FIRST BISHOP OF BENIN DIOCESE
Sam U. Erivwo, Ph.D.
Reproduced in URHOBO WAADO by kind permission of Professor Sam U. Erivwo
The sermons and addresses of Bishop Agori Iwe ought to be compiled and published as a separate book. What is contained in this chapter are only snippets from his sermons and addresses with our comments on them.
We start with reminiscences of his sermons heard before we turn to those written down which could later constitute a book.
In 1955, as Archdeacon of Warri Archdeacon, and superintendent of Urhobo District, Agori organised an Easter convention during Holy Week for the entire Urhobo District at Ovwadawanre, christians from different congregations in the District
“assembled for activities of varied nature: competition in singing, dancing, and reading of Ovhokpokpo.” (S.U. Erivwo, A History of Christianity, p. 109).
In the course of that week long convention Agori Iwe gave a series of sermons. In one of the sermons he stressed the centrality of the cross to the Christian faith, he presented the cross as the inevitable middle term, a focal point or fulcrum of the Christian faith. He noted that the Lord Jesus Christ, did not only go to the cross he also commanded each disciple to carry his cross if he would follow the master.
“Without the cross, there would be no crown”.
He then used two sticks to form a cross as an illustration of his point, rubbing one on the other, and saying that the cross is not anything pleasant, but suffering, pain; just as the friction caused by the two sticks indicates pain, so is the cross itself, the symbol of the Christian faith, a symbol of suffering for righteousness’ sake.
In another sermon Agori highlighted the nature
of our Lord Jesus Christ, as one who was always looking for and seeing what
is good and pleasing in his followers. To illustrate his point he told a story,
which is probably from a New Testament apocrypha. According to him, as a
child, Jesus was going out with his friends and age mates in
Now we turn to some of the written sermons.
NEW YEAR ADDRESSES AND MESSAGES
As Bishop of Benin diocese, between 1962 and 1977,
when Benin Diocese was coterminous with the entire Midwest Region, Agori
Iwe usually sent Christmas and New Year Goodwill messages to the people
of that geographical area. We reproduce one of such messages which he
CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR GOODWILL MESSAGE
BY THE RT. REV. AGORI IWE, C.F.R. MBE,.
J.P. ANGLICAN BISHOP OF
Fellow country men, fellow Christians, I send you greetings from the Church and brethren of the Anglican Diocese of Benin this Christmas and New Year tides. May peace, mercy, love and truth be yours in the fullest measure.
It is with gratitude to God that I am able to send you this Christmas and New Year message. The word of God in Isaiah Chapter I verse 16 and 17 brings us this godly admonition.
“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.”
We realise that the idea of judgment for wrong doing, and of the responsibility of trying to do the right, does not come easily in today’s world. What has declined is the idea of a judge over all, and because God is a God of justice as well as of love, it logically follows that He must judge between the bad and the good, between the right and the wrong. The Old Testament prophets, age after age, stress two great facts: that righteousness is whatever is true; whatever is righteous, and merciful, and just in human actions. And all of us individuals and nations, are always in danger of forgetting this; thinking that wrong doing will not be discovered and punished. The Bible says:
“The soul that sinneth it shall die.” (Ezekiel 19:4).
This then is my word to you. You must be made new in mind, body and spirit, and put on the new nature of God’s creation which is shown to us at Christmas, and in the just and devout life of Jesus Christ.
May this Christmas bring you peace joy in the knowledge that Jesus is near.
In addition to goodwill messages sent to the citizens
of the Midwest Region or State by the Bishop, services were conducted
in which the Bishop regularly delivered brief and incisive messages.
A few of such sermons are reproduced below:
1. Sermon for the New Year, 1967.
Text – He who sat on the throne said – Behold I am making
all things new: Rev. 21:5 (
2. In a new year like this, this is a very encouraging and comforting message. Especially as it comes from the one who sits on the Throne – ruling the whole affairs of men in the world. He is God the omnipotent.
3. Previous chapters of this book record tales of woes – and – battles – sorrows and sufferings – unrest, and fears.
4. Then the good news of this message of hope came – that God is making all things new – God who causes all things to work together for good – says – I am working (making) all things new.
5. In the world today, men are making new things – to bring comfort, rest and peace –
(i) New inventions in the field of science and medicine.
(ii) In politics, new leaders are coming up with new policies.
(iii) In states – new Governments are taking the places of the old.
(iv) In commerce – new articles are being produced to take the places of the old – new houses are being built –they are very new – unlike the old buildings.
(v) Many new things are being made by men – and more new things are still to be made by men.
(vi) Yet all these new things made – and are increasingly made – by men – never give men lasting happiness – joy and peace.
(vii) Instead – there is unrest – distress – wars – fighting – killing – hatred – malice – jealousy.
(viii) Men are never content and satisfied with the new things that they are making to procure them – happiness rest and peace.
(ix) But here is out text – it is God – who says he is making new things – not men – not by hands of men and from men – But by hands of God and from God.
