IF we want to transform and develop our community, our parish, our diocese and our nation, the right and best place to start is the family unit.
These were the words of outgoing Bishop for the Anglican Diocese of Malaita Right Reverend Sam Sahu in his Sunday sermon at the Saint Barnabas Cathedral.
Bishop Sahu based his sermon on the Gospel of Mark 3:20-35 Jesus and Beelzebul to highlight his message on family of faith and also took the opportunity to highlight the 2022 Lambeth Conference call to the Anglican Communion in August to focus on family, discipleship and the environment.
According to Bishop Sahu, Mark starts with a story about the family of Jesus then he quickly adds another story about the prince of the demons (Beelzebul) before he returns to the first story about the family of Jesus.
He said in this Gospel reading Jesus is re-defining what we call family – from physical family to family of faith.
“In other words a family, of ‘God lovers’ (family wea fall in love waitem God), disciples of Jesus Christ (people wea fall in love waitem Christ),” he said.
The text also spoke of how the Jewish religious leaders hate Jesus and accused him of having a demon – Beelzebul – and how his own physical family tried to stop Jesus from doing his mission.
Despite this, Bishop Sahu said Mark had good news for his readers.
“The good news is that Jesus has a new family, his family of faith – men, women, young people and children who obey, who practise what Jesus says and teaches.
“Jesus insisted that his new family, the family of faith, his church are men, women, young people and children who do the will of God, who obey the teaching of Jesus Christ,” Bishop Sahu said.
From the family of faith, Bishop Sahu highlighted discipleship which he described as families and people who seek to be more like Christ.
He said St Richard of Chichester, England in the 6th Century described these people as those who seek “to know Christ more clearly, love him more dearly and follow him more nearly”.
He said the 2022 Lambeth Conference called on the Anglican Communion to a Decade of Intentional Discipleship meaning for the next 10 years the Anglican Communion will focus on making disciples for King Jesus and the Kingdom of God.
“Our church members today must grow, must develop spiritually from baptism and confirmation to becoming more committed disciples of Jesus Christ,” Bishop Sahu said.
He added that if the church is to follow closely the Gospel of Mark, chapters 8-10 is mainly about the teaching of Jesus on following Jesus (discipleship).
“In Mark 8:34 we read, if any one wants to follow me, let him or her (i) deny self (forget self) (ii) carry their cross and (iii) follow me.
“Dear friends, you and me must learn to first deny self, forget self – meaning to ‘die to a self-centred life’ (Mr. Me) and seek to become ‘more like Christ’ day by day.
“Second, carry your cross – meaning you and I must be ready and willing to suffer for Christ, even to die for Christ like the seven martyred Melanesian Brothers in 2003.
“And third, follow me (follow Jesus) meaning Christ must be allowed to go first; you and me to go behind, to follow Jesus Christ closely, day by day in our homes and families, at school, at the work place,” Bishop Sahu said.
He said when Mark presents his teaching on family, he does it in the context of discipleship.
“Be a family for Jesus Christ, that is an important point to note,” Bishop Sahu said.
He said another call from the 2022 Lambeth Conference is for the Anglican Communion to take care of the environment.
“Look after the environment, look after the creation around us.
“This is another call from the 2022 Lambeth Conference. Please look after, please care for environment, the creation around us. Care for our sea and marine resources, care for our forests and trees, our land resources.
“If we look after them, they will certainly look after us,” Bishop Sahu said.
He then concluded his sermon with these questions:
“Is Jesus Christ the centre, the Lord, the Chief of your family, your discipleship?
“…has your understanding of family moved from just a physical family to a family of faith and commitment?
“If we can answer yes then you and I are on the road to becoming real Disciples of Christ, a real family of faith and commitment, real stewards of God’s creation,” Bishop Sahu said.
Bishop Sahu, who is in Honiara for the election of the new bishop of the Diocese of Malaita on Friday last week, is currently on his farewell visit.
The new Bishop Elect for the Diocese of Malaita is Reverend Michael Sau Bebeu who will take office after Bishop Sahu formally retires in January next year.