On Sunday 29 May 2022, District Apostle J Kriel conducted a divine service for the Confirmation class of 2023 in Tafelsig congregation. The divine service was conducted in English and interpreted into South African Sign Language at the altar by Beryl Botha.
The District Apostle was accompanied by Apostle B Bourne, R Worship, P Lambert and P Thompson, along with the local leaders from the area.
This divine service was made available on NACTV, Cape Town TV on DSTV channel 263. For members who were unable to watch the divine service, please find a detailed summary of the sermon:
Opening Hymn: Let us turn our faces to the light (EH:135)
Bible word: ‘Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.”’ (Mark 10:13-14)
District Apostle Kriel:
My dear brothers and sisters, wherever you are, I don't know how many still follow us on our channels and the platforms that we broadcast on. If you've been away for a while, welcome back. We've always been here. We didn't go anywhere. And many, I do know, join us from the various circumstances they find themselves, know that you are remembered and that you are not forgotten today. Our divine service is focused on the preparation of our confirmands, the class of 2023. Now some may say we used to have the preparation service very close to confirmation. But then we've decided, if it's a preparation service, you need time to prepare. And so, we want it to be early for us, for parents and our dear confirmands. So hearty welcome to all of you. And we are all part of this divine service because we are part of the celebration of confirmation because confirmation is a very public affair. I remember when I was young and I was a confirmand, the senior members looked more forward to confirmation than the confirmands themselves because they left after church with, I don't know how many carrier bags full and returned home heavy laden with all the parties they went to, and they collected all the food because it was a celebration. And there's nothing wrong with it. That's another issue of being wise about the celebration. But as much as confirmation is a public affair, confirmation is really between you and God. You're confirming a very special relationship with God. Something special happens. Although everybody sees you are confirmed, your confirmation and that moment is between you and God where you make a vow and a promise to God. And God blesses you. And I want to say from the beginning, believe in that vow. Believe in that blessing. We go through a period of Sunday School not just to prepare for confirmation, but to prepare for life. That's what it's all about. And we would love that as children, Christ becomes your future. And it's important that that element, you can do everything, you can be successful in everything you do. You can follow any career, and we can ask the Lord's blessing for it. But let Christ be the future. Let that be the centre point of our future and of our existence.
Here we have a Bible word where we've read parents and guardians wanted to bring children to Jesus. And the disciples weren't happy with that. They stopped it. They said no, don't worry Him, take them away. They rebuked them. They were upset with the parents. Can you imagine here the mother and father, maybe guardians, come and say let Him bless and touch our children. And they said go away. Don't worry Him. Jesus is busy. Now maybe if you understand the context from where it comes, in those days in the Jewish world at the time, children weren’t thought much of because for the Jews, the law was important. And children couldn't know the law. And if they didn't know the law, they couldn't carry out the law. So, anyone who didn't carry out the law at the time was really worth nothing to them. And on the other hand, children could make no contribution to society because they had nothing. And I suppose for the Jews, it was important what do you bring to the party? The children had nothing to bring, and therefore, they were not important. Therefore, they were thought nothing of. But Jesus made His point very clear to say this is not My view. This is not the way that I see it. This is not the value I put on a child. He says, you can read in the Bible word, He was displeased. And maybe the one who wrote this in the book of Mark put it nicely, maybe it was a euphemism to say Jesus was displeased. Maybe His disciples knew how displeased He was. Maybe He said a word or two that wasn't so nice. Because He said, that's not My view. Bring them to Me and do not forbid them. Do not hinder them. Do not prevent them. And this was Jesus’ view on life. He brought salvation. And He brought salvation for all - for the adults and the children. For the rich and the poor. For the sick and the healthy. So, for everyone. And He was especially close to those who were marginalized by society. Those who other people thought very little of. Because remember God's love can never be measured by how much I have, how rich or poor I am, in which house I live or what car I drive. We can never measure God's love in those human measures. And we see how Jesus taught them and how He wanted them to understand that.
The first message I want to bring to all of you is, God loves you no matter the conditions under which you live. No matter where you find yourself, God loves you. And that goes for you and for our parents, and for all brothers and sisters, and for all people. Know that God loves you. Jesus Christ loves you and He wants to give us salvation. He wants all mankind to be saved. And so, we cannot be measured by what we have. On our way to the divine service this morning I thought whether you are in Tafelsig or whether you are in Table View, the Lord loves you all the same. Whether you are in Melrose or Manenberg, it doesn't matter. That is of no criteria to our God. He loves us all. And do you know what He did to the children? Because He is on the side of those who are humble, those who are thought nothing of. He was on the side of the children. And in fact, He put the children a little bit on a pedestal. What does our Bible word say? “Let the children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.” In other words, if you want to enter the kingdom of God you must become like a child. A child who knows he's fully dependent on grace. He can do nothing for himself. That little baby is fully dependent on the parents. Now we must become like that, that we are fully dependent on God because we cannot earn salvation. We depend upon Him. We depend upon His grace, upon His love. That is being childlike. We are fully dependent on the grace of God. And in this deep humility, a child also trusts his parents explicitly. I was so pleased to hear the other day when I spoke to a little boy, and he did something in a funny way. I said why do you do it that way? He said because my daddy said I should. I must be honest it didn't make sense to me. But the trust this boy had in his father. His daddy told him, or his mommy said this is the way we do it. And that's the trust the child has in the parents. And so, the trust we have in God our Father, He is the greatest. He knows everything. He is the most powerful, and we want to ensure that is so. And the child is also always willing to grow and willing to learn spiritually. To grow spiritually and to learn. That is childlike. So, we should become like that. For our children, remain like that. And for the adults, become like that. We were like that once before. Let us remain trusting in God, knowing that He knows everything and that we remain humble, and we are always ready to be taught and that we can learn. And that is also your life as you go through this period of learning and of doing what is necessary before God.
