical details, much of what would be familiar to many of you. Desmond Tutu was born in Klerksdorp in 1931; his father was a teacher and his mother a domestic worker. He initially wanted to be a doctor but unable to afford medical school, he trained as a teacher, as did Nomalizo Leah who was later to become his wife.  When the discriminatory system of Bantu Education was introduced both he and Leah left teaching.

Desmond felt that the best way to serve “his people” would be as a priest. Interesting how God can call one to service in different ways, even in a roundabout way, when some doors are closed and others open.

The Arch had wide experiences in theological education: as a student at King’s College, London, then as a lecturer at the Federal Seminary (FEDSEM) in Alice, situated next to Fort Hare, and later at Roma University in Lesotho. While based in London, he became the secretary of a theological education fund associated with the World Council of Churches, which enabled him to travel extensively in Africa.

On Wednesday Bishop Rubin, retired bishop of our Diocese, preached at a memorial service for the Arch, and spoke of him meeting up with him in 1969 when he himself was a student at FEDSEM and the influence he was to have on his subsequent ministry as a priest and bishop. While the Arch was to become involved in worldwide concerns he remained interested in people, and in expressing care towards individuals.

Within the church Desmond held various offices: Dean of Johannesburg, Bishop of Lesotho, General-Secretary of the South African Council of Churches (SACC), Bishop of Johannesburg, and in 1986, Archbishop of Cape Town.

Archbishop Desmond served within South Africa as well as beyond it, within the church was well as beyond it.  For him the Good News of Christ was indeed for all the world.

The Arch saw his role in the struggle against apartheid, the leading of marches, mediating in conflict situations, and later chairing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (the TRC) as part of the outworking of his understanding of the gospel of love for all people.

Justice for him was indivisible; he stood for justice, fairness and equality in all spheres of life, promoting “Ubuntu”,  the interconnectedness and inter-dependence of humanity, in fact all of life. So we found him speaking out for various causes, for climate justice, freedom for the Palestinians, recognition of equal rights for the LGBTIQ+ community etc. At the Archbishop’s funeral yesterday President Ramaphosa mentioned other causes for justice that the Archbishop had supported.

Conclusion

We are at the start of a New Year.  How can we be bearers of the Good News? What is our particular role?

What has God given us through our life circumstances?  Where is God leading us to? What should we each be committing ourselves to in this year ahead?  How can we become part of that light that shines in the darkness?  We each have something different to contribute to those around us and the world.

The Arch himself once said “ Do your little bit of good where you are; its those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

Let us dedicate ourselves to be Good News people in the year ahead, both where we live and work but also wherever God may lead us.  Let us not let anything limit us in our witness to the Incarnation, God among us in the life of Jesus.  God can do amazing through us – let us be open to God, and faithful that this may be a fruitful and rewarding year for us all.

Amen

 

 

 

 

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