Message to the Diocesan Council of the Diocese of Natal. 24 April 2021.
The lord be with you!
Sadly we can’t sing but in the words of the psalmist – Inhliziyo yami yovutha phakati kwami (my heart is on fire within me)
I read this morning from the well-known account of the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. (Nehemiah 4:12-18)
“At that time the Jews who lived nearby came and told us ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.”
So I stationed men behind the lowest sections of the wall, at the vulnerable areas. I stationed them by families with their swords, spears, and bows. After I had made an inspection, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials, and the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”
When our enemies heard that we were aware of their scheme and that God had frustrated it, each of us returned to his own work on the wall. And from that day on, half of my servants did the work while the other half held spears, shields, bows, and armour. The officers stationed themselves behind all the people of Judah who were rebuilding the wall. The laborers who carried materials worked with one hand and held a weapon with the other. And each of the builders worked with his sword strapped at his side. ”
Hear the word of the Lord.
My brothers and sisters we have endured great hardships in the last two to three years. (well, our whole lives but I’m thinking of our current situation). It often seems that wherever we turn there are problems.
Sustainability issues, controversy, the pandemic, wars, and rumours of wars within the church. The church has always been filled with dissention and our time is no different. Solutions are slow in coming and every solution has twenty other problems. As the leadership of this Diocese, we are all too aware of that. Those words “Wherever you turn they will attack us” seem to ring in our heads!
I do not think that I am alone in having called my parish family to pray for the church where it is vulnerable. To stand in the gap and pray for God’s people who are suffering in this land. A call to stand against corruption and pollution and global warming and Gender Based Violence and inequality and access to education and economic freedom and the list goes on and on of things that we must uphold in prayer and in action: –
In each one of these areas of our lives, the walls are broken, and we are vulnerable.
Just as Nehemiah had to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem out of the rubble – so we are called to build God’s church out of the brokenness of our own lives. And it is true that what Sanballat asked in the days of Nehemiah is asked of us today – “Can they bring these burnt stones back to life from the mounds of rubble?” (4:2b) that is the challenge put to us as DC today!
with the sword of truth in one hand and the rubble of our lives in the other, the rubble that God is going to use to build the church is in our hands – with every bucket load that they carried there was the reminder that their own disobedient had led to the city being destroyed in the first place.
But every bucket full carried and placed, every rock returned to its place was an act of forgiveness from God. When we are prepared to carry our rubble our brokenness and present it back to God for Him to use, He turns our shame into his glory.
My message to us as a diocese is short but it is full. It is full of faith that God is rebuilding our lives. It is filled with faith that these walls will be rebuilt, and we will glorify God in this place. It is filled with hope that God is watching over us and has blessed us.
But I ask today – that we humble ourselves and that next month when Nehemiah will be identified from among us, I ask that we stand with Nehemiah, our new Bishop and with our swords in one hand and our bucket of rubble in the other and we stand and say in God we trust. Jesus said I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.
Friends we are the rubble that God is building with – let us offer ourselves afresh – we are not destined to lie in a heap of destruction, we are destined to stand as the walls of Jerusalem.
we have not been given a spirit of fear but the spirit that raised Jesus from the dead -so let us today as the Standing Committee of this diocese – offer this agenda, offer our reality, offer our hurt and our confusion and our obedience, and our faith and our hope and our love for God – let us give him the buckets of our lives that the walls of this Jerusalem may be built to His glory.
“Ningabesabi, khumbulani iNkosi enkuluneye sabe kayo.” (Do not be afraid, remember the Lord who is great and awesome).
The God who has called you is faithful, and he will not fail you!
In the name of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.