Friends, I feel deeply overwhelmed and touched by such a large gathering of the Church this morning to officiate and witness my enthronement as the 6th Arch-Bishop of the Anglican Church in the Province of Melanesia. Your presence at my enthronement service this morning has given me peace and a swell of encouragement, confidence and determination to take leadership as Arch-Bishop of our church during my tenure of office which begins with this enthronement service.
For such a solemn assurance of your support to my leadership as the next Arch-Bishop of our Church, I wish to sincerely thank you all. My most profound gratitude goes to you the head of state of Solomon Islands and members of your official guests who are present at this service, the head of the Solomon Islands government and your official guests, distinguished guests from overseas embassies serving in Honiara, distinguished guests and friends from overseas who have joined us in this service, distinguish guests from churches both from the Anglican Church in the Province of Melanesia and other sister churches serving in Honiara, distinguished guests from the business houses, all members of the Anglican Church of Melanesia both in Solomon Islands and the Republic of Vanuatu and New Caledonia, members of my relatives both present and at home, and many Christian friends who have joined us in this service from your homes and offices, in cars cruising our roads, in hospitals and prisons, and on our ships through the life broadcast of this service through the SIBC tele-radio services.
Having acknowledged your sacred presence at this enthronement service, may I now invite you all to join with me as we turn now to search the word of God to us from the allocated readings for this morning. As we are still in the Easter season, allow me to introduce our search into God’s word from the scripture readings for this morning with a brief reflection on the Easter story.
All of us will agree that the central message of Easter is the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from death. This makes the resurrection story as the story about new life! This means that the raising of Jesus Christ from death assures us of God’s healing love reaching out to touch us even in the deepest crisis moments in our lives to give us new meaning and hope for the future!
This wonderful Easter message is clarified more from the words of Jesus Christ to his disciples at his first appearance to them after his resurrection as recorded in Jn. Chapter 20:19-23…..Read.
V19 – God is always present with us. The disciples were gathered together in doors for they were afraid of the Jews authorities. Suddenly the risen Christ stood among them and said, “peace be with you”. These words assures us that even in times of deep fear and uncertainty, God is still present with us to give us peace and hope for the future.
V20 – They saw the risen Lord. The disciples were filled with joy at seeing the Lord. The story of Easter is the story about renewal of life. The disciples were all renewed and given such deep faith to see the risen Lord. A renewed church will be able to see God her community.
V21 – God re-commissions the church for mission. Jesus said to his disciples, “as the father send me, even so I am sending you”. The Easter story is a story about the risen re-gathering his church to re-commission her on mission.
V22 – God re-anoints and empowers the church for mission. Jesus breath on them and said, “receive the Holy Spirit”. The church that had sinned and came under cursed through the sin of the one man Adam from Genesis chapter 3 to Good Friday had now been cleansed and reanointed and empowered for mission.
V23 - God commissions the church to renew the world. Jesus said, “if you forgive people’s sins they are forgiven, if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven. Forgiveness is the symbolic language for renewal. This makes the work of renewal as the urgent cutting edge business for the church’s mission work of today!
Upon this mission command from the risen Lord Jesus Christ to renew his church, I had developed a theme for our reflection for this morning. This theme will also act as a compass to direct the whole mission work of the Anglican Church in the Province of Melanesia during my tenure of office as Arch-Bishop of this church beginning from today. The theme is: “Vision of an emerging church: Building a new community of God’s people in the Anglican church in the Province of Melanesia”.
At the outset allow me to clarify this term “emerging church” as a symbolic presentation of the Anglican church in the Province of Melanesia as a young and growing church, potential and capable and equipped with a wealth of resources that must be developed to make this church grow mature in its spiritual, socio-political, cultural, and economic wellbeing. This is the kind of church that our Lord Jesus Christ prophesized for his people when he said to them, “I have come that all might have life, life in all its fullness” Jn. 10:10. This is the new emerging church that we want to build in the Anglican church in the Province of Melanesia beginning from today!
