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Archive for the ‘Jim’s Posts’ Category

June Kenya Devotion #3 – “The Circle of Fellowship”

 

Lutheran Church at Orthoro

February 13, 2011 was a very special day for me.  I preached at the church in Orthoro.  What a marvelous experience.  While the service was spoken and sung in Swahili, I basically knew right where they were all the time.  I could tell when they were singing the Kyrie, and the Gloria, the Agnus Dei, and the Sanctus.  I  knew when they were confessing their sins, when they were speaking the Creed, and when the prayed the Lord’s Prayer.

What was so special for me is that I was invited to preach that day.  I preached on Psalm 121.  I spoke a line, and Rev. David Chuchu translated it for me.  I was told the people were expecting a 30-45 minute sermon.  They weren’t going out to Perkins afterward, they weren’t going to watch football on their LCD TV, and they weren’t going to go shopping at the mall afterward either.  They were very content being in Church in all morning and feasting on the Lord’s Word and His blessed Sacrament.  What a joy it was to serve the Lord’s Supper to my brothers and sisters in Christ in Kenya, Africa.

The music in the Service was beautiful.  The only instrument was drum to keep the beat of the hymn.  Two different choirs sang.  What beautiful voices, and in harmony.  Then it came time for the Offering.  These are people of little means, selling their garden vegetables to purchase household necessities.  People joyfully gave their shillings as an offering.  In that offering plate was also some fresh fruit, and some raw eggs gathered from the hen that morning.  At the end of the Service, the pastor auctioned off the material goods for coins.  These coins would be used to give the pastor a meager wage, upkeep on the building, and some mission money to go beyond them.

Now all this was took place in a church building nicer than most.  However, it only had a cement floor (no carpet or tiles).  The “pews” were backless, hard benches, but no one seemed to mind.  They came into Church smiling and talking to one another, just as people in our Churches in the United States.

What they did at the end of the Service was particularly special.  I learned most or all the ELCK congregations practiced this custom.  After the announcements and further warmly greeting Rev. Chuchu and me, the pastor departed the building to the sunny outdoors.  I followed the pastor, and shook his hand.  He invited me to stand to the right of him.  Rev. Chuchu shook hands with the pastor, shook hands with me, and stood next in line.  Everyone in that congregation, 80 to 100 or more, exited the building, shaking hands with everyone in line, and taking their place in the line, as they began to form a full circle, just outside the front door of the Church.  After everyone had shaken everyone’s hand – it was THEN that the pastor spoke the final blessings.  After the blessing was received, the circle broke, the people began to mingle and talk to one another, and eventually headed toward their homes.  I commented to the pastor how wonderful that was.  He said, “Yes, it’s rather difficult to hold grudges when you greet one another with the peace of the Lord.”

I John 1:7 says, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” We talk about Koinonia so often.  This “fellowship” we have with one another is our rich koinonia with one another.  There is something deep and eternal going on when Christians who have just heard the Word together, who have just eaten the Feast of Christ together, and who have sung and prayed together – depart with the right hand of fellowship, and express their koinonia with one another in greeting one another with the peace of the Lord.

I would imagine there are times when these Kenyan brothers and sisters in Christ from the same congregation don’t always get along with one another.  Sin is universal.  It is tragic when God’s people fight and argue, especially children of God from the same congregation.  But we belong to a fellowship far richer than a circle outside a Church building.   We belong to the Circle of Fellowship called “The Church.”  Together we are the baptized in Christ.  Once we were as scarlet, but now (together) we are as white as snow in the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

Whether you go to Kenya and experience this great custom, or you begin it in your own congregation, or you express koinonia in other ways in your congregation – know this:  You belong to The Circle of Fellowship with the Triune God, and thus, with brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.  This fellowship extends beyond your congregation.  It extends all the way to Kenya, and through the world wherever God’s people live.

In the name of Jesus!

