Bishop Dan Kgomosotho sets out the task of an Elective Assembly

The following homily was preached by the Bishop of Mpumalanga at the Elective Assembly of the Diocese of Christ the King.

Homily for the Elective Assembly

Diocese of Christ the King

The Right Revd Daniel Malesela Kgomosotho

Bishop of Mpumalanga

Theme: The Good Shepherd

26-27 July 2023

Acts 2:14.36-41, Ps 23, 1 Pet 2:20-25, Jn 10:1-11

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, our God and redeemer. Amen.

Jesus said: I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” – John 10:11

My dear Sisters and Brothers

I have decided after prayer and thought to reflect this morning on the theme of the Good Shepherd. We have gathered under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to discern God’s will about the person God has designated as the shepherd of God’s people in the Diocese of Christ the King. Today’s proceedings hopefully mark the end of a process that involved prayer, listening, and fasting, as was typical of God’s people in the early church whenever the faithful had to decide regarding matters relevant to leadership.

There is no indication in the Bible that Christians ran a campaign to support a particular candidate. I have not read anywhere in the Bible that a certain group went about buying votes for a candidate of their choice. That is how certain politicians canvass for votes in a political system. We, dear friends, are governed by rules pertaining to God’s Kingdom. Things are done differently in a theocracy. Here principles of the kingdom apply and here God’s will prevails.

Every year we observe what is known as Good Shepherd Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Easter. The church’s lectionary places this theme during that time of the year and focuses on the tenth chapter of St. John’s Gospel, in which Jesus reveals the relationship he has with each of his faithful disciples. Jesus says about himself: “I am the Good Shepherd.” And the church replies with the words from Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd. I will not lack, for anything!” Because it is the source of our Easter delight, we commemorate this reality each year during the Easter Season: we truly have everything when the risen Lord Jesus serves as our shepherd. This is the message that the Anglican Church of Southern Africa and indeed the worldwide Anglican Communion brings to the faithful in the Diocese of Christ the King as they meet to elect a shepherd to care for God’s people in this Diocese.

At the heart of this message is the truth that the Lord is our Shepherd, and that God is going to provide this Diocese hopefully with a shepherd after God’s own heart. Depending on what the Lord has in store for us in this area, this promise will either be fulfilled today or in the future. But it is important for us to hold fast to and live by the well-known verses from the Responsorial Psalm number 23, which state that the Lord is my shepherd and that I will lack nothing. By uttering these words, we humbly admit that, as Christians, Jesus is the greatest possession we have and that, while lacking in other material possessions, we still recognize how fortunate we are.

The well-known prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola is one of my favourites, and it says: “Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all I have and call my own. Whatever I have or hold, you have given me. I return it all to you and surrender it to be governed by your will. Give me only your love and your grace, which are enough for me, and I ask for nothing more.”

Dear friends, this prayer teaches us something particularly important about being a good sheep of the Good Shepherd: we recognize that Jesus’ love and grace are sufficient for us. Like Paul, when facing difficulties, we can hear God saying; “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me, “Your grace, Lord, is sufficient for me.” In a society dominated by consumerism, in which we are bombarded with advertisements that pretend that we will be happy only if we obtain what they are peddling, that we will be fulfilled only if we have money and houses, fame and fortune, power and position, we focus instead on the Good Shepherd’s love and grace. We acknowledge that what Jesus offers is considerably more essential to joy in this life, and is necessary for eternal bliss with him in the eternal sheepfold.

I would like us, dear friends, to be counter-cultural and ask this Elective Assembly that in your discernment and deliberations you be loyal only to the Good Shepherd, the one who came to serve and not to be served and to give his life as a ransom for many. Friends, the election of a bishop is not about power, nor is it about influence, partisanship and doing the will of the group that nominated a particular candidate to be discerned as a bishop of God’s flock in this Diocese. In a world where the rights and privileges of the poor are trodden upon, the church deserves someone who will protect and advocate for the interests of the marginalised and oppressed in society. In a world where God’s creation is undermined and destroyed in serving the interests of multinational companies, God’s people need a leader who will stand up against such practices and speak prophetically into our economic system.

The church deserves a leader in times such as these who will stand up against the evil and tyranny that is prevalent in our society. We are looking for a servant leader who will – like Jesus and the prophets of old – be able to say: “Thus says the Lord!” In a world where the poor are misused to serve the interests of politicians and financially endowed members of society for their selfish interests, we need a leader who is going to be visible in the community and call the system to order. The prophetic voice of the church must continue to be heard in the corridors of power in our day. The marginalised groups in society, the women and children, deserve someone who will be their voice and face to represent their interests. And that voice and face, I dare say, will come in the person of the bishop the Elective Assembly will elect today. Jesus needs someone to spearhead the mission and ministry of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa in the Diocese of Christ the King. Jesus needs a voice and hands to direct the interests of God’s Kingdom in this Diocese.

