Nelson Mandela: The Lamentations of Jeremiah And The Crown Of Eternal Life
NELSON Mandela is dead. From passive resistance against apartheid to charges of treason; to ANC violence; to life imprisonment on Robben Island; to international symbol of hope; to respected global statesman; to Nobel Laureate; to President of South Africa; to World Elder and a remaining lifetime dedicated to peace and reconciliation. It was as though his life had an appointment with destiny – to be a living incarnation of grace and forgiveness, writes Cranmer.
He made a famous walk to freedom after 27 years on Robben Island. Thousands greeted him in ecstasy. Now he has made his final walk to eternal freedom to be in the presence of Christ. And the Heavenly Host greeted him in raptures of Hallelujah!
In his 1992 Easter sermon to the Zionist Christian Church in the holy city of Moria, he began with the Lamentations of Jeremiah:
Remember, O Lord, what is come upon us:
consider, and behold our reproach,
Our land is turned over to strangers, our homes to foreigners,
We are orphans and fatherless, our Mothers are as widows,
We have to pay for our water; and our wood is sold unto us,
Our necks are under the yoke of oppression, we labour, and we have no rest.
He spoke as ‘fellow worshipper’; his presence there was ‘an act of communion’; ‘an act of renewal and rededication’, observing that the festival of Easter, which is so closely linked with the festival of the Passover, marks the rebirth of the resurrected Messiah,
who without arms,
without police and covert special forces,
without hit squads or bands of vigilantes,
overcame the mightiest state during his time.
This great festival of rejoicing marks the victory of the forces of life over death of hope over despair.
As we bow our heads in prayerful worship this day, our minds cannot but dwell on the evil of violence that today stalks our land. We cannot but call to mind the cries of mothers violated, brutalised and outraged by armed foreign mercenaries and killers in our midst.
As we lower our heads in supplication to the Lord of Hosts, the blood-curdling battle cries of armed men, sweeping through a township like a swarm of locusts in a maize field, ring in our ears, and we know that in some home, this night shall be night for mourning.
We pray with you for the blessings of peace! We pray with you for the blessings of love! We pray with you for the blessings of freedom! We pray with you for the blessings of reconciliation among all the people of South Africa!
…In its own way, the Zionist Christian Church was expressing what we of the ANC, two years later, tried to assert and have fought to entrench, as the basis of the politics of our country. That principle so eloquently simple but yet so profound, has moved thousands through the ages to strive for a better world. We restate it today for emphasis: – The brother and sisterhood of all human beings, and the common fatherhood of God Almighty!
Nelson Mandela became the embodiment of a nation yearning for freedom; of singular devotion to justice; of fervent belief in principle; of tenacious refusal to give in to torture and persecution.
He stood firm, and suffered a 27-year-long exile, during which everything must have seemed impossible, wretched, hopeless.
But he endured and finally triumphed, proclaiming from the mountaintops that all people – be they black or white, be they brown or yellow, be they rich or poor, be they wise or fools – are created in the image of the Creator and are his children. What faith he must have had. He explained his political theology:
We of the African National Congress: its leadership and its membership, shall sooner break the laws and defy the fanciful wishes of mortal men when we know that in so doing we are being obedient to God. And in obedience to God we declare that all South Africans – be they Christians, Muslims, Jews Hindus, Buddhists – have an equal and untrammelled right to worship God as they see fit. No government should have the right to prescribe religious observance for the citizens of this country.
We cannot begin to comprehend the darkness and bitter loneliness that he suffered. He dared to cry ‘Let my people go!’ as they were arrested, detained, tortured, imprisoned, shot, killed and executed.
Just for being black.
But he never gave up. He ran the race for justice, freedom and peace, parting the waters and opening the way to the promised land of full equality and democracy. For him, there was no such thing as partial freedom.
And now he has won the Crown of Eternal Life.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.