Sermon from the morning worship led by Friends from East, West and Central Africa

Living the Transformation; Creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God. (Romans 8:19)

By Churchill Malimo (East Africa)

But we ask, is there space??

Gratitude:

Allow me to echo these words that I got from the internet:

I am proud of my heart, it’s been played, cheated and broken but it still works! I am sure that most of us if not all of us have a story to tell about the evils that have been meted to our hearts by friends and foes alike. The fact that we are here today gives credit to our hearts. Just take a moment and thank God for your heart. Pause!!

Introduction: The Great Need of the World

Our text Romans 8:19, expresses the great need of the world. I concur with one of the preachers who puts it very clearly that the world doesn’t need:

  • A politician telling the people what they want to hear
  • A steady robust economy to help it through the hard times that have been prophesied upon it

We all can add on the list some of the other things that may not be what the world desperately needs to be a better place to live in.

We must justify that most of those things are essential in that the world would not exist without them, but again with all that they have to offer, they leave the world as Paul eloquently describes, ‘’groaning as in the pains of child birth right up to the present time’’ (Romans 8:22)

The text explicitly names what the world in this case, (creation) needs. It exempts no creature as far as this great need is concerned.  Mark the words ‘the whole creation’ in verse 22. These include, super powers, third world countries, great men and women, the educated and the illiterate, the Al shabab, ISIS, Bogo Haram name many more creatures-are anxiously awaiting the sons of God to come upon the world stage. For the sons of God will have something that all mortals on the face of the world must have; they will have the key that will enable creation to ‘be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God’ (verse 21).

The Need for Space’

From what we have stated above, it goes without saying that the sons of God are rehearsing just as it happens before college graduants appear in the graduation square to receive their awards. It is therefore imperative to ask that after the rehearsal is the arena ready where the sons of God will appear? In simple terms is there space available? One can ask, ‘what kind of space is required?’

Allow me to suggest to our thinking four different areas that space must be available for all these to happen:

1) Space in the Heart

There is an African proverb which says that: ‘A house is never too small, but the heart!’ This is practically true when you consider a scenario where an individual has a palatial home but he or she lives there all alone with a dog, a cat and some coachroaches and rats enjoying some comfort in that home. Nobody visits that home because the owner has no space for anybody, relatives or not. They live miserable lives in that home because God did not create any person to be an Island.

You can compare that with another scenario where an individual has just a small house but it is very warm because doors are open and people come in and out freely.

The first scenario may seem a better life especially in this generation, ‘M Y O B’-(MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS) It is a generation which emphasises on ‘my space’ and not ‘our space’ and also ‘keep distance’, we make statements such as ‘he or she is not of my class, I have nothing to discuss with him/her. He /she will just waste my time’. It is the world of ‘appointments’, ‘invited guests’, ‘VIP’, ‘by card only’, ‘business class and economy class’ etc.

To reinforce this we have invented, passwords, personal identification numbers, security codes, gated communities etc. to make sure that we have erected strong walls physical or immaginary to keep us free from ‘intruders’

I once preached a sermon entitled, “Eyes Speak Louder than the Mouth”. It was based on the following passage of scripture:

One of the Pharisees asked him over for a meal. He went to the Pharisee’s house and sat down at the dinner table. Just then a woman of the village, the town harlot, having learned that Jesus was a guest in the home of the Pharisees, came with a bottle of very expensive perfume and stood at his feet, weeping , raining tears on his feet. Letting down her hair, she dried his feet, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfume. When the Pharisees who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man was the prophet I thought he was, he would have known what kind of woman this is who is falling all over him” Luke 7:36-39, The Message version.

Compare Simon the host and Jesus the guest. Simon had a good home with a small heart, while Jesus had no home at all and he confirmed this in Luke 9:58, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Yet Jesus had a big heart. It was open for people. Whenever people needed him he would create space even where practically there was none, like in the desert and even in another person’s space like what we see in the story we have read.

In the case of the woman, under normal circumstances she should have done the following:

  1. First ask permission from Simon in order to enter the house where Simon was hosting a V.I.P.- Jesus.
  2. Requested Simon to introduce her to Jesus- because Simon knew who she was, ‘A town harlot’, she needed to convince Simon to speak well of her before this important guest.
  3. Narrated her story to Jesus as to how she has lived a very bad life and that she needs forgiveness.
  4. Explained where she got the money to buy such expensive perfume
  5. When Jesus and Simon started discussing about her, at least she should have said something. Probably defend herself and explain the circumstances that led her to live such a dirty life.
  6. Yet she said nothing from her mouth, but she spoke with her eyes, the tears! She didn’t let the tears just go to waste they fell on the master’s feet.

The tears demonstrated her love for Jesus

They expressed her faith

They expressed her brokenness- repentance

The message through her eyes was loud and clear and it caught Jesus’ attention. She went home with a lot peace in her heart. She was comforted.

Friends, you can tell somebody a lot of sweet nothings like what happens in the romantic arena such as:

“I love you like a fish loves water”

“When your name is mentioned my heart skips a beat”

You can think of many other sweet nothings that you were told, yet the eyes betrayed the person who said them to you.

One young man told a young lady:

“Though I am not rich, I am not handsome, I am not educated, I am not eloquent, but I am available”. Meaning there is space in his heart for her.

Friends, is space available in our hearts for the manifestation of the sons of God?

2) Space in the Community

We are well aware that communities are marked by integration and exclusion. They integrate in the way they bring together people from diverse backgrounds, cultures and histories. They exclude in the way in which people find themselves marginalised by the different structures within a given community.

One author looked at the ways in which people are integrated in African Cities and wondered whether they are Soup (homogenised-differences broken down) or Stew where people exist together while they retain their ethnic diversity. His guess may be as good as yours. Stew of course.

We are together, but some are more closely together than others. There is the aspect of “We” and “they” or “the generalised other” and “the significant other” as Sociologists would put it. Think of life in other cities as well.

However what may be common in most communities now are more and more split families, female headed homes, absentee parents, dual household especially in Africa where there is the rural and urban wife. Because of technology, community is becoming wider but shallower making lives more privatised as we explained earlier.

The same writer did not miss to recognise the aspect of social solidarity in Africa. Our many problems have forced us to do things together.

In Kenya for example we have what we call “Harambee Spirit” which simply means “pulling together”. This is how it works:

When we have a huge medical bill to pay and we have no insurance cover to take care of it, we come together and raise money to clear that. When somebody dies we still come together to raise funds to take care of Funeral expenses. We do the same for weddings, for education and for purchasing Church property and building churches. What makes this practice interesting is that you do not need to be directly related to the person in need for you to make a contribution to support the need.

If person A is raising some hundred thousand of Kenya Shillings and he invites me to be one of the guests during the time of pulling together “Harambee”, I may not have much money to take to him, but I can talk to a good number of my friends to contribute something to what I have and make it possible for me to take to him a substantial amount of money from people he doesn’t know at all.

The same happens when any of those friends has been invited to a similar function elsewhere. He will approach me and I will be able to boost his contribution to take care of a need of an individual that I don’t know at all. We have no excuse to decline to support a person in need. We think of the parable of the Good Samaritan who had to delay his trip and interfere with his budget to attend to somebody that People who were otherwise closely related to him just decided to overlook his plight no matter the reasons they had for their insensitive and selfish actions.

The social solidarity that we have spoken about exploits what the same writer refers to as the Social Capital which are the networks, norms and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation of individuals in a community for mutual benefit.

The two pillars we have highlighted namely, social solidarity and social capital enable us to create space for one another in our communities.

