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Homily for Day Two of Provincial Synod 2019

Thursday 26 September

Provincial Synod

Day 2, Homily 2

Esther 7:1-10

  1. There seemed to be renewed hope for Esther and her people after she acted. When have you been called upon to act and did you? What hindered you from acting?
  2. How is your worshipping community exploring renewed ways of inclusion for those who feel excluded?
  3. What kind of power dynamics are at play in the spaces in which you find yourselves? Think especially of the recent events in our country.

Renew

by Natalie Simons Arendse

[Available as a PDF]

Yesterday I concluded the homily with the words: “Everyday life for us should include reflection and review of how we can live abundant lives in Jesus Christ.

What does it mean to live an abundant life? We read in chapter 7 that Esther pleads for her life and that of her people. She says that if they had been sold into slavery it would not have been as bad; but they are going to be eliminated as a people. What is really happening in the palace? Let’s review..

Esther, although she is queen has no real authority without her identity in her husband the king. She is a foreigner, she is not safe in her own home, her title doesn’t mean anything as she pleads for her life. Haman doesn’t observe the protocol of keeping his distance from Esther and as soon as the word molest leaves the king’s lips; the blood drains from Haman’s face. If Esther had screamed the words; would it have had the same effect on Haman?

Is Esther enjoying an abundant life? Are we enjoying abundant lives? As we listen to the experiences and the horror of gender-based violence in our homes, at work and in our churches; we hear that they do not enjoy abundant lives.

Why is there a need to establish a safe church commission if all God’s people are offered abundant lives in Jesus Christ? Do you feel safe in your home, in your church; when sharing the peace?

The Jews living in Persia as exiles and foreigners do not enjoy an abundant life. They have had to integrate their cultural practices; their worship and dietary rules are compromised, and they are heavily taxed. The Jewish women and girls are also taken into the palace to become concubines of the king; they too must plead for their lives. Those who have been violated and killed because of the genocide taking place against our women and children right now; also pleaded for their lives. Uyenena pleaded for her life while she was raped and killed in the Post Office, metres away from the Police Station.

The king promises Esther anything up to half of his kingdom. That would seem to be very generous, but there are conditions that come with such promises. Esther will always just be the king’s wife; she is not affirmed in her own right.

In his charge the Metropolitan called on the church to create a new culture, a culture of inclusion and acceptance. We are fearful of what this could mean. Change creates uncertainty and upsets the power struggles that are at play in the spaces in which we find ourselves. Fear of the unknown creates suspicion and mistrust amongst us while the most vulnerable members of our communities are affected by our fear of what change could bring.

We claim that we celebrate our diversity because it makes us stronger, but we struggle to accept diversity in all levels of our lives. We are God’s people and we are gifted differently but finding expression in that difference hinders us to live abundant lives because we are afraid.

What are we afraid of? Why do we limit the women’s ministries in the church to raise funds, but they don’t get consulted on how the money is used? Why do we say that children need to learn to behave in church and then we send them out as soon as the worship has finished to go to children’s church? Why is it that whenever our 2 female bishops are in the same space; do they have to share that space? How is that affirming?

Jesus promises that he will be with us until the end of the age; so, what are we afraid of?

The church is facing a Kairos moment, what is moving us, where is the Spirit of God blowing the Anglican Church of Southern Africa? What is before us that needs to be renewed so that we can live abundant lives in Jesus Christ?

Haman is hung on his own gallows and Esther is given a renewed opportunity to live an abundant life. BUT not really.

She is not the liberator of her people as we have come to read and accept. Esther cannot undo the decree that was sent out to the Jews in the kingdom of their annihilation. The king is going to have to write a new law.

Esther is not going to be able to release the women who have been taken against their will to be concubines in the palace. Only the king can make that decision. Esther is going to be given Haman’s property, but she will not be able to own it and Mordecai is going to have to oversee it on her behalf.

God is not mentioned by name in the book of Esther, but we know that no person would be able to come up against the kind of misuse of power that Esther had to without the Spirit of God hovering over her.

Let me put it another way..

Behind every successful man is a woman and we know that behind every woman is a powerful God and She is at work in a mighty way!

Amen.

Homily for Day One of Provincial Synod 2019

Wednesday 25 September

Provincial Synod

Day 1, Homily 1

  1. What are the things that we are currently reviewing and what should we be reviewing as ACSA?
  2. Part of reviewing is to be honest about our failures. How did King Xerxes fail Mordecai? How have we failed those who are seeking refuge?
  3. If we are serious about reviewing and reflecting; who should we be reflecting with? Who is invited to the discussion?

A quick walk through Esther in 2019

by Natalie Simons Arendse

[Available as a PDF]

Esther’s parents had been killed and she was being raised by her older cousin Mordecai. They did not return to Jerusalem after the exile and made their home in Persia. Her real name is Hadassah but because she lived in a foreign place she took a foreign name.

