Friday 9 May 2008

My first Ad Laos - Letter 'To the People'

The first in what I plan to be a regular series of letters "To the People" of the Church.

Ad Laos - To the People - Pentecost, May 2008

My dear People of God

It is a little over a month since the Service of Installation and Rededication, and my arrival at Bishopscourt.

My hope and intention is that this will be the first of many letters ג€˜ad laosג€™ (which means ג€˜to the peopleג€™) that I shall write to you, the people of God, Christג€™s flock. My desire is that there should be open channels of communication between Cape Town and the Dioceses, Parishes and People of this Province as we share together in the ministry to which we are all called, for it is the responsibility of each of us to ג€˜encourage one another and build each other upג€™, as St Paul writes to the Thessalonians (1 Th 5:11).

In the past two weeks, alongside Ascension Day, many of us also marked Freedom Day, Workersג€™ Day and Human Rights Day. I was struck by how each of these secular holidays finds a far deeper and fuller meaning in the One who came to bring us ג€˜life in abundanceג€™ and who is now ascended to the right hand of God where he intercedes for us (Rom 8:34). Jesus is the one who came ג€˜to let the oppressed go freeג€™ (Lk 4:18); who says ג€˜we must work the works of him who sent me ג€¦ג€™ (Jn 9:4); and who shows us what it is to be fully human, ג€˜sharing in our humanityג€™ and ג€˜becoming like us in every respectג€™ (Heb 2:14,16). Surely Jesus is praying for us to grow in abundant life in all these areas.

This is the message of Pentecost also ג€“ for ג€˜where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedomג€™ (2 Cor 3:17); and we are ג€˜equipped for every good workג€™ (2 Tim 3:16,17); and we can experience our ג€˜rightsג€™ as Godג€™s children (Gal 4:5,6 ג€“ NIV). The Spiritג€™s delight and desire is that all these should bear fruit in us and through us.

I write about all these things, because it is as we live out these promises of God, that we are enabled to be salt and light. The world needs to learn deeper truths of what freedom, work, and our right ג€“ our calling ג€“ to full humanity are all about. Though the church must speak publicly on these issues ג€“ as we do about other great themes such as forgiveness and reconciliation and restoration ג€“ we must also live them out at the human level, within Dioceses, parishes, congregations, communities, families, and homes, and between individuals. Jesus became Emmanuel, God with us, and the Spirit dwells within us, so that the great truths and promises of God should become living realities for each and every one of us, and for the people around us, in very personal ways.

This is a great challenge for how the church lives. We can all speak together of the promises of freedom ג€“ but freedom may mean many different things in the very different circumstances of our geographically vast and hugely diverse Province.

This is why communication is so important ג€“ that we really do learn how to ג€˜encourage and build one another upג€™ as we explore and share the different ways in which we are called to be salt and light, bringers of freedom and full humanity, in this new chapter in the life of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.

Dear people of God, as we seek afresh to discover what it is to be the body of Christ in our time, and who God is in Jesus Christ, for us here and now, be partners with me in this seeking and discovering ג€“ and pray for me and my part in this, as I pray always for you. Pray for the people of Myanmar and act.

Let me end with a few words about Zimbabwe. Following my statement two weeks ago, in which I called for an arms embargo, I was invited to a private meeting with President Mbeki on 27 April. In over two hours, he gave me an extensive briefing about his long and arduous task as mediator, and the lengthy road that had to be travelled even to enable the first round of elections to go ahead in relative freedom and peace. Though we may not always agree with his handling of the situation, he certainly deserves the prayers of the Church in support not only of all that will bring a just and fair conclusion to the electoral process, and, even more important, of all that will allow the people of Zimbabwe to move into an era of greater freedom and flourishing.

The people of Zimbabwe have been so battered and bruised, and now suffer terrible uncertainties. Please keep them in your prayers, and, where you can, show the love of Christ to these neighbours of ours, so many of whom have been forced to leave their country. We know that there are unlikely to be swift and easy answers, but as a Church we shall continue to affirm and encourage all that can lead to a lasting, just, and peaceful solution. We hold Zimbabweג€™s leaders responsible for ensuring the security and well-being of all their citizens, just as we expect the leaders of SADC and the African Union to play their part in upholding democracy and good governance. And most of all, we pray for the God of love to bring an end to the poverty, hunger, suffering and conflict within Zimbabwe. As I said in my Charge, at my Installation, I am committed to working and praying for ג€˜an Africa without conflictג€™ where everyone is able to hear Christג€™s words ג€˜Peace be with you.ג€™ I ask you to join me in this prayer.

Yours in the service of Christ

+ Thabo Cape Town