THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH AN AMBASSADOR OF HOPE
‘’Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent”
The Moderatorial address to the fourteenth General Assembly of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa by the Right Reverend ZE Futshane
The topic on which I will be addressing this fourteenth General Assembly says: The Christian Church an ambassador of hope. My topic is based on a verse taken from the gospel of Luke 24:29. This verse says “Stay with us, for it is towards evening and the day is now far spent”
If you look at what is happening in South Africa today, I am sure all of you will agree with me when I say the day is far spent in the life of everyone or every citizen in this country, we are on a lonely sunset road, walking tired with broken hearts to the fate that is surely awaiting us at the end of the road. In all public places like churches, workplaces, in public transport, in Malls where many people do shopping everywhere when listening to people talking you pick up helplessness and hopelessness. Looking at them you see helplessness and hopelessness written on their faces. The threatening shadows of darkness are quickly closing in all aspects of our national life. This is indeed a critical time. Tension born of fear and suspicion has become the dominant feature every day. People’s minds are confused and frustrated and that causes unrest resulting in violence with its brutal deaths and destruction of property.
When I look at the bad things that are happening in our country I am reminded of Psalm 23:4 where the psalmist David says “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me” For me the situation in this country presently is not far from what David the psalmist was trying to describe when he spoke about walking through the valley of the shadow of death. After twenty three years of democracy we see bad things which were not commonly happening during the dark days of oppression. We are indeed walking in the valley of the shadow of death like David the psalmist. Things which some of us never thought will ever happen when we imagined this freedom coming are now becoming the order of the day. The society is sick, cruel and confused.
I could not believe my eyes when I read from the local news papers few years back about a man in Phillippi here in Cape Town who killed another one and took out his heart, put it on a plate and eat it raw with fork and knife. Two or three years ago a pastor in KwaZulu Natal was sentenced in prison for being involved in the killing of a person with albinism just to get her body parts to do traditional medicine. Sometime this year in the East Griqualand part of the Eastern Cape Province, uncle killed his nephew, a young boy, cooked parts of the boy’s body and eats them.
A man in Mpumalanga was given a life sentence in prison beginning of June this year for raping and making pregnant his eleven year old daughter. Young girls and boys are raped and killed almost every month especially in Gauteng and in the Western Cape Provinces. In May month this year statistics were saying about sixty cases in Gauteng and twenty cases in the Western Cape of children killed and clumsily buried, some burnt before they are buried. Surprisingly, according to police in Gauteng amongst the suspects they were hunting for these brutal killings of young women and children was also a woman. Around May month this year in one of our Provinces in the North part of the country police reported a crime committed by a woman who killed her two babies.
The downgrading of our country by the evaluating agencies has drastically affected our economy. According to economy analysts the downgrading will result to prices of food and other items going up. The going up of food prices will make things worse for the poor. We must remember that this country is already facing high numbers of young people who are unemployed. The level of corruption affecting our political leaders and some high ranking officials in government departments makes it difficult to trust anyone in power. We see protest marches against the president of the country to step down. The Gupta family which is seen as having a strong connection with him is accused of being the source of corruption in South Africa. It is really shocking to hear high ranking police officials implicated in criminal and corrupt actions.
Our government is seen as being captured by business. This is a dangerous situation because it means decisions are made to serve the interests of such business people who have captured the state. State capture according to political analysts implies that some leaders put their own interests before service delivery to the people. As a result of all these things there are protest marches all over the country which result to people dying and property destroyed. This situation in my view causes unnecessary tensions between protesting communities and police who have to be there to defend the leaders and the properties as if they themselves are not affected by the complaints from such communities. I have picked up few things amongst many to draw a picture of what is happening in the country to prove that indeed the day is far spent in the lives of South Africans.
Since 1994 the South African Council of Churches which is the mouth piece of the church have been less vocal about mistakes in government but last year we had its prophetic voice coming strong after the Constitutional court have made a judgment about the breaking of oath of office by the president. It came up again with its prophetic voice in the issue of the state capture.
This shows that much as we are a sick nation but amongst the same nation there are healthy people who even though sickness is written on their faces but they are gaining strength from somewhere else. A healing power in them is making them examples to all of us, examples of how we should be handling the situation the nation finds itself in and what we should be doing.
