The Day of Pentecost – Sermon

Ordination Homily – Fr Andrew Manning

Be transformed by the Renewal of your minds then you will Know what is good and pleasing and acceptable to God! The Lord be with you! Well here we are!
Ordination is not just a proclamation of confidence in the individuals being made Deacon to minister in the power of the Holy Spirit – it is a proclamation of our faith in the Church as God’s chosen vessel to reveal Him to the world. Ordination is a reminder of our confidence that we are called by God to preach the God news and bind up the broken hearted… Ordaining these three today is a Statement of faith – that we are God’s people…called by him commissioned by him and accountable to Him…

Thank you, Bishop, for the privilege afforded to me to journey with these three, this week, its been wonderful to get to know them a bit, and it is a honour to be able to address the Diocese on this occasion.

I want to use this opportunity to focus on an aspect of the charge to the Deacons -singling out this one thing for attention, because I believe that in it there is a message for us all… In the Charge the Deacons are told – “You are to interpret to the Church the needs, concerns and hopes of the world” …. As we ordain these deacons to this ministry, we are committing the church to this task This task of double listening – listening to the world to hear its pain and listening to God to hear His heart to heal ….

Everyone of us here today, is reminded of what it means to be called,
To be wanted,
To be desired,
To be needed,
To be noticed. And
To be acknowledged – And not just by the people around us you…… are not being affirmed just by members of the Church …………. but by God himself.

This is a sacred moment a holy space which we enter by grace and like a beam of sunshine on a cold and cloudy day we are warmed in the Light of Christ.
Just for a moment let the rest go…
Let go the worries, the brokenness, the poverty, the emptiness, that life sometimes engulfs us with, let it go…

For a moment forget
The challenges of being church,
the challenges of being south African,
the challenges of being Anglican….
The challenge of being you –
Just for a moment focus on this one thing…

And he that has called you is faithful, and he will not fail you…. In ordination we do not just affirm these three’s calling – we affirm the churches calling…. The Church is called to be DIACONAL -and these three will be added to the order of deacons who will lead us
in what the church is called to be and to do as we study scripture.

Model our lives on Jesus
and “interpret to the Church the needs concerns and hopes of the world”
God called people in Eden,
God called people in evil and dark days,
God called people in Egypt, in Babylon,
God called people in exile,
God called people in Galilee in Jerusalem and in KwaZulu Natal.
He’s called us back from deserts and foreign kings and disobedience and our way-wardness, and our obsession with the things of this world…
God has called us to return and to rebuild,
God has called us to heal and restore
God has called us to faithfulness….
God has called us into deep waters and in deep waters he has called us to let down our nets…

And in this sacrament today we acknowledge that we are a people who respond to the Call of God to the love of God to the grace of God. Together we say “Lord We hear your call and we devote our lives; we give ourselves as living sacrifices… following God’s voice. Today we set people aside, to guide, to lead, to be an example, we set people aside to be for us and represent us… not abdicating our own spirituality to them, but acknowledging that it needs focus and it needs learning and it needs prayer –
and if we can set aside some to be committed to this task then we can all be committed to this task, if we can set aside some -like an icon of all that we believe we are –
we will be able to look upon our own lives with hope… Surrounded by the symbols of church there is a sense that this moment is bigger than us, we are part of something lasting, something challenging and something encouraging all at once. Today we celebrate that we are the called and in ordination we celebrate our ability to respond

And so, thank you to you three for being willing by Gods grace to be set aside as an example to us all that God is still at work, here among us, calling and equipping and being faithful.

It is you who preach to the world today as you offer yourselves as a living sacrifices…. and lead us all in doing the same. It has been my great privilege to have been able to journey with these three through this last week in retreat, as we sought God’s
guidance and his wisdom and his mercy together. You know it was challenge for me after 11 years of priesthood to explore my roots in the Diaconate again and see how far I’ve wandered. and to seek God’s realignment of my own Diaconate ministry….my own calling to servanthood. So, thank you Bishop for affording me the opportunity to do that.

