#SongInMyHeart · Bible Study · Church of England · Felixstowe · Growing in God · Lent · Prayer

With a Song in my Heart – Day 12

With a Song in my Heart – 40 Days of Sacred Songs

Day 12 – Tuesday after 2nd Sunday of Lent 

To Listen:           Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika


Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika                                         (Lord, bless Africa)
Maluphakanyisw’ uphondo lwayo,                (May her horn rise high up;)
Yizwa imithandazo yethu,                               (Hear our prayers)
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo.             (And bless us)

Woza Moya, Woza Moya,                                 (Descend, O Spirit)
Woza Moya Oyingcwele                                   (Descend, O Holy Spirit)

Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo.             (And bless us)

Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso,                   (Lord protect our nation)
O fedise dintwa la matshwenyeho,               (Come and end all conflicts)
O se boloke, O se boloke setjhaba sa heso,  (Protect us, our nation)
Setjhaba sa iAfrika                                           (Protect Africa)

(Enoch Sontonga)

From the Scriptures:

May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us,    [Selah]
that your way may be known upon earth,
your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth.    [Selah]
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.

The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, has blessed us.
May God continue to bless us;
let all the ends of the earth revere him.

(Psalm 67)

To Reflect:

not enough time to hateThe first time I sung Nkosi Sikelele was a moment that will live in my memory for ever.  It was 1982 and I was attending my first (and last) Provincial Synod as a Lay Person – the next time I returned as a member of the House of Clergy.  What made this special for me was I found myself for two weeks sitting every day between two heroes of The Struggle.  To my right was Sally Motlana, a fierce Community Worker and Church Activist, and to my left a glorious giggling imp of a man going by the name of Desmond Mpilo Tutu. They transformed my life and over the next two decades Desmond never ever let me not Stand for the Truth.  Many, many times he told me ‘Andrew, you have a voice that we Black people do not have.  Speak for us!’  I miss him so much.

It was an interesting meeting as the Church was beginning to realise that it was not simply a branch of the Church of England but an African Church in its own right.  As such we were learning to be more of a witness against Apartheid and a thorn in the flesh of a Government intent on oppression of its own people.  There were debates calling for sanctions against some overseas companies (thank you if during Apartheid you refused to buy South African goods).  A long heartfelt debate on whether, as the South African Defence Force was a bastion of apartheid, the church should continue to provide Military Chaplains – the answer was ‘yes’ but Chaplains were asked to be aware of the moral dilemmas brought about by what was essentially a Civil War.

And then there was a long debate about including Nkosi Sikelele in all church hymn books….

ACSA-Compass-RoseInitially I thought this would not be controversial.  All the hymn books we used were from England and the only National Anthem included in them was God Save the Queen.  Surely we as a nationwide church should be able to ask for God’s blessing on our nation?  Apparently not so.  The problem came when we sang it and at the end of Synod (for which I received a note in the local newspaper as ‘The only White person who consistently voted with The Blacks [!]) when those who knew the hymn well added this traditional ending:

Makube njalo, kuze kube ngonaphakade.

In whispered conversations over Gin and Tonic amongst conservative White members of Synod I was told that adding these words turned the whole hymn into a version of the Communist Manifesto.  Nothing so dramatic, nothing further from the truth.  This was just a traditional ‘churchy’ ending in a language which they did not understand and refused to learn.  What did this addition to the Anthem mean?  Nothing more subversive than ‘May it be so, now and forever’ or, more simply put ‘Amen.’

But thus it is all over the world.  Whenever people feel their nationhood and citizenship threatened they appeal to history and to God as being ‘for’ them and ‘against’ the others.  Almost all National Anthems presume that God is on the side of whichever nation is using God’s name in song.  Sadly sometimes this can almost seem to be taking the Lord’s name in vain.  Interestingly Die Stem, the then official South African National Anthem, only mentions God in the verses that were not usually sung instead relying on God’s hidden blessing during The Great Trek in the first and most popular verse.

Anthem from ChessDoes God have a nationality?  Does God have a favourite nation?  The witness of the Old Testament is that God uses nations, especially the Children of Israel, but also the Egyptians, the Babylonians, and the Assyrians (and perhaps even the Romans in the Gospels?) to bring about God’s purposes for all nations and not only those who were the first to hear the Good News of God’s great comprehensive love.

If a nation ever feels that God is on ‘their’ side they would do well to remember the story before the Battle of Jericho which reminds us that we can never presume that the Lord is with us!

The truth is this.  God made all the nations of the earth and desires that all prosper and come to a place where each recognises each other as fully human and part of the same family.  Anything less is the work of evil and all too often, and as at present in Ukraine, we see the horror that our prejudice and racial pride produces.

Please Lord, may we come soon to that day, as my beloved friend Desmond Tutu loved to quote, when we stand with that ‘great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.’ (Revelation 7v9)


To Pray:

Lord God, most high over all the world,
when the pride of nations obscures
your glorious purpose,
draw us into that unity which is your will for all people
in Jesus Christ our Lord.

(Psalm 83)

To Do:

1)  Sing the National Anthem of a nation other than your own.

2)  Spend time in prayer today for the Leaders and Opposition of your own nation.


Reprise:              I Vow to Thee my Country 

This hymns always reminds me that no matter which nation’s passport I carry – I am a mix of English and Scot and adopted South African – that in God’s economy one day we will all be citizens of one nation where loyalty is measured by faithfulness and war is conquered by peace. 


I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test
That lays upon the altar, the dearest and the best
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice

And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know
We may not count her armies, we may not see her king
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering
And soul by soul, and silently her shining bounds increase
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace

(Sir Cecil Rice)


And finally… If you aim to beat the England Rugby team 36-0 your players had better be able to sing your National Anthem in four different languages 


Please Note:  These reflections are also published on my blog: suffolkvicarhomes.com on Twitter as @SuffolkVicar, and on my public Facebook page Rev Andrew Dotchin.  If you would like them as a daily email please send a request to vicar@felixparish.com


Prayers are adapted from the Psalm Prayers in the Common Worship Psalter. material from which is included here, is copyright © The Archbishops’ Council 2005
Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
These Reflections, ‘With a Song in my Heart’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2022

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