The story of the two men on the Emmaus road captured my mind, influenced my thinking and became my choice as the subject of my address to this General Assembly. When I read the story it looks as if these two men were confused, disappointed and frustrated by the killing of Jesus Christ whom they loved, trusted and hoped that he will change things for the better in their lives. The death of Jesus Christ washed away their dreams and hopes for a better life. The depth of their disappointment and frustration is clearly revealed in their utterances: ‘We were hoping that he was the one who was going to rescue Israel’ these are words of people whose hopes are dead and buried.
In their hour of need Jesus came along, unrecognized and joined them in their conversation. As they were nearing the point of parting company with the unknown companion, their fear and tension intensified, and in their desperation cried out: ‘Stay with us for it is toward evening and the day is far spent’ They were being grasped by a power that was able to shake them, turn them, transform them and heal them. Surrender to this power is faith. People whom Jesus could heal and can heal are those who did and do this self surrender to the healing power in Him.
As the men recognized Jesus Christ in the breaking of the bread, they surrendered their persons, contradicting themselves, disgusted and angry to themselves, hateful of themselves and hostile towards everybody else, afraid of life, burdened with guilt feeling, accusing and excusing themselves, fleeing from others into loneliness, fleeing from themselves to others, not knowing exactly what to do and what not to do. In that situation they surrendered to Jesus and this surrender is what we call faith.
After Jesus had helped them He did not keep them in Himself but He gave them back to themselves as new creatures healed. Full of physical strength they ran back to Jerusalem to share their newly found happiness. The cry of the two men on the Emmaus road to the stranger reveals the deep desire of broken hearts for the intervention of that greater power which alone can cure the situation of ordinary human beings into the light of a new dimension that is important and significant, that which is divine. In the breaking of bread, these two men discovered in their shock that it is only Jesus Christ who has the ability to make sense of things.
South Africans are in a state of confusion. Some people do not know whether to trust or not to trust the government. Reports of corruption make it difficult to think that South Africa will survive as a country in the near future. Violence and cruelty is the order of the day. People have started to behave like Israelites who when they were faced with challenges of life on their way to Canaan confronted Moses saying Egypt was better because at list they never slept with nothing in their stomachs. People in South Africa live in fear because of the high rate of crime. They are now asking the government to bring back death sentence. Poverty, unemployment, raping of women, killings of people especially young women and children is our daily bread.
After twenty three years of democracy this era in South Africa will be referred to by future historians as the most shameful, hard and saddest in the history of our country. The ruling party which was the hope of many South Africans is now divided and some of them deep in corruption. There is a program in Umhlobo Wenene uLaphumi’Khwezi, this program starts at 5H30am until 6H00am. Basically it updates the nation about social and political events around the country. It gives people an opportunity to express their views, ask questions and make comments on these issues. There is also a political analyst involved that helps people to understand the issues better. Amongst people who support this program is a man from Umtata called Xhotyeni. I have noticed that in his comments he always say we Christians we will continue to speak the truth.
To all of us who are gathered at this General Assembly at this point and time the love of our Lord Jesus Christ compels us to confront the nation with the true realities of our situation and invite people to look beyond political solutions to the greater power which alone can change our hopeless situation into the light of a new dimension where in lies God’s saving power. As members of the Christian church we are called to be ambassadors of hope. Our task is to look beyond the present crisis and begin to build a better life. We must not lose hope. The greatest victory of our calling will be to help the needy in the face of the challenges that seek to crush their humanity.
Our lesson in the scripture which I have chosen to be the subject of my address to this General Assembly is that we must look beyond the present crisis in the full assurance that there is a future to be built. And the sooner we begin to build that future the better. It is now that we as Christians must set a good example which people must follow. Like the sad, frustrated, hurt and confused men on the road to Emmaus we must invite Jesus Christ to stay with us so that we can understand things and have a break through. It is only through Jesus Christ that the virus eating South Africa can be healed. It is only in Him that we can have hope for a better tomorrow. Our churches are troubled by the same virus which brings amongst other things unrest, loose of hope and helplessness. Jesus Christ has a better South Africa, a better life and better churches for us. Let us invite Him to stay with us for it is towards evening; the day is far spent. Thank you