Sermon Illustrations

Forgiveness and Reconciliation in South Africe

Phillip Yancey stated in his book “Finding God In Unexpected Places”, “The job of a journalist is, simply, to see. We are professional eyes. As a Christian journalist, I have learned to look for traces of God. I have found those traces in unexpected places: among the chief propagandists of a formerly atheistic nation and refugees from a currently atheistic nation; in a storefront Chapel at Ground zero, an Atlanta sum, and even a Chicago health club; at a meeting of Amnesty International , on a weekend retreat with twenty Jews and Muslims, and on a panel addressing ‘Why do Muslims Hate Us.’ In the prisons of Peru and Chile and orphanages in South Africa and Myanmar; in the speeches of Vaclav Havel and even in the plays of Shakespeare” (Pages 4, 5).

ii. I add we need to see God at the coffee shop, in the traffic jams, as we drive by accidents, sitting on an airplane, looking at the people in the mall, in offices, on the trains, in my family and home life. I need to see God in the movies and TV shows and yes even in the political arena of this life.

iii. When we look and listen for God we do find God in unexpected places. Here is there in the hospital as we get the bad news and He is there when we receive applause for doing something good.

iv. God is also there in Haiti right now! He is in the prisons of China.

1. Yancey tells this story :

a. On a trip to South Africa, I met a remarkable woman named Joanna. She is a mixed race, part black and part white, a category known there as ‘coloured. ’As a student she agitated for change in apartheid and then saw the miracle that no one predicted, the peaceful dismantling of that evil system. Afterward, for many hours she sat with her husband and watched live broadcasts of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings. Instead of simply exulting in her newfound freedoms. Joanna next decided to tackle the most violent prison in South Africa, a prison where Nelson Mandela had spent several years. Tattoo-covered gang members controlled the prison, strictly enforcing a rule that required new members to earn their admittance to the gang by assaulting undesirable prisoners. Prison authorities looked the other way, letting the ‘animals’ beat and even kill each other. Alone, this attractive young woman started going each day into the bowels of that prison. She brought a simple message of forgiveness and reconciliation, trying to put into practice on a smaller scale what Mandela and Bishop Tutu were trying to effect in the nation as a whole. She organized small groups, taught trust games, got the prisoners to open up about the details of their horrific childhoods. The year before she began her visits, the prison recorded 279 acts of violence; the next year there were two. Joanna’s results were so impressive that the BBC sent a camera crew from London to produce two one-hour documentaries on her. I met Joanna and her husband, who has since joined her in the prison work, at a restaurant on the waterfront of Cape Town ever the journalist, I pressed her for specifics on what had happened to transform that prison. Her fork stopped on the way to her mouth, she looked up and said, almost without thinking, “Well, of course, Philip, God was already in the prison. I just had to make him visible.” (page 5, 6).

From a sermon by Michael McCartney, Want vs Need, 2/26/2010

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