Greetings and blessings to you and your loved ones in the precious name of our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ. We have just celebrated the death and resurrection of our Lord. The thought of “ God so loved the world that he gave us his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16) is indeed moving , overwhelming and inspirational. We are certainly captivated by those words announced on that Resurrection morning: “He (Jesus ) is not here he is risen!” (Mat. 28:6). However, the tendency is to overlook Friday and move straight to Easter Day. Good Friday reminds us of suffering, pain, agony and death, and nobody really wants to ponder on these. We rather skip it or fast forward it and get straight to the celebration and the gift of life. While that may be a good thing to do yet we need to realize that we can only truly and meaningfully celebrate Easter Day when we first observe the suffering and death experience of Good Friday.
The world is surrounded by so many events that make us to wonder what is happening. We were recently concerned by the situation in Egypt, Zimbabwe and Libya continues to be a real worry, the earthquake/ tsunami in Japan has certainly moved us and many other matters both inside and outside of Sothern Africa continues to throw us into a state of perpetual worry and a sense of hopelessness. We wonder just what is going on in this world. Well the powerful message of Easter speaks of Resurrection power and hope. Hope is given to those journeying with a erminally-ill loved one, the person struggling to find a job or make ends meet, the marriage that is struggling to survive, countries attempting to overcome dictators , people living in poverty and so the list goes on. The message of the Resurrection is that God is in control and there is absolutely nothing in this world that can keep him down. The story of the resurrection tells that our hope is not based on false expectations but in the affirmative and established truth of the Resurrection. So in as much as we can experience the Good Fridays in our lives yet we need to constantly be reminded that we live in the time of resurrection power and hope. In Christ the Father holds all things together.
I wonder what that says to us as the UPCSA. Are we living in that resurrection hope? Are we faithfully proclaiming that Resurrection hope and power or have we lost the focus of that message because we have become overshadowed with lesser things that speak of our desires and dreams instead of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ? How are we generating hope to a lost, broken and suffering world?
There are many hopeful things taking place within our denomination for which we give thanks and praise to God. We thank God for:
- The many faithful ministers and elders who proclaim the Good News and serve God’s people with love and devotion.
- The thousands of believers who attend church faithfully and participate in the ministries of our local churches.
- The very successful Moderators, Clerks and Treasurers meeting which took place on the 14-15th March and the implementation of the Presbytery Empowerment Plan. Hopefully this will lead to better functioning Presbyteries and congregations. Our vision is to build vital congregations so that we can faithfully proclaim the hope we have in our Risen Lord.
- Our church’s attempt to address significant issues related to assessments, assessment relief, developing congregational leaders through the work of the Church Development & Planning Committee, training students for the ministry, focusing on evangelism and mission.
- Arranging discussions on poverty and the church to see how we can address these within our structures and work towards poverty eradication.
- Addressing issues of decision making and the participation of people who are often left out.
- The meeting of the Men which will take place on 28th May 2011 to continue with the dialogue process.
- The faithful servants of God in the UPCSA ministry who passed away since the beginning of this year: The Rev Dr Moshe Rajuili and the Rev Edwin Pons. The Resurrection hope we have tells us that they will rejoice with God in all eternity.
- For the fact that a small denomination such as ours is making such a huge impact and contributions to both the local and global ecumenical community. I was elected as the President of the World Communion of Reformed Churches in June 2010, the Rev Mautji Pataki was appointed as the General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches as from the 1st March 2011, and more recently the Rev. Peter Langerman was elected Chairman of the Church Unity Commission.
We thank God for these opportunities availed to the UPCSA at this time.
We live in the era of Resurrection Hope, so in the midst of suffering, disasters and hopelessness we can be comforted with the knowledge of what God in Jesus has done for us and with the assurance of the presence of the Holy Spirit amongst us. The Church is called to live in this Resurrection power and to faithfully proclaim the hope we have in the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ.
May we in the UPCSA be faithful in proclaiming this Easter message to a broken and sinful world!
May God continue to bless you as you serve those around you in His love and grace!