This is an edited version of the sermon preached at the Installation of Mr Guy Pearson as the Principal of Diocesan College, 'Bishops', on 16 January 2013. A similar sermon was preached on 21 January 2013, at the Installation of Mr Stuart West as Head of Herschel Girls' School (recently named the top school in the Western Cape - Congratulations, Herschel!)
1 Kings 3:5-10, Matthew 13:44-52
May I speak in the name of God of all wisdom, who gives us both old and new treasures from his store.
Let me repeat what a great delight it to be installing Mr Guy Pearson as the new Principal of Bishops. Guy, we offer you hearty congratulations on this appointment! Though the weather in Cape Town may not be quite as hot as in Kwa-ZuluNatal at this time of year, be assured that our welcome to you and Marée could not be warmer!
I also want to congratulate Diocesan College on such an excellent choice! We know you come with extensive experience in educational excellence; with business skills; and with a deep, mature, Christian faith. And we look forward to the developing synergy between all that you are and that you bring to us, and our own traditions of pursuing excellence, promoting innovative and entrepreneurial instincts, and, of course, grounding every aspect of life upon the firm foundation-stone that is Jesus Christ.
The task of the school is the development of the boy child – intellectually, socially, spiritually. I know you share our vision, and will work for it: including through leading our gifted and more than able staff team; and through challenging and encouraging parents and guardians in playing their part in the raising of young men. Together, our desire is that each Bishops boy may grow into a contributing member of society: an effective citizen of the world, who can be part of life’s solutions at every level, personal and professional.
This is our shared hope, our shared prayer.
It is very much like the prayer of King Solomon, which we heard in our first reading. Here was a young man, preparing to take on great responsibilities in a changing world. His time was not the time of his father, King David. He inherited a nation at peace, after much war and turbulence. His task was consolidating a divided people and building a nation – rooted in the faith of God and all that this meant: a nation of justice and moral standards; of peace and economic prosperity.
I am sure you see the parallels with the new generation of ‘free-borns’, growing up and coming to adulthood in democratic South Africa.
Solomon knew it was a huge task – and he knew what he needed most: God’s gift of wisdom. The Bible tells us that God’s wisdom, holy wisdom, is not about being brainy. It is far more profound. It is about understanding how the world works and what makes people tick. It is about seeing under the surface of a situation, grasping what needs to be done, and knowing how to achieve it.
The Bible says such wisdom is more valuable than gold or precious jewels – and more to be desired than riches or honour, prosperity or success, fame or fortune! God’s wisdom is at the heart of the ‘buried treasure’ of God’s kingdom, the ‘pearl of great price’ of which Jesus spoke in our second reading. It is worth devoting our lives to.
Godly wisdom comes in as many different forms as there are people – as varied as the fish in the net of Jesus’ parable. For some, it may indeed mean becoming an expert in a particular field, pioneering new knowledge and its constructive use. Or it may come in very practical ways; or in organisational aptitudes; or in leadership abilities; or people skills.
Not everyone can be a straight-A student – but God has a gift of wisdom for each of us to grow in. Every one of you – and I include parents, staff, all of us, at any time – every one of us can pray the same prayer as Solomon, and know that God delights to give us whatever wisdom we need, for the challenges and tasks that come our way in life. God’s wisdom is for everyone – and it is also to be used for everyone, for the good of others, for the well-being of the whole of society – as, indeed, Solomon himself prayed.
Bishops shares this wider perspective. Boys are not here to pursue narrow goals of self-advancement, but to learn to make a positive difference in the world around. This begins at school – through the vision in the Bishops Partnership, through the Outreach programmes and Special Projects, through networks with other Anglican schools, and in many other ways.
As I’m sure you know, spreading educational opportunity and excellence to all South Africans is very close to my heart – and this is why I have launched the Archbishop’s Education Initiative; and am promoting the Vuleka School network, which, I am delighted and honoured to say, is now building a new ‘Archbishop Thabo Boys’ School’ in Johannesburg.
Mr Pearson, we are delighted that you are becoming part of Bishops’ life. Together we can build on what we each bring, of tradition and experience. Together, by God’s grace, we can also create new initiatives.
In other words, to quote our second reading again, together we can discover and use the old and the new treasures which God has in his storeroom for us.
So may he bless us all, in the new chapter that lies before us. Amen