 

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June 2012 Kenya Devotion #2 – “The Guesthouse”


Luther Guesthouse in Nairobi was purchased some years ago by LCMS Human Care.  It’s a wonderful place to stay when you come into Nairobi.  It has a kitchen, a gathering room for eating, a number of bedrooms (beds with mosquito nets), and a couple bathrooms.  When you arrive at the Guesthouse, immediately you are met with wonderful hospitality.  Last June when we arrived late at night, we had awaiting us a meal of beef, chicken, carrots, cauliflower, and pineapple.  It was delicious.  At night when you go outside by the empty swimming pool, you can watch the bats fly overhead (not really my favorite).  In the morning, you can walk around the Guesthouse yard and experience its daytime beauty.  The humming birds and the crowing rooster are both delightful to hear.  You may see the groundskeeper sweeping the leaves on the ground with his homemade rake made of tree branches. The Guesthouse, like most homes in Nairobi, is gated – all is safe and secure.  As you continue to stroll around the yard, you can see the many beautiful flowers of bright colors, the coffee plants, the palm trees, and the mini waterfall in the yard.

Not everyone’s house in Kenya is as nice as Luther Guesthouse.  But whether it’s the mud huts throughout Kenya, or Luther Guesthouse, or the homes in which we live in the US, our eyes are lifted to a much greater house – a mansion even.

In John 14, Jesus says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

None of our homes on earth compare to our home in heaven.  On earth, we build these homes or we have then built.  We pay with our money, we work with our own sweat to build our homes.  But our home in heaven was no our doing at all.  As a matter of fact, we don’t deserve any home in heaven, much less the homes we live in on earth, or a home like the Guesthouse in Nairobi, or even like the many mud huts throughout Kenya.  It was only through the sweat, blood, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we have a home in heaven.  While we deserved residency in hell, God took our sin into His own flesh and secured our eternal dwelling in heaven.

In Kenya, most of their homes do not look like ours in the United States.  However, when we enter the homes of the Kenyans, the hospitality is overwhelming and the table fellowship is wonderful. But this is for certain: neither their home, nor ours, is permanent.  Our real eternal home is in heaven, made secure through the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  “Home Sweet Home” is neither in Kenya nor in the States.  “Home Sweet Home” is in heaven forever with Jesus Christ.

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June 2012 Kenya Devotion #1 – “Wash your hands”

 

“But when the goodness of loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”  Titus 3:4-7

The Kenyans are very hospitable.  While food is not overly abundant, they will make sure that when you visit them, you do not leave hungry.  Most of the time when eating at the Rescue Centers, you will have a meal of range chicken, kale, and ugali.  The ugali is a thick porridge you shape in your hands like a spoon.  With your hands, you dip the ugali into the chicken broth and kale and eat it this way.  You use your fingers to eat this meal, and it can become a little messy.

Before you enter the building in which you will eat, someone will be outside with a pitcher of warm water, a basin, a bar of soap, and a towel.  You place your hands over the basin, and someone pours the water over your hands as you wash with soap, and then as you rinse.  You are then handed a towel to dry your hands.  After the meal (eating without fork or spoon) the same process takes place outside so that your hands are clean once again.

The Greek word Baptidzo means “to wash.”  This was a word used in everyday life to wash the dishes, to wash your hands, or to wash your clothes.  You would “baptize” your hands, in that, you would “wash” them.  Of course, the word “baptize” means much more to the Christian.  Surely it means “to wash” –  but the washing goes deeper than cleaning the hands; it is the washing away of sin from the body, life, and soul.  No amount of soap and water, whether in the United States, Kenya, or anywhere else can cleanse us from our sins.  Only the water of Christ, that flows from His pierced side (water and the Word of God) can cleanse us and make us clean before God.

Our brothers and sisters in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya share the same water-cleansing as us -the water of Holy Baptism makes us clean, which makes us children of God in Christ Jesus.  Whether you’re going to Kenya in June or not, this bath from God is cleansing for us all.  Daily, our sins are washed away.  Daily we are the children of God in Christ Jesus.  And daily we are united to Christ and to all those who bear the sign of Christ both upon the forehead and upon the heart, making us redeemed by Christ the crucified and risen from the dead.

The next time you wash your hands before or after a meal – remember, the greater washing is being Baptized into Christ.

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North Dakota District Supports Project 24

On January 22-25, the North Dakota District met in convention. Many good things came out of this convention. One of the most joyful and exciting things at our Convention in Grand Forks was the convention’s overwhelming support and enthusiasm for Project 24, partnering with ELCK, and the Lutheran Malaria Initiative.