And another lesson we learn from this Bible word is, no one decides who comes and who does not come to God, who comes to Jesus Christ. We can't decide that. Here the disciples tried to stop the children from coming. Somewhere else in the Holy Scripture we read of the blind man who shouted Lord, and everybody said keep quiet, don't disturb Jesus. And Jesus said, who calls for Me? And He let the blind man come and ask what do you want Me to do for you? And that man was healed. Here we learn we don't design. Jesus and God didn't delegate us with that authority to say you decide who comes. No. The Lord decides. And for that reason, the Lord God chose us. Dear children, as God loves you, so we love you. And we want to respect you. We want to listen to you. And we want to take care of you. And here maybe I address the adults in the situation that we respect our children. Because if we sin against them, it doesn't mean it's nothing. The severity of sin does not depend on the age of the victim. No. He and she are loved by God. He and she are God's creation. We must take care of that. And sometimes we forget that. Maybe I paint a little picture. You are at work and your boss treats you terribly that day. And you can’t fight with him because he may fire you. So, you give the boss his way. But you're not a happy guy. Now you come home, and I put myself into this story as well. And now the child does something really small and minor. And now we want to half kill our children. Not because of the deed they did, but because we want to get our frustration out on them. They are indefensible. They cannot fight back. Don't do that. Don't let the children suffer. That's it. The Lord Jesus says suffer the little children to come unto Me and do not punish them, do not hurt them. Somebody said once if you cannot love them do not hurt them. Come, let's take good care of our children. They are a gift from God to us. Let’s look after them.
I was in a mall once and a child went missing. And it was panic stations. You know parents, a child goes missing, there is so much evil around us today. We don't know what's going on. Where is the child? And the panic sets in. And all the people in the mall were looking, and the security people were looking. And thankfully, they found the little boy, and everybody was relieved. Now they took the little boy to his mom. You know what the mom did to the little boy? She gave him the hiding of his life. And when I saw that, I thought this boy was better off being lost. Was that the reaction that was necessary? Where was the embrace? Where was the love? Where was the, I thought you were gone but thank God you are safe? Was that the frustration the mother took out on the little young man? Let us not do that. Let us respect our children. And I speak to the servants as well. Let us respect our confirmands. They are our future, and Christ is their future. And before God and before our Lord we are all valuable. And in this context, let me make a very important statement. A statement that is very close to my heart and to your heart. I want to say anybody who abuses a child to satisfy their desires commits a heinous crime. And we will be guilty before God and society. Let us pause there for a moment. We live in times that are so evil. Children are so ill-treated. It's a crime and a sin before God. And I want to say as the New Apostolic Church, we fight against child abuse. And we actively support all efforts made to prevent and to avoid it. That's an official standpoint of our church. That's what we do and that's who we are. We actively support all efforts made to prevent and avoid it. And for this reason, we even established a safeguarding committee to handle these matters. And I appeal to all, and if I say this now during the divine service let it be so, I appeal to all if you need the services, if somebody's been injured, come make use of their services, they are there to help. It doesn't have to carry on as it does. You don't have to live with this burden. Come, there is help in the safeguarding committee. You can find access on the website and through your Rectors in the congregation. But let us do that. Let us do that because it's vital. Each child is valuable. And while we are busy with confirmation, let us face it and not imagine things. Sometimes we don't talk about things and think it does not exist. We do not support anything that causes harm, especially to our children. And if you didn't hear that before, maybe it's good that we hear it, that we absorb it and that we understand it.
