Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Sermon at the Consecration of four new Bishops for IAMA (Maputo)

Igreja Anglicana de Mocambique e Angola

Sermon for Consecration Service

The Most Rev Dr Thabo Makgoba

Archbishop and Metropolitan of ACSA

19 June 2022

Pavilhao de Maxaquene Sports Hall: Maputo


Readings: Isaiah 6: 1-8, Psalm 100; 2 Cor. 4: 1-10; John 21: 15 -17

May I speak in the name of the Holy Trinity: God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, our advocate and friend. Amen.

Your Excellencies, Presiding Bishop Carlos, Dean of the Province Andre, fellow 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 IAMA – the consecration of new bishops for the church of God and this new Province of the Anglican Communion.

It is 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, Presiding Bishop Carlos, the Dean of the Province, Bishop Andre, Bishops Vicente and Ernesto, together with your entire teams, for envisioning and planning this day. Thank you to the ACSA Provincial teams for their visits here and their guidance in ensuring that all the requirements for the new Province were met before its inauguration last September. Thank you, Bishops–elect Paulo, Agostinho, Emmanuel and Sergio, for allowing yourselves to be used by God for this important role – shepherds for God’s flock. Thank you to your families too for their support. Warm thanks to Archbishop Josiah for conducting your retreat. Lastly, thank you to all those who in whatever way gave of their time to make today possible, including those who prepared this service.

We thank God for the faithful who have kept the Gospel light burning both here in Mozambique and in Angola 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 Province to consecrate new bishops for the new dioceses of IAMA. We are able to gather here today because the new dioceses in both your nations have elected their first bishops, not only those who will be consecrated today but also those who will be consecrated in Niassa and Messumba in the coming weeks.

And this development is truly historic for the Anglican Communion in this southern part of our continent. Just two years ago ACSA celebrated its 150th anniversary as a Province in the Communion, and now we celebrate one of the most spectacular results of that achievement, namely the extraordinarily rapid growth of the Communion in Angola and Mozambique under the wise leadership of your founding bishops, enabling you to consecrate eight new bishops within the time-span of a single month.

Your achievement is all the significant when one reflects on the history of your nations over the last half century: the fight to overcome colonial oppression, the resulting conflict, the civil strife and the suffering of so many in so many ways. Let the events of today and the coming weeks be a celebration of all that you have achieved in the Church and in your nations, dating back to the founding of the Diocese of Lebombo in the 1890s, and the work in Angola from the 1920s.

Let us give our heartfelt thanks to God for all those who have laboured over so many generations and in so many different ways to get us to where we are today. But above all, our thanks go to God for his sustaining love and 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 (Isaiah 6:1-8), the writer presents to us the commissioning of Isaiah which preceded his public ministry. In this vision, the major concerns of God are discernible: God’s holiness and majesty, the glory which God has decreed and the cleansing it demands; the cleansing of those who are penitent and the new life that bursts forth among the people of Israel. The passage re-emphasises the holiness of God, in whose presence even those already living exemplary lives are fit neither to see God nor be seen, yet they are swift to serve and tireless to praise him. The shaking of foundations, the darkness and dismay awaken echoes of Sinai and a premonition of judgement. It is integral to Isaiah’s message that his words will be those of one who is forgiven, despite being as guilty as those to whom he will offer life or death. In this reading, God's judgement is experienced through a cleansing. The fiery messenger and the burning coal does not at first appear to offer any kind of salvation; yet they came from a place of sacrifice and spoke the language of atonement. The symbol applied to Isaiah’s lips assures him of personal forgiveness. Then we hear the remarkable pronouncement “Here I am! Send me” (v.8).

Dear Bishops–elect, when you were chosen to assume this office, you, like Isaiah, echoed those words. I want to assure you today, that “the One who calls you is faithful, and he will do this” (2 Thess. 5:38-23-24). Paul takes this further in that when God through his mercy calls and commissions his servants, he also provides the strength necessary for them to persevere in the face of hardships and persecution (2 Corr. 4:1ff). And so you must be assured that God will give you the strength and resilience you need to become servant leaders dedicated to God's glory.

Sisters and brothers, Paul uses the imagery of the veil that covers the divine glory so that those who reject the Gospel fail to see that glory – the image of God. Christ, who is both the incarnate Son and the second Person of the Trinity, authentically displays God to us, for he is the very radiance of divine glory. Christ is the image of God in which we were originally created and into which redeemed humankind is being gloriously transformed until at last, when Christ comes again at the end of this age, we who believe will be like him.

Friends, our total inadequacy to play the role God has assigned to us reveals our total dependence on God, in whose power to equip us for our ministry we can totally trust. The frailty of our humanity, like Paul's, is plainly seen in the constant hardships and persecutions which we often go through for the sake of the Gospel and through which we share in Christ’s suffering. As we look forward to the challenges of building up the people of God in this new Province, let us all ask ourselves: What is it that we are prepared to sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel? What is it we are prepared to sacrifice for the sake of the poor, the needy and marginalised?

The Gospel passage (Jn. 21:15ff) sums it up with the restoration of Peter. The second word used by Jesus, to “tend” or “care for” involves the responsibilities of shepherding the sheep. Whatever interpretation is adopted in this story, the important point, the great question, which is key to the reinstatement of Peter, is whether he loved Jesus. And so: do we love Jesus? Can we reassure him of our love with as much conviction as does Peter?

Friends, the blessed presence of God in 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 disasters in one way or another – the apostle assures you that tears are wiped away in Jesus as he restores Peter. God himself, as your tender Father, restores you today for the common good.

Belief in Christ is the keystone essential to the fulfilment of God's promise: without that belief, there can be no church. As we gather here to consecrate you as bishops for the Church, you are crucial to the building of the Kingdom of God in your dioceses: without you to remind the community of faith of the presence of God in and around IAMA, all human efforts, no matter how wonderful, no matter how admirable, 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 Peter 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 Province.

As you continue and grow God’s work in IAMA, just like Isaiah and Peter you will need God's authority and the leading and encouragement of His Spirit. So, friends, as we come to consecrate you as bishops, it is my prayer that you will continue to seek authority and guidance from God at all times and in all situations.

As the Psalmist says, may we shout for joy and praise God, may we worship him with gladness and come before him with joyful songs (Ps 100). Jesus’ love and faithfulness are unfailing through all time. As Jesus lives, and because he lives, we too shall live. 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 IAMA. God bless Angola and Mozambique. God bless Africa. God bless each one of you. Amen.