Today, I break the mould.
As a Seventh-Day-Adventist, August is the most important month of the year. It is that time of the year when we have our camp meetings. It is a tradition borrowed from the Jewish practice, whereby they used to bring to God their sacrifices and dedicate some more time to worship and praising God. Or something like that.
In modern times, what our churches does is that they organize for a week-long spiritual fare whereby theologically qualified and gifted speakers share the word of God with the congregation. It is a thoroughly enriching experience as they dissect, analyze and interpret the bible in ways that us ordinary mortals do it can digest it.
This year, my church, Nairobi Central SDA (or Maxwell as it is famously known) brought a preacher from Cayman Islands (look that one up in the atlas). A gentleman by the name Shion Washington O’Conor. O’Conor is a slightly-stern faced black preacher with an unveiled sense of intellectual humour. If he was a high-school teache, he would that choleric Physics or Chemistry teacher who students considered a genius. I took home two very important messages that I want to share this Friday.
The first is the concept of WORSHIP.
I learnt that God is synonymous with worship. Without worship, there is no god or God. And in deed he made us define what (a) God is? Then he read a number of scriptures mainly from Revelation chapter 12. The kind of life we anticipate in heaven is worship a 24/7 thing. He reminded us that those who are timers in godly matters, heaven might be not the best of place. Here I was rightly chastised, given that I have been reduced to a sermon-attending chap who shows up a minute or two before the preacher gets to the pulpit.
The reason why, as Christians we must constantly worship is to keep the devil away. In the cosmic conflict between the devil and God, Satan has been struggling to drag Christians from God using all means possible. And to prove that the devil is no joker, he gave the example of the devil trying to tempt Jesus, promising him the world and everything in it, as if he is the creator. And even the case of Job was very pertinent. The pastor went into great pains to explain who the devil is and why it is important that he derails as many people as possible.
To wit, the devil wins Christians on many fronts. What he does simply, he creates alternatives to what God approves. The devil’s alternative all seem right, if not examined keenly. For instance, God says it is man and woman who should marry, the devil comes with gay marriages to contradict God’s will. I know, this might not academically persuasive, but it is not to condemn the gays, if anything the bible is unequivocal on homosexuality as it is for fornication and adultery.
On another level, the Lord set the Sabbath on a Saturday, but Sunday worship is an alternative that brings more confusion to Christianity. I know at this point, the Sunday worshipers, will frown, possibly stop reading but a moment. The argument on which between Saturday and Sunday is the right day is not an easy one, neither will we ever get to any agreement, but our preacher was just pointing out how deceptive the devil can be.
Sample this, look at music. Look at the contemporary gospel music, dress-codes to church and how everything long time ago considered ‘unchristian’ is almost being accepted and okay-ed. Basically, these alternatives are to be a suitable distraction and create an environment impossible for worship. So what are you worshiping? Your car? your job?, your plasma TV? Your boyfriend? Your girlfriend?
In the end, according to pastor, many people will be condemned, not so much because of rebellion (which is open opposition to God’s redemption plan) but because of the devil’s deception which continues to ensnare many people.
And the second lesson came from Luke 7:36… It is the only passage that is carried by all the four gospels. To underline the significance of this passage, not even the genealogy of Jesus Christ is shared in all the four gospels. The passage is about a lady called Mary who was a sinner, which is a biblical euphemism for a prostitute. She came with an alabaster box that contained very expensive perfume.
In theological exploration is has been pointed out that only prostitutes could find need for an expensive perfume, owing to the nature of their trade. And reportedly, the perfume she came with to the house where Jesus was being hosted for dinner had cost her about her whole year’s salary. So picture a woman in Koinange saving all her earnings to buy a perfume to go wash Jesus’ feet with it…
That is what she did. Now the man hosting Jesus had just been cured of leprosy. Together with a bunch of Pharisees They were adamantly opposed to the woman’s presence wishing and cursing why Jesus, gave audience to the woman. Given Jesus, could read their minds, the Smart-Alec he sometimes could be to pesky pharisees, Jesus opted to disprove of them. Theology also explains some of the men who were opposed to her presence were her customers.
Luke 7:39-50 (KJV)
39 Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. 40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. 41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? 43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. 44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. 45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. 48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. 49 And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? 50 And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.
So there you have it. The pastor castigated the so called men of God who condemn sinners. The people who judge. Actually, he said people who are quick to judge, are often guilt of the same mistakes. Simply because, criticizing and judging makes them feel better about themselves. How shameful!
In summary, the church is a hospital that takes all kinds of sinners who need spiritual treatment and healing. To judge is wrong, because we don’t know what someone has gone through or is going through. If she has aborted, let her come. If he impregnated a woman and abandoned responsibility, let him come. If s/he a fornicator, an adulterer, anyone…Let them come. He saves and these are the people he died for. And they can only discover Jesus, if the churchmen and women stopped gate-keeping them by coming up with all manner of things that keep them out.
Can we all, say Amen.
Now get some Cece Winans, listen and pray.