The Persian King Xerxes is a weak leader who is advised by a group of “leaders” who have their own ideas of how the kingdom should be run. When the king’s first wife Vashti refuses to degrade herself by parading her beauty and her body for the king’s advisors and friends; they recommend that she is dethroned as queen and that a beauty contest of all the virgins in the kingdom; Persians and foreigners be held in order for the king to choose another queen.

The women are rounded up like cattle and treated to beauty treatments and feasts while living in the palace; getting ready for their one night with the King. Yes, the king will choose the next queen by sleeping with each virgin who has been taken from her family and brought to the palace against her will to be part of the King’s harem.

Esther finds herself in the palace part of the King’s harem. Mordecai works in the palace as a scribe and is able to communicate with her via the servants. Esther is chosen as the next queen and soon a plot to assassinate the king is uncovered by Mordecai. The plot is averted and recorded in the journals of kingdom, but Mordecai is not acknowledged for this.

Meanwhile Haman; a descendant of the Aggegite tribe; a tribe whom God had ordered to be destroyed; finds his way into the advisory council of the king. He has an encounter with Mordecai who refuses to bow down to him and he makes it his mission to have Mordecai killed. Haman creates rumours about foreigners who are living in the kingdom; who follow their own laws; who are not loyal to the king. Tensions rise and soon the king succumbs to pressure from Haman; he signs a decree; giving the Jews 3 months to leave Persia or be killed.

Mordecai informs Esther of the decree and reminds her that she did not come to be placed in the palace to protect herself; perhaps she had become queen for such a time as this. Esther is afraid of what could happen if she breaks with the protocols of arriving unsummoned to speak to the king; but she is convicted and responds… if I perish; I perish.

Esther is granted an audience with the king and she invites him and Haman to a banquet. They attend and the king inquires of Esther what she wants; offering her anything up to half the kingdom. Esther responds by asking the king and Haman to attend another banquet the following day. The king agrees. And this is where our lectionary reading begins today.

The king cannot sleep and asks for the journals to be read. Here he learns that Mordecai had averted his assassination. He wants to good by Mordecai.. he wants everything to stay the same. Let’s throw another party for the man who saved the king’s life.

By reviewing the book of Esther; we must read it through different lenses and perspectives. What is the story behind the story? We cannot continue to read and preach the dominant narrative of Esther through the lens of a young Jewish woman who saved her people because she was obedient to God.

Considering what has happened in and around our country and its borders in the last few weeks; we cannot read Esther and conclude that it was a happy ending. There is human trafficking in the story of Esther, young women are taken away from their families against their will. There is exploitation of the vulnerable; women and foreigners. The Jews are living in Persia as second class citizens. There is patriarchy and weak leadership; as the king seeks advice from people who want to maintain the status quo and there is political instability because the king just wants to throw a party for any occasion.

By reviewing where we are as ACSA; we cannot continue to preach the dominant narrative of complacency. We must review and we must lament. We must lament for the way in which we
have failed God’s people, women and children, queer and divorced. We must lament for the environment.

But we cannot only lament; we must act. We are reviewing our policies and using inclusive language, but when will we invite other voices to be part of our decision-making processes? We must review who the people are that have the power to change our policies; maybe that group of people needs to be more diverse? Maybe more young people must be invited to the table?

Sunday’s gospel reading of the dishonest manager pushes us to look not only at the dishonesty of the manager but at the critical way in which he devised his plan to not get caught out. We need to think critically, and we need diverse voices and ages to contribute to our conversations and decisions. In his charge yesterday the Archbishop urged us to be a more inclusive church; not only on paper but in practice. He called on politicians to stop fighting and to start leading; when will we stop fighting about whether women are good enough to be deans and bishops and start electing them as deans and bishops?

Esther is the only book in the bible that does not mention God by name; one author describes God as being conspicuous by God’s absence in the book of Esther. Where is God in the midst of what is happening with Esther. As Jesus followers our hope is in a God who uses the mundane events of everyday life to accomplish God’s kingdom. Everyday life for us should include reflection and review of how we can live abundant lives in Jesus Christ.

New Bishop of Mzimvubu elected

The Bishops of the Province at the Electoral College of Mzimvubu held 22 September 2019 elected the Rt Revd Tsietsi Seleoane, after the 6th ballot, as the next Bishop of the Diocese of Mzimvubu.

Please pray for Bishop Tsietsi and the Diocese as they prepare to receive their new bishop.

Ven Horace Arenz

Provincial Executive Officer

Synod of Bishops to elect new Bishop of Table Bay

The Diocese of Cape Town at its Elective Assembly on 25 July 2019 failed to Elect a Bishop of Table Bay (Suffragan of Cape Town) and delegated the responsibility to the Synod of Bishops.

The Ven Horace Arenz

Provincial Executive Officer

New Bishop of St Mark the Evangelist elected

Bishop-Elect Luke, third from left, with Elective Assembly officials, Archbishop Thabo and Provincial Executive Officer, the Ven Horace Arenz.

The Archbishop and the PEO, who are in the Diocese of St Mark the Evangelist for the Elective Assembly, have asked me to inform you that Dean Luke Abe Pretorius has been elected as new Bishop of St Mark the Evangelist.

