Friday, 26 December 2014

Listen to Archbishop Thabo's sermon for Christmas

This year you can listen to and download the sermon preached by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba at midnight Mass at St. George's Cathedral.

You can also click here for the SABC Television news report on YouTube, or scroll down for the full text of the sermon.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Television news report: St. George's Cathedral Midnight Mass - Christmas 2014

A news report by SA Broadcasting Corporation's television news, December 25. The full text of the sermon appears in the next post below:

The SABC's online text report:

Makgoba preaches against inequalities

Thursday 25 December 2014 07:30


Anglican Arch Bishop Thabo Makgoba says South Africa has become a society that has not only inherited massive inequalities, but also accepts the continuation of inequalities.

Makgoba was preaching during a Midnight Mass at the St Georges Cathedral in Cape Town which ended at 12.30am.

He used his annual Christmas sermon to highlight what he calls a new struggle in South Africa.

According to Makgoba, “We have become a mere driven society which accepts and perpetuates the cruel weight of massive inequality we have inherited.”

He adds that South African society accepts economic inequality, service delivery inequality, healthcare inequality, education inequality and most seriously, the inequality of opportunities.

Makgoba further says South Africa has become a country that has forgotten to become courageous. He told the congregation that South Africans can only become anti-corrupt if they are pro-courage.

In Makgoba's words,"Courage is like fire, it was courage which ignited the old struggle and kept it burning until we emerged from the darkness of apartheid."

He adds: “Courage enables us to set ourselves, our community and our nation on fire and it is the light of courage that we need to rekindle this Christmas. The South Africa that I have lived in, in the last years, has forgotten to be courageous.

"We have allowed ourselves to live in and accept a society that is punished, penalised and severely disciplined for being courageous."

Welcome the Season of Light by Becoming a Society of Long Spoons

A sermon for Christmas 2014, St George's Cathedral, Cape Town:

Luke 2:1-20

May I speak in the name of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen

A couple of days after my birthday earlier this month, our children drove me up Signal Hill. As usual there were a lot of people up there and, as the children wandered around the hill, I stood watching the sea. It was dusk, the sea was calm and it seemed to be enveloping us. As I looked out, the intermittent flashing of the Robben Island lighthouse could not be missed, and I could not resist the temptation to recall that the island from which that tiny light was flashing was where Madiba and his compatriots languished in darkness for years. Yet this is where the hope of our country was ignited. And as the sun set and it grew darker, the tiny light became even more visible than before.

Our Gospel reading evokes an image of how in the midst of crowds readying themselves for the Roman census, the light of the world, the hope of the world, Jesus is born. God becomes vulnerable, human to illumine our world. God is to be “numbered” or counted, unknown to those who will take the census. We now know the barriers that these lights broke, the tiny light flashing from the island but reaching the top of Signal Hill, and the light and hope born in a stable reflecting God's glory.

And that is where I would like to begin tonight, by welcoming the hope that Christmas brings. The American poet Maya Angelou, who died this past year, once wrote a description of love on her Facebook page which we can appropriate as a perfect metaphor for the advent of the Christ child in our world. Substituting the word “Christmas” for the word “love”, we can read it like this: “Christmas recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” And hope, as Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu once said, “is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”

But hope, as the South African theologian, Denise Ackermann, says, “is not that blithe sense that all will end well (or alles sal regkom) because human progress is guaranteed.” To say as Christians that we must live in hope does not imply that we should sit by passively and indulge in wishful thinking for that which has no prospect of being realized to come about. As Denise Ackermann says, “The way I hope should be the way I live. To live out my hope is to try to make that which I hope for come about – sooner rather than later.” It is “a lived reality in the life of faith, here and now.” It is “never to surrender our power to imagine a better world”. Hope confronts wrong and the abuse of power; it is risky and requires patience and endurance.

In our national life, it’s been a difficult year for South Africa. Many times in our daily lives we seem to have been living in a country whose leaders, despite the emancipation of democracy, do not look after the needs of their people.  Much of the time those leaders don't seem to have a vision, or any sense of destiny – or even a practical plan they are truly committed to implementing. In what I call the “old” struggle – the struggle for democracy – it was the ability of our leaders to see “the light” ahead that drove them. Nowadays, the new generation of leaders seems to govern without any sense of being guided by that light, or for that matter any light at all. In fact, I get confused by the darkness that our leaders bring as the sun rises every morning.

But did Madiba ever lose a sense of hope in the way I have just described it? Did Robert Sobukwe lose hope? Did Oliver Tambo lose hope? Did Steve Biko? Or Beyers Naude, or Trevor Huddleston? Did my ancestor, Kgoši Mamphoku Makgoba, who was killed while resisting settler incursions on our land, lose hope? We can look and learn from the lives of all of our anti-apartheid heroes and say none of them ever, ever lost hope.

But there is another characteristic they shared that is particularly powerful in converting hope to reality, and that is courage. Courage is like fire. It was courage which ignited the old struggle and kept it burning until we emerged from the darkness of apartheid. Courage enables us to set ourselves, our community and our nation on fire. And it's the light of courage that we need to rekindle this Christmas.

