Choose Blessings!

Homily delivered 7 May 2015
St. Augustine’s Chapel, Kabale, Uganda

1 Peter 2: 11-end

A general theme I find in the readings of these morning devotions is of blessings. What must we do to receive blessings from God? How should we treat our neighbors? We’re aware of the rules, the 10 commandments. We strive to lead a godly life.

This reading from first Peter gets right to it: as God’s people in this world, avoid the lusts and the bodily passions which tempt us. How easy will that be for us?

For some of us it will be very difficult. Bodily passions are felt by all. But the writer tells that these passions war against our soul.

Is this who God has called us to be? Fornicators and adulterers? No. We are his chosen people. We have a higher calling than the pagans or heathen…who know no better or who cannot control themselves.

I ask myself in certain situations: Is God’s blessing present in this behavior? Is this who God created me to be? Am I behaving in his image?

We can test ourselves through the fruits of the spirit, which the apostle Paul describes in Galatians 5. They include:

Love
Joy
Peace
Patience
Kindness
Goodness
Faithfulness
Humility
Self Control

These are blessings, the fruits, of a healthy life…of healthy relationships, where there is light and life.

In 1 John 1:5 God is light, and there is no darkness at all in him. If you are in the Lord, there is no hiding, no secrets, no sneaking around. There is light and life. And freedom.

As God’s chosen people, we are the light of the world. If not us, in this room, then who? We can set an example for others!

Verse 12 today, Your conduct among the heathen should be so good that when they accuse you of being evildoers, they will have to recognize your good deeds and so praise God on the Day of his coming.

At home, a few years ago, a group of neighbours and I would meet on Sunday afternoons to play basketball. A lot of fun and very competitive. Afterwards, we’d sit around and talk. Occasionally the conversation turned to God. Not all my friends are believers, and a couple are very skeptical, or doubtful.

But rather than remain quiet, which I might have done earlier to avoid any confrontation, I stood up, and tried to explain the nature of God, as forgiving and loving—as Jesus—not the church.

I think we’re called to do that. I think we are special people.

15For God wants you to silence the ignorant talk of foolish people by the good things you do. 16Live as free people; do not, however, use your freedom to cover up any evil, but live as God’s slaves.

This doesn’t mean your lives will be boring. They will be enriched and blessed! Can you handle that?

The world tempts us with great pleasures. God promises us his blessings:

19God will bless you for this, if you endure the pain of undeserved suffering because you are conscious of his will. 20For what credit is there if you endure the beatings you deserve for having done wrong? But if you endure suffering even when you have done right, God will bless you for it. 21It was to this that God called you, for Christ himself suffered for you and left you an example, so that you would follow in his steps.

Be strong, my brothers and sisters. Encourage one another. Dont take the easy road. Look for the road less traveled.

24Christ himself carried our sins in his body to the cross, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. It is by his wounds that you have been healed. 25You were like sheep that had lost their way, but now you have been brought back to follow the Shepherd and Keeper of your souls.

My friends, you have a choice. Choose blessings!

‘Voice of Kigezi’ Radio

For the second time in a year, I was a guest on “Voice of Kigezi” radio, representing African International Christian Ministry of Kabale. The Sunday morning program is broadcast to five countries in sub-Saharan Africa, reaching a potential audience of more than 10 million listeners.

voice kigezi

Mwebale munonga. Mukama asiimwe. (Thank you very much. Praise God)

Amazina gangye ndi Patrick Hill (My name is Patrick Hill)

Ninduga California USA omuri America. (I come from California USA in America)

Nkija hanu omwaka oguwire. Neshemwerwire munonga. (I was here last year. I feel very happy)

Nakunda Mukama. Nyine omwana w’omowjo. (I love the Lord. I have a grown son)

Ndenda kusima munywani wangye Bishop Enoch Kayeeye ahabw’omugisha ogu kugamba ninwe akasheshe aka. Mukama asiimwe munonga. (I want to thank my good friend Bishop Enoch Kayeeye for this opportunity to speak to you this morning. Praise the Lord)

Ndikutura omuri Kabale kandi ndabasa kumara emyaka eshatu. Ndikukora na AICM. (I am living in Kabale and hope to stay for three years while working with AICM)

Ogu ni interpreter wangye…Patience….Agandi, nyabo…. (Here is my interpreter, Patience. Good day..)