And this is our opportunity to all return to what God has called us to a life of humble service – as priests we are admonished at our ordination -to remember that we will always be deacons – and as the Baptized we are all called to this work… By Baptism we are all called to a life of servant ministry, and it is the Deacons of the Church who are the real example of the Christian life. They have one foot in the church and one foot in the world… they are the ones who are called to go out and bring the needs of
the world to the church they are the ones who like Jesus are in the world though not of it, and they lead us all to be ambassadors of reconciliation.

And that is why I want to focus on one unique aspect of Diaconate Ministry that I think we would be wise to consider. “You are to interpret to the church the needs the concerns and hopes of the world.” (CHARGE APB pg. 583)

Therefore I believe that if we are serious about what we are doing here – we are not just telling these three to go accept a ministry of humble service – but we are affirming our place in the world as a Church of humble ministry… serving the poor and the weak and the sick and the lonely…..we are not simply sending them out to listen to the world – but we are committing ourselves to incarnational ministry…

The way of the cross is one on which we have one hand holding firmly to our God and the other holding onto the world – to be crucified with Christ means to accept this role this tension between the broken world and the Healing God and to hold with Jesus and in Jesus and through Jesus to hold the two together….. The charge that will be spoken over these three is an acceptance by the church of God’s command to us all to be students of scripture, an acceptance by us all that we will seek nourishment from the
scriptures and model our lives on Jesus as he is presented to us in Scripture.

Today as we ordain these three, we are saying God your church recommits to interpreting the needs, the concerns and the hopes of the world. Committed to bringing them and laying them at the foot of the cross… We need to hear what God is saying to us through the circumstances of the world we live in – When Jesus met blind Bartimaeus – it was so obvious that he was blind and yet Jesus said – “what do you want me to do for you…?”

Are we a church so busy telling the world what’s wrong with it that we forget to be like Jesus and seek to understand its hurt and its fear and its brokenness…? Because when we have heard the hurt – we can bring the healing…. When we disregard the hurt, we cannot be a healer… Interpret the needs, the concerns and the hopes of the world…
There’s a great despondency in the world today, people have lost their sense of identity. There is great uncertainty and a mistrust in leadership and established ways of interpreting the world. The disillusionment engulfs every area of our lives, political, religious, national and personal. Most people are to busy just trying to exist,
put bread on the table to be able to rationalize it and come up with solutions but the steady wave of fear that enters our homes and our lives through digital media, fake news and propaganda eats away at our souls. As people of faith we are able overcome the fear because we have not been given a Spirit that leads us again into the fear of
sin, but we have been given the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead….but for many they would love to have faith but their disillusionment in the world has robbed them of the chance to find it…

When putting food on the table is a priority – who has time to nurture the soul….
In my effort to interpret the needs of the world I’m reading an historian who writes about what is going on in the minds of people today who ask…. “How can I find a firm ethical ground in a world that extends far beyond my horizons, that spins completely out of human control, and holds all gods and ideologies suspect.? ‘(Harari xii).
For many Christianity and Westernism are so intertwined that it is difficult to hear the WORD of God through the marketing slogans and consumerist mindset of personal accomplishment through attaining the greatest value of the least input. For many a false identity is created through Social media and people have an alter ego who they are vigorously defending and creating that no amount of soul talk will reach because your face book profile doesn’t have a soul…Jesus isn’t on Facebook …because your mind and your attention and your friendships might be… but your soul is not on Facebook.

That same historian Harari refers to the (and I quote) “the age of Bewilderment…. When the old stories have collapsed and the new have not yet emerged…and people are asking who are we, what should we do in life what skills do we need to live this life end quote
they are asking ….how do we live this life… In a time when nothing is as it was and the things that were are falling – we know how to fight against something but we are not
sure what to do when the walls come down…. We don’t know what we have broken…
The world is crying out to understand itself….

There is so much fear – global warming, economic catastrophe…our own eschatology can feed this fear or inform it is we interpret to the church the fears the needs and the hopes of the world. If we are not helping people to make sense of their existence then
we are not helping them at all..

