Thursday, 17 May 2018
During the memorial service at 15h00, held by Rev. Nathan Mntambo, Rector Dr. C. Walter Winterle preached the following sermon on Acts 1:6-11.
Sermon: Memorial Service, Ben Mathibe Mokopanele Text: Acts 1:6-11
Jesus comes back with His elected
Acts 1:6-11 6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Dear Mokopanele Family, dear LTS Students, dear Friends,
To say goodbye to our beloved ones is always difficult. This farewell service is not easy for you; it is not easy for me either. Farewell is hard. You never know when you will see each other again, especially if you live very far from your beloved ones. But we always hope to see each other again.
As we are sad saying goodbye to Ben Mokopanele, what are our plans to meet again and what is our hope?
I – The promise of Jesus’ Ascension
We have just celebrated the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus on last Thursday, a week ago. It has an important message to say to all of us as we are grieving for the loss of our brother Ben.
The disciples had grieved for the dying Jesus six weeks before. The women saw the tomb where his body was laid in. They couldn’t stop crying as all their hope had gone. But then the big miracle happened: Jesus appeared alive again on Easter Sunday! All there tears were wiped away from their eyes as they saw the resurrected Jesus! And He showed Himself several times to the disciples, to the women, to more than 500 people at the same time, and to several others during 40 days.
But now it was time to say goodbye again. Jesus had to go back to His Father in heaven. He had accomplished His task on earth. He gave His last recommendations to His disciples, to be witnesses of God’s love and salvation plan to all through faith in Jesus; He blessed them; and then He was taken up to heaven before their very eyes till a cloud hid Him from their sight. The disciples didn’t cry, they were not sad, because they got a promise to see Jesus again. Two angels appeared to them and said: “Why do you stand here looking into sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
This promise renewed the hope of the disciples and they went to the entire world sharing what they had seen and experienced with Jesus, and proclaiming repentance and forgiveness of sin to all who believe in Jesus. And they did it always in the hope and joy that once Jesus will come back and they will meet Him again!
II – What about us?
The Apostle Paul adds a very important detail to the account of Jesus’ second coming that comforts us a lot. Jesus will not come alone. And this brings us to this very moment as we are celebrating this Memorial Service. This is not just a ceremony to honour Ben’s memory; but this is a testimony and a witness of our Christian faith, and the focus is on God’s promise, so that we cling to it and grow in faith and hope. What is our Christian hope? Paul wrote: “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” (1 Thessalonians 4:13,14). As God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him, this means that the departed ones, also Ben, are now with Jesus, waiting for the day they will come back with Him to be reunited with their beloved ones and with all the Holy Christian Church! We grieve, we mourn, we miss Ben’s physical presence, but we know where he is, according to God’s promise. He is with Jesus. Jesus said: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3).
Conclusion: Ben is with Jesus. He went earlier than we had planned it. We cannot understand why so untimely. But our Christian hope is to reach the same place and to be with Jesus. And some time in the future – God knows when – the departed will come back with Jesus and it will be a great day of joy and reunion as God’s people will enjoy the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting, as we confess in the Apostle’s Creed. Meanwhile this great day doesn’t come, we share our hope with all, we share God’s love with all, and even if we have to “walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil, for God is with me… and comforts me” (Psalm 23:4).
Dear family, dear students, dear friends: May this farewell service be also a time of hope and preparation for the time our hour comes, so that we can depart in peace with all, and in peace with God through by faith in Jesus, our resurrected and ascended Lord. Amen.
Pastor Carlos Walter Winterle, Pretoria, LTS, 17 May 2018