Ndikwegw’orukiga. (I am learning Rukiga)

I would like to deliver this message entirely in Rukiga.

The Lord has blessed me in many ways…but speaking Rukiga is not yet one of them.

Among the appointed readings today is Psalm 51, verses 1-13, a lamentation of David.

David cries for mercy from God for what has happened. He confesses his sins and seeks forgiveness.

David had just been rebuked by his friend Nathan for killing Uriah the Hittite in order to take his wife, Bathseba.

In this famous story, found in 2 Samuel 11, David schemes against Uriah..and sends him into the front lines of a battle where he is killed.

David has relations with Bathsheba, who bears him a son. But his actions displeased the Lord.

The Lord struck the child ill…and after seven days, it died.

In our lives today we can sometimes get involved in activities not been seen by our friends and neighbours, yet God sees all things.

Our attitudes and pride may prevent us from confessing our sins.

So it is left to another. A family member or a friend to confront us.

That is what Nathan did to David.

Nathan told David a story, of two men in a certain town, one rich, and one poor.

The rich man had a large number of sheep and cattle.

The poor man had one little ewe lamb. It ate and slept in his arms like a daughter.

A traveler came to the rich man, Nathan said.

The rich man did not take one of his own sheep or cattle to feed the traveler.

Instead he took the ewe from the poor man and prepared it for the traveler.

At hearing this story, David was outraged. “Surely this man must die because he had no pity,” he said.

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!”

The Lord God of Israel anointed you king over Israel, delivered you from Saul.

Yet you despise the Lord by doing what is evil in his sight.

“I have sinned against the Lord,” David told Nathan.

“You are not going to die, the Lord has taken away your sin,” Nathan replied.

“But the son born to you will die.”

In Psalm 51, David cries mercy and forgiveness:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love.

according to your great compassion, blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.

Against you you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.

So you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean, wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Let me hear joy and gladness, let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in my a pure heart O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.

David’s salvation seems complete in verse 13 when he says “I will teach
transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.”

Throughout, David speaks to God with intimate language. He writes many psalms. Surely he knows the Lord.

The Lord knows David’s heart. He hears his prayers. Despite his sin, he is beloved.

David returns to Bathsheba who bears him a son, Solomon.

David would have many conquests after the incident.

In our lives today, sin is destructive.

It can destroy relationships, marriages, families.

But turning to God with a repentant heart can bring healing, as it did to David.

This is my third visit to Uganda in three years. I am very happy to be here.

When I arrived two years ago I knew no one. But I was not alone.

My relationship with God provided me a fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

And I was fortunate to find Christian communities where I also had instant fellowship.

And for those listening to me now, while we may never meet….

we have a relationship through our love of Jesus Christ. We are in fact brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Mukama asiimwe. Asiimwe munonga. Mukama nimarungi. Ebiro byona.

Amina.

The Ultimate Boo-Yah!

It is the ultimate boo-yah! Celebrating Good Friday and Easter on the same day.

The phrase made popular by ESPN illustrates the fanaticism of sports fans, who agonize over their team at one moment before celebrating it at the next.

Today is April 18, 2014, Good Friday. It is a solemn day for Christians worldwide who remember the trial, pain and execution of Jesus Christ on the cross.

In Bwindi, Uganda, it is near the end of the week and there is an exodus of hospital staff and residents from the community. They are heading home for a holiday. It should be a quiet weekend in these parts.

To commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus and to celebrate his resurrection, a joint service will be held this evening in the hospital chapel. Good Friday. Easter. Back to back.

Boo! Yah!

We can’t experience the resurrection without first going to the cross. There we contemplate our own humanity, our sin, our rejection of God. For those who take the process seriously, it can be painful. Fortunately, they get Holy Saturday to respite and vigil in preparation for Easter Sunday.

Today in Bwindi, we get the intermission but it will be quick.

When the curtain rises, hearts will lift, the songs will be joyous, tears turn to smiles. One man gives his life for others. There is no greater love than this.

It’s more than a game. It’s God’s love for us.

