From the Easter pulpit

2010-04-03 00:00

PASTOR VUSI DUBE, ETHEKWINI/UMGUNGUNDLOVU COMMUNITY CHURCH

 

One of the members of the National Interfaith Leadership Council is local pastFor, Vusi Dube, of the Ethekwini/Umgungundlovu Community Church, who is also an ANC member of the KZN legislature. He said that the President mandated the NILC because he recognised that “the political world needs the religious world. We understand that we have a moral mandate from him to take up the battle for the moral education of our society.”

Unlike other churches, that encourage their ministers not to become involved in party politics, Dube sees no problem in being both a religious and a party political leader. “I am called to be a pastor first, and once my term of office as an MPL ends, I will continue to be a pastor. In our congregation there are members of all political parties IFP, DA, ACDP and ANC. They have no problem with my roles and I am free to minister to all of them.”

Dube’s church has grown to a “conservative estimate” of over 20 000 members and new branches continue to open up around the province. Because of this, the organisation has launched a new body, Community Churches International, to allow new congregations outside the Ethekwini/Umgungundlovu area to “feel comfortable about belonging”.

This Easter the church celebrates its fifth anniversary with four days of activities centred on Albert Park, Durban, where a 15 000-seat venue has been erected. Dube said his Easter message to members would have two thrusts: the 2010 World Cup and praying for leadership. “Firstly, we recognise the need to wage spiritual warfare against the negative consequences of 2010 like human trafficking and prostitution. In this regard, we were joined on Thursday night by the national deputy minister of social welfare, Bathabile Dlamini. We call on other movements to pray against these things too.

“Secondly, we believe it would be naive to relax and say that the political situation is stable, so we will focus on praying for the leaders of our country. We are hoping that the first family of the province, the Mkhizes, will join us on Sunday so that we can pray for them.”

On Saturday, the church also hosted the KZN MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison, Willies Mchunu, who addressed the congregation about the Easter Road Safety Programme. Mchunu will address several churches this weekend in a bid to heighten public awareness of the new policy to “reign in drunk drivers”.

 

THE REVEREND PHUMZILE ZONDI-MABIZELA, KWAZULU-NATAL CHRISTIAN COUNCIL (KZNCC)

 

The KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council (KZNCC) is affiliated to the SA Council of Churches (SACC) and represents more than 30 local churches and church-based organisations. The CEO, the Revd Phumzile Zondi-Mabizela, said: “ …soon we will celebrate 15 years of democracy [but] we have noted with concern that economic liberation has been elusive and many citizens in our province still live in poverty.

“…We are concerned about the slow delivery of services that has led to a number of protests right through the country. I hope this time of Easter will remind those who are in power that they were voted for, they were entrusted with the responsibility of bringing about transformation, for the benefit of the poor, the landless, the vulnerable etc. May common sense prevail; we hope there will be less corruption, greediness and fighting for power. May we all be diligent stewards of what God has entrusted us with including the environment, land, minerals, water etc. The looming electricity tariff increases will cripple the struggling citizenry of South Africa and the World Cup will create wealth for only a few citizens. They will also both have adverse effects on social cohesion and the development of communities.

“May God grant us courage and wisdom to be the voice of reason when injustice becomes the norm. After all the praying and celebrations, I hope we will all be involved in actively demanding good and accountable governance in our province and country.”

 

 

 

WILFRID CARDINAL NAPIER, CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF DURBAN

 

In a media release on the theme of ‘A return to the Basics’ Cardinal Napier said “The Paschal Festival is a chance for Christians to return to the basics of faith in Jesus Christ.”

Referring to the current South African context and to the child abuse scandal in the international Catholic Church, he said that “human dignity was not given by politics or power or even the church — It is God-given.

“In South Africa, we need to return to the basic principle of the dignity of all. This will mean honest dialogue about ethics and culture, about service delivery and the very real danger of some being more favoured than others. If we all return to basics, such as remembering that God sees beyond the outside, then the very necessary, core effort of encounter between people must be our priority. If we can listen to each other in humility from the most important to the small, then we are making the biggest contribution to enhancing dignity and the common Good.”

Continuing on the theme of returning to basics, he said that the current crisis of child abuse and a lack of appropriate response facing the Catholic Church internationally “helps us realise that the church is always in need of reformation and a return to basics.

“The primary message of the Church must be the fundamental dignity of all people from conception to natural death. Any action by the church that compromises this dignity is an offense against the common Good and against God. Any loss of focus on the holiness of God and the call to holiness for all people leads to hurt, pain and anger – a betrayal of all that Jesus is. Facing up to this means facing up to a failure to lead all to the holiness of God, and their own holy dignity.”

