Pastor Godana preaches at Bellville Lutheran Church in South Africa.
By Abby Henderson
Originally posted April 20, 2014, at A Journey in Accompaniment. Republished with permission of the author.
Note: Abby Henderson is spending a year in South Africa with the ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission program.
Pastor Godana is the self-supporting pastor of the St. Johannes Parish, which includes Bellville Lutheran Church. Pastor Godana is usually only in Bellville for communion Sunday (which occurs once a month here), but I always look forward to it. This is not just because his sermons are in English (all the others are in Afrikaans) but also because of what he has to say, and how he says it.
Pastor Godana greets the congregation at the beginning of the sermon with “Beloved in the Lord.” Throughout his message, he addresses the congregation in this manner. This always makes me think of Matthew 2:17 when, amid Jesus’ baptism, God says “This is my Son, the Beloved.” To be beloved? That’s a really powerful thing, and I love the reminder that, like Christ, we are God’s beloved.
Two weeks ago, our sermon included Pastor Godana stopping, midsentence, to claim, “Christianity is madness! This is madness! Being Christ-like is madness!” He went on to say, “When someone strikes your cheek, to not raise a hand or raise your voice, but to turn the other side of your face? That’s madness. We believe in something we can never see, and that is madness.”
For the Tuesday of Holy Week, the sermon was titled “No race, class, or gender at the cross — only sinners.” I wrote down nearly half of what he said, but here are some highlights:
“The world is full of structures of sin that put people into these boxes — race, class, gender, sexuality … But in Christ, we are called to egalitarianism.”
“You cannot present faith as evidence to someone, but you can be evidence of faith.”
“We were created equal — all of us. With the fall of man, with the start of human sin, we began to believe that we are not equal. Inequality is a part of sin.”
“There is a word in the Bible that means helper and companion. It means that to help people you must be equal with them. You cannot put yourself above someone else and then try to help them.”
Pastor Godana’s words are revolutionary in just about any church, and they are surely not something I am accustomed to hearing, in either the ELCA or the Lutheran church in South Africa. It isn’t necessarily that people don’t believe them; it is just that they are rarely preached from the pulpit.
And yet, they are the theology of my Young Adults in Global Mission year. They are, in some ways, the theology of the accompaniment model this program operates within. That we are all equal, that we must consider ourselves equal with everyone we encounter, and that we are called into this community of love. We are called to love people — all people, always, all the time. We are called to this beloved madness that is being a follower of Christ.
I pray that today, whether you’re celebrating Easter or Passover or just another Sunday, you feel yourself surrounded by a community of loving and beloved madness and equality.
Find a link to Abby Henderson’s blog A journey in accompaniment at Lutheran Blogs.
You might also want to read:
So, what is ‘YAGM’?
The stewardship of mission
Connecting global and local mission: ‘No one is irrelevant’