I often, especially as a preacher, feel like I’m answering questions that people aren’t asking. And they are brilliant answers (I think so anyway) they are Godly answers (Or so the text books or the bible verse that I found them in, say), they are even personal answers they speak to peoples lives….. but they are not the answers to the peoples questions…most people only ask if God exists because they don’t know how to find him, and telling them he exists doesn’t help them find him..believing that someone exists does not cause a relationship with them – knowing what God wants doesn’t create a
relationship with him…

If we are to truly interpret the needs concerns and hope of the world then we are to open the way for them to experience a God who loves and cares and has hopes for his people… The world will only know the God cares about the environment when we a care for it… The World will only know that we care about education when the
Church is educating people… The World will only know that God cares about its issues – when the church seeks to understand them If Jesus is the answer that we are going to give then we have to have heard the question…..

This Ordination reminds us to be Diaconal in our approach to ministry – Go and interact with the world and ask what are your hopes, what are your hurts what are your desires…. Then we can respond in love, then we can speak truth to power, then we can speak wisdom and hope and peace and joy…. Jesus asked – what do you want me to do for you…. And then he gave him his sight.. God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son …… Do we love the world enough to be given to it… Do we love God enough to hold onto him… And the World enough to hold onto it…

And there to be crucified with CHRIST and hold the brokenness and the healing in tension so that Jesus can bring salvation to the world. Today as much as we are acting in obedience to God, we are reminded of our need to be obedient. Today as much as we Ordain theses deacons – we attest to God that we are a Diaconal Church Anchored in the love of Christ, revealed in Scripture Committed to God’s mission, with compassion and joy Transformed by the Holy Spirit, through discipleship and worship As we ordain these deacons, we recommit to being Church and we express our love for and our confidence in the Church called in Christ to love the world by giving of ourselves fully
to serve God’s mission of salvation; peace, justice and reconciliation.

The Bishop will lay his hands on their heads… he will ask the Holy Spirit to empower them for their work as a deacon in the Church, he will empower them to take authority to preach the Gospel …. And in so doing the Church will be strengthened for its ministry to the world…. As we Ordain these deacons, we commit to being the CHURCH we
commit to the deep waters of ministry, with confidence in our God because HE WHO HAS CALLED YOU IS FAITHFUL AND HE WILL NOT FAIL YOU.

Priest's Perspective

The Priests Perspective 7 May 2020 “ The Church living as the Body of Christ”

28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring,k heirs according to the promise.[1]

Central to the teaching of St Paul is that Christians, enter into a new life, which is no longer controlled by the order of worldly things, is no longer subject to the plans of the devil or the forces of evil but is lived “in Christ” and to the glory of God. Jesus himself taught his disciples to set their hearts on things above and not on things of the earth. St Paul interpreted that to mean that we are no longer of this earth, but our life belongs to Christ who has set us free from sin, free to worship him in spirit and in truth. If this is true; and it is, then how does the Church live as the body of Christ?

In Baptism we confess that we no longer live as slaves to the forces and ideas and powers of this world – we need to live true to that confession. We need to live according to the principles of God’s Kingdom. We need to do what we believe needs to be done, according to God’s will as the Scripture says, “Thy Kingdom come.”

We continue Christ’s earthly ministry, the same way that He did as he walked the earth, setting ourselves aside to this task does not mean removing ourselves from the world – in fact it is just the opposite,  it means going into the world interacting at every level in love and peace and reconciliation.

The Church is the family of God, in all its different forms seeking to continue Christ’s ministry in the world. Every day, in every encounter, Jesus sought the will of the Father. Jesus never did anything just because He could, although all power had been given to Him, He never spoke out of His own understanding nor acted out of his own will but He only sought to do what God asked Him to do. This is what it means to be “the Body of Christ” to act upon God’s desires with Christ as the “Head” and we as His body, each doing a specific task so that with all believers we will complete the will of God.

I want to end with this challenge to us all.

