Funeral of Mr Emmanuel Kwela
Sermon Albu van Eeden
It is an honour to stand here. This honour could have been given to dozens of other people. It is an honour because of who our brother Kwela was and because of this place where God has been working through revival since He brought His children here in the 1970s.
Friends, our brother had an attitude of honouring other people. This was reiterated when I visited him in hospital a day or two before his death. His eyes were half-closed and I was not sure whether he was semi-comatose or in a coma. I greeted him and said, “Sawubona, Baba Kwela.” He replied, “Sawubona, Baba.” He greeted me as a father and not as a son. I would have been comfortable with “Sawubona, Indodana.” It blessed me, not because he honoured me, but because of his humility. I realised that he was perfectly clear about where he was, what was happening and who we were. I said, “Lord if I could pass away with my mind as clear as that it would be the biggest gift You could give me on earth.”
Friends, he has moved into another realm where what we say about him now is totally irrelevant. He is in a realm where he cannot be removed through mass action or strikes. Man is powerless in that realm. The richest man in the world has no power to get him out of there. The best doctor in the world has no say in that realm. This is the realm of the One who says, “I know your works…” Revelation 3:15 He said these words to a congregation in Revelation.
Dear friends, each one of us will stand before the One who will say, “I know your works.” You cannot add anything to that nor can you take anything away from that. You can call all the witnesses in this world but this is the faithful and true witness who says, “I know your works.” This is the One who has a two-edged sword coming out of His mouth; the One who is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega; the One who says of Himself I am the One who died and came back to life; the One who has eyes like a flame of fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. He rules there and nobody else has any say. If He allows you into heaven, His kingdom, you are in. If He refuses you entrance, you are out. That is where our brother is at the moment – in the Kingdom of that Man. The millions of demons can accuse the children of God, because Satan is the accuser of the brethren, and try and convince God that he should not enter there, but if this One has spoken and said that he may enter then he will and nobody can keep him out. If He says, “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot!” Revelations 3:15 that is also true and nothing can be added to that.
Three three verses came to mind when I thought about Baba Kwela. I did not need to read my Bible for the verses, they just came to mind. The first verse is Revelation 2:17
17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’
Firstly, a white stone. Secondly, a new name written on the stone. Thirdly, a name that no one knows except the one who receives it. This is the stone with which I believe Baba Kwela arrived at heaven. It has a new name not the old name. We are all born in sin, we are full of jealousy, hatred and pride. We all are born with an old name which we received from Adam, our forefather, from whom we inherited an accursed nature that clashes with God and His nature. We all have that old name but God says that to the one who conquers I will give a white stone, a new stone. Have you received that white stone? Have you been able to bring all your filth to Him so that He can cleanse you and give you a white stone? Have you received that new name known only by you? Only you know whether you have honestly come with all your sins to Christ or not. Only you know whether you have kept some things hidden. If you have not kept anything hidden, you will know the new name that Christ has given you.
Where does this tradition come from? There are many explanations and this is one of them. In the Roman Empire they had the following custom: if two people experienced something momentous that bound them forever as friends, they would exchange a token such as a stone, e.g. if they both served as soldiers in a war and one saved the life of the other. The two stones were cut from a single stone and the edges of the stones were irregular. The two stones fitted perfectly together like pieces of a puzzle. Each had the name of the other person inscribed on the stone. Person A would inscribe his name on the half that person B had. Person B would inscribe his name on the half that person A had. Each would keep the half with their friend’s name on. They swore a covenant that they would sacrifice their lives for one another. If person A fell into debt, person B would do his best to get him out of trouble.
Richard Wurmbrand was imprisoned in communist Romania for 14 years for no other reason than that he preached the gospel. For three years he underwent solitary confinement in a dungeon, about 10 metres under the ground. He lived alone with nobody to speak to. There were no colours to see. He heard nothing only silence. During that time he said to the Lord, “Lord, can you not comfort me? I am suffering above my ability. Do you have a word for me?” The Lord said to him, “What is your name?” His name was Richard Wurmbrand. If he told the Lord that his name was Richard he would not be worthy of that name because Richard was a hero of God in England who gave his life for the gospel. If he told the Lord that he was a pastor he asked himself whether he has always been the pastor God had expected him to be. If he told the Lord that he was just a shepherd, had he cared for the sheep of his congregation as the Lord Jesus would have done it? Do you know what he eventually said? “Lord, I don’t have a name, please give me your name.” This is how you get the name of Christ on your half of the stone when you bring the most intimate details of your life to the light of Christ and confess them openly.
