The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God's annual Good Friday service was attended by thousands of members who travelled from regions throughout Gauteng and from other provinces to join one another at the Ellis Park precinct for an uplifting service of prayer and preaching. When the Ellis Park Stadium was full, members filled the adjacent Johannesburg Stadium with overflow crowds sitting on the cricket fields where they watched the proceedings on large screens. The event was attended by 165,000 people.
The Board of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) invited President Jacob Zuma to attend the Good Friday service to bless him. Bishop Marcelo Pires, leader of the evangelical outreach in South Africa, said if the leadership of the country is blessed, the country and its people will be blessed.
President Zuma was joined by the Premier of Gauteng, Nomvula Mokonyane, Gauteng ANC Chair Paul Mashatile and the Provincial Executive. As guests of the church, the delegation was given a warm welcome in line with Biblical instructions to respect the nation's leaders. The president commented that he had never seen people like this, full of love and discipline. This is part of the church's philosophy: to give a good account of themselves wherever they go.
Following entertainment by the Universal Choir and the Youth Power Group, Bishop Marcelo Pires opened the event by holding up specimens of South African currency of different values. He explained that someone (probably the government and SA Reserve Bank) had made a decision regarding the value of each piece of paper - whether it would represent R50, R100 or R200. He then folded the paper saying that no matter what happens to it, whether it is crumpled or torn, the note retains its value as currency.
Bishop Marcelo said that each person attending the event could determine their own value - whether they see themselves as worthless and of little value, or precious and of high worth. He urged people to recognise their value because every person has significant value.
President Zuma spoke to the capacity crowd saying the Easter period is an important period for people of the Christian faith, who are the majority in the country. He said that what is most important is what Christ's resurrection symbolises, which is hope for salvation and eternal life. He said: "The Easter weekend is also a period of reflection, not only for Christians, but about the ups and downs of life in general, about the blessings that we receive in our daily lives, about our shortcomings and how we can improve ourselves. It is about how we can make this country a better place for us and our children. Easter is also a period for family re-union, most of our families have members staying far apart and this is time for families to revive bonds and relations. And let peace, love and patience reign."
The President continued: "The Christian message is that of love for one another, faith, hope and continual improvement to mankind. It is therefore a critical tool to make our society unite as one force. Wherever it exists, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God has been this messenger of peace, love, hope and prosperity in the many countries it has a following. The church's role is to normalise society; it does not exist in the fringes. Today, through the efforts of the church as part of the mass democratic movement, we have been able to create a normal society in South Africa. We have healed the divisions of the past and we should continue to restore and unite our society, our families and our children. We are grateful to the Almighty for the achievements that our country has scored since the dawn of freedom. We have built one united South Africa out of the fragments of the past."
In closing, President Zuma said: "Let us also pray for peaceful and successful elections on 7 May 2014, a right many sacrificed their lives fighting for. We urge millions of our people to vote for the party of their choice."
Moving to the spiritual aspect of the service, Bishop Marcelo prayed for the people using the Lord Jesus' last words of "It is finished" declaring that each person's life had been blessed and transformed. He urged people to make a decision regarding their life choices to ensure their eternal salvation. He stressed that people had to turn away from destructive behaviour, including lies, deceit, immorality, addiction and abuse, urging them to do what is right from now on. He said: "Do this and see your life change!"
Picking up the theme of forgiveness, Bishop Marcelo preached from Luke 6:27 encouraging people to "love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you". He said the first step to live a spiritually renewed life was to forgive one another, no matter how hard it was. He read from Luke 6:36: "Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful."
In closing, Bishop Marcelo prayed that each person would experience a renewed relationship with God and that their names would be written in the Book of Life, ensuring eternal salvation.
The theme of the Good Friday event was: Because we have nothing to lose, taken from the title of a trilogy of books on the life of the church founder Bishop Edir Macedo. The second book, Nothing to Lose 2 was available at the event. For further information, please contact Nametso Mofokeng at the church's public relations department on .
The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) is a contemporary, evangelical, Bible-based church, actively involved in numerous national outreach projects caring for people's spiritual, emotional and physical needs.
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