Happy birthday to all those who celebrated in March. Pictured are some of the NAC Midrand members who turned a year older this March.
The celebration of Easter is the highpoint of the church year. It is a celebration of resurrection and the hope for life. After the ignominious crucifixion of Jesus, evil seemed to have triumphed over good. The resurrection of Jesus Christ, however, demonstrates the power of God over evil and death. This resurrection gives believers the justified hope in their own resurrection and eternal life.
During the Easter Sunday divine service, we learnt that Jesus has announced that it is possible to enter into the eternal glory of God; Jesus died on the cross, resurrected from the dead, and was accepted into the glory of God; the disciples proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus and he lived in them; and that we too are called upon to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus by professing that He lives in us.
After a spiritually uplifting divine service, it was time for the annual Sunday school Easter egg hunt. Children combed through the bushes for their favourite Easter chocolates.
To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. — Colossians 1: 27
Let us proclaim to the world that Jesus Christ is risen and lives in us!
The feast of Easter is the highpoint of the church year. Easter is a celebration of resurrection and hope for life. This is also reflected in our Bible text: God has decided to make known to all people that which comprises the wealth of His mystery: Christ, the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1: 15) is in us, the hope of glory.
Christ shows us the way
Jesus glorified His Father by showing human beings that God is also their Father, as well as a God of love. During His days on earth Jesus proved that
- It is possible to remain righteous in an unrighteous world.
- It is possible to practice tolerance in an intolerant world.
- It is possible to forgive in a world that is out for judgement, revenge, and hatred.
- It is possible to persist in the truth in a world filled with lies.
Jesus also proclaimed that it is possible to enter into the eternal glory of God. He Himself died on the cross, resurrected from the dead, and was taken up into the glory of God.
The death of Jesus raised questions for His disciples.
- Do we really have to go back to the ideas of the Pharisees, namely that God is an uncompromising judge?
- Will evil—in other words, selfishness, avarice, lies, violence, and corruption— really triumph over good in the end after all?
- Is all hope lost?
However, the resurrection of the Lord proved the truth of His doctrine to His disciples. After the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, they proclaimed the glad tidings with great enthusiasm. Now Christ lived in them!
Proclaiming the resurrection
We have received the promise that we will be “glorified together” with Christ (Romans 8: 17). In order to experience the fulfilment of this promise, we must
- Allow Christ to live in us by reading about His message and His activity in Scripture.
- Keep our baptismal or confirmation vow. It is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us (Galatians 2: 20).
- Make the return of Christ and our entry into glory the goal of our life of faith.
The Holy Spirit also calls upon us to proclaim the glad tidings that
- Jesus Christ lives. We meet Him in the divine services and we experience His help and love.
- We can overcome evil with good through Christ (Romans 12: 21).
- Christ desires all human beings to enter into the glory of God in the new creation.
* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for the Easter Sunday divine service held on 27 March 2016 at Midrand Congregation.
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him. And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” — Matthew 27: 27–29
Jesus Christ—abased by man but exalted by God.
Good Friday reminds us of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, which is completely distinct from the sufferings of any other human being: the sacrifice of Jesus serves to our salvation! Thus it is no wonder that the account of Jesus’ suffering and death takes on a central position in the gospels. After all, this event is of fundamental significance, not only for our salvation, but also for that of all mankind.
Our Bible text relates the events that transpired shortly before Jesus’ crucifixion.
Jesus is mocked
After His trial before Pilate, Jesus was led away by the soldiers. However, they did not merely leave Him to His own devices, but rather played a sarcastic game with Him, which was intended to rob Him of His dignity.
First, they put a scarlet robe on Jesus, then went on to place a crown of thorns on His head and a reed into His right hand. They thus provided Him with all the symbols that appertain to a King. Indeed, they even fell on their knees before Him. It is also in this context that they spoke the words: “Hail, King of the Jews” (verse 29)! The only reason the soldiers did all of this was to make fun of Jesus.
Jesus is revealed as true king
Upon closer inspection, however, that which the soldiers considered to be nothing more than an undignified game reveals some important things about the person of Jesus and the events in general.
- The scarlet robe is a reference to the royal dignity of Jesus Christ. At the same time, scarlet signifies the blood that the King of all kings would later shed for all mankind.
- The reed serves as a sceptre. It makes clear that Jesus Christ really is the ruler and that His reign cannot be diminished by anyone.
- The crown of thorns is likewise a symbol of royal dignity. At the same time it alludes to the fact that this King is one who suffers for His own.