 

PASTOR THAMO NAIDOO, RIVER OF LIFE CHRISTIAN MINISTRIES, WILLOWTON

 

Rather than preaching “a narrow sectarian salvation message”, Naidoo will adopt an inclusive approach in his Easter sermons. “Many Christians have a parochial view of salvation and have lost sight of the reason why Christ came — his was a very inclusive mission. He came to reconcile us all to God because we are all ‘sons of God’, but we have to embrace him to be reconciled.

“I will try to help church members see the original intent of Easter was to present how we should function on the earth, which is according to the divine pattern, and not according to our own selfish imagination.

“If we are to be a copy of what Christ was, we need to replicate his righteousness and holiness in terms of our important responsibility for stewardship of the earth. That responsibility touches all facets of life and we need to stop thinking in terms of a dichotomy between religious and secular matters. The church is a platform to conscientise people to their stewardship responsibilities in all areas of life.

“We are all following the greed of our hearts. If this country is to return to godly ways and godly governance, we need to turn to the values of the kingdom of God. Christ did not come to promote a narrow religious agenda but to bring the benefits of the kingdom of heaven to all of us in all areas of life. Unless we return to wholesome and godly living, which is the crux of the matter, I cannot see any chance of change for this nation.”

Asked about the relationship between the church and party politics, Naidoo said he would distance himself from this. “No church should put forward a particular party ideology. We should speak up against any abuse of power but also encourage government when it does things right. We need to support anything that espouses godly rule of the kingdom on the earth.”

 

PASTOR GRANT CRAWFORD, NCF CHURCH, BISLEY

 

The senior pastor of NCF Church in Bisley, Grant Crawford, said the church always tried to root its teaching in the contemporary context and recently ran a series on Christian living in the recession.

“During our family communion service on Good Friday, the message will focus on the cross, which is the central message of Easter, and what it means for us today in our current context.” On Easter Sunday the church will mount two shows of the “internationally-acclaimed” drama Heaven’s Gate and Hell’s Flames. According to a newspaper advertisement, 50 000 people in Pietermaritzburg saw the original production which is being repeated this Easter with a “contextualised and modernised” new script.

 

PASTOR NEVILLE SEWLALL, JACOB’S WELL MINISTRIES, BOMBAY HEIGHTS

 

Pastor Neville Sewlall of Jacob’s Well Ministries in Bombay Heights, a church that has a “prophetic witness” said the church had a full programme of services and workshops planned for the weekend. The theme of the Easter celebrations was “First things first” as all Christians’ “most basic calling was to love God and one another”.

 

BISHOP ALVIN ANTHONY, HOSANNA MINISTRIES CHURCH, SCOTTSVILLE

 

The 400-member Hosanna Ministries Church in Scottsville is aligned to the international salvation and deliverance church, with a focus on healing. The church’s Bishop Alvin Anthony said: “In times of uncertainty, volatility and instability, the message of the Cross is as consistent now as it was then. The power of the Gospel is to transform life. I’ve seen numerous lives changed for the better, diseases healed and miracles happen. This weekend this life-changing message will be preached and more lives will experience God’s grace.”

Responding to his church’s approach to politics, Anthony said: “The church is a powerful institution that can influence political reform in line with Biblical standards. Christ always championed the cause of the prejudiced, marginalised oppressed, neglected and the hopeless. Whilst human culture is often driven by selfishness, self-serving self-centredness, the Bible teaches us to be selfless in our pursuit of God’s will for our lives.”

BISHOP RUBIN PHILLIP, THE ANGLICAN BISHOP OF NATAL,

 

Bishop Phillip led services and preached at the Cathedral of the Holy Nativity in Pietermaritzburg during Holy Week. In his Easter message, he said he been struck by participants’ “deep yearning to return to God in order to be refreshed and renewed in the Spirit, and to enjoy God’s gracious and generous hospitality.

“Christians, indeed all people, are like homing pigeons programmed to return home, even if you place them some distance away. On their journey they may have to face many obstacles: rain, adverse winds, snow and so on. Yet they are known to persevere, to push on in order to return home, ekhaya.

“Our homing instinct or ‘GPS’ makes us long for God and want to return to him. ... But just as their homing instinct doesn’t save pigeons from having to struggle against the wind and the rain, so faith does not shield us from the hard knocks of life and death, what it does is give us direction – towards God.

“Jesus’ journey to and at the cross was also filled with struggles, but he was determined to press on and to finally surrender himself into the hands of his hospitable Father. The outcome is the glorious resurrection: hope, joy, laughter, butterflies, life abundant, peace, celebration...”

 

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