|Bishop Manuel Ernesto blesses the Archbishop after his licensing.|
Readings: 2 Chronicles 7:11-18; Psalm 122; Rev 21:1-4; Luke 19:1-10
May I speak in the name of God, who is Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Your Excellencies, Bishops, distinguished guests, clergy and people of God, it is a great joy for me to welcome you to this service as we give thanks to God for this very important milestone in the history of Niassa – the birth of a missionary diocese of Nampula.
It is also an honour and privilege to celebrate with you at this historic moment. Thank you everyone for the wonderful, warm welcome we received on our arrival here. Thank you, Bishops Vicente Msosa and Manuel Ernesto, together with your entire teams, for envisioning and planning this day. Thank you to the Provincial teams for the visits here and their guidance in ensuring that all the requirements for the new Diocese are met. Thank you also to those who gave off their time and were involved in the preparations for this service.
We thank God for the faithful who have kept the Gospel light burning here through their lives, their zeal, their prayers and their service and witness. Today, I especially thank God for his faithfulness to you who have made it possible for this Diocese to be inaugurated as a missionary diocese. We are able to gather here today because the Provincial teams that have visited have looked carefully at the challenges you face and have recommended the formation of the new Diocese as the appropriate way to help you meet those challenges. I also want to acknowledge with gratitude the efforts of our mission partners [the Mozambique and Angola Anglican Association (MANNA) and the Angola London Mozambique Association (ALMA) in the Diocese of London]. And of course our thanks must go also to the Bishops of Niassa who have laid the foundations for today over the past 30 years – Paulino Manhique, Mark van Koevering and Vicente Msosa – as well as the grandfather of the new Diocese, Bishop Dinis Sengulane of Lebombo.
In approving the new Diocese of Niassa and the Missionary diocese of Nampula, we have taken note of the huge area in which you as the Church in northern Mozambique minister. We have also noted the large number of chapelries that your parishes have and the impressive number of Catechists who help your Clergy to minister to your people. The last team which visited you found overwhelming support for establishing a missionary diocese of Nampula, and believed that such a step would enhance the work of the Anglican Church, and enable it to grow and flourish in this part of Mozambique.
So we thank all those involved in many different ways in getting us to where we are today. But above all, our thanks go to God for his sustaining care for you, particularly during the turbulent times of the past, and for affording you this time of great hope and opportunity, even though of course it comes with its own challenges.
In our first reading today (2 Chronicles 7:11-18), the Chronicler gives us God’s comforting words to Solomon yet again. When he appeared to Solomon, the Lord emphasised the importance of obedience to the covenant in order to experience its blessings, rather than to suffer its curses. Obeying the covenant was particularly necessary as Solomon’s kingdom grew in influence and wealth, since prosperity brought with it a lot of potential for breaking the covenant.
So God needed Solomon to walk before God and observe God's decrees and laws in order for Solomon to establish his royal throne. This happened after David had gathered all the Israelites before him and before God and narrated how God had chosen Solomon to continue the work of building the Temple for God after him. Just as Moses received the plans for the tabernacle from God, so also David received the order from God that Solomon should build the temple. David gave Solomon definite directions on how he should erect the temple and ensure that the sacred vessels were carefully constructed. He was careful to mention that these were not his own ideas, but that he had been guided by divine revelation.
As you and I today, in the new Missionary Diocese of Nampula, continue with God’s work, just like David and Solomon we too need God's authority and to be led and encouraged by His Spirit. So, Friends as we inaugurate this diocese it is my prayer that you continue to seek authority and guidance from God at all times and in all situations.
The Gospel reading (Lk 19:1-10) also gives us another picture of a wonderful God whose love has no boundaries. The action of Jesus in recognising Zacchaeus is an example of what is possible as a result of God's unmeasurable love. As a tax collector, Zacchaeus collected as much money as he could so that after paying over to the government their share of the taxes, he would have a handsome payoff for himself. But he is clearly interested in Jesus, known as a friend of tax collectors, so climbed a sycamore-fig tree in order to see Jesus when he passed by.
