Please find the text of the sermon below.
An audio version is available too.
Sermon: Revd Andrew Warmback
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” (Luke 4:18-19)
Jesus reads these words, originally from the prophet Isaiah, in the synagogue at the start of his public ministry; and the people were amazed. He identified himself with these words, he brings freedom, he brings good news to people.
I remember preaching soon after the start of lockdown and there was a scripture set for the day that referred to the exile, the displacement and containment of people, this massive disruption to their lives. The message I communicated was that while the people had been taken from all that was familiar to them God would be with them through their suffering and hardship. And also that God would return them to the freedom and familiarity of their homeland. Later we heard that God’s Spirit will breathe life into the valley of dry bones and restore what has been lost, as recorded in the book of Ezekiel.
God has been with us in our own difficult times these last few months. We are still deeply saddened by those who have lost their lives, including St Paul’s members. We continue to trust God in the journey that lies before us. May be know that God has a purpose for each of us.
Over the past couple of month we have had the opportunity to listen to, or read, the sermons of a number of guest preachers. In Youth Month the gifts and contribution of young people were affirmed – we say, “you are part of us, we value you, talk to us of your hopes and dreams for your lives and the church.” On Men’s Sunday the important role that men have in society and families was celebrated and appreciated. Thank you to the women in the parish for their messages of love and support for men on Fathers’ Day.
Gender based violence has been a constant focus for those who were invited to share God’s word with us. In some ways Women’s month was difficult. We were reminded of abuse and femicide, perhaps most graphically in the input on National Women’s Day Sunday: “When you have power, you kick us like a ball, and close our eyes with fists? You break our bones, skin us like goats and set us alight! Sekwanele! Sekwanele! Yekani ukusibulala!!Enough! Enough! Stop killing us!! Painful words to hear, for men and women. As one of our members Una Langeni put it in her poem we published, entitled Enough Enough Enough!!! “Women are being tortured by the men they love.”
We know that Jesus, the one we commit our lives to, the person we follow with all our being, treated all women with dignity and respect, and in his teaching and actions worked to free them from the attitudes and behaviours that dehumanise and oppress them. While Women’s Month may be over our journey to care for and protect all who find themselves vulnerable continues. May God strengthen us in this on-going struggle.
Our Earth is vulnerable too; and this we highlight during this Season of Creation month.
I point us to the phrase in the passage from Luke I quoted at the beginning, from Jesus’ words: “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Or in some translations “to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” There is wide consensus that this refers to the Year of the Jubilee. The Jubilee is referred to in various scriptures. For example, Leviticus 25, verse 10 reads: “And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you: you shall return, every one of you, to your property and every one of you to your family.”
The principle of Jubilee is part of Old Testament law and is based on the concept that “The Earth is the Lord’s” (Psalm 24:1). In the 50th year debts were to be cancelled and land to be redistributed. It was a measure to protect vulnerable people against the unfair accumulation of property and the continued exploitation of the land which was to rest that year. Jesus affirms that our freedom has practical implications for the earth and people. We are connected to the earth – for us to flourishing the earth must be protected and nurtured.
So finally, as we speak about resetting life, of relooking at new ways of living including of how the economy functions, let us be mindful of the Jubilee principle. It is based on our understanding of God’s care and provision, and a recognition of God’s abundance and our need to share and not to hoard.
The theme for this Season of Creation is Jubilee for the Earth. In the words of Archbishop Thabo may we envision and work towards “a more equitable future, a more just future, a gentler future”.
I end with a Collect for the Season of Creation: “Loving God you called your people out of Egypt to a new purpose and responsibility in the Promised Land. Bind us together in care for each other and deepen in us our vocation to care for the community of life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen”
Don’t forget to wear your masks, social distance, be careful, keep safe.
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