However friends, the experience of birthing this new emerging church in in our community seemed a challenging one indeed. This nature of this challenge can be understood from the deep experiences of a mother giving birth to a new child. For as the mother pushes through deep experiences of nausea, body weakness, deep pains, and tearing of the body in order to give birth to the new child, so this new emerging church gives us a typical picture of a church that is caught in the hard cocoons of the critical challenges of the day and must push through active work of evangelism and renewal in order to give birth to this new emerging church in the Anglican Church in the Province of Melanesia beginning from today!
Our gospel reading for this morning in Jn. 10:7-16 presented the same kind of church community situation needing renewal and hope! The use of sheep to describe this community gives the symbol of ignorance, vulnerability, and hopelessness needing a good shepherd to guide this community into renewal and hope. And Jesus who is presented in the text as the good shepherd carries the vivid symbol of the new emerging church arising to give new life and hope for this community. Our second reading in Eph. 2:11-22 also speaks of a similar community situation where the two groups of people: Jews and Gentiles who were once living in enmity and division were brought together into a new humanity in Christ. Here, Christ is presented as the spiritual symbol embodying the building of this “new emerging church” in the community.
Friends, allow me to use the Old Testament text from our readings in Is. 6:1-13 to summarize our message on the “new emerging church” for this morning to help us understand what God is wanting to reveal to the Anglican Church in the Province of Melanesia as she stands at threshold of making a new journey ahead under a new leadership through the enthronement of her new Arch-Bishop today who will lead this church from today and into the days ahead!
Before looking at this text in detail, allow me to give you a brief historical background to this text. The book of Isaiah was written in a very complex and difficult situation in the history of the people of Israel. It covers a time when Israel was prospering in life but being seriously threatened by a powerful enemy neighbor - Assyria. It also covers a time when Israel was destroyed and uprooted and sent into exile in Babylon, a time of deep pain and disorientation for the people of Israel. It also covers a time when the people of Israel have returned from exile in Babylon and were resettling in Jerusalem, a time of opportunity and deep imaginations. It was during such a difficult and disorientating situation that God called Isaiah to be a Prophet in his community. It is in such a deeply disorientating situation that we must read to understand the message from Isaiah as given to us from the reading for this morning.
Summarizing the book of Prophet Isaiah, we can establish that Isaiah’s community was facing many critical challenges in its life: It was a time of deep spiritual decline leading to unfaithfulness in God Is.1:15; It was also a time of socio-political instability leading to greed, corruption and bribery Is. 3:7, 3. It was also a time of political uncertainty leading to idleness and drunkenness, as Prophet Isaiah said, “you are doomed! Heroes of the wine bottle! Brave and fearless when it comes to mixing wine” Is.5:22. Prophet Isaiah summarized the difficult situation facing him in his church community at the end of chapter 5 when he said “Look at this country! Darkness and distress! The light is swallowed in darkness” Is. 5:30.
It was deep within this dark and hopeless situation confronting Prophet Isaiah and his church community that God called him to take leadership of his church. His call to become a prophet was a life transforming one, for he was not given any choices at all to entertain his own mind about his leadership and ministry. He was given a specific task to carry out in his church community: God revealed to Prophet Isaiah a vision of the “new emerging church” that God had wanted him to build for his community. God described this new emerging church to Prophet Isaiah in the symbolic form of an oak tree! Example... coconut, beetle nut, bread fruit.
A brief structural analysis of this text will help us to understand the nature and meaning of his call and the spiritual content of the “new emerging church” that God had called Prophet Isaiah to build for his community. We now look at the structure of the text in detail:
V1 – 4: A vision of God. Mission work must begin in God. Even in times of crisis or critical challenges, God is still in control. And so, if God is in control, you will succeed in your mission!
V5 – 7: A vision of himself. Our hope for success in healing and bringing prosperity in the church must begin with the renewal of leadership, if leadership is renewed then the church will be renewed.
V8 – 12 A vision of his ministry. Every call, whatever it may be, must find its meaning and purpose in the community from which the person is called. This means that leadership is not about seeking after privileges and opportunities, but it is a sacred responsibility given serve the needs of the church community from which we are called.
V13 A vision of the new emerging church given in the form of an oak tree. God did not leave Prophet Isaiah wondering about what he will do, but in a vision had clearly described to him in details the kind of church that he wants Prophet Isaiah to build for his community. In doing so, God gave the details of this new emerging church to Prophet Isaiah in the form of an oak tree.
