AN ACCEPTANCE ADDRESS TO THE DIOCESAN SYNOD OF HURON BY THE RT REVD DR SITEMBELE TOBELA MZAMANE PhD FOR DD h/c FROM THE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF HURON 2013-05-26
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit! Amen.
It is a singular honour and privilege for me to stand in the presence of this august Gathering that is met in Synod. It is indeed a novel day for me for which I feel humbled to the core.
I bring fraternal greetings from the Metropolitan, Dr Thabo Makgoba and the Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa and from my Diocese in particular, the Diocese of Mthatha. They all know about this visit and are praying for you as you meet to take counsel together. They know what a Diocesan Synod means in the life of a local Church and her relationship to the global Church. You are going to consider all your agenda items in context and discern the will of God about yourselves as a Diocese within the Anglican Communion. You are gathered here to sharpen your tools for the job and we bless you in the name of Jesus.
Isaiah 55: 1-7 EXPOSÉ
The set readings for this Synod speak volumes about your mission and ministry as a Diocese. Isaiah presents us with an open invitation. Whoever is thirsty should "come to the waters". What a considerate and generous God we have! This God, our God, does not wait until we cry to Him when we are thirsty. He invites us to come and have a drink. He invites us to quench our longing for Him.
This God, our God, provides us with life we are yearning for because He is the living water … He gives us all He is. He gives us His life so that we may transpose that life to others.
This God, our God, is free for all. He is not on sale and for sale. He invites each and everyone of us no matter our social and economic standing. He is in abundance for those who seek Him. He exhorts those of us who are addicted to gambling to rethink this unfortunate practice. He charges us not to spend on worthless items that do not satisfy or bring glory to His precious name.
Surprisingly, He encourages us to buy wine and milk … it may be so, because King David himself believes that wine gladdens the heart of men ( I do not know about women) whilst milk represents the motherhood of God who feeds the children of the Church, the children we are, with milk like a mother feeding her young.
We are exhorted to eat what is good … like Daniel and his companions, who only ate what was for their nourishment and for the maintenance of their integrity as the Elect of God. The food we eat, the company we keep, defines who we are and reflects what people say of us or believe us to be.
This invitation extends to what we are gathered here for " seek the Lord while He may be found…" If we have sought and found the Lord, we may be sure that we have found the real source and the ground of our beings … we shall have found what makes us who we are. We shall have found our destinies. Yes, we shall have found the Diocese of Huron and therefore we would be able to discern the will of God about her.
This injunction links very beautifully with a Diocese that loves and is loved by God. He dares say : "surely you shall call a nation you do not know, and nations that do not know will hasten to you, because of the Lord your God …" v. 5. Is that not true of you? Did you not call even me, a person that is not much well known to most of you, yet you braved … to invite this strangely looking African national to address you? Did I not come at your invitation because of your divine conviction that we are all the children of the same God? You did it because God put it to you that you should also hear from Africa the wonder and the greatness of this God, who is our God.
We come to this God as a Diocesan Family because He is a loving and a compassionate God. We come to Him because He has everything for our subsistence. We come to Him because He knows how we should live as a Diocese … a Community of the redeemed. We come to Him so that He remains, to us, the God He is … because He is good: all the time.
PSALM 27 EXPOSÉ
The opening verses of this beautify psalm are a message of assurance that we should not fear anything because God is our light and salvation.
If we are indeed faithful Shepherds in the Church of God, we have to be fearless. By the same token if we are faithful Stewards in the Church of God we need to conduct our business without fear or favour because the Lord is the stronghold of our lives.
The Church is not immune from criticism and enmity. Sometimes we are buffered and isolated from popular opinion … we often become a byword to others yet we are never without friends. They pull us down and sadly some of them come from within our ranks … from within the inner circle yet the psalmist goes on to say : "When the wicked, even my enemies and my foes, come upon me to devour me: they shall stumble and fall. If an army encamp against me, my heart shall not be afraid : and if war should rise against me yet will I trust". And I add, should war of words arise, know that there is a silent Listener, the Holy Spirit, whom we should listen as He says you are sisters and brothers there is no need for in-fighting and scheming.
Our solace should also be in the fact that this psalmist offers us yet one other solution among others as he says that : " one thing I have asked from the Lord which I will require : that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life".
We are further encouraged to see in this house of the Lord the :
· beauty of the Lord,
· to hide in his pavilion
· to be hidden in His tabernacle.
The psalmist demands that we should seek the face of the Lord and remain steadfast to Him because He will never forsake us. It is also good to be reminded that we should wait on the Lord even though it is easy to be intimidated by the gathering of this magnitude (if one is a new comer to Synod).
The Anglican Prayer Book 1989 of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa has an encouraging note to those who feel awed by our numbers : It says:
" we welcome you into our fellowship.
We are members together of the Body of Christ;
We are children of the same heavenly Father;
We are inheritors together of the kingdom of God;
We welcome you. " 401 : 1989
No person should feel unwelcome and unappreciated. We all matter in the eyes of God … so like Joshua, be strong, courageous and resolute. As we labour with God, as a Diocese, we pray that your efforts should not be in vain in Him (1Cor 15: 58).
The beauty and the decorum of any Church do not only depend on its architecture, stained windows, vessels and vestments; but also on the commitment of its individual worshippers to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and their dedication to the cause of their Parish and Diocese. We are the Pavilion of God. We are the tabernacles of the Holy Spirit. God is pleased to reside in us.
The face of the Lord which we are charged to seek can be seen around here in this Cathedral Church. The person next to you is a reflection and an image of the invisible God.
