Monday 12 December 2022

Sermon preached at Diocese of George Ordination Service

The sermon preached at a Diocese of George Ordination Service in the Cathedral of St Mark the Evangelist, George, on 4th November 2022:

Readings: Romans 12: 1 -12; Psalm 119:33-38; Mark 10: 35-45

May I speak in the name of God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer of our lives, Amen.

Canon Jerome, the Vicar General, Dean Isaac, Bishop Donald – it's good to see you – the members of Chapter here present, fellow clergy, candidates for ordination and your families, dear brothers in Christ: it is a great joy for me to be here with you once again this year as we give thanks to God for this time together.

It is an honour and privilege to have been asked to celebrate with you at this historic moment in the lives of these candidates, the community and the Diocese. Thank you, Vicar General, thank you Canon Sharon Domingo-Blaauw, the Dean of Studies  and the team for inviting me. Thank you to the Diocesan Staff too, the Cathedral, the Parish, thank you everyone for the warm welcome we received on our arrival here. We've been here since Friday and I must confess that tomorrow I must go back to the treadmill, I've eaten so much. We arrived on Friday, we blessed the new Diocesan Centre, beautiful, we ate, then after that, dinner we ate, then met a group of brilliant, wonderful young people, we posed for a picture, and then we ate.

Thank you also to those who gave of their time and were involved in the preparation for today. Thank you to the Revd Titus Daniels, the retreat conductor, for preparing these candidates and the confessor for listening to their confessions and praying with them before God. Many thanks, Vicar-General and those of you who have been looking after God’s people in this diocese for the past year. 

I thank God for the unsung heroes and heroines of this diocese who have kept the gospel light burning here through their lives, their enthusiasm, their prayers and their service and witness. And a special thanks to you all for your sacrificial ministry during Covid. 

Today, I especially thank God for his faithfulness to you who have offered yourselves for ordination during this service. Our gratitude also to God for his sustaining care for you, particularly during the challenging times of this year, and for affording you this time of great hope and opportunity, even though of course it comes with challenges. This day carries with it a deep sense of anointing, the anointing of ordination that comes from the witness and the memories of those who have walked this road and the example they offered to the church.  

The Gospel read today (Mark 10:35ff) shows how spiritually undiscerning the disciples of Jesus could be. Nothing could better illustrate the danger of having a mind preoccupied with petty thoughts of self at a time when big things are happening in the spiritual realm. James and John requested Jesus to let one of them sit on his left and one on his right hand in his glory. The Matthean account puts this request in the mouth of Salome, the mother of James and John. She was the sister of Christ’s mother and therefore, James and John would be the first cousins of Jesus. This could have been a family attempt to steal a march on Peter, the third member of the inner trio. While Jesus was dwelling on his forthcoming passion, all the time their minds were in another world. 

Jesus tried to lead them to see what lay between him and his glory, and therefore between him and the realisation of their desire. Jesus asked them “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptised with the baptism I am baptised with?” Their bold assertion “we are able” was as ignorant as their request, but Jesus took them at their word. That for which they were asking was one which only the Father could grant, and it would be granted not on the basis of favouritism but on their  character and their fitness for the role. If their desires were met it would be because they were worthy, and not as a personal favour from Jesus. 

Sisters and brothers, Jesus categorically explained to his disciples in the plainest terms the essential difference between worldly greatness and spiritual greatness. His words are apt for our times too. Men and sometimes even women often like to domineer and lord it over one another, using personal influence to secure private advancement. James and John’s desire for power would be realised only if they were willing to   adopt a ministry of sacrificial service. Friends, in the kingdom of God, true greatness flows from lowly and voluntary service. 

In the New Testament reading (Rom: 12:1ff), Paul exhorts others with an uplifting, cheerful call to worthwhile accomplishment. Through the process of teaching, believers are shown what they must do; through one of  encouragement, they are helped to do it. 

As we reflect on Jesus’s interaction with his disciples, it seems he was trying to shape them by setting an example of servant leadership and pastoral praxis. That is what you too, my sisters and brothers, are also called to do.

As we wrestle with the challenges of Gender-based Violence during these 16 Days of Activism, what do we want from Jesus? In our country, our diocese and our communities, what are we asking God to help us do? Are we going to focus on positions and power, or are  we willing to commit our lives to sacrificial service?

In the bumpy, rocky days we are going through in South Africa at present, we hear too little of sacrificial service from our nation's leaders, and too much of using personal and political influence to secure private advancement. That is why I have said that if our president is forced by his party to step down, we need a government of national unity to be formed until the next election, a government which would focus on addressing the desperate needs of our people while the politicians sort themselves out. People need to see that their government is focussed on fixing the real problems of the country - joblessness and loadshedding - and not on internal party disputes. The root of our problems lies in the scandalous gap between the rich and the poor. We won political liberation nearly 30 years ago but we have not achieved economic liberation – that is the biggest issue facing us. And when it comes to what the president must do in the coming days, I have said that he needs to act in the interests of the country, not in his own personal interests. If he does go through an impeachment hearing, we should remember that the report that is due to be tabled in parliament this week is like a board of preliminary inquiry in church discipline – it says he has a case to answer, it is not a guilty finding.  Presidents around the world have been impeached before, and even if they have made mistakes, sometimes their mistakes are not regarded as serious enough to have them removed from office.

Sisters and  brothers, I hope that in your daily ministry we will find you at the coalface, acting as servant leaders in your communities, leading your people both in worship and praise and in helping them deal with the challenges they face in their daily lives. At this time in particular, we hope you will be helping to end the violence that is experienced by women and children in communities throughout our country. 

Finally, I implore you who are being ordained to,  as Paul puts it, “never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord”. My sisters and brothers, this is the heart of my prayer and the prayer of my heart as I ordain you: that in all the changing scenes of life, in the ups and downs of ministry, amidst the tensions of relationships, the uncertainties of our era and the ambiguities of our political situation, you may do no more and no less than to serve God and serve your people. 

I wish you all a wonderful Advent season in anticipation of the coming Christ. May God bless you in your ministries. God bless this diocese. God bless our beloved country, South Africa.

God loves you and so do I.


The Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba
Archbishop of Cape Town 

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