You are requested to pray for Bishop-Elect Pretorius and his family.

Mrs Matlotlisang Mototjane
Provincial Executive Administrator

Archbishop Thabo urges new “via media” for Communion

From the Church Times, London, of June 28, 2010

Makgoba: Lambeth 2020 boycotts will not help anyone

The Archbishop of Capetown speaks to Anli Serfontein

THE Archbishop of Cape Town, Dr Thabo Makgoba, has urged bishops and Provinces in the Anglican Communion — including members of GAFCON — not to boycott the Lambeth Conference in 2020. Instead, he has said that they should “all come around the table”.

(You can read the full report on the Church Times website at: https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2019/28-june/news/world/makgoba-lambeth-2020-boycotts-will-not-help-anyone

Candidates for election as Bishop of Table Bay

An Elective Assembly of the Diocese of Cape Town will choose a successor to the retiring Bishop of Table Bay, the Right Revd Garth Counsell, from the 25th to the 27th of July.

Please pray for the Elective Assembly and for the candidates nominated for election:

The Ven Terrence Lester – Christ Church, Constantia
The Rev Canon Mark Long – St Andrew’s, Newlands
The Ven Joshua Louw – St Paul’s, Bree Street
The Rev Ashley Petersen – St James the Great, Sea Point
The Rev Allan Smith – St Martin’s, Bergvliet
The Very Rev Michael Weeder – St George’s Cathedral

Mrs Matlotlisang Mototjane
Provincial Executive Administrator

Inviting young people to join Taizé Pilgrimage

Do you want to join thousands of young people from across the world in worship, learning and fellowship in Cape Town in September?

If yes, then sign up for the Taizé Pilgrimage of Trust from 25 to 29 September. The deadline for signing up is 21 July and you can do it here:
http://www.taize.fr/en_article25024.html

Groups have already signed up from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Swaziland, Rwanda, Cote d’Ivoire, Lithuania, Slovakia, France, Germany and the USA. 

Over the five days of the Pilgrimage, you will stay with pre-selected families in Cape Town. During the days, you will visit “places of hope” and have two big prayer sessions a day at the central venue, St Joseph’s College in Rondebosch in Cape Town’s southern suburbs. In the afternoons you will attend workshops on various relevant topics.

Want to know more about this year’s pilgrimage. Look here:
http://www.taize.fr/en_article23846.html

And more about the Taize movement here:
http://www.taize.fr/en

More than 80 congregations in Cape Town have agreed to open their doors to participants. The very low R250 registration fee covers accommodation with families in Cape Town, seven meals at the main venue and local bus travel. Once you have registered, you will receive detailed registration information.

Here’s the sign-up page again:
http://www.taize.fr/en_article25024.html

Bishop Patrick Matolengwe dies, aged 82

From left, Bishops Bethlehem Nopece, Ebenezer Ntlali and Patrick Matolengwe with former President Kgalema Motlanthe at a service celebrating Bishop Patrick’s ministry and 80th birthday. (Photo: Graaff-Reinet Advertiser)

The Right Revd Dr Patrick Monwabisi Matolengwe, a former Bishop Suffragan of Cape Town, a former Dean of Milwaukee in the United States, a former senior official of the SA Council of Churches, and an assistant bishop in a number of dioceses, has died in Johannesburg.

He died peacefully at the Helen Joseph Hospital, said a notice from the Provincial Executive Office at Bishopscourt.

“He died surrounded by his wife, Sapho, and children. The funeral will be held in his home town, Graaff-Reinet, at a date to be announced once family has finalized the arrangements,” the notice added.

Bishop Matolengwe was born in Graaff-Reinet, trained as a teacher at Lovedale and then turned to the ministry. He served in both rural and urban areas, notably at Nyanga in Cape Town.

His ministry in Cape Town coincided with the crises caused by the apartheid government when it tried to enforce the pass laws by repeatedly destroying people’s homes in informal settlements and forcibly removing the wives and children of migrant workers to the Eastern Cape.

He served as Bishop Suffragan of Cape Town in the time of Archbishops Philip Russell and Desmond Tutu, and in 1988 moved to Milwaukee in Wisconsin. There he was first appointed Dean of All Saints Cathedral and then Assisting Bishop in the diocese of Milwaukee.

He continued his theological studies in the United States, earning a Master’s degree in Theological Studies at Nashotah House seminary in 1992 and a Doctor of Ministry degree at the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio in 1996. Nashotah House also conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Divinity (honoris causa).

After returning home, he led the work of the South African Council of Churches in co-ordinating its work with that of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

After retiring he served in the Parish of St. Phillip’s, Graaff-Reinet, and as Assisting Bishop in the Diocese of Kimberley and Kuruman. Latterly, he has assisted at the parish of Christ the King in Sophiatown.

This report was updated after first publication with the detail of Bishop Matolengwe’s educational qualifications in the U.S., which were kindly supplied by his family.

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