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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Of Wise Men and Children

Today's sermon, in good post-Christmas form, moved to the Matthew 2 account of the visit of the magi, the political advisors and semi-royalty from the east who caused a stir in Jerusalem as they searched for a new King.  Uganda is a land of four traditional Kingdoms, so the preacher alluded to the very-obvious-to-all shock of politicians from an unrelated region coming to pay homage to a local tribe's king.  Once again the reality of Uganda in 2008 allows for a richer understanding of turn-of-the-millennium Palestine:  intrigue, succession, suspicion, tribalism, lineage, prophecy, supernatural signs, uneasy balances of power, all of these are undercurrents to our reality here and now just as they were in Jesus' time.  

The sermon was followed by the baptism of 8 children, half infants and half older.  In the context of the story of the magi, a concrete demonstration that God's interest in human beings begins much earlier than the world's interest.  Babies a few months or years old are worth attention and grace, are people to be ransomed and counted.  Just as the magi demonstrated the importance of the child with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, the ceremony today called out small people and showed they are marked for the Kingdom even now (and sitting through a crowded service in full dry-season heat, I could see the practicality of two of the three gifts relating to fragrance, to a seasoning of the smelly reality.)

Meanwhile the national paper today carried a cover story on child disappearances, relating the year's toll to the recent high-profile case of a business man who was arrested for the murder of a 12 year old boy in a ritual purported to buy him business success by the diabolical means of encasing body parts in the foundation of his new Kampala high-rise building.  Witchcraft of the highest power requires child sacrifice.  Again, not far from Herod's methods, the slaughter of young children considered a price to be paid for personal advancement.

The contrast sharp and starling:  name the children and mark them by baptism, honor them with gifts and recognition, this is the way of the Kingdom, the way of the magi.  This in stark opposition to abduction and murder of children by adults who would use them as expendable means to advancement and success.  And while the undercurrent of human trafficking may be less tangible in the US, the sacrifice of children to the convenience of adults is probably worse, via abortion and abuse and neglect.  Lord have mercy on all of Rachel's young ones.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This depraved practice of placing children inside the foundations of new buildings went on for hundreds of years in Europe. Even today, European excavators and archaeologists are sometimes horrified to discover children's skeletons in newly razed building foundations. But the Europeans abandoned these practices eventually, and abhor them now. I This means there is potential for Ugandans to do the same. I pray that your work there acts as a tug on the beard of Africa to move towards a loving place for its children.