Bruised but healed through the cross

"Our souls, soil and society need healing. But first we need to lance the boils to release the ugliness within. This is the way of the crucifixion on the cross, a terribly painful experience."

Methodist Bishop of the Natal Coastal District, Mike Vorster, told thousands of worshippers while delivering the sermon during the early morning annual ecumenical Good Friday service at the Durban Exhibition Centre, under the theme Bruised but healed through the cross, on 25 March.

"The legacy of Apartheid has left festering wounds in three areas: our souls; soil and society. There are still so many things around us that bruise our souls daily: rejection, betrayal, the lingering trauma of racism, violence, sexism, rape, xenophobia, Afrophobia, exclusion, poverty," he said.

Bishop Vorster decried the expropriation of the soil from its indigenous owners in the past through centuries of violent colonisation adding that even in this day the soil continues to be stolen from indigenous people to make way for greedy corporates who already have more than they need.

Our soil, he said, has become what author Karen Armstrong calls ‘Fields of blood.’ "We have poisoned the soil and will continue to do so through fracking; more mining; nuclear waste from nuclear plants and the list goes on. With the exponential development of unchecked technology, we are now at a time when we will not only see fields of blood, but the mutilation and destroying of the earth in its entirety," Bishop Vorster said.

He also called for a boycott of Australian products in the wake of the gunning-down of Sikhosiphi 'Bazooka' Rhadebe, leader of the Amadiba Crisis Committee who are resisting titanium mining on the Wild Coast by an Australian company, Mineral Commodities Limited.

When we talk of the healing our society, he said, we need to speak simultaneously of socio-political and economic influences.

On healing of our society, Bishop Vorster said, our souls need to be on fire as we confront those who are allegedly holding our fledgling democracy to ransom through the so-called capture of our state by wealthy business people. "With the revelations of the so-called capture of state, is this not a Kairos moment when all of us need to have a 'crisis of conscience? Are not NGOs economically captured by donors? Are not churches economically captured by the big givers who want to dictate how the church should be run? Are not churches captured by money through the prosperity Gospel? Is not the private sector captured to the practise of profit before people? We also need to investigate the wealthy white elite who allegedly keep black people out of their white economic club unless they bring political favour," he said.

Bishop Vorster said corrupt leaders should be removed from office but was quick to point out that this removal would not automatically translate to elimination of corruption.

He said "Yes we can remove leaders who are corrupt and this must happen, but will it guarantee that others who follow will not do likewise? The key practises for all those in leadership and their followers are: honesty; integrity and accountability."

Current efforts by civil society to bring healing need to be intensified. "Let us form thousands of groups throughout the land where the poor; the oppressed begin to tell their stories of pain in safe spaces and move from victims to wounded healers, whereby dignity is restored," Bishop Vorster said.

He concluded by warning that the path to national healing is not going to be an easy one. "Let us remember that the cross as an instrument was meant to ensure maximum pain. This could be likened to the needle which pierces the boil that needs lancing as a metaphor for the pain of sacrificial; courageous and honest conversations we need to have with each other as South Africans.

"The late Nobel Peace laureate, Inkosi Albert Luthuli, once said: 'Freedom comes via the cross'. This will be a costly journey for the soul. It would mean taking up our cross daily of voluntary personal and communal sacrifice and through this sacrifice make a new world possible," he ended.

After the first part of the service, worshippers then processed in meditative silence to the steps of the City Hall where the flowered cross was lifted up as a sign of the hope that the cross of Christ will heal us of our multiple-woundedness.