Last Sunday I was invited to speak in what was dubbed ‘pre-valentine service’ at St. Faith Church [yes, St. Faith]. A largish Anglican church in the middle of Rongai township. At first I really struggled with what to say to Christians, who were gathered for spiritual feeding, about Valentines – a rather awkward feast for a lot of people. I knew from the vicar’s brief that they wanted his people to hear about love for each other and for God but just exactly how to frame that was the problem. The ‘go to’ method is to simply begin with definition of terms, trace their classical or antiquity roots and then move towards modern (or postmodern) interpretations and applications. But you can’t do that in a sermon, neither can you use those categories of thought or even the words if you are aiming to be helpful. After all, when we arrived I noticed the bulletin had quite a bit of background on the origins of valentines so there would be no point repeating that and worse still my host’s source and mine were different (there are different theories as to the origins of Valentine and not one is definitive) so I had to steer clear of that. The last thing you want is to appear to contradict your host – even on an issue open to interpretation.
So I did what I think any of us in iServe would do – stick to the passage. During my preparation I had been torn between Song of Solomon and 1 Corinthians 13. I feared that SoS might be too risqué for the comfort of most people in the congregation (including our 3 boys) and after all I would not be the best person to teach on that aspect of love that the Greeks called Eros. I was also alive to the fact that there are many voices out there, not least late night radio shows that teach a lot on love and expression of the same. I was also hesitant about 1 Cor 13 as I feared it might be too cliché given that it is the ‘go to’ passage on the subject of love. If I went for Solomon, the congregation might receive it very well especially because the book is rarely preached on. If I went for Paul, I might not meet my host’s expectation of a guest preacher. I had to decide and get down to actual prep before it was too late. In the end, I settled for 1 Cor 13 – I had nothing new to say except the same old message of the cross. Probably not the most romantic picture, but the greatest demonstration of love.
But Paul is so meaty. Within those verses, he has managed to pack 15 attributes of love and also dispelled the notion that gifts are of more value. I divided the passage into 3 sections as
2. Section 1 : Love as a measure of spiritual maturity v1-3
3. Section 2: The nature of agape love v4-7
4. Section 3: The supremacy of love above all virtues v8-13.
In the end I preached God’s love for us in Christ and his call for us to love our neighbours. What I had not fully appreciated however was that I needed to say the same in the Kiswahili service. By purely God’s grace we got through the second service but not without a few words in English thrown in to support a point or two. I found it helpful also to use an illustration in the second service and went for David’s kindness to Mephibosheth. I really felt I needed to preach God’s grace and the cross and I hoped that the illustration brought the point home. Oh the pains of sermon preparation and delivery!
All is well at the office. We are now well settled into a routine and everyone seems to know their place. TransformD guys will take a break next week so they will go away for a week. TransformD is a residential programme so quite intensive. Once they are back, they will then do another five weeks of learning and then a month of mission experience in Samburu.
Last Saturday we had a great time with Alumni during their annual mbuzi. It was great to catch up with folk who served those many years ago together with their loved ones. We danced to our fill and then played a game of volleyball – which my side obviously won. This week is bit quieter save for a staff meeting possibly on Thursday. We are however beginning to shift focus towards recruitment of September apprentices and second year options for you guys. Planning is also happening for the upcoming MTC.
A little reminder however is for enhanced efforts in PD. Friends, however big our ambitions for God and His kingdom are, we will never be able to realise them without resources and the way to raise those resources is PD. This is an important ‘home truth’ that we all in ministry need to hear – It won’t happen without money. Sorry to be blunt but I need you to know that under supported workers are ineffective workers. The vicious cycle of poor PD goes like this; Bad/Poor attitude to PD - Poor/weak PD – Low Stipend – Discouraged Gospel Worker – Few Prayer Letters – Poor/Weak PD – Negative Attitude to PD/Ministry as a whole. The virtuous cycle however goes like; Positive Attitude to PD – Good effort/Hard work in PD – Encouraging Results in PD – Good Stipend – Happy/Enthusiastic/Encouraged worker – Frequent Prayer Letters – Even More PD – More Partners on Board – Happy/Positive Disposition to PD/Ministry in General. If your PD is 40% and below of your target so far, then it is too low. Between 40 and 60% then it is average 60 to 80% is Good and beyond 80 commendable. Work towards exceeding of your target by the time you finish.
I wish you a great week ahead and pray for your well-being especially at such a time when our country which is fraught with many problems. May you know that the centre holds – The Lord reigns.