Monday 23 May 2022

Sermon for the Memorial Service for the Revd Siyabulela Gidi

 Sermon for the Memorial Service for the REVD SIYABULELA GIDI

St Mary Magdalene Parish – Gugulethu

The Most Revd Thabo Makgoba

Archbishop of Cape Town

22nd May 2022

Readings: Romans 8:31-39, Psalm 23; Luke 14: 15 - 23

May I speak in the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit – God who is our comforter and friend and whom Revd Siyabulela so faithfully loved and served. Amen

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ; dear Bishop Josh, dear Mrs Gidi (Khayakazi) and your children, Okuhle, Oluvo, Chulumanco and Nmivuyo, your brother Zolani, dear Cirha and Tolo families and friends, dear colleagues and guests from near and far:

It is heart-rending that we are here today to offer condolences to you all, and to pay tribute to the Revd Siyabulela Gidi, a husband, a father, a grandfather, an uncle, a son, a colleague, a friend and a faithful priest in the Church of God.

When I received the news of his passing, I was distressed and moved. Distressed because like you, I always find it difficult to accept the loss of a loved one. Moved because I remember the prominent role that Father Siyabulela played in church and society alike – in the dioceses of Grahamstown, Natal and here in Cape Town.

As we say farewell, and give thanks to God for his life and witness, be comforted by these words from St Paul: “May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this” (2 Thess. 5:38-23-24). Indeed we know that Fr Siyabulela has not been separated from the love of God – if these words are true for anyone, they are most certainly true for him.

But despite those comforting words the scriptures offer us, our hearts are heavy today. We struggle to comprehend that we shall not hear his voice, nor his humour again, nor shall we find ourselves enveloped in his huge embrace – an embrace of love that went far wider than the reach of his arms and touched the most marginalised and needy in our communities. I have been deeply touched by the accounts of his encounters with hundreds of people, as reflected in the past week through the testimonies we have heard. Since his ASF days, he has played such an important role in the lives and livelihoods of many, many people across the Province. Thank you MaMtolo, Dlangamandla for being his support system throughout his ministry.

Colleagues, we are here today to bring to God our grief, even as we give thanks for the life of our dear Fr Siya, and commend him to the everlasting care of God, who is the Resurrection and the Life. We have come to hear God's comforting words to us, for in Jesus God has tasted death and yet lives, and because he lives he has opened the gates of glory to all who believe.

We know that the Reverend Gidi now enjoys the fullness of abundant life (John 10:10). Just as Jesus wept at the grave of his dear friend Lazarus, though knowing he would rise, he understands our tears even as we believe. Dear friends, in him we find a safe place to bring our weeping as we mourn the loss of a dear husband, a father, a colleague and friend.

From his early years, when his love for God was expressed in his devotion to the ASF and youth ministry, Fr Siyabulela served the Church tirelessly. As a young cleric arriving in the Diocese of Grahamstown in 1995, he immersed himself in pastoral work and community activities as a field worker at Kei Road and later King Williamstown and Stutterheim. This period saw the growth of churching communities in the Church of the Holy Name (Cumakala).  

During those years the Church saw the depth of his ministry and he was soon appointed to lead God’s people in various ways. His leadership roles were too many to list here, but they included service in the dioceses of Grahamstown, Natal and Cape Town, in the Western Cape Council of Churches and the Kwa-Zulu Natal Council of Churches, as well as an appointment as Public Policy Officer during Archbishop Emeritus  Njongo’s time.

However, this brief outline does not fully convey the fullness of this remarkable priest, husband, father, brother and friend. St Paul, in the Letter to the Romans (8:31-39), gives a review of the course of a Christian life which is lived in a realm beyond the grasp and power of the law, demonstrating that if God be in our destiny nothing else matters, since he gave his own Son to die on our behalf. 

Sisters and brothers, as we celebrate the well-lived life of this faithful servant of God, may we all grow in conviction that God’s love poured out through the obedience of Jesus on the Cross is such that there can be no condemnation of those who live in Christ Jesus. The supremacy of Christ over all the Church’s foes is a guarantee that God takes care of our every need.

We thank you, Mrs Gidi, and we thank Mchenge, Dlangamandla, for sharing your husband and father with us. He became a brother to us and a father to many, and we are especially grateful that when he was called to serve the Church he willingly accepted God's call, wherever and in whatever way it came. In our Province and beyond, you willingly supported his ministry.

In Luke’s Gospel (14:14-23), Jesus mentions the blessings enjoyed by those who would share at the heavenly banquet. Key here is whether one has accepted the heavenly invitation. The idea that departed friends shall rise to glory is one that fills us with joy, and one which gives us hope in Jesus Christ. Just as the resurrection of all who died in him depends on him, so too will the resurrection of Revd Siyabulela. God’s overflowing love reaches out unconditionally to everyone, as our Gospel reading told us. It flowed unrestricted through Fr Siyabulela as well. He displayed that love exceptionally to his family, to those he cared for and to the community through his selfless life. Conscious of the needs of the poor and marginalised, his love also fuelled his unstinting involvement in the struggle for the liberation of the soul.

Dear brothers and sisters, as we remember Fr Siyabulela today, I appeal to all to resolve to give peace a chance wherever we are and in whatever we do. In our communities, in our country and the world let us end the resurgence of conflict and war. As we look towards the Ascension, let us continue to pray for the people of Ukraine and Russia, for those in South Sudan, Mali and Ethiopia, for those in Yemen, Palestine and Israel, that social justice and the peace that flows from justice will prevail. We should remember Siyabulela by advocating for peace and social justice, and we should divert the millions that are used for buying ammunition for war towards caring for the needy and poor as Fr Siya did during his lifetime.

As I end, let us call to mind the words of St Paul to Timothy – words that are just as apt for Fr Siyabulela today. For me they sum up his life: “I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award on that day – and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Well done, good and faithful servant, may you rest in peace and rise in glory!

God bless the Gidi and Sigenu families and friends. God bless all gathered here today. God bless this Diocese, the Province and our nation - our beloved South Africa.


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