Yah!

April 8 Homily

Muriregye ba sebo na ba nyabo…(Good morning, gentlemen and ladies)

Baranyeta Patrick…(My name is Patrick)

Mukama asiimwe! (Praise the Lord!)

Ndikwegw’orukiga (By the way I’m learning Rukiga)

I would like to deliver this message entirely in Rukiga. The Lord has blessed me in many ways…but speaking Rukiga is not yet one of them. And Rev. Bugaba said I did not have all day to tell my story.

I am very happy to be back in Bwindi and to worship with you. When I drove here from Kihihi a few days ago, I felt as if I had been gone for three weeks, instead of 10 months. I feel very comfortable here in Bwindi.

Nimpurirra nshemerirwe mononga. (I feel very happy)’

IMG_5910

Let me begin my story by saying I have been in the church my whole life. My father was a reverend in the Anglican Church in the US. As a boy I was active in the church, as an acolyte and in the choir. God marked me as one of his own.

As I grew older, into my 20s, God was not as important in my life. I was too busy building a career and supporting a wife.

It would last until my son, Dan, was born. A divine gift..another life not my own to care for and love. It was then God returned front and center into my life.

It is by God’s grace that I am standing here. My life’s plan did not include a trip to Africa until two years ago, when I went to South Sudan. I was in my mid-50s.
Right now, Bwindi is where I want to be.

For a change, I am living in the present, the here-and-now.

It hasn’t always been this way.

Paul tells us in Chapter 12 of Romans: Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is…his good pleasing and perfect will!

For most of my adult life I chased the American dream. That is a me-first proposition: Get a good education, take steps to further career, promote to better jobs, and gain new skills. God was not first in my life.

As young people beginning your careers I am sure you know what I mean.

In America, the work I did was how I defined myself and how society defined me. I was a TV sportscaster, a news producer, a civil servant worker. Only on Sunday would anyone call me a “child of God.”

On the “other side,” you meet someone and the first thing you ask is “what do you do?” You make a judgment of that person. Is he or she a doctor, a nurse, an administrator, or an athlete? It is as if we are human doings…rather than human beings.

Defining myself by what I do is a road to frustration.

Though prayer and scripture, I have been transformed. In the past, I would ask the Lord to bless my plans. See…God…I have this great idea. Would you bless it for me?

Today my priorities have changed. I do not seek to be first in my life. The old Patrick is falling away. Instead I am born again. I turn to God. I seek to be in alignment with God’s long-held plan for me. For if it is God’s plan it is already blessed. Because of that, I am more fulfilled and happy than ever.

It would not be my plan to travel to Uganda. Twice! My vision is small and limited. But the Lord removed the scales from my eyes. His plan for you and me is magnificent.

As the writer in 2 Peter put it: “… make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.” (2 Peter 1:5-10 ESV)

I have a new focus: I am being directed and corrected by the Holy Spirit, with whom I have constant fellowship. I serve the Lord out of gratitude, in thanks for his faithfulness. I share my life with you and am interested in your lives…and those of others half a world away from home.

Earlier this year I traveled with a team of pastors, and doctors from Northern California to Amman, Jordan, where, as the lead pastor put it, we would “share in the pain of others.”

For a week we fellowshipped with refugees from Syria. We met with families in their apartments. Doctors examined adults and children, reviewed their prescriptions. These people have suffered greatly and have left their country with little more than the clothes on their backs. This is a humanitarian disaster.

Despite the hardship, and chaos that I witnessed, the spirit of Jesus was there…in our presence, in our prayers for our Muslim brothers and sisters. These people may not have a home, but they have hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, whom they know as the prophet Issa in the Qu’ran.

Mukama asiimwe! (Praise the Lord)

Hope is what I see and experience in abundance at BCH. The sick are being comforted and made well by your medical delivery system. Your operations continue to have an impact in Buhoma, Kanungu and beyond.

Let me close now with this prayer: Heavenly Father, breathe your holy spirit on Bwindi Community Hospital. Bless the men and women who serve BCH with compassion for others. Multiply their efforts, Lord, to restore health to those who suffer or ache this day.

Mukama nimarungi! Ebiro biyona (God is good!! All the time)