The stone was valuable and it remained in the family, with the descendants of the original owner. If, many years later, the great grandchildren arrived in another city or country where the descendants lived and showed them half of a stone that had their late father or grandfather’s name inscribed on it then they could be received into the family as friends. This was the value of the stone.
And here Jesus says, 17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’ Revelations 2:17
When Baba Kwela arrived in heaven with his half of the stone, he presented it to the Lord and asked, “Lord, can I obtain entrance into here?” That stone is precious. Everything you have can go lost but you dare not lose that stone. We have witnessed Baba Kwela all these years, since Reverend Stegen started with his work in the early 60s, guarding that stone. Friends, if you pitch up on that day without your stone, you are lost.
The second verse is Revelation 3:18
I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the same of your nakedness may not seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.
It is the same One speaking – the One who knows your works and has feet of bronze. Christ wants to give you and me a white garment. Why do you need a garment? So that the shame of your nakedness will not be seen. There is only one place where the filth of our nakedness, the evil of our desires can be covered and that is in the blood of Jesus Christ. Woe to you and me if we have never had the shame of our nakedness covered! Woe to you and me if, like Adam and Eve, we use fig leaves to cover the shame of our nakedness. It does not matter how ashamed you are of your nakedness, friends, you have to go to the One who has your garment so that He can cover you. You need to bring it into the light, into the open and admit your nakedness – only then does He give you a garment to cover it. This is where Baba Kwela started when God worked in revival power and some people said, “That is too much, it is too extreme!” When God works in revival He works so extremely that you will say, “What God is expecting of me is crazy! (I say that with respect) This is crazy! My whole life belongs to God. I’ve got no rights. I can’t demand anything, like Paul I am a bond slave of Christ, I am sold out as a slave to Christ.”
Friends, God saw this in the heart of Baba Kwela, and if I may say, in the heart and life of Mama Kwela, when He worked in revival. God demanded something of them which up until then had never been demanded. God selected them to establish a principle of the revival. Only if they were totally committed and surrendered would they have accepted the principle: I do not decide whether I will marry or not and I do not decide who my marriage partner is, God decides that. This is one of the lessons of revival not built on a dead law but on a living relationship with a living God. God spoke to Baba Kwela and said, “I want you to get married and I want you to marry this woman.” He was the first one to follow this principle.
I am glad I was not in the shoes of his shepherd, Reverend Stegen, because there is so much nonsense nowadays and tricks people have in order to marry the person they want to. Reverend Stegen discerned God’s voice and he finally spoke to Mama Kwela and said, “This is how Baba Kwela feels. He feels he should get married.” What I heard, (but I never checked this when I arrived in 1978) is that she threw her arms up into the air and said, “Mfundisi, I don’t want to get married, I want to serve God!” This established the principle that we have learnt from the living God, the principle that we hear from God whether we should marry and who we should marry. To many people this was crazy. It was something you could not demand from any person. In revival God works with people who are totally surrendered to Him. I realise why God chose them because He knew that they would maintain that principle with respect and honour. When I arrived in 1978, I wanted to see who these people were because I had heard their testimony and one day I was in the ladies’ ward when Mama Kwela came out. Someone said to me, “She is the one.” They were heroes and I thank God that they have remained heroes.
The third verse is Luke 21:19
By your steadfastness and patient endurance you shall win the true life of your souls. (AMPC)
This is the Lord Jesus speaking. What shall you get? You shall win the true life of your souls. It is a matter of life and death that we live for our souls. We may have a conversion of some kind at some stage but if we do not, by steadfastness and patient endurance, stay faithful to what God has taught us, we will lose the true life of our souls. Other translations: Stand firm and you will win life. (NIV). By your endurance you will gain your lives. (ESV) In your patience possess ye your souls. (KJV) This is what I saw in his life daily. As Mayor Ngubane said – no work was too menial for him. He did not say that because he was a preacher now, he could no longer do this and that. No work was too big for him which is how I was tempted to feel this morning but his life encouraged me. Whatever the Lord wanted him to do, he was there to be His slave. What a glorious example!
There are different ways in in which you can honour God. Some people criticise God’s children but it takes something to compliment God’s children because it does not fit into the ways of this world. So to come here and speak well of him today is appreciated and may God bless you for that. But he would have had an even deeper desire for today that through his funeral, somebody’s life would be changed forever. That somebody who does not have the stone yet will change his mind today, come to God and say, “God, I want that stone. Here is my nakedness, my shameful nakedness. Won’t you wash me with Your blood.” And then through patient endurance stay faithful to that. May God be merciful to you and me.