Here, it is important to note that an oak tree is a very important tree in Jews culture. This tree deep symbolic meanings for the people of Israel. Example… coconut tree, bettle nut tree, bread fruit tree. Let us look at these cultural meanings about the oak tree for the people of Israel from the message from Isaiah to us this morning:
1. Oak tree as a sacred tree is the symbol of faith and holiness. Here, prophet Isaiah was called to build a church that must grow strong in its faith in God and in good moral conduct in the community.
2. Oak tree has a huge size and strength is a symbol of strong political power and authority.
3. Oak tree has an evergreen nature is a symbol of a strong moral culture in the community.
4. Oak tree is an acorn-bearing tree bearing fruits at overlapping seasons all year round is a symbol of economic prosperity in the community.
We learn from this vision that God had not left Prophet Isaiah in no doubt all, but clearly explained to him that the “new emerging church” that God wanted Prophet Isaiah to build for his community is one that must be mature in its spiritual, socio-political, cultural, and economic wellbeing.
Friends, the word of God challenges us to see that the Anglican Church in the Province of Melanesia is also affected by the same deep issues that we read about in the three scripture readings for this morning. The late Arch-Bishop of the Anglican Church of New Zealand, Brian Davis in his book “The way ahead” described this situation clearly for us when he says: and I quote: “secular humanism… hides God from our eternal destiny, drops God out of our minds, encourages egoism and self-worship, undercuts morality by its relativism and permissiveness, undermines compassion for the weak and helpless and judging them as not socially useful, encouraged social programs to manage people as we manage animals, and in all these ways tends to dehumanize people”.
In fact this same situation is confronting the whole church today needing renewal. The Arch-Bishop of the Anglican communion the Right Honorable Justin Welby in his congratulatory message to me on my election as Arch-Bishop of our church on date 12th February this year 2016, says, and I quote “congratulation to you brother Primate on your election as Arch-Bishop of the Anglican Church in the Province of Melanesia. I earnestly pray for your enthronement into the office as Arch-Bishop of your church in Melanesia on Sunday 17th April 2016, and I welcome you to join with us your other brother Primates throughout the Anglican communion to bring renewal in the church”.
Friends, in such a difficult situation, the Anglican church in the Province of Melanesia is called to join with her new Arch-Bishop to understand his “Vision of an emerging church: building a new community of God’s people in the Anglican Church of Melanesia”. This vision forms God’s appointed plan to renew His church in the Anglican Church in the Province of Melanesia today. The vision is to develop this church to grow mature in her Spiritual, socio-political, cultural, and economic wellbeing. The strategic goal in this vision is to develop this church to become self-support, self-reliance, and a self-propagating church. The basic strategic objectives for achieving this goal is 1. To establish an active missionary church through an active evangelism and renewal program. 2. To establish a strong administration for the effective delivery of mission work in this Provincial church. 3. To develop an aggressive and industrious attitude in her investment division to enable this church raise finances to support its own mission work.
I am confident that we can build this new emerging church in the Anglican Church in the Province of Melanesia from today. Working together with my colleague Bishops and Priests and members of this church both in Solomon Islands and the Republic of Vanuatu and New Caledonia, I am confident that we can build this “new emerging church” in the Anglican Church in the Province of Melanesia beginning from today. Working with governments and non-government organizations both in Solomon Islands and the Republic of Vanuatu and New Caledonia, I am confident that we can build this new emerging in the Province of Melanesia beginning from today. Working heads of other churches in both Solomon Islands and the Republic of Vanuatu and New Caledonia, I am confident that we can build this church in the Province of Melanesia beginning from today. Working together with mission partners and friends both locally and overseas, I am confident that we can build this new emerging church in the Province of Melanesia beginning from today.
The call to build this new emerging church in Melanesia is urgent, because it is a call that will bring new meaning and hope to our people for today. This message of hope is founded on the belief that a strong church will make a strong family. A strong family will make a strong community. A strong community will make a strong Province. A strong Province will make a strong nation.
This makes the call to building this new emerging church in our society as a national call. And I invite you all to join in building this church in the Province of Melanesia beginning from today for the glory of God in our islands. Amen!