Sunday 12 April 2020

A Homily for Easter Sunday, DStv Easter channel

The text of a homily preached in the Church of the Good Shepherd, Protea Village, at a service pre-recorded for the DStv pop-up channel for Easter 2020

Let me again welcome you very warmly to this broadcast service, which as I said in my introduction comes to you from a historic place closely associated with South Africa's oppressive past, with our elders' heroic struggle for freedom and now with our hope for the future.

At Easter, we emerged from the long days of Lent – no longer than usual in terms of days or hours but rather in the way it has reached into the depths of our anxiety, our fears, our sense of powerlessness and the limits of our knowledge, as the coronavirus runs rampant across the globe and into every community.

We enter an Easter unlike any we have  lived through in our entire lives. We are living a health nightmare. Someone once said, “there are many who don't wish to sleep for fear of nightmares. Sadly, there are many who don't wish to wake for the same fear.”

These are those times. While we all know that the Coronavirus is an exponential crisis – in other words, it is going to get worse before it gets better – yet we are also confident that as long as the night lasts, there will be a morning – an Easter morning, a Resurrection morning. The world is mobilizing at a scale we’ve not seen in 60 years to find creative ways of making masks and ventilators to help protect us and treat those who are ill, and ultimately to find a vaccine to bring Covad-19 under control so that it no longer threatens life.

But in the meantime, we must be patient and vigilant. The solutions are not going to be immediate – they never are in real life – so we have to listen to our Government, to observe the lockdown, and to follow what one of our medical experts here in Cape Town calls the five Ks:

Keep - washing your hands
Keep - your hands off your face
Keep - your social distance
Keep – away if you cough and cough into your elbow
Keep - yourself at home.

After every Good Friday, Easter comes. The events of this weekend, from Good Friday to Easter, help us to acknowledge both the harsh reality of the rampant spread of the virus, and the truth that even this will pass. In truth, Easter is God's everlasting, eternal pledge to life, that He moves from our graves and is creating a new thing. In these Resurrection hours let us strive again to build the Kingdom, so that even in the midst of the pandemic we might know the everlasting nature of God.

We must also pledge that after this virus we will do things in a new way, in a post-Calvary, post-grave way.

As I was contemplating what I should stay this Easter, I came across one of Martin Luther King Junior's most inspirational sermons. It is called “A Knock at Midnight” and although he delivered it in 1963, it is timeless. From that sermon, I drew the lesson that we, brothers and sisters, are born for times of adversity. We are born to face challenges and to find ways of overcoming them. In a more dramatic way than usual, this is one such time.

So in our nations, this is a time, regardless of our recent memories of corruption, mismanagement and sleazy dishonesty, that we must must come together. We must build each other up, in the way that South Africa's  President, Cyril Ramaphosa did when – in response to the news that a credit agency had downgraded our credit rating – he chose to prioritise lives over companies' profits. We must support one another in the way that some of South Africa's wealthy are doing, whether in high-profile annnouncements or quietly supporting a Solidarity Fund.

We must focus on health and hope. And although social distancing keeps us physically apart, through exciting developments in telecommunications, we are finding new ways of coming together.

At Easter, to paraphrase one of Archbishop Desmond Tutu's prayers,
    • We know that Death is strong, but Life is stronger;
    • We know that Life is stronger than Wrong, because it is the Right;
    • We know that Life is stronger than darkness, because it is the Light.

And looking into the future beyond this pandemic, when people knock at the door of our institutions, whether the Church or the State, let us not disappoint them. How often have we as a church let people down when we have allowed abuse to ruin people's lives? How often have millions of Africans, patiently knocking on the doors of government across our continent, seeking the bread of social justice, either been altogether ignored or told to wait until later, which almost always means never.

Fear, uncertainty and hesitation are born at midnight, but morning follows. "Weeping may endure for a night," says the Psalmist, "but joy comes in the morning."

Go in peace and wash your hands regularly, keep social distance, help flatten the curve, support the government's screening, testing, tracing and treatment efforts, even as we feed the destitute, cry for equality and work for justice.

Finally, I call on all to believe, to go and tell the Good News and to rejoice because Christ is risen from  the dead.

God bless you, your family and God bless Africa. God loves you and so do I.

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

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