The South Africa that I have been living in these last years has forgotten how to be courageous. We have allowed ourselves to live in and accept a society that is punished, penalized and severely disciplined for being courageous. I had the privilege of being asked by Mama Graça Machel over the last few years of Madiba's life to visit them every now and then in Bishopscourt, in Houghton and in Qunu, and to pray with them. My time with him reminded me of so many of the lessons which he tried to share with us, but none was more important than that encapsulated in these words, which have inspired so many:

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

He also reminded me that it also takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. So with his wisdom as guidance, I want to share with you some thoughts for the holidays on this Christmas Eve.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that.” And I might add, courage. Courage and light can break the cycle of poverty, crime and the growing underclass of young people ill equipped to be productive citizens. Only light will enable to us to be repulsed enough by what we see around us to say, “My children and grandchildren deserve better.”  Only by being pro-courage can we really be anti-corruption. We truly begin living when we say, “Enough is enough and I want more for my family, my community and my country!” It's at that moment that we step up and take responsibility for not only ourselves but for our country's destiny. It's at that moment that, as I have been saying recently, that we stop being a country of “me” and become a country of “we”.

Our purpose on earth is for all of us to become part of something bigger than ourselves. But we are not living as if we believe that. We become so discouraged about the injustices we see everywhere that we give up and say, “That’s their problem.” We have become a “me”-driven society which accepts and perpetuates the cruel weight of the massive inequalities we have inherited; a “me” society which accepts economic inequality, the service delivery inequality, the healthcare inequality, the education inequality and most seriously, the inequality of opportunity.

At this time of the year, as we celebrate the birth of Christ, how do we channel the joyousness, the spirit of feeling connected with one another into a spirit of reflection which empowers us to focus not on the “me” but rather on the “we”- the body of Christ?  How can we use the model of this month's behaviours, attitudes and convictions to define how we live the other 11 months of the year?

The fundamental question being asked of us in South Africa today is: What is the difference between an open-hearted, giving society and an open-handed, taking society? I’d like to ask the question a little differently: What is the difference between an open-hearted life where we see ourselves part of a greater collective community (which I will call heaven on earth) and an open-handed life in which we accept social income without accepting the responsibility for our decisions (which I will describe as hell)?

The answer lies in the Parable of the Long Spoons. It is said that both in heaven and in hell, people are forced to eat with long spoons. In hell, people starve because they are unable to lift food to their mouths using such unwieldy cutlery. But in heaven, each person takes the long spoon and feeds another across the table. And that's how in heaven God ensures, through the actions of those there with him, that everyone has plenty to eat.

In the end, the message is that we should feed, respect and care for each other, both in a practical and collective sense. That is what a genuine community of communities does. Because that is what we are: a community of communities, the baptised – the body of Christ as Paul says. Another word for it is a nation; a “we” society. This is our challenge if we are to channel the joy of this birth as recorded in Luke’s gospel, into the joy of a lifetime.

Many feel that for our nation to have survived under apartheid and to have been reborn was a once-in-a-lifetime miracle. I used to believe that. But not anymore. Our achievements have been gained through struggle, guided by hope and following the light. In our faith, that light is Jesus, who at this time breaks into our lives and gives us courage to break all barriers.

So this Christmas let us commit ourselves to a new struggle; a new struggle for a new generation; a struggle to end the economic inequities and related consumerism, to end the inequalities of service delivery, health care and education – but most of all a struggle to bring about equality of opportunity. Human progress is never guaranteed unless there is struggle. Every step we take towards the goal of ending inequality requires sacrifice, requires suffering, and most of all requires struggle. If there is no struggle, there is no progress. The good news is, as Christians we struggle with a firm hope, that Christ our light and our hope, has already triumphed and broken all barriers.

So whether “in this Roman census”, you are recorded as being 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 or 70 years old, the question is, do you have the courage to take up this challenge? Are you ready to define your children's destinies? Then, metaphorically speaking, light up your lamps and become bearers of hope this Christmas season.

God bless you, your family and South Africa, and may you have a blessed Christmas.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Archbishop Thabo's Reflection on the Fourth Sunday in Advent

The final reflection on Advent 2014.

Readings: 2 Samuel 7: 1-11 & 16; Romans 16: 25-27; The Song of Mary (Magnificat); Luke 1: 26-38

Monday, 15 December 2014

Call to prayer on year's mind of Madiba's burial

As we commemorate the day we brought Madiba's body to its final resting place, we continue to pray for both his immediate family and those in the broader human family who were inspired by the example of his self-sacrifice in the pursuit of human freedom and his values of hope and reconciliation in building a better world.

May we strive to fashion our responses to pain and inequality with courage and determination to change these, even as Christ our Lord.