- The falling on their knees before Him, as sarcastically as it may have been intended by the soldiers, is a sign of veneration and esteem, which the whole of creation owes Jesus (Philippians 2: 10).
- The mocking salutation, “King of the Jews!” is in reality a cry of profession to the majesty of Jesus Christ.
Abasement and exaltation
In this situation, which was intended to abase Jesus, we see God exalting His Son through the mouths of unwitting soldiers. That which was intended to rob Jesus of His dignity and honour actually conferred glory and honour upon Him.
Most of the time we take mockery to be a form of abasement, but here it serves to exalt the incarnate God.
Whenever we are mocked for the sake of Christ, when we perhaps face disadvantages for the sake of the gospel, or if we are not successful in every aspect of our lives, let us remember that we—like our example Jesus, whom we want to follow diligently— will be exalted at His return. Besides, no one can rob us of the dignity that God has already conferred upon us, namely our childhood in God and the calling to become firstfruits!
* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for the Good Friday divine service held on 25 March 2016 at Midrand Congregation.
On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” – Mark 11: 15 – 17
Bible Reading 1: Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. — Zechariah 9:9
Bible Reading 2: The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the LORD will praise him– may your hearts live forever. — Psalm 22:26
Chief Apostle of the New Apostolic Church, Jean-Luc Schneider held the Palm Sunday divine service in Kimberley, South Africa. While Kimberley is popularly known as the diamond city of South Africa, the real gem received by all members, many of whom were connected via transmission, was the message delivered by the ministers on Sunday, 20 March 2016.
In his opening prayer, the Chief Apostle said: “God we don’t always understand you but we want to say to you today: God we trust you. Thank you for the future you have already prepared for us.”
The Chief Apostle said we remember the entry of Jesus in Jerusalem. It must have been a great feast and they were full of joy celebrating. He was aware that it was the beginning of a time for him. He wanted the people to know certain things. He went to the temple and disapproved with certain things and told them what he wanted them to do and what the temple should be there for, a house for all nations.
- The temple of God is a place where we pray and praise.
- It’s a place for believers. The assembly of the believers.
- A temple is also our heart: a place where God lives.
He said it was actually necessary to sell dogs and animals in the temple as the Jews were not allowed to offer in foreign currency so it was needed to exchange the currency so that they could bring their offerings.
Jesus did not agree because they were using God to become rich. They were doing business with God.
Most of people’s prayer is concerned with their earthly wealth. They want to be preserved from some sickness. Jesus did not agree with this. He died for us so that our souls may be saved. He cannot agree with doing business with God.
The Chief Apostle reminded us that Jesus brought and taught love. He expects our relationship with him to be based on love and not of interest. He spoke of the den of thieves where people performed rituals and then thought that they were made ok with God, but in their heart nothing had changed.
“We want to change in our hearts. We do whatever we do because we want to be like Jesus. It’s not a question of bringing offerings or going to church out of tradition. This is not why we are children of God.”
The people also used the temple as a shortcut in their travels, he said. They used the church to make their lives easier. And the day that one does not get this help or shortcut, one goes elsewhere. “We are part of the congregation and the work of salvation. We are called by God to fulfil a mission in the Church and in the congregation. Each member is called to serve God in the church and with the church.”
What Jesus made clear is that he disagrees with:
- Doing business with God.
- Doing ‘rituals’ with the thinking that it will cause us to be made right with God.
- Using the church to make our lives easier (shortcut) – we must serve God.
We want the church to change us, to improve us, said the Chief Apostle. Do we react the same way as we did in the past…The temple should be a place where we praise, worship and glorify God.
“We should be aware that we are completely dependent on God. Be humble and know that we can do nothing without God. If we are offended by somebody, bring it to God first in prayer. Don’t tell it to other people first. This way you will not react in the same manner. When we pray we pray first for salvation of our souls. When we pray we need to believe in what we pray – this makes for a strong prayer.”
He added that we have to be patient and pray steadfastly. The Bible says that as a church they prayed day and night for their salvation. “Be patient knowing that God will answer this prayer and that He will save us.
“Salvation is for all man. My neighbour is not to become like me to be loved by God as I am loved by God. We are all so different. The needs of the one is not the same as the other. We need to therefore focus on what is important. So too in the church we need to focus on what is important- our salvation. We must still prayer for the sick and the poor but in the background to every prayer we must pray for their salvation as well.”
District Apostle Wilfried Klingler from Germany also served. He said a temple needs the presence of the Lord. “We went yesterday to Kimberly’s big hole and it is very deep. The Chief Apostle also showed us the depth of our faith.”