We are gently advised to wait on God. It is good to wait and patiently hear the other voices and views. We are sometimes tempted to listen and hear more from ourselves only, yet today, we are advised to listen to others and as such unwittingly listening to God and at the end of the day we will be able to take informed decisions and position for our Diocese.
Jn 21: 4-14 EXPOSÉ
The incident of John 21 : 4-14 took place within the octave of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The disciples were together for fear of the Jews. Peter suddenly remembered his old profession. A thought came to him that instead of keeping idly in doors, doing nothing " I am going fishing" and this seemed good to the brethren so they all said " we are going with you also".
They toiled the whole night catching nothing, when suddenly at dawn as if being laughed at to scorn, a stranger asked them if they caught anything. They answered Him " no" and He said to them : "cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some". According to the numerical literacy of the time it was a " multitude of fish" That disciple whom Jesus loved exclaimed : "it is the Lord" and Peter being ashamed of himself, on two counts, plunged himself into the sea because :
· he was naked
· he shamefully denied the Lord thus letting down the brethren.
The wonder of the catch, to me, was a pointer that indeed and in truth Peter and his fellow apostles would draw to the Church a multitude of people.
It was, therefore, imperative of the disciples to have one of their number recognise the presence of their risen Lord in their hour of want and desperation. They invincibly needed food for their physical strength NOT very much aware that the real food that would keep them out of hunger at any given time was the one Jesus would provide (Jn 6 : 35-55).
Again an open invitation to the disciples is extended "come and eat breakfast" and they would not dare ask Him "who are You" knowing that it was the Lord. They did not need anymore evidence of who He was because they
· saw him;
· obeyed Him when He said they should cast the net on the right;
· they also remembered His custom of giving thanks on the element of food before partaking of it. So Jesus enacted the words He said in the Upper room, when He celebrated the last supper thus instituting the Holy Eucharist :
· "He took" the bread
· : "He gave" it to them
We have been likewise taken. We have been called as the eklesia of the Lord to declare the wonderful things of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvellous light ( 1 Peter 2 : 9). When God called us He never cared about our social standing or economic clout. He never paid any attention to our
· creedal background or
· past history. He called us despite or inspite of who we are because He foreknew what He would make of us. He took or called us, like David, "from following the ewes that had young … to shepherd Jacob His people … so he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands". (ps 78:72). He took us.
He gave. He gave the disciples to the Church as her source of guidance and strength . We are all given as a gift to the Church so that our giftedness could be a blessing to the Diocese and to each other.
In conclusion the Doctor of Divinity which I have personally come to receive here, even though it is honoris causa, but I believe that it is not for free. It comes with ethics of responsibility. Today I stand up to be counted as one of the corner stones, the tenets and ambassadors of the University College of Huron. I will go back to South Africa counting on this University as one of my alma maters. As a proud recipient of this degree I make a solemn promise that I will endeavour, through the grace of God, to live my theology in all I do in life. I will try to live and defend all what this University stands for.
I will be too remiss and naïve to think that the road to this day was an easy one and short. It was long and arduous, full of dangers and risks. One time I had to undergo insults, jeers and scrutiny, yet without yielding and selling out my soul and integrity. We need sometimes to be humiliated and rejected in order to be an accomplished and finished products. I know it all, yet the encouraging words of Job remain new and great inspiration: " I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. I, myself, will see him with my own eyes …I, and not another" (Job 19 : 25-26). Those words should be a solace to us in our times of anguish, sorrow and tribulation.
The person I am today is coming from the rugged slopes and valleys of my place of birth and as once a herd-boy of the mountainous area of my rural home, I came to serve God in His Church at a tender age of twenty-three (23). And like the Magi from the East, I too, came to present my own humble gifts to this Church. I came to share the Gospel story, God graciously put in my heart, so that, you too, in your own idiom, you may articulate better what I was, under God, trying to share with you.
Lastly, I accept this Degree on behalf of the Global South Faith Communities especially my mother country, South Africa and Mthatha in particular who primarily are challenged by
· hunger and
· scourge of the HIV/AIDS
I accept this degree as an inspiration to lead the people of my Diocese with
Integrity of purpose
I accept this Degree on behalf of
· my gracious wife and our beloved children
· clergy and people of my Diocese and
· above all I accept this Degree on behalf of my college of Bishops.
It is a degree that I owe to my late loving parents who were everything to me. I accept this degree as an encouragement to the Clergy of my Diocese to give all for God and His beloved Church.
Again I will be too remiss if I do not place on record, on behalf of the Church, our indebtedness to God for having led, sustained and guided the University College of Huron over the past 150 years.
Yours was a faithful witness to the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Indeed your loyalty to the Church has paid dividence. The Church, you are, has been served by the accomplished Leaders you have produced. You are the seedbird and the machinery of a theological training and priestly formation. Congratulations and many more returns for the future.
I thank the selection committee of the University College of Huron for choosing me. I thank Bishop Bob for asking me to stand in for his apostolic charge to the Diocese so that I can offer this address. Thank you Bishop Bob. Thank you Bishop Terry for all what you are and your uniqueness to your brother Bishop, Bob. Thank you Bishops for being such a loving episcopal team to the multitudes of this great Diocese. We thank God for the ministry of your gracious Ladies to you in particular and to the Diocese at large. Thank you Mr Principal of the University College of Huron, Dr Stephen McClatchie, Staff and Student Body for your unity and partnership with the Diocese. Thank you one thank you all.
To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy … to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore!