The Sermon. Pastor Simon's text was Colossians 3: 1 - 10, "Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth". He would preach for a few sentences in English, and then an elder standing with him translated into Kikuyu. He spoke by way of introduction about the presidents who had led Kenya since independence, and their promises which they never fulfilled, no matter how hard they might have tried. "Even President Bush makes promises that he is unable to keep". He said, "We need someone who can keep his promises."
Setting your mind on things above does not mean not to have tv, not to go to movies, not to have fun. We cannot set our minds on things above, we have not the power to do so, until we have Christ. Solid theology.
We think about things above, he said, when we think about Jesus and the things that he did, when we think about the positive things Christ did, how he treated people, how he prayed for them, how he connected with God, how he loved us so much.
He had some practical things to suggest, one that struck me was "The night before tomorrow think about Jesus and God". He said that if you go to bed after listening to the news, you will wake up upset; angry, you will wake up angry, but if you pray and meditate before going to sleep, you will wake up refreshed. "This simple practice has helped me a lot."
He also suggested, "Ask God to give you a heavenly perspective on people, events, and circumstances."
Pastor Simon struggled to communicate how one could be both dead and alive, as the text suggests. He said that God wants us, "Not dead or alive, but dead and alive". He was frank to say that "I don't understand that, but I believe it, because it is in the Bible." He gave an illustration about how a man, who had become a believer, was approached by some old drinking frieds who were not aware of his conversion and who wanted him to go out an carouse. He turned down the proposal, saying that the man they knew who would have gone with them "is dead". But the minister knew that the "dead in Christ/alive in the Lord" idea was not a figure of speech, but a reality, an idea that he could say that he did not understand but one in which he believed by faith. He disarmed me by this admission.
He said that when he got to verse 11, he could not at first figure out how it fit with the previous ten verses. He said that he nearly decided to cut off his text at verse 10, but he kept thinking and praying about it. Then he saw that the references to the various ethnic groups in the text related to the various people groups with whom his listeners were very well acquainted. He said that the point is that one dies to whatever negative things he brings from his people group. He listed them. The Kikuyu are known as lovers of money; the Masai for their love of cattle; the Kamba, best known for their witchcraft; and the Luo, who prefer many wives. (There was some laughter as he ran down these stereotypes, and he grinned as he gave us the list.)
He quoted a familiar saying, "At the foot of the cross, the ground is level." But what really made the point was his firm and outright rejection of the idea that "This is how I am and no one can do anyting about it".
"You are not", he said, "who once you were."