Monthly Archives: February 2017

“My Beloved Son” – and His passion

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matt 17:5).

The phrase ‘My Beloved Son’ was used by God, whose voice was heard, twice: first after the Baptism of Jesus Christ, after which he was led to the wilderness for forty days – preparing for ministry and overcoming serious temptations; and second at the Transfiguration, after he had foretold his imminent suffering and death, and indeed this event was followed by final mission activities, the Triumphal Entry and the passion week. It seems God spoke at these two strategic points to encourage His Son as he entered critical points of His mission, but also to confirm to the world the identity of the Messiah.

We are beginning a season of Lent on Ash Wednesday 01st Mar 2017, which lasts forty days and culminates in the Passion Week and then the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection. It is now time to seek the Lord; it is time to return to the Lord with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning (Est 4:3, Joel 2:12). In this season of Lent we earnestly seek to be reconciled to God, to possess our promised inheritance, and to be prepared for faithful ministry. In launching out into ministry responsibility, the retreat and strengthening by God himself are indispensable.

Moses received the Ten Commandments after 40 days of fasting and devotion – alone with God – at Mount Horeb (also called Sinai) (Ex 34:28). This was the foundation of the rest of his ministry. Elijah received instructions at Mount Horeb about his final phase of ministry and his successor after 40 days of fasting and seeking God (1Kings 19:7-8). This would establish his legacy. In both these instances, there is a clear setting of oneself apart for a time in order to shut off the noise of everyday life and be able to listen to the voice of God. This resonates with Jesus Christ’s discipline before the voice said, ‘My Beloved Son’.

Jesus launched his ministry after 40 days of prayer and fasting and defeating the devil in the Judean wilderness (Matt 4:1-2, 17). Yes, even Jesus Christ had his moments of self-denial and suffering. There is an important command for us to obey as we recall the voice of God about his Son just before he gave himself up to suffer and die for our salvation: Listen to Him! I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; by reading and meditating on God’s holy word, and listening to Jesus Christ.

God bless you.

The Kingdom First

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”  (Matt 6:33, 5:6)

You are warmly welcome! During the course of last week, our Church commemorated the 40th anniversary of the martyrdom of Archbishop Janani Luwum. In the ‘state of blood’ he confessed he was “prepared to die in the army of Jesus”; Jesus Christ said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (John 4:34). These statements point us to the source of real satisfaction – the things of the Kingdom.

A search for satisfaction is in the inside of every living being; so, we look out for food, entertainment, occupations, friendships, family – to be satisfied. The Greek root ‘chorta-’ for the word ‘satisfy’ literally means a ‘court’ or ‘garden’, as well as by implication, pasture, grass or hay. Its verb form means to fodder, to supply food in abundance, to feed, fill or satisfy. The value of good pasture ‘courts’ is best told by pastoralists who live in desert lands such as Palestine; when their cattle or sheep are hungry, they feel even more hungry and worried; good pasture is the source of their livelihood, comfort and hope for the future. It ‘satisfies’.

This Greek root ‘chorta-’ appears twelve times in the Gospels, eight of which relate to the two accounts of Jesus’ feeding the five thousand and the four thousand. The disciples asked, ‘Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed [and satisfy] so great a crowd?’ (Mt 15:33). However, in both episodes, ‘they all ate and were satisfied’. Jesus made it clear to the hungry Canaanite woman that He had come to feed and satisfy the children first (Mark 7:27). Although Jesus’ mission had a target group, many more people were hungry elsewhere. Again in Jesus’ parable, poor Lazarus desired in vain to be fed and satisfied with what fell from the rich man’s table (Luke 16:21). He was only satisfied when he went to Abraham’s bosom in the kingdom of the King.

Who then will be satisfied? Not necessarily those who hang out with the rich or those who come from strong nations, but those who look to Jesus Christ – our righteousness. Hunger and thirst are expressive of strong desire; those who feel that they are lost sinners and strongly desire to be holy, are welcome: Moreover, no other hunger has a promise and lofty blessedness except the hunger and thirst for righteousness. Jesus Christ calls us to focus on the only longing, prospect and expectation that will not be thwarted – for righteousness. Jesus Christ is our righteousness, and he satisfies all that come to Him, and they will forever be satisfied in His eternal Kingdom.

