A Sermon Preached at the ACK St. James Buruburu during the first Kiswahili Holy Communion Service on Sunday 7th January, 2018.
- Psalm 29
- Genesis 1:1-5 (Main Text)
- Acts 19:1-7
- Mark 1:4-11
There is a popular say: “If it is working, why fixed it?” In other words: “If it is working, don’t fix it!” As for me: “If it isn’t working, fix it!”
“Be Transformed” is this year’s theme for the ACK St. James Church Buruburu. Transformation calls for moving from a bad position to a good position, moving from the current situation to an improved one; it is changing from worse to better. The lectionary readings for the Holy Communion today gives us a picture of God’s power to transform chaos or chaotic situations into order and perfection.
The creation story in Genesis 1:1-5 is an elaborate process of systematic transformation; transformation from nothing into something beautiful:
Genesis 1:31a “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”
There are three steps in the transformation process:
We cannot talk of transformation if there is no starting point – that starting point is “chaos or a chaotic situation”, disorder, imperfection which is to be transformed to completeness and calmness; that starting point is the unacceptable situation to a desired one; and that starting point is where you are today – your current circumstance, to a place where you desire to be or God want you to be.
From today’s readings:
- In Genesis 1, the story of creation starts from nothingness and chaos:
Genesis 1:1-2 “1In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”
The transformation of the creation story started from a point of nothingness, formless, emptiness and darkness.
- Psalm 29 was written by David after or during some chaotic circumstance, and probably, just at the time, of a great storm of thunder, lightning, and rain.
A reading of Psalm 29:3-9 paints a scary picture of chaos and disorder; a picture of a very discomforting situation requiring transformation.
- In Acts 19:1-7, the spiritual transformation of the Ephesian believers started from ignorance; from spiritual stagnation; and from confusion.
Acts 19:1-4 “1 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. 4 Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”
- The Prime Mover for the Transformation Process – God
Transformation is God’s process and God’s agenda. No one can transform another person by their own strengths or wisdom. During a wedding reception, for example, a young woman or the bride is exhorted, “you have to make your husband to be what you want him to be; it is you to change him”. The mission of changing or transforming a human being is almost an exercise in futility unless God is the prime mover of the transformation process.
Human beings, institutions and programmes are just but God’s instruments for the transformation process but they cannot transform by themselves. God must be the chief agent and the prime mover of every spiritual transformation.
Genesis 1:3-5 “3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning —the first day.”
In the Genesis transformation, transformation starts with “And God said…”
David calls his audience to worship God as the sole prime mover of the transformation process:
Psalm 29:1-2 “1 Ascribe to the LORD, O mighty ones, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. 2Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.”
For David, the voice of the Lord brings chaos in order to establish peace. In Psalm 29:3-10, the phrase, “The voice of the Lord…” is repeated in every verse and wherever it is used in the text, it shows the outcome as chaos and destruction.
Psalm 29:3-10 “3The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD thunders over the mighty waters. 4 The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic. 5 The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. 6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, Sirion like a young wild ox. 7 The voice of the LORD strikes with flashes of lightning. 8 The voice of the LORD shakes the desert; the LORD shakes the Desert of Kadesh. 9 The voice of the LORD twists the oaks and strips the forests bare. And in his temple all cry, “Glory!” 10 The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD is enthroned as King forever.”
Transformation is God’s steered process. Sometimes the process of transformation can be painful and difficult to understand. But God is steering it. I wish I could assure you that the transformation process you will go through this year will be a smooth one but friends, I can’t because the prime mover of the transformation process is God. However way God chooses to carry out the transformation process in your life, it is the best way, just trust and believe in Him that He will be in control.
The Ephesian believers, in obedience to Paul’s teachings, submitted themselves to God for their spiritual transformation process:
Acts 9:5-6 “5On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them,”
The spiritual transformation of the Ephesian believers was carried out by God, when the Holy Spirit came upon the believers.
- The Climax of the Transformation Process – Perfection
The climax or the end product of the transformation process is perfection; maturity; order; and completeness. In the Genesis passage, God transformed chaos, formless, emptiness and darkness into order; and into perfection.
The writer of Genesis describes the picture of the climax of the transformation thus:
Genesis 1:4-5 “4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning —the first day.”
For David in Psalm 29, the Lord is in the midst of chaos and above every chaos. From chaos, God brings out perfection; from imperfection, God brings out perfection:
Psalm 29:10-11 “10 The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD is enthroned as King forever. 11 The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.”
From the storms we have gone through in 2017, the good news is, “The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.” May this be true for each one of us who have faced chaos, formless, emptiness and darkness; and may this be true for our country where in 2017 we watched horrific and traumatizing events. May 2018 be the year we will achieve the climax of our transformation processes – perfection.
For the Ephesian believers, their climax for the spiritual transformation process came when they received the infilling of the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues:
Acts 19:6 “When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.”
The believers at Ephesus (Acts 19:1-7) at the time of Paul’s third missionary journey were saved but still needed spiritual transformation – they were in spiritual confusion, ignorance and stagnation requiring a spiritual transformation.
Paul asked them a sincere and soul searching question:
Acts 19: 2 “…“Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. 4 Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.”
The spiritual transformation the Ephesian believers went through was the infilling of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of Paul’s hands.
Probably, we have lived in spiritual ignorance and stagnation. We need a spiritual transformation from wherever we might be to move to perfection.
1st Sunday after Epiphany, 2018
The Rev. Simon J. Oriedo
Curate – ACK St. James Parish – Buruburu