Musical item – All things bright and beautiful
So that hymn just confirms the Lord God made them all. Take care of them. If God made you, it is enough reason for me to love you. And God certainly made all our children and gave them to us as a gift. In fact, in the Old Covenant, the parents were taught to teach their children the law of God. We read in Psalm 78:5-6, ‘For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children; that the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children.’ So, what you know what you experience in the law of God, don't keep it to yourself. You owe it to teach it to your children. And as we have gone through that, we know the value that Jesus placed on a child, that we must become like a child, and we must not prevent them from coming to Jesus. We must teach them. Bringing up our children differs from country to country, from culture to culture, even from family to family. It is different, and far be it from the church to say, this is how you should do it. That's how you should do it. But maybe there are a few good fundamentals that we could subscribe to. One of the things is to teach our children that God is a God of love. If I think of my mother, God bless her soul, she made me very scared of God. What did she tell me? God is going to punish you. You are even just scared to think of something, and God is going to punish you because she could almost read your mind. No. God loves you. God is a God of love. The beautiful part of this story of what Jesus said about bringing the children, is one of the nicest verses which brought me such comfort. You know what the mother did to the child in the mall, that's not what Jesus did when they brought the children to Him. ‘And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.’ Isn't that beautiful? That's so great. That's the end of that story when they brought the children to Jesus.
And maybe at this point too, I should mention that in so many of our congregations, there are many babies. And I've noticed already when the baby cries then the members get upset because how could they make a noise in church? But that's what babies do. Babies cry. And maybe it's a good idea that our congregations become more child friendly and say that is okay. If the baby makes a sound, let's be happy. We have a child. That child is in church. And sometimes we make the parents feel guilty to bring their children to church. No. Let that not be. Let us become more child friendly. Because this is God's work. He says teach them, so we want to teach them that God is not a judge, He is not going to punish you. He is a God of love. He wants to give you His kingdom. He wants to touch you and He wants to bless you. That's what our God is, a God of love. So, speak about that. And let's make the works of God available to our children. Tell them about how we pray, and how He answers our prayers. Tell them of how they were not even born yet and the Priest, and God through him laid his hands on the head of mom and blessed you. And when you were baptized, you were touched and blessed. And when you were sealed you were touched and blessed. Please speak about that. Speak about how God opened the way of experiences of faith. Teach them because remember, it's through faith that we get salvation. How would they know if nobody tells them? We speak sometimes so little and when we do speak, we sometimes speak other things. Speak about our beautiful experiences, our life of prayer, a life of offering, our life of serving. Speak about when somebody does something good, say look what God made that person do. He did something good. Let’s talk about that and let's not focus on the negative. Because sometimes when we come home, we want to speak, did you hear the preaching today? Let's do it. And I'm sure if we do it, God will bless us. Is that a little bit different to us coming home, and maybe we are not even at home yet and say it was a long service today. Did you see all the things the Priest did wrong? I think some of us sit in church with a checklist to see all the wrong things and that's what we're going to talk about. Nothing is perfect. Go talk about the good things. Talk about that which adds value to our lives and to the lives of our children. So, we focus on the positive and we build the life of faith into the hearts of our children.
If we think about the servants who had access to Jesus, let's call them the ministry. What did they do? They used their ministry to keep the children away from Jesus. And Jesus says, let them come to Me. You are causing a hindrance. Those that kept the blind man away from Jesus, that's not why we are given the ministry. We don't abuse our ministry in that authoritative manner to say now you will do as I say, and you cannot be confirmed, and you will not be confirmed. I hope this is not common. Use the ministry to bring them to the Lord. Forbid them not, bring them to the Lord. Bring them to Jesus. With confirmation, I rejoice when I hear there are so many thousands who have been confirmed. I'm happy and I thank God for you, for the class of 2023. Then after a moment, I pause and ask where are the others? Because on average, in some congregations, some more, some less, there is 40% of our children who were baptized 14-15 years ago are not confirmed. And I ask, where are they? God made me their District Apostle too. And if the Lord must ask me where are the others? I will say I don't know. And then He may ask did you go find them? Did you go and look for them? And here dear brothers, dear members, I depend upon you, each brother and sister. Let us make the class of 2023 a little bit different that we will go and find those. We leave no stone unturned. I appeal to the brothers, the sisters, the members, the servants, and let us go and find them. God bless them. He placed His hand on them at baptism. He placed His hand upon them at Holy Sealing. Go and find them. Don’t hinder them. Make it possible for them to come. I almost want to say move heaven and earth that we find them. And we know in each congregation there is a list of so many. Let us do our bit. And that's a responsibility that is valid for us all. That after today’s service we must ask what am I doing to help? Remember, everybody in that mall helped to find that child. And the difference is when the child comes to Jesus, He takes Him in His arms. He lays His hands on him and her, and He will bless them. We have work to do. And now we all ask why is this divine service so early? And I looked, confirmation is nine months away. That for me becomes a little bit symbolic. Let us do our share. Dear brothers, dear parents, dear adults, let us do our share that our young people, our confirmands nine months from now, that we produce a healthy child of God. Here and those who we must still find. We have time. We have time to fetch them. We have time to teach them. We can teach them every day. Go and find them and find reason that they too can share in the blessing. That's our task. That's our responsibility. A wiseman said once it is easier to build a strong child than to fix a broken man. Let's get on with the business of building strong children. Amen.
Thoughts from District Apostle John Kriel