Whether he hoped to be hidden from Jesus’ view is not certain, but whatever the case, Jesus summoned him with a request that he provide lodging. The command was obeyed and Zacchaeus showed both repentance and joy as he welcomed Jesus to his house. Outside there were great murmurings about Jesus’ fraternizing with such a man, but Jesus was able to justify his actions – salvation had come to the house of Zacchaeus, a son of Abraham who was as entitled to receive and to hear the Gospel as any other Jew. This act fully and finally summed up the purpose of Jesus’ coming; as a shepherd seeks the lost sheep, so the Son of Man seeks and saves the lost of humanity.
The question I want to ask here today is: who is Jesus here and now? What is his message to us as we seek to overcome the challenges that we face today, whether they concern corruption in central government, or challenges closer to home – moral decline in our communities, access to markets for farmers and both the potential and the difficulties which come with economic growth and more people moving into the towns in this Diocese? What is Jesus saying to us as we face the reality of the cruel attacks we have seen, apparently carried out by religious extremists, in Cabo Delgado over the last 18 months – attacks which we must condemn strongly? (We also condemn the actions of the extremist who murdered Muslims at prayer in New Zealand yesterday – we pray for the conversion of those who hold such beliefs and for atrocities such as this to strengthen inter-faith bonds against religious extremism.)
John in the Book of Revelation (21:1-4) gives us a picture of how life will be beyond the judgement – a happy and triumphant state of the redeemed church, when all its conflicts shall have ceased and all its enemies shall have been destroyed. This state is depicted by John in the imagery of Jerusalem – for Jerusalem was regarded as a peculiar place for the dwelling place of God, a symbol of a heavenly world. The apostle saw a new Jerusalem coming down from heaven, the church of God in its new and perfect state, beautified with the perfection of wisdom and holiness, as appropriate for the coming of Lord Jesus Christ in glory. The apostle says: “Behold! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them…”(21:3).
Friends, the blessed presence of God with his church is the glory of the church. You might have been in tears due the heaviness of the load on your shoulders, or faced by afflictions or calamities in one way or another – the apostle assures you that tears are wiped away in Jesus. God himself, as your tender Father, with his own kind hand shall wipe them away.
The Revelation of John captures the imagery of the redeemed living in a world with Jerusalem as their abode. Friends, as we launch this new Diocese, I challenge you to see this positive act as the first step on a path towards a world in which you will live as the redeemed, a world in which all tears will be wiped away, all sorrow will cease and God will be with you.
However, belief in Christ is the keystone essential to the completion of that promise: without that belief, there can be no church. As we gather here to inaugurate this Diocese, you are crucial to the building of the Kingdom of God in this area; without you to remind this community of the presence of God in and around Nampula – wonderful though it is – all human efforts become meaningless.
You are persons who derive your life from Christ; Christ who is the original living stone from whom you have come, the life-giving spirit. The whole body of Christ, priests and believers, are to reflect the holiness of God and that of their high priest, to offer spiritual sacrifices, to intercede for people before God and to represent God before humanity. May the Holy Spirit which brought back the resurrected Christ, the Spirit which changed the life of Zacchaeus for the better, and the Spirit which God's people experienced like a rushing mighty wind at Pentecost – may that Spirit transform your lives to be living stones for the foundation of God's church and this Diocese.
As the psalmist says, may we be that Jerusalem built as a city where pilgrims gather in unity (Ps 122). As Jesus lives, and because he lives, we shall live also. From grateful hearts, from lips touched by holy fire, let the glad song ring out, Christ our Foundation stone.
He lives to make intercession for us. As one writer says: Grasp this hope, and it will hold the soul like a sure, tried anchor. Believe and you shall see the glory of Incarnate Christ.
God bless you.
The Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba
Archbishop and Metropolitan
16th March 2019