“Sir, we would like to see Jesus” Jn. 12:21
Sermon by Bishop Bethlehem Nopece of Port Elizabeth, South Africa to the FCA Leaders Conference
(PDF download here)
Alleluia, Christ is risen;
He is risen indeed, alleluia! In the name of God Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen….
We consider it a great privilege accorded to me to be able to give this address, for which I am grateful and indebted to you, particularly to Archbishops John and Peter. We become more than convinced that the Body of Christ is wider than we seem to perceive in our own individual corners where God has called us to bear witness to his name through our Lord Jesus Christ.
We bring with us greetings from the Church in Southern Africa, particularly the members of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. While we acknowledge the fact that there are difficulties and hindrances in terms of numerical growth of those who boldly come forward to confess the power of Jesus as Lord, the quality of members shows a great determination to propagate and stand firmly on the truth of the orthodox teaching of gospel.
The earthly ministry of Jesus Christ according to John the evangelist focuses first on the Jews. He says to the Samaritan woman “You Samaritans worship what you do not know. We worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.” (Jn.4:22). The inquiry of the Greeks brings his ministry and plan of salvation at a cross roads because the Jews do not believe. He came to his own, and his own received him not, and to all those who believe he gave the right to become children of God (cfJn.1:11f). God’s kairos has come for the salvation of the nations through the cross. Judgment ushers in on the world and its prince, the devil. Unbelief is condemned (cf.Jn.3:18). Salvation of humankind is accomplished through the cross. This must be made known by the confession of the lips and faith of the heart to bring many to fellowship with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom.10:9-10).
Salvation is inevitable and necessary. Three things come to the fore, namely, the prophetic message, the authentic and orthodox teaching, and the propagation of the Lordship of the risen Christ.
1) Israel as the custodian of God’s Law (Tôrâh) has failed to bring salvation to the world and show forth God’s glory as a result of sin. The prophet Jeremiah says Israel has committed two sins: They have forsaken God, the spring of living water; and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water (Jer.2:13). Their priests did not ask “where is the Lord?” Those who interpret the Law did not know God, except their own reason. The leaders rebelled against the Almighty; the prophets prophesy Baal, exchanging their glory for worthless idols in following the desires and devices of their won hearts. Indeed as Cranmer rightly states “there is no health in them” (Jer.2:8, 11). This is true of our world today. Sadly, more to this is the ‘revisionist’ theology which seeks to strip the power of the gospel for the obscurity of the powerful name of Jesus, his incarnation and resurrection.
2) God sends eye witnesses of his majesty to confess the power of the risen Christ and his coming without any clever and reasonable arguments of human intellect, propagating the Beloved Son of God to those who believe until the morning star shines in their hearts (2 Peter 1:16ff). They prophesied not out of their own intellectual ability, but spoke the genuine Word of God as the Spirit bade them utterance (2 Peter 1:20f).
3) This is the confession of the Word made flesh, and dwells among us full of grace and truth (Jn.1:14). ‘Of grace’ because God ‘so loved and gave’ and did so sacrificially so that those who believe should no perish but have everlasting life (Jn.3:16); ‘and truth’ because human nature is fallen and needs to be redeemed and transformed by the “Lamb of God who takes way the sin of the world” (Jn.1:29).
The challenge before us first and foremost is that ‘we have this gospel to proclaim’. This proclamation demands confession of the lips. There is a wise saying that ‘when good people keep silent, evil thrives’.
We are therefore called:
• To assemble the people of God first and foremost to prayer regularly, just as Jesus prayed, especially in Jn. 17 as he puts the unity of believers before the Father;
• In obedience to the Mandate Christ has given us (Mtt.28:16-20), we derive passion for those who are still not ‘in Christ’ for a new creation and new character (cf. 2 Cor.5:17). There is always new life with a new start with our God;
• All false teaching of the ‘new age’ should be abhorred and resisted at all costs by visibility and being vocal in gracious words of witness both in church, learning institutions and communities. Here we must be set to always poke our noses by calling for partnerships, wisely cultivated on our terms in obedience to the Law of Christ ‘love one another’ and ‘God so loved the world’;
• Chastity should be upheld in our teaching, promiscuity and homosexual practice be resisted at all costs and moral code be upheld according to the Scriptures as God commands us in a world where good (agathon) moral behaviour continues to decline and evil (kakon) cherished(cf.1 Cor.6:9-10) Homosexual practice and those affected by the preference should be our compassionate pastoral concern for transformation of character with the love Christ has loved us with;
• Lines of communication and networking should be strengthened by these conferences in particular, on regular basis to strengthen and encourage one another in prayer and sharing of pain and success stories;
• The poor and oppressed will always be our concern in implementing poverty eradication programmes and bring healing, peace and harmony to all God’s people for cherished freedom and better life for all.
In conclusion let me say, as Keating rightly points out, it is not so much what we do but what we are that allows God to be visibly live in the world. When the presence of God emerges from our inmost being into our faculties, in whatever we do, whether walking down the street or drinking a cup of soup, an opportunity for divine life to pour into the world is created. It is therefore, up to us to make maximum use of it. Christ must be made known for transformation and salvation of the world, again and again, as the Spirit bids us utterance. History encourages us that this church has been saved by mission and evangelical call to be on track again in obedience to the demands of the gospel as handed down to us by our forebears (cf. Thirty Nine Articles of Religion, etc).
“Sir, we would like to see Jesus”, said the Greeks.
May the Lord bless you as he blesses his Church!
+Bethlehem Nopece, Port Elizabeth. FCA Conference, St Mark’s, Battersea, London. April 2012 A.D.