3) Space in the Church

There is a saying that, An umbrella does not stop the rains from falling, but it helps you to stand in the rains. The Church serves as an umbrella that doesn’t stop evil from happening but it helps us to stand in the midst of evil and not be messed up by the same.

The Church likewise reminds us of what we are to be. It expresses community in ways which challenge the selfish, individualism and the exclusion that we have already talked about.

The Church models reconciliation: It acknowledges human failure and provides avenue of forgiveness. It is a community in which conflict should actually be recognised and addressed.

Very often than not, this is not the case. It is common to find people in a Church who can’t see eye to eye enough in order to get together. We get a place where we meet together with a few people who share some of our own beliefs. The unity of the Spirit becomes only but a dream.

The enemy then appears to be gaining ground and we, the Church because of our disagreements and lack of unity, are seemingly losing ground as far as any great move of truth is concerned.

It leaves a lot of darkness in the society when the Church which is supposed to be the light of the world becomes a closed club for the few people. That leaves no space then to live the transformation and to allow for the manifestation of the sons of God.

In most places in Africa, we talk to people about our faith. We preach in the market places, in the streets, in hospitals, in schools, in prisons, and we move from house to house when need be to let people know about our faith and we invite them to join us for worship.

Recently in Kenya, Al shabaab Militants stopped a public transport Bus and demanded that Muslims and Christians split into two separate groups. They did that when they attacked a University in Kenya in April 2015 where they killed 148 Christians.

In the case of the Bus attack the Muslims refused to distinguish themselves from Christians sending the attackers this message: “SHOOT US ALL OR NOT AT ALL”. Space was created in a religious community that saved many lives. Only two passengers were shot dead.

4) Space in the Nation

We will not say much here only to emphasise that doors must have space in the Nations for the Sons of God to be manifested. Many years ago, doors were opened for missionaries to get to Africa with good news. As we speak today, doors are still open for missionary engagements in most parts of Africa. We know of some work that different meetings represented here are doing in Africa.

However, the question that we may need to ask is, ‘are there doors open for Africans to get good news to the rest of the world’? Your answer may be as good as mine. We are all aware how hard it is for Africans to get visas to travel to some countries. That with many other factors narrow space for the manifestation of the sons of God in the Church.

Let me end with the following poem

I Am Me!

I am unique, an irreplaceable human being.
The first me and the last.
I am God’s creature, no one will ever replace me.

I’m not wealthy but guess what, I’m happy because God takes care of me.
You may hate me, but it makes no difference to my life because
You are not my Maker and you were not there when He creates me

To you I’m useless, but to God and my family I’m so special.
You think I’m a coward , but no I’m intrepid.
You think I’m a looser, but no I’m a winner.
To you I’m a sour-heart but to my friends and family I’m a sweetheart.
To you I’m cheap but to Jesus I’m expensive because He bought me with His blood.
To you I’m the ugly duckling, but to God and my family I’m precious.

I may not be handsome, but God is still working on that…
I may not have everything I want, but I have a loving family and friends…
I may be a fool to you, but to my family I’m a loving and caring family member.
You may think I’m selfish, but to my friends I’m a friend indeed.
You may think I’m a moron, but to my family and friends I’m intelligent.

You may try to sabotage me, but it won’t work because my friends and family cheer me up.
You may think I’m a foreigner in my own country,
But to my community I’m a fellow South African,
And to the world, the fellow citizen of the world..

You may malign me, but my family and friends will always adore me.
You may call me a barbarian, but no I’m being indigenous.

So keep your ten cent worth thoughts and opinions to yourself.
Because I don’t need them.
And give me the credit I deserve, congratulate me when its needed.
And whatever you think of me, I don’t care,
Because I won’t change my lifestyle just to please YOU!

Get used to the fact that I’m in control of my life and I’m FINE.
Know that I’m unique because,
I am me,
Irreplaceable me,
Just me,
And original me…

That’s who I am…
Down to earth, , but
JUST ME….. Siyabonga A Nxumalo