He said the Bible says that Jesus looked at all things in the temple, “This means that he saw all things. What kind of prayer life do we have? Two people went into the temple to pray. One was praying by himself and did not look up to the Lord. He prayed and said thank you Lord, I am not so bad.
The other prayed please give me grace, this is the man that went out of the temple with riches.
Some pray with their hands open towards the sky, this means they want to receive something. This is not the way to pray, we must confess that we are dependent on him and ask him for help.”
In preparing for holy communion, the Chief Apostle said if you have anything against anyone, forgive them so that your father in heaven may forgive you. “Jesus wants us to know the importance of forgiveness. He measures this by what we are willing to sacrifice in order to find grace. We measure this by forgiving our neighbour. We do anything that’s possible and even what is impossible to forgive our neighbour.”
The Chief Apostle also placed Apostle Michael Dimba from North Rand District in Gauteng into retirement. “You have been a true apostle and servant of God and you just did it. We are thankful for that. You have been a wonderful blessing for God’s people, a true ambassador of Jesus Christ. You have a wonderful knowledge of Jesus because you have experienced his grace and love. Your motivation was not to show your knowledge but the intention was to share the knowledge of Jesus.”
Below is a gallery of some images shared by Apostle Michael Dimba’s daughter, Lungi, who attends Midrand congregation with her family.
Midrand played host to a very special divine service held by Apostle Michael Dimba on 13 March 2016. Attended by 11 congregations from the North Rand District, the service brought together more than 720 members, with 19 children and five adults sealed and 10 priests and 29 deacons ordained.
The word for the service was taken from Matthew 5 vs 39-41: But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.
Apostle Dimba said that Jesus Christ came to open up a new covenant and he needed people to make an adjustment from the old ways of doing things to the new. With this in mind, the Apostle highlighted the importance of Jesus Christ’s teachings and the commandment of love, which he said surpasses all other commandments – Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these (Mark 12 vs 30-31).
He said the teachings of Jesus Christ build us up so that we are aligned to the gospel. Aligning ourselves to the gospel leads to spiritual growth and development as well as the completion of our soul – the completion of our soul results in the return of Jesus Christ.
The Apostle said the word does not mean that we must compromise our rights because we must protect ourselves but we must learn the lessons within it that Jesus Christ is teaching us; we must prioritise what is best for us spiritually.
The word teaches us to:
- Overcome evil with good. There are many challenges around us that will test us but we must correct wrongs with rights and pray for our enemy. As God’s children we must rise above the things that are ungodly.
- Look for peace rather than materialistic things. Using the example of Abraham and his nephew Lot, the Apostle explained that there are many situations in life that will want to deprive us of our peace. When Abraham travelled to the land of Canaan, he took everything he owned. Abraham was very rich. Lot, who had many animals, travelled with him. After a while Abraham and Lot realised that there just wasn’t enough for everyone to stay in the same place. Because Abraham was older, he had the right to choose first, but he did not want to argue over land and allowed Lot to choose where he wanted to keep his sheep. Lot chose the beautiful valley while Abram ended up with rugged hills and not much water. Lot chose to live in the rich fertile plains near Sodom where the men were very wicked. But after a while war broke out and Lot and his family were taken prisoner and all of their possessions were stolen. When Abraham heard the news, he rescued his nephew and his family and recovered their possessions. Throughout it all Abraham retained his peace.
- Serve one another with all our heart and genuinely, not in a calculated manner. Don’t serve your neighbour as if you’re being ordered by Jesus Christ to do so. We must serve our neighbours wholeheartedly that we’ve even forgotten that we’ve done so. Do good freely and out of love. Additionally, if someone asks for our forgiveness we must grant it to them.
District Elder Denver Benn was the first minister called up and said the law of love was once again inculcated into our soul. He said all the laws of the old practised by the likes of Moses and others were changed by Jesus Christ and he made it simple. He said there are only two main things to do – learn to love God above all and our neighbour as ourselves. “Some of us find it difficult to comprehend this, we retaliate when people wrong us and when we behave in this manner, we become the enemy of God. Then you deprive yourself of what God wants to lay in your heart … It is important that we take this word to heart, apply it to yourself and your home.”
Also called up was District Evangelist Kobus van der Merwe said Jesus Christ was given a task by God and while it may seem easy to teach people to live that standard, it was not. “The Lord doesn’t give us the impossible. What matters is our attempt and that we strive every day to obtain our victory with Christ.”