Dear friends, this Diocese deserves a bishop who is not going to be co-opted by powerful groups in society. The church needs someone who will be focused on fulfilling the will of the Lord of the Church, the church deserves someone who will like Jesus say that my kingdom is not of this world. At a time when there exists a thin line between what is morally right and morally reprehensible, the church deserves the kind of leader who will not hesitate to speak truth to power. It is at a time such as this — when due to economic challenges in society certain factions in the community would like to capture church leaders and use them for their questionable motifs – the leader after God’s heart must be able to resist such advances and be loyal and answerable only to the Good Shepherd.

Throughout the Good Shepherd discourse, Jesus reveals that he does for us three things. For us to be good sheep of the Good Shepherd, we need to allow him to shepherd us in these three ways.

First, Jesus the Good Shepherd feeds his flock. The church deserves a bishop who “prepares a table for the faithful,” as we pray in today’s Psalm. Jesus feeds us in every way. He feeds us materially each day as he “gives us today our daily bread” (Mt 6:11). He feeds our souls with his word, for “man does not live on bread alone but man lives on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4). Jesus feeds us on his own body and blood in the Eucharist, the food of everlasting life. Good sheep are grateful for this three-fold nutrition and hunger for it!

Second, the Church deserves a leader who like Jesus the Good Shepherd will guide God’s flock. It should not be said of the faithful in the Diocese of Christ the King that they are like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus “leads us in right paths for [his] name’s sake.” He leads us “besides the refreshing waters” of baptism. He guides us toward the “green pastures” of heaven. He says his sheep hear his voice and can distinguish it from the voice of strangers. He tells us he “calls his own sheep by name and he leads them out. … He goes ahead of them, and they follow him.” Jesus takes each of us personally to himself, but then he leads us on a journey, a true adventure, so that he may give us eternal life. “I came so that they may have life and have it abundantly,” he tells us today. That pilgrimage is what life is about. He does not merely tell us about this life, he does not just indicate to us where we need to go, but he leads us by example. To be his disciple means to follow where he leads. St. Peter talks about this in the second reading: “Christ left you an example so that you should follow in his footsteps.” Our discipleship is following where he leads: to follow him to where he wishes to meet with us in prayer; to follow him as we seek to work with the virtues with which he worked in Nazareth; to follow him across the road as Good Samaritans; to follow him to the confessional where he forgives us; to follow him to the altar where he restores us. Good sheep try to follow wherever he leads.

Third, Jesus the Good Shepherd protects his flock. Jesus tells us very clearly that “thieves and marauders” are seeking to fleece, milk, kill, cook, and consume us. Against those who come “only to steal and kill and destroy,” Jesus sets himself as our protection, as the gate to the sheepfold so that, to get to us, they first need to go through Him. To protect us, not only was he willing to die for us, but did in fact die for us. “The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep,” he tells us later in his Good Shepherd Discourse. “No one takes my life from me. … I freely lay it down.” This is why we can act on his words, “Be not afraid!” because he himself will protect us from everything that can eternally harm us if we stay in his fold. Thus, we can say with trust and confidence, as we pray in today’s Psalm, “Even though I walk in the darkest valley, we have been in that dark valley! I fear no evil, for he is at my side, with his rod and his staff to comfort me.” Today, during the period of global economic uncertainty, we thank Jesus for that protection and renew that trust.

As Christians, however, it is not enough for us merely to be good sheep of the Good Shepherd. Jesus desires to change us through his care to the point that we may take on the role of good shepherds and assist him in providing for, directing, and guarding others. We see this transformation in the vocation of St. Peter. After the Resurrection, when Jesus appeared to the disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus asked Peter three times: “Simon, Son of John, do you love me more than these?” Jesus was asking whether Peter loved him more than anything and everything else because the Lord wanted that love to be the distinctive mark of Peter’s life from that point forward. Three times Peter responded, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” After each response, Jesus gave him a commission, a task that would be the bedrock of all he would do in Jesus’ name. The first directive he received was to “Feed my lambs,” which instructed him to take care of Christ’s young people. The second command was “Tend my sheep,” which in Greek means, watch over and lead. Feed my sheep was the third of Jesus’s commands to Peter. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, was entrusting Peter with the tender care and nourishing of his sheep, both young and elderly. The only thing Peter needed to do, according to Jesus, was to feed the lambs and care for the sheep since they would always be the sheep of Christ. This ministry, which Jesus gave to Peter, continues in our day. The church needs a bishop who like Jesus will watch over the flock and be its guide.

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy; To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.