+Thabo Cape Town 

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Listen to Archbishop Thabo's reflection on the Third Sunday in Advent

Gospel reading: John 1: 6-8, 19-28 (text below)

John 1:

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

19 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ 20 He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ 21 And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ 22 Then they said to him, ‘Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’ 23 He said,
‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
“Make straight the way of the Lord” ’,
as the prophet Isaiah said.

24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, ‘Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?’ 26 John answered them, ‘I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, 27 the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.’ 28 This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Archbishop Makgoba on the deaths of Pierre Korkie and Luke Somers

Sad and shocked at the death of Pierre Korkie, we in the Anglican Church send our condolences to his wife, Yolande, and their family.

As we mourn his death and that of Luke Somers, we call on all nations involved to expose those who maintain the extremism of groups such as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. We need to ask who benefits from their terror tactics and what is missing in our efforts to end such hostage-taking and killing. And we need also to address the grievances which fuel such extremism.

May the hope of Advent prevail and surround the world.

+Thabo Cape Town

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Listen to Archbishop Thabo's reflection on the Second Sunday in Advent

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba's reflection on Advent II.

Readings: Isaiah 40: 1-11; Psalm 85: 1-2, 8-13; 2 Peter 3: 8-15a; Mark 1:1-8

To the Laos – To the People of God, Christmas 2014

Dear People of God

We have an exciting innovation from Bishopscourt this Advent, in which I am sharing with you, the laos (or laity), reflections on the Advent readings which you can listen to online or by podcast. This is a fascinating process, and for the first Sunday in Advent, I reflected on the fact that in spite of the challenges we have in our different walks of life, God has a plan for each of us. We dare not despair. We need to face some of those principalities, some of the things that wear us down, with that strong sense of hope conveyed by the literal meaning of the word “advent”, which is “arrival”. Ultimately, the Son of the living God through the power of the Lord Jesus Christ does triumph over all.

I have recently returned from a busy and inspirational pastoral visit to the Diocese of Port Elizabeth, where I saw in various ways what God is up to in the diocese. (I recommend that you look at the special issue of their newsletter, iindaba.) What impressed me was to see how Port Elizabeth – like many dioceses, but I am referring here specifically here to Port Elizabeth – is wrestling with the implications of what God is up to in their part of the country. They are working ecumenically with other churches and with the city to make the Nelson Mandela Metro a place where God is really found, in spite of the many problems they share in common with the rest of South Africa. I was especially touched by the hope I encountered among HIV positive people at the House of Resurrection Children’s Home, a haven for children who have been affected in some way by HIV and Aids or abandoned.

Back in Cape Town, I was intrigued by a visit to The Warehouse – an outreach ministry of St. John’s Parish in Wynberg – for an exhibition focussing on art, poetry and stories around the theology of water and sanitation. It really demonstrated strongly the need for us to be visible, particularly among those who are living without running water or proper sanitation. The exhibition may have concentrated on the Western Cape, but when I go to Angola, Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia I see that the same deficiencies are prevalent across Southern Africa. And we know the related ills that arise from the problem, among them illnesses and women and girl children being raped while fetching water.

I am writing this as we observe our 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence and following the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. I want to echo the message of Tearfund, Anglican Alliance, Hope Africa and our Province that we should encourage everyone not to be silent but to speak out when women and children are being abused, and I encourage all our churches to work actively to create safe spaces for victims of gender-based violence and human trafficking.

I was particularly moved by one of the events I attended this year, when I heard the story of a girl, Nadia, who is a survivor of human trafficking. She was abducted from her home at the age of 14. By the age of 16, she had had two children as a result of the abuse she suffered. As she told her story and read a “survivor’s poem” we were all reduced to tears. Her story was painful in itself but what was more piercing was when she said:

“Please do me a favour – smile with me. Because your smile and your hope and your determination make me stronger. If you collapse and cry with me, you make my wounds too deep.”

And so Nadia’s story will remain with me as I continue to reflect on the Incarnate Christ in our lives, and His redemptive love, shared by Nadia, who has all the reason in the world to be angry but who challenged us to smile with her. I think that is in Nadia that our Christmas message lies this year: that despite being raped, exiled, abducted, trafficked and abused, the Christ Child emerges and offers us that hope which supersedes all human understanding.

My prayer this Advent and Christmas is that we will look at some of the seemingly hopeless situations in our world, for example situations that marginalize the other or destroy the environment. We might focus on water and sanitation as highlighted by The Warehouse in Wynberg, or by the international conference that I’ve just attended in India on the need for global intervention on the same issue; or on women and girl children who are abused in families or live in areas where toilets and water are far from their homes. Let’s think on these things, then choose just one and offer it to God in prayer this Christmas, asking the Christ Child to surround us with his peace and justice as we take action to eliminate the problem.

By the time most of you read this, we will have commemorated the first anniversary of the death of Madiba and again celebrated his life. May his belief and determination that individual or collective acts of goodwill actually do bring about change, inspire us to work for peace and justice in our time. For this is also the Gospel imperative.

May you have a blessed Christmas !

God bless you,
+Thabo Cape Town