7. It is a state and condition – when God shall wipe away every tear from our eyes – there will be no more death – no more mourning – no more crying – no more pain.
8. That is – in spite of all our moral disorder in politics and in societies –
9. In our griefs and distresses – an the dark shadows in our life – the new creation is in progress – and shall rise – out of this chaotic state of our history. Believe God – He is making new things – which will turn out to be our good.
11. When He created the world – He saw all things good – Genesis recorded that God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good.
12. Yes, everything that God made is good and very good an – has kept to the same order – since the creation – except man – you and I did not keep that good order of God.
13. First by our parents – Adam and Eve – Then we inherited the sin and disorder from them –carried from parents to children up to this day.
14. But other things that God made in the world are quite obedient to God’s order –
15. The moon which He made – has never changed – The sun has never changed – Day and nights never changed –
17. It is man who has since changed from his nature as a child of God – to be a child of the devil.
18. It is man – and from man – all the disorders – unrests and distresses of the world came: man is (now) a disobedient child of God.
19. Now if god is making new things – He begins with man – disobedient man – disordered man – you and me.
21. He has begun the new creation with us – with you and me – though our Lord – Jesus Christ –
In Second Corinthians
23. Do you see the hand of God in your life working in you to bring you into His perfect image?
24. Now as you enter this new year – watch the hand of God in events around you – moulding things to fashion them anew.
25. As we pass from weeks to weeks – months to months – this new year – may God – make us to experience His new creation.
26. Make us to abhor our sins – make us to love to do the things that please Him.
28. Make us to sanctify our life – and dedicate it to His hour and glory – than ever before.
29. Lord – make us new in faith – in love – in honesty. He who sits on the Throne said –
“I am making all things new”
Dear Lord, continue your work of new creation in us and in
all the world – an perfect it now and ever – Amen
New Year 1968
1. Text – For our short meditation turn to St. Luke 13:6-10. Jesus spoke this parable saying.
(a) “A man had a fig tree planted in his garden. He came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. He said to the gardener – you see – since three year – I have been coming here to look for fruit on this fig tree – and still, I am not finding any. Cut it down – why should it use up the ground.
(b) The gardener replied – saying – Master – leave it this year also – until I have manured around it.
(c) If it bears fruit in the coming year – well and good. But if not – you will cut it down.
2. For us, who have survived the horrors of the past year and have come out – to breathe the fresh air of 1968 – the new year is a miracle of grace.
3. The parable – we have just read confirms this work of grace upon us.
God, of his infinite mercy has spared us once more to tenant his ground –
to eat and enjoy it.
5. The simple interpretation of this parable (story) – is that:
(a) The owner of the garden is God – The Father
(b) The gardener is our Lord Jesus Christ.
(c) The garden represents the world.
(d) The fig = tree represents – us all the people living in the world.
6. The whole parable is a warning to us. In fact the chapter begins with some warning.
7. Verse 1 reads:
(a) “At this time – some men came and told Jesus about the Gali-laeans whose blood – Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices – Jesus replied and said – Do you think that these Galilaeans were sinners above all Galilaeans – because this happened to them?
(b) I tell you. No. But except you repent you will all perish in the same way.
8. This warning has come to us – in an appropriate time and hour.
9. We who have seen the horrors of the war in our midst – are warned – not to think that – we escaped it – because we are righteous and good. It was because – God has been merciful and good toward us – that we are saved.
10. We are reminded in the parable that, except we bear the fruit required of us – we may not continue to enjoy God’s Grace.
11. New – St. Paul in Galatians 5:22 gives us a guide – as to what sorts [sic] of fruit we are to bear –
12. (i) Love to everybody –
(ii) Joy at all times
(iii) Peace with everybody
(iv) Patience in all tribulations –
(v) Kindness to all in words and deeds.
(vi) Goodness in all our undertakings and jobs – as public servants or private – as social servants or domestic –
(vii) Faithfulness in our work – to our employers – to our Church – and God
(viii) Gentleness in dealing with our weaker brethren – the poor and the destitute –
(ix) Self – control – when we are wronged and are in anger and passion.
13. Now, may this new year be your fruitful year. And may the grace of our Lord continue to spare you to the end -–through Jesus Christ, Our Lord – Amen.
3. New Year 1969
1. Yester night, we bade, good bye to the old year – 1968.
2. And, this morning, we salute the new year – WELCOME . And we wish you all – Happy New Year – Wish you all – bright life and prosperity in abundance.
3. We need Not – and should not, recall the events of the past year. They are so bleak and sad, that their memories will upset our faith.
4. Let us go ahead, in the New Year – with hope and faith in our Heavenly Father – that He will bless use again with better things.
5. Now, this is a New Year – full opportunities. We can notice few things, indicating to us that it is indeed – a new year – Another year.
The number of the year has changed its figure from 1968 to 1969.
The calendars of weeks and days have changed their positions.
All things indicate a New Year.