District Elder David Gracey said there was much substance in the word and the more we talk about it, the more we realise the blessings in it. “The word might not make sense to you but we are reminded that the service is about peace. It is not about receiving but what we do to create peace. Make peace, make time for peace, do the work. Don’t ask what’s in it for me? It’s our responsibility as a child of God.”
The District Elder also thanked Apostle Dimba for his service to God’s work and people as he will be retiring from his ministry after more than 40 years. He said that Apostle Dimba served God’s people with perfection and humility.
* Written by Rivonia Naidu-Hoffmeester
For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. — Romans 5: 10
Let us be reconciled with God and let us live in Christ.
- Through His sacrifice, Jesus makes it possible for human beings to be reconciled with God.
- In order to be reconciled, it is necessary to believe in Jesus Christ, be baptised, and bring one’s life into line with the will of God.
- Jesus sent His Apostles in order to prepare souls for His return.
- Those souls who have been baptised in the Spirit prepare themselves for this event by following the example of Christ.
Currently, community is being produced in over 40 languages; some of these languages are available as a PDF on nac.today. The newest issue has just been uploaded—the first of four in the upcoming year.
What is the actual sequence of a New Apostolic divine service anyway? This question comes up often, especially when guests are present in a divine service for a baptism or confirmation, for example. The liturgical order of the divine services is the same for all divine services, and applies all around the world.
Liturgy can be compared to the walls in a house or the spine in the body: constantly repeated, firmly established formulas create security and order in the divine service event. The individual elements of the divine service—for example, the preaching of the word, the dispensation of the sacraments, the benediction—have not just been placed somewhere arbitrarily, but are interrelated, and follow a clear sequence. And this firmly prescribed liturgical order is intended to make it clear to human beings that God is constantly inclined to them. All those who attend the divine service can thereby recognize the dependability of God and feel secure in His unchangeable faithfulness. Always the same, like a repeating canon, the individual liturgical elements accompany the believers through their life of faith.
The divine service is Trinitarian right from the start
After the congregation sings the opening hymn, the Trinitarian opening formula resounds: “In the name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” These words are not coincidental. Rather, this invocation and worship of the triune God is the ticket to a worthy divine service: God is now present! He watches over His people. He watches over His word.
After the opening prayer and reading of the Bible text follows the sermon. In New Apostolic divine services the main portion of the sermon involves speaking the word of God in free discourse for about 20 to 25 minutes, which is followed by supplementary contributions. This is a very demanding task, both for the minister preaching as well as for the listeners. The Catechism states the following concerning this: “The interpretation of the Bible text in free discourse constitutes the core of the sermon, which is inspired by the Holy Spirit. The congregation experiences this through the words of the minister conducting the service and through supplementary contributions by assisting ministers (“serving along”). The proclamation of God’s word by a number of ministers, each with a different personality and corresponding gifts, aids in illuminating several aspects of the sermon from various perspectives, and serves to deepen understanding for God’s will” (CNAC 18.104.22.168).
The high point is Holy Communion
This is followed by a liturgical element of repentance. Here the congregation, each and every individual believer, bows down before the Lord in search of peace and forgiveness. They are mindful of Jesus’ washing of the feet, as well as their own sinfulness. The hymn of repentance, the collective prayer of the Lord’s Prayer, the absolution—a pronouncement of forgiveness from all sin and guilt—as well as the consecration of bread and wine such that the body and blood of Christ may be joined to it, lead the way to the celebration of Holy Communion. Now follows the high point of the divine service. Christ Himself steps into the congregation. “The content and significance of Holy Communion cannot be fully grasped in rational or doctrinal terms. It is closely associated with the mystery of the person of Jesus Christ. In Holy Communion, the reality of God and His devotion to mankind can be directly experienced. Holy Communion is the central event of the divine service. It also takes on a significant position in the consciousness and life of the faithful,” states the Catechism (CNAC 8.2).
Last of all follows the closing prayer, along with the closing benediction and the closing hymn. The Trinitarian closing benediction discharges the congregation in the certainty that everything revolves around the triune God. His grace, love, and communion will accompany them.
All hymns, all prayers, all acts, all elements of preaching, all blessings, and all sacraments in the divine service are subject to the liturgical order of the New Apostolic Church. All ministers of the Church must adhere to this.
In a brief series, nac.today will shed some further light on the individual liturgical elements.
As New Apostolic members across the world prepare for Service for Departed this weekend, we take a look at what the NAC Catechism says about the importance of this service.
