Saturday 10 June 2023

Sermon preached in the Diocese of George at the Chrism Eucharist


The Chrism Eucharist and Renewal of Ordination Vows

The Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba, Archbishop and Metropolitan of ACSA

The Cathedral Church of Saint Mark the Evangelist

Thursday, 8th June 2023, 10:00

Deuteronomy 8: 2-3; Psalm 147: 12-20; 1 Corinthians 10:16 - 17; John 6: 51-58

May I speak in the name of God, who is Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. Amen

As we meet today to renew our ordination vows and celebrate the Chrism Mass, let me thank all of you for coming together as I visit the Diocese once again. Thank you to the Vicar-General, Canon Jerome, the Dean and the Diocesan Liturgical Team, as well as all those in the Cathedral Parish and the Diocese who have planned for this service and for my time with you. A special thanks for the work all of you have done in this Diocese to ensure that God is revealed in and through you during this time. 

And we thank you, the Diocesan leadership, for your continuing efforts to guide the Diocese in the lead-up to the Consecration and Installation of Bishop-Elect Edwin Pockpass during September this year. We give thanks to God that through the discernment process that began with you, the gift of a Shepherd was found for your Diocese. I urge you to continue to pray for Bishop-elect Edwin, together with his family, as they prepare themselves for the task ahead of them. 

We have just celebrated the Feast of the Pentecost, when we were reminded of a special gift which Jesus promised to his disciples: that of the Holy Spirit. This was also a special gift for the church; as St Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:7, “God has not given us the spirit of fear, but the power of love and self-discipline”. And Pentecost was of course followed by Trinity Sunday, when we heard how Jesus gave his disciples the Great Commission, urging them to go out, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and make disciples of all nations.

As we reflect on Jesus’ ministry during this season, we see in John’s Gospel (6:51ff) the great introductory affirmation that Jesus is the bread of life, the living bread which gives us life. Coming to Christ and believing in him are presented as the only means of securing spiritual satisfaction, of ensuring that we abide in Jesus, and him in us. In this passage the superiority of the heavenly bread over manna is seen in its effects. While the material bread failed to prevent death, spiritual bread leads to eternal life. Jesus then follows up with the most important statement: “Whoever eats this bread will live forever” (v.51). 

Sisters and brothers, it is Jesus himself who gives life through his life which he gave up on the Cross for the world. Jesus went on to give a fuller explanation of what he meant when he said that “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you’ (v.53). Here the metaphor of eating and drinking prepares the way for the later institution of the Lord’s Supper. This, the spiritual meaning and implications of his words, was very likely not understood by his audience until after Jesus's sacrifice on the Cross, when the eating of bread and drinking of wine became symbols of the appropriation of the sacrifice.

Friends, the believer’s life is intimately bound up with Christ’s. Paul affirms this in our reading from First  Corinthians when, in the words we have adopted and integrated into the Eucharist, he makes clear that sharing in the bread and the wine is to take part in the benefits endowed by the sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ. As Christians, we are bound in fellowship with the living Christ, and so with one another.

God calls us in a remarkable way. We are called to perform even the most menial tasks for one another. We are invited to allow ourselves to be set apart for a life of faithfulness. We are invited to see and hear the Trinity in ourselves and in others. Friends, when we truly see the beauty of God in others, and in nature, we can serve God in new ways. Serving God and, by extension serving all of God's creation, challenges us today to engage with our brothers and sisters and the environment which nurtures us. Earlier this week, at a meeting to plan this year's session of our church's Provincial Standing Committee, we were called upon to identify the ethical and moral issues of our times. Key to this is the call to us as Christians to work for the common good of all. By this I mean we should be striving for the well-being of every human person and to be good stewards of the earth on which we live; working to create a world in which everyone can realise their full potential, supported and sustained by a healthy, self-sustaining natural environment. 

One way of doing this is to work to ensure that at local, regional and national level, we are well-governed. That is the reason why I have since Easter been calling on our church to encourage young people to take advantage of the democracy which their forebears won for them by first registering to vote and then taking part in next year's elections. In Cape Town I have urged parishes to facilitate this process, and this week both the SACC in Gauteng and the SACC's youth director have agreed to adopt what we are calling “the ABC”, or the Archbishop's Ballot Challenge.

The SACC's National Executive this week also called for on its members to be a more socially engaged church. As active citizens, we need also to call for vigilance by all, especially in the darkness of load-shedding, and to ensure that our government does not take over-hasty decisions in their attempts to overcome our electricity crisis. In various harbours of our coast, it has been proposed that we should host Turkish power ships to provide us with emergency power for up to 20 years. I am pleased to see that one of the ministers responsible for addressing the power crisis is opposing such long contracts, but we still need to be reassured that the presence of those ships in our harbours will not pollute our harbours and coastline. 

Sisters and brothers in Christ, as we renew our ordination vows and hear afresh God’s call of love to us, may we welcome the privilege of experiencing a profound mystery – lives set apart for fidelity and grace. May we let God love us more, bring greater healing to us and deliver for us greater liberty and freedom for the common good. 

It is my prayer that each day God will reveal God's self more deeply in ourselves and others, in order to empower us to offer to the church and the world a more effective ministry. So having having heard once again at Easter the glorious story of the Resurrection and its message of new beginnings, may each one of you experience the fullness of Christ’s gift of abundant life. May you know the joy, the hope and the peace that first Easter, and then the power of the Holy Spirit, brings to each one of you and to the lives of our communities. 

God bless you this Season, God bless your congregations and people, and God bless the Diocese as you prepare for the forthcoming Consecration and Installation of your new Bishop. 

God loves you and so do I! 


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