St Michael and All Angels

Observatory, Cape Town

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Sunday after the Ascension, 2013

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“Justin, the Holy Spirit and life...”
I speak in the name of Jesus the Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.

He was born on the 1st of March 1994 and therefore is only nineteen years old. He was born in Ontario, Canada, to Jeremy and Pattie. Mum was only seventeen years old when she fell pregnant with her first child. The child in question was then raised by a single parent when his father left to marry another woman. The child grew up with interests in hockey, soccer and chess. As he grew older, he taught himself to play the piano, drums, guitar and trumpet.

Today this person has received numerous awards, including both Artist of the Year Awards at the 2010 and 2012 American Music Awards. He has 38 million followers on Twitter, and he was named by Forbes magazine in 2012 as the most powerful celebrity in the world. He had earned an estimated US$55 million in the previous twelve months. As of May 2012, the teenager had sold 15 million albums.

His name?
Justin Drew Bieber.

You may well be asking why I have spent some time this morning beginning my sermon with an introduction to a well known pop star who recently visited Cape Town?  Well, you ask a valid question. As many of you know, I have the privilege and responsibility of teaching young teenagers in a fairly affluent school in the city bowl. This has allowed me to build up a relationship of trust with my pupils over the years and they are always willing to share a little of their personal experiences with me.

I was absolutely astounded by the hysteria that this young man has created during his brief stay in Cape Town. Radio 567 labelled Bieber as the new generation “Beatles” in terms of his ability to command adoring fans, some as young as junior school. What I really found disturbing was the amount of money spent by parents for their offspring to attend the Bieber concert held last Wednesday evening. Tickets ranged in value from R600 to thousands of Rand. You could even spend R6000 extra in order to “meet and greet” Justin for three and a half minutes!

This started me thinking...
Why is the Church of God struggling so financially, yet people are willing to fork out thousands of Rand to watch a teenager sing and dance?

Why do teenagers make an effort to actually sleep out on the pavement the night before the concert, in spite of having a ticket to assure them a seat?

In today’s Gospel reading, we learn what Jesus has to say his disciples about the future. The fact that the world would hate them just as the world has hated Jesus. While the message that Jesus gave to His disciples may seem foreboding, and even perhaps depressing, Jesus meant His message to be one of encouragement. Jesus had promised that He would send the Comforter. This word is a translation from “paraclete” which is a Greek word for counsellor. This word was understood to mean a person who stands at your side to defend, guide and help you. Here, Jesus promises that the “paraclete” will do just that for the disciples. The “paraclete” is the Spirit.

Apart from guidance and support, the Holy Spirit also gives us confidence, which we may call faith. As Paul writes, “Faith comes through hearing the message and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.”
This same faith that we garner through the support of the Holy Spirit gives us the strength to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit... BUT we cannot do it alone! The Holy Spirit is our “paraclete”, he teaches us, guides us and supports us in our daily lives as we live in a community that does not always respect and love the living God.

Which brings me back to the questions that I raised earlier.

The Beatles, a famous music group stemming from Liverpool in the 1960’s, once proclaimed that they were greater than Jesus Christ.

May I be so bold as to say, with all due respect, that many of the Beatles are now dead, yet our Lord continues to live in glory and light.

The same now applies to the millions of Bieber fans around the world. Why are the mainline churches around the world declining in numbers, yet young souls clamour for pop stars that are fleeting in the bigger scheme of life and the world? Their false glamour and tabloid popularity somehow encapsulates the youth and seemingly offers them hope in a dreary and often, disillusioned society.
If we as Christians have the most powerful “paraclete” in the world, surely we should be more confident in proclaiming the Gospel of Christ to those who do not yet know the Lord. Please, I am talking to myself here, just as much as I am talking to the church and Christian community today. We, as Christians, have been blessed to have the Holy Spirit given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ, so that we do not have to seek salvation and hope in other human beings, no matter how well they sing or dance. Our eyes and our hearts look to Christ for our Salvation, for He alone died on the Cross and by so doing, took on the sins of the world. Herein lays our strength and our hope. As Christians, we need to be bolder in proclaiming this message of hope and light to a world where frail and fallen teenagers have become the heroes of the day and shopping malls, the new cathedrals of tomorrow.

I am reminded of a poem entitled God’s Grandeur penned by Gerald Manley Hopkins:
When last did you pray for the Holy Spirit to renew your inner strength and faith in Christ Jesus so that you may be a beacon of light in the world around us?
Are you a Belieber or a Believer?
May God bless you this week as you share that special message with others about what God has done for us.



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