Catechism 9.4 The beyond
The term “beyond” generally refers to all realms, events, and conditions that exist outside of the material world. In a narrower sense this term refers to the realm of the dead (Hebrew: Sheol; Greek: Hades), and will, in the following, be used with this meaning. Thus, in principle, the beyond and the dead are invisible to living human beings. However, departed souls can, in individual cases, show themselves. To make contact with the dead through necromancy or channelling is prohibited by God and therefore sinful (Deuteronomy 18: 10-11).
The Old Testament describes the realm of the dead as a predominantly dark place (Job 10: 21-22) where the dead find themselves in a condition bereft of joy (Psalm 88: 10-12; 115: 17). Yet there is also a note of hope for redemption from darkness (Psalm 23: 4; 49: 15).
In His parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus, Jesus Christ referred to the bosom of Abraham, an image of security (Luke 16: 19-31). From this parable, further details can be derived:
a. After physical death, the human soul lives on in the realm of the dead. The individuality of the soul remains intact.
b. In the realm of the dead there is a place of security as well as a place of torment, which are separated from one another.
c. The place in which a person’s soul dwells after death depends upon his conduct with regard to God’s will during his lifetime.
d. The departed can become aware of their condition. Those who suffer in agony will hope for help.
Beyond that, the parable refers to Jesus’ resurrection, and thus also to His sacrificial death and the possibility of redemption founded upon it. It figuratively illustrates conditions in the beyond at the time of the old covenant: the gulf between the realm of torment and the realm of security was impossible to bridge in the old covenant.
Through His merit, Christ, the “firstfruits” in the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15: 23), has overcome the Devil and defeated death (1 Corinthians 15: 55; Hebrews 2: 14). For the souls in the beyond He thereby also opened up a hitherto unimaginable proximity with God: the gulf between the realm of torment and the realm of security can now be bridged.
9.5 The condition of souls in the beyond
The condition of souls in the beyond is a direct expression of their proximity to, or remoteness from, God, and therefore varies greatly. Death has not brought about any change to the condition of the souls. Rather, their condition is identical to that which they had during their lifetime.
The term “realm” is sometimes used in connection with proximity to, or remoteness from, God. The realm into which a soul passes in the beyond depends upon how a person has conducted himself with respect to the will of God. In this each individual bears responsibility for himself. For instance, belief or unbelief, forgiveness or irreconcilability, love or hatred not only leave their mark on human beings during earthly life, but also in the beyond.
In 1 Thessalonians 4: 16 we read of the “dead in Christ”. These are souls who were reborn of water and the Spirit, and who sincerely endeavoured to live in accordance with their faith. The fellowship with the Lord, into which they entered during their earthly lives through Holy Baptism with water and Holy Sealing, and which they maintained through Holy Communion, will continue after their death. Together with the faithful on earth, they belong to the congregation of the Lord, and find themselves in a condition of righteousness before God (22.214.171.124 and 4.8.2). For these souls, preparing for the return of Christ was the central element of their earthly lives, and the longing for this moment also fills them in the beyond. They were and remain devoted to the Lord, and will experience security and peace.
The Wisdom of Solomon 3: 1-3 already mentions the possibility of a condition of security: “But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them. In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure is taken for misery. And their going from us to be utter destruction: but they are in peace.”
The dead in Christ have access to the word of God. Through this word as well as through Holy Communion administered to them by Apostles (12.1.9 and 12.1.3) they receive that which they need for attaining eternal life.
There are also reborn souls who pass into the beyond who have not lived according to their faith. In order to rectify their deficiencies they need–as is the case on earth–the grace of God in word and sacrament.
Those souls in the beyond who have never heard of the gospel, never experienced forgiveness of sins, and never received any sacraments, find themselves in a condition of remoteness from God. This can only be overcome by believing in Jesus Christ, accepting His merit, and receiving the sacraments.
- The term “beyond” refers to all realms, events, and conditions that lie outside of the material world. Often the beyond is equated with the realm of the dead. (4)
- Christ, the “firstfruits” in the resurrection, has conquered death and thereby made it possible for the souls in the beyond to enter into the proximity of God. (4)
- The condition of the souls in the beyond is an expression of their proximity to God, or remoteness from Him, and is the same there as it was during their lifetime. Those who are reborn and who followed the Lord will find themselves in a state of righteousness before God. Souls who have never heard of the gospel, never had their sins forgiven, and never received a sacrament, find themselves in a condition of remoteness from God. This can only be overcome by believing in Jesus Christ, accepting His merit, and receiving the sacraments. (5)
What do you think about Service for Departed and our preparation for it? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.