First of all – the congregations collected an offering in the months preceding the convention for Project 24. The offering came in just a little short of $20,000!!! Praise God from Whom all blessings flow! This was fantastic.

Four major resolutions were passed in support. The first was the Mary Okeyo Scholarship fund, named after a beloved deaconess in Kenya who was called to glory this past year. This resolution supported a scholarship fund for youth/young adults to go on Mercy Trips to Kenya.

Another resolution stated that the North Dakota District want to partner with ELCK, as ND’s missionary partner. With this, the North Dakota District covenanted to support three orphanage rescue center sites with Project 24 in partnership with the MNN District, taking this to their convention yet this year.

Still another resolution encouraged the congregations to support and contribute toward the Lutheran Malaria Initiative. This too passed with overwhelming acclamation.

Finally, the district covenanted to send one pastor and one layperson to Kenya every year in this triennium to experience Project 24, to see and witness our three rescue centers, and to return home with a renewed mission heart and passion.

All this is not just talk – but as President Harrison said at our convention, “Let’s go!” And going we are! My wife and I are overjoyed to be taking five young adults and one pastor to Kenya this June to begin what we said we desired to do! Another group is looking at going in January 2013. As we are partnering with MNN, there will be individuals on these Mercy Trips from both districts each time.

I pray your continued prayers and financial support as we do this marvelous thing together! It takes dollars, yes, but these dollars are a mere investment in the eternal welfare of so many. The “ministry return” on our dollars far exceeds what we can humanly comprehend.

Let the work begin! Let the partnerships begin!

Indeed, this is Galatians 2:20 in action – “I am crucified with Christ. I no longer live, but Christ now lives in me.”

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North Dakota Flood Waters

 

To all those affected by flood waters –

Once again, North Dakota is affected by ravaging flood waters.  It gets very discouraging to deal with a “once-every-hundred-years-flood” every year. Our hearts ache for all those whose homes are flooded, whose farm land is under water, and whose businesses are being severely affected.  Our concern is not only for our Missouri Synod Lutheran brothers and sisters, but for all our neighbors, family, and friends.

These flood waters are yet another reminder as to how deeply and devastatingly fallen and broken this world is because of sin and death.  St. Paul reminds us in Romans 8:22, “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”

And yet, later in Romans 8, St. Paul also reminds us, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”  Because He is a good and gracious God, God can and does take that which sin and Satan mean for our harm and turns it around and uses it for our good.

Think of the Easter hymn that says, “The foe was triumphant when on Calvary, the Lord of creation was nailed to the tree.  In Satan’s domain did the hosts shout and jeer, for Jesus was slain, whom the evil ones fear” (LSB 480).  And yet, three days later, that which Satan meant for Jesus’ (and our) harm – God turned around for good.  This was not only good, it was the greatest act in all the world – the salvation of the world and the reverse of sin’s devastating curse.

Satan cannot take these recent floods to destroy us.  He certainly cannot use them to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus!  While we (you) suffer, yet God is your strength and your salvation.  Do not lose hope, dear Christians; the God of forgiveness, comfort, and eternal peace also supplies His people with protection and daily bread to sustain us throughout this earthly life.

Dear Baptized in Christ, we remember the flood in the days of Noah when the water destroyed the impenitent.  However, Peter tells us, “Baptism, which corresponds to this [flood], now saves you…through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 2:21).  God keep you in your baptismal grace through this current crisis and for all eternity!

 

Prayer for Time of Flood

Almighty God, merciful Father, Your thoughts are not our thoughts, Your ways are not our ways.  In Your wisdom You have permitted this disastrous flood to befall us.  We implore You, let not the hearts of Your people despair nor our faith fail us, but sustain and comfort us.  Direct all efforts to attend the injured, console the bereaved, and protect the helpless.  Bring hope and healing that we may find relief and restoration; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

 

 

Prayer for Planting Season

Almighty God, You bless the earth to make it fruitful, bringing forth in abundance whatever is needed for the support or our lives.  Prosper the work of farmers and all those who labor to bring food to our table.  Grant us seasonable weather that they may gather in the fruits of the earth in abundance and proclaim Your goodness with thanksgiving; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

II Corinthians 4:8-10

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

 

 

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