Life seems to remain the same as last year.
6. Our business, our houses, our clothes, and our complexion remain the same.
7. All these do not matter so much.
8. It is the way we choose to walk this new year that matters most.
9. The Bible says – there are two ways of life:
(a) In Deut. 30:15 He says –
“see – I have set before you this day – two ways – good and bad.
(b) In Jeremiah 21:8 – He said
“Behold – I – set before you the way of life and the way of death”
(c) In Matthew 7:13,
Our Lord describes the two ways – one is wide and easy – that is the bad way – the other is narrow and hard – this is the right and good way.
10. Psalm one, advised us to choose and walk in (the) way of the godly – the good way – which shall lead us to happiness and peace – And to avoid the way of the ungodly that is the wrong and bad way which will end in shame – misery and ruin.
11. Now David – who is the author of this Psalm – was an old man of vast experience in life.
12. He was a great man of God – Great in Faith and prayer.
13. Whatever he teaches in this Psalm, he illustrates from his personal experience of life.
14. When he describes to us in verses 1-3 of this Psalm – the character – and the condition of godly man and his reward – he quotes –
15. In Psalm 37:25 –
"I have been young – and now am old – yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken nor his children begging bread”.
16. And again = in verses 4-6 of the Psalm, David exposed to us the way of the ungodly – and its inevitable consequences.
17. Here again he cited from his long experience in verses 35 and 36 of the 37th Psalm.
18. “I have seen the wicked in great power – and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away; and behold – he was not – yea, I sought him, but he could not be found”.
19. Mark the perfect man – and behold the upright – for the end of that man is peace.
20. Now, who are these godly and god – fearing men?
21. They are those who walk not in the counsel of the ungodly – That is they utterly renounce the companionship and fellowship of evil doers – and refuse to be led by them.
22. This part of character of god – fearing men – is carefully put first – because those that will keep the commandments of God – must say to evil doers – Depart from me.
23. Evil doers are all around us – This world is full of them. The tares are among the wheats – we are to shun them.
24. And the god – fearing men are described as they that cleave to the law of God – and make it their criterion of judgement, acquainting themselves with It – they meditate on it – day and night.
25. And this is the thing that fortifies their thoughts and strengthens their action – against evil propensities of the world – the flesh and the devil.
26. And again the God – fearing men are illustrated by a similitude of a tree planted by the stream of water – fruitful and flourishing – at all seasons and in all climates.
27. They shall fear no adversary because they have inexhaustible reservoir of nourishing power flowing beside them.
28. So that, whatever change, seasons and climates – might bring – they prosper.
29. And further – in Psalm one – we are shown the true picture of the ungodly and godless men.
30. They have not the fear of God in the arts – their conscience is dead to the Holy Spirit.
31. They are led by counsel of the wicked – and they travel on the road of sinners.
32. While godly men are like valuable, useful and fruitful trees in the community they live – and are joy and happiness – The ungodly and godless men are a curse to their neighbor.
33. They are useless wild grapes of Sodom and Gomorrah – detestable to society and destruction to themselves.
34. They shall not stand in the congregation of the righteous. That is – they will be forever shut out from among the community of the Blesses. Because the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous – and because the way of the ungodly shall perish.
35. Those of us – who call ourselves – God’s people – ought to take these lessons, seriously to heart.
36. We live today in a world of debased morality.
37. Honest and just dealings with one another – is at the lowest ebb.
38. The creed of our day is – money is everything – And power – is everything. Get money you get all things. Be in power – you hold all things.
39. And everything becomes – money and power.
40. Kill and steal – money a power will save you from the consequences.
41. Because – they say – might is right.
42. And how glaring and great – are the atrocities planned and executed in our midst today.
43. When they say – the end shall justify the means – God says – NO.
44. History has not proved them correct.
45. The Bible cannot support their argument. The Bible says – the way of the Transgressor – is hard.
46. And it has been hard all times. Hard because of its inevitable consequences – shame and ruin and misery.
47. And now, as we enter the new year, let us choose the good way to walk – so that the end may be well and good – with us.
48. God is saying to us, at the beginning of the new year – Behold, I have set before you – good and evil – I advise you to choose good – and walk in good way – The end is joy and peace.
Let us walk this year – in the way of (the) godly – and so, joy and peace,
(will) be our end – Amen.
Let us walk this year – in the way of (the) godly – and so, joy and peace,
(will) be our end – Amen.
“Let us walk in the way of the godly”. It is pertinent to point out that on the night of
The Rt. Rev. Agori Iwe, as an outstanding church leader, preached many sermons on many important occasions in his life. Time. Such occasions included New Year Day, Christmas Day Harvest Festival, Funerals, Service of confirmation, National Day and so on. In reading the sermons, you hear and see the man Agori, as he is; the reader is no longer seeing him through the spectacles of this biographer. Every effort will be made to get his sermons published. But before we leave his sermons in this work, we reproduce just one more, the sermon he preached during a National Day service.