  • To pray daily that God will guide us throughout the day to do what He has sent us to do in the world – pray for an understanding of every “divine appointment” that God sets up for us.
  • To pray that God will show you how your secular work is part of His Kingdom Agenda.” How does the Work you do glorify God? How do you glorify God doing it?
  • To pray that God will heighten your sense of Vocation. What has God called you to do as a life work, that he has sent you to where you are? (this is not about employment but about deployment).
  • To read scripture seeking to understand these things through your reading.
  •  Lastly – to enter into dialogue – let’s start speaking to each other and to the world – sharing our thoughts and our journey towards understanding – what it means to be – The Body of Christ.           Your fellow Pilgrim   Fr Andrew

[1]The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. 1996, c1989 . Thomas Nelson: Nashville

Priest's Perspective

Dream Dreams

Don’t give up on your dreams!

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3:2)

We all have an expectation of the future. I’d like to break that down into three. Dreams, Plans and Hope.

Right now we cannot give up, on our hope – which is our faith that God is in control and that our lives, are eternally in his care. Hope is what sets us apart. Our Hope is in Jesus Christ.

Right now it is very difficult to make plans, as I was told yesterday in a Webinar I attended with Craig Groeschel  (amazing what opportunities have opened up) we need to “think long term but make short term decisions.”

Our plans are built on our Hope in Christ, our obedience to His will and our dreams must be accepted as our God given desires, ( the principle of Colossians 3 is key here). Both should inform our decisions. I’d like to share a few thoughts on that with you.

A few weeks back a colleague said – Two weeks is a long time in a Covid 19 world. A new reality is emerging each day as the world is reordered, and is made new.

  As we move from level 5 to level 4, the big shift is, of course, a paradigm shift from “don’t make plans until this is over”, to ‘this is a new reality and you need to make some plans, to adjust to a new normal.’

But, how do you plan in such a fluid environment and with so much change around you?

I’d like to make a few suggestions.

Don’t give up on your dreams. Subconsciously we all dream, we have an idea of what we want in the future. We generalise these dreams, into statements like, I want success, I want progress, I want overcoming. I want more than the previous generation, I want better (whatever those look like to you).

The last five weeks has dashed those dreams. We are now uncertain of what that dream would look like, and the reality of this set-back drags our dreams down. But these dreams, ideals, objectives were always uncertain and somewhere deep down you knew that they would have to endure much to become reality. Also, you knew that these dreams were not just going to fall into your lap, because otherwise they would be your reality and not just dreams.  Your dreams are not your plans, they are not what you have got all worked out, they are just the hope, that you have expressed in your personal life.  Dreams don’t need a detailed plan of execution, dreams don’t need evidence,  you don’t need specific circumstances for dreams – they supersede all reality, challenges, obstructions, doubts fears, dreams have no limitations imposed by reality. And dreams keep you alive because they remind you that you are bigger than your circumstances, you are more courageous than your fears make you think you are. Dreams keep hope alive. Dreams remind you that you can overcome.

If you are not working towards your dreams then they are futile. If you are not experiencing, in the present, albeit ever so small, a fulfilling of those dreams, then you are being delusional. Dreams are not delusions, they are deep seated desires. Dreams come from the heart, not from the head.

When we set our hearts and minds on our plans then we dictate how they will unfold, when we hold onto our dreams we recognise them unfolding even in ways we never thought possible. It is your plans that have been crushed by the recent events of the world crisis caused by the pandemic. My brother said this morning, once we find a cure (a vaccine) the effects of the disease from a medical point of view will end quickly, but the economic and social effects will take a long time to overcome. And the only way that we can overcome them, is to hold onto what we wanted life to be about, in the first place, and not about how we were going about getting that which we desired. Our plans have been so wrong, not our dreams. Our desires for a healthy and happy life, were not the problem, how we went about getting them were.

So do not give up on your dreams, hold onto them and seek God’s way of fulfilling them. It was St Ignatius who said, the choice is not between good and bad, but between good and Godly.

As you seek God so your dreams your desires will be in sync with God.

And so do not have worldly dreams, as Joel prophesied (Joel 2:28), God’s people will have visions and dream dreams. Dream big my friends, dream deep, dream of all that God has instilled in the depths of your hearts.   

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3:2).

May your dreams be of a Kingdom on earth as it is in hearven.

Your fellow Pilgrim

Fr Andrew