God bless you all.

 

 

Peace in the Family

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember… First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Matt 5:23-24)

The family is the place of rest and peace, refreshment and relationship. God in the beginning gave Adam a wife to solve the only imperfection in all creation, and thus Eve brought such companionship and fruitfulness. Sayings like ‘East or West home is best’ were coined to show the expectation from family at home. Nonetheless, the family institution is not without challenges. Jesus Christ address a number of these in his teachings, and particularly murder, adultery, divorce and oaths in part of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:21-37). When these vices affect and eat up the very best place of abode, one wonders where to run!

We need peace in the family, and that is the natural expectation. Why then would a mother murder her own son? This is what she actually does when she uses careless insulting words out of anger or mere lack of parenting skills. The parent who should through love build up the boy into a strong young man is now tearing him apart and almost crushing him! Jesus warns against murder.

Why would a man undress his wife before young girls fit to be his children? This is what he actually does when he speaks ill of her or even ignores her phone calls and messages before staying out deep in the night with a lustful maiden. The man that should have protected his tender better half is now the source of shame and untold pain. Jesus warns against adultery. More so, it was never God’s will that a marriage relationship should ever break; divorce or separation is an invention of human beings when they run out of commitment. This makes family an ironical sour grape indeed.

Jesus also warns against false promises. Building trust takes time, but losing it is very easy. Jesus calls us to a principled life that speaks with without demand for swearing. When your ‘Yes’ us ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ is ‘No’, then you are a family member that can be trusted; others can run to you and be sure they have an ally that does not change like a chameleon with circumstances around them.

Make family family. Jesus call us to make family what it was created to be – a place of rest and peace, refreshment and relationship. Unfailing love is required in nurturing one another, and especially nurturing children; we also need a deep respect for the marriage institution to keep faithful and committed therein, in order to foster a community that honors God according to His purpose. It is impossible to worship God fully without peace in the family. The offering is not good enough when you are at war with your brother or sister. May the good Lord give us grace to cultivate peace in the family so that we will enjoy peace with God in worship and in all life.

God bless you all.

 

 

 

 

Jesus’ Simple Teachings

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. (Matt 7:28-29)

I love conferences and courses where participants are given small questionnaires to evaluate the speakers. Evaluation criteria includes aspects like: speaker’s mastery of content, confidence, how well the session learning objectives were met, best idea heard in the session that a participant plans to use. Indeed even if the little questionnaire is not issued, listeners will always evaluate the speaker in one way or another, and they share their comments; that’s alright, and when these comments are used by organizations to better the courses, there is great growth in the sharing and application of knowledge. Biblical evidence shows that such vetting existed in the first century as well; not even Jesus Christ was spared from this kind of scrutiny!

Jesus taught using simple words and methods; he told stories – numerous parables – pulling spiritual truth from everyday life, making the point more memorable and profoundly connected. He also used hyperbole – using outrageous examples, exaggerations or shocking statements like ‘cutting off a hand that causes you to sin’ – he used these to captured people’s attention. Additionally, Jesus crafted memorable sayings that are easy to quote. Then he employed dialogue sometimes, and asked questions, thus, like Socrates, leading his audience to conclusions using their own brains. Jesus also used object lessons – he washed his disciples’ feet, and used the widow’s offering as a teaching tool among many others.

Many parts of the gospels bring out the comments of the hearers regarding Jesus’ teachings. At one time they commented, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” and many of them turned back and no longer followed him. Yet others who listened to the same teaching responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:60, 68). This is not simply one man’s meet is another man’s poison; it rather shows the different responses in our congregation today; some hard hearts will be put off,  while receptive ones will be nourished; and you should be bothered as to what your evaluation of the Great Teacher is. Your response determines your destiny.

One writer admonishes pastors thus: “Jesus is the greatest preacher to ever walk the face of the earth. If there is anyone we should emulate in our preaching it is Jesus!” Simple as his teachings were, yet it was undeniable among the crowds that this was not just another lecture; Jesus’ sessions came with power to change hearts, power to affect the world, power going above mere intellectualism; he taught as one who had authority. My prayer is that the power in the Word will draw you in and eternally hold you in the Kingdom of God.

God bless you as you heed the simple teachings of Jesus Christ!