Homily from 6 July 2014

Rom 12:4-8

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously, if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

All of us, as God’s children, have been blessed with memory, reason and skill. We have talents.

Here at BCH we can see aba kazi and aba shija with gifts and talents at work. From the nurses, to the clinical officers, doctors, administrators, and the rest of the team, you have gifts that compliment each other…and serve the community…

Mukama asiimwe

Paul mentions encouragement as a gift….if your gift is to encourage, then give encouragement.

The world we live in can be a wonderful place. It is also a difficult place. As I am here with you in Kanungu District, I see the struggles, and the hardships. But believe me that even in America there are those who are very unhappy…despite many blessings and wealth. Material things are present….but a spiritual life, a life of faith that is in alignment with our Lord Jesus Christ is absent.

Helping each other, encouraging each other through prayer and conversation, turns a dark day bright. We need that. And we, as God’s people, are blessed in ways that others are not.

The other day, as I was preparing this message, I got a call from a friend in Kabale. She asked what I was doing..then suggested a few things that really opened my eyes. It was a great encouragement. And I felt that mukama directed her to speak to me and lift my spirit.

Isn’t that how he works? We may sometimes expect wonders to fall from the sky. But God uses people are his messengers that surround and support us. God himself, and the Holy Spirit also work within us to direct us and correct us. We are blessed because of that.

The apostle Paul, wrote an encouraging letter to Ephesians while in prison. Imagine being in prison. A lonely difficult place to be. But Paul was not discouraged. He writes: “As a prisoner for the Lord… I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”

You know, we sometimes find that we can hardly forgive ourselves..let alone forgive others. but we are called to do so.

We have one Lord, one faith, one baptism. God the father dwells in all of us, as in his holy temple.

I am beginning my fourth month in Bwindi.

Nimpurrira nshemerirwe mononga.

I give thanks to God throughout every day. For the people I meet…for the thrill of communicating in Rukiga. For the friends I have here who support me, encourage me and keep me from trouble. For the spiritual pleasures I enjoy each day. I feel alive in Christ…and I thank each of you.

Mukama asiimwe! Mukama nakukoZESA. Praise God. God uses you!

In one of the great stories of the OT which I believe illustrates forgiveness and encouragement, Joseph is sold by his brothers and winds up with Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials. The Lord was with Joseph, so he prospered.

But he angered his master’s wife and wound up in prison. Still, the Lord was with him and gave him success in whatever he did.

Joseph lay in prison for more than two years. One day, Pharaoh was disturbed by a dream, and Joseph was summoned. “I cannot interpret the dream,” Joseph said, but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.

Joseph interpreted the dream to mean seven years of abundance followed by seven years of famine. He was put in charge of the storages. And the famine came.

During that time Joseph’s brothers, who sold him, went to Egypt to buy grain, where they met Joseph but didn’t recognize him.

At the end Joseph reveals himself to his brothers. Don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me, he tells them, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.

God’s faithfulness to Joseph, and his plan, is described in this story. Joseph surely could have been bitter, but he is loving to his brothers and his father. The story is an encouragement to us. When we don’t understand the difficulties in our lives, sometimes God is using them for greater things.

Mukama nimarungi!

I am a video volunteer in Bwindi, I try to pitch in where I can. I take photos for the hospital and nursing school; shoot and edit video. I’ve also worked on projects from Kabale to Ft. Portal. It’s enjoyable work.

But where I find the most satisfaction is simply being present with people. I don’t have to DO anything. After all, I am a human being, not a human doing.

When I walk the one and a half kilometers from my house to the hospital, I greet everyone I can with my Primary 3-level Rukiga. The responses are many, from the doctorate-level language speakers. They are patient with this muzungu…and appreciate my efforts.

They encourage me. (9:00)

I came to Africa to meet the Batwa and live in Uganda. Yet along the way I have discovered my own spiritual gifts that have otherwise gone unnoticed or untapped.

In addition to the spiritual gifts that Paul writes about in Romans, there is the “fruit of the spirit” he describes in his letter to the Galatians. He says, ch. 5 v 22….The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

In encouraging one another, putting others above ourselves, we are demonstrating those fruits. For how can you encourage another without kindness, gentleness, love and peace?

Volunteers, when they roll up their sleeves, and take part in the life of the community, can be a blessing to others. The amazing thing is that in being a blessing, you are blessed in return by God. And then our response is to serve God in thanksgiving…not to serve him in hopes of being rewarded.

As a pastor friend once told me, “we are blessed to be a blessing…”

God is willing to grant us his great promises…to be partakers of the divine nature.

In 2 Peter 1, we are encouraged to “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…”

My brothers and sisters, be a blessing to others, your family, friends and colleagues. Show your love in the fruit of the Spirit. In return, you too will be blessed.