Get Away from Here
He said to them, "Go and tell that fox for me, 'Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.'
March 14, 2022, Words By: Gideon Ochieng, Image By: Blakely Dadson
This week, as we continue on the Lenten journey, we see Jesus determined to carry on with his mission to the end. The path ahead of him is dangerous, but he is prepared to pay the price. Some of his enemies know that Jesus does not easily change his mind. He is casting out demons and healing the sick. The good he does is threatening to bring down the entire system.
The Pharisees cleverly try to get Jesus to abandon his mission saying, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” But Jesus is determined to forge ahead. The Pharisees do not care about his safety. It seems like they are only invoking Herod’s name and the danger of death to persuade Jesus to renounce his calling and get out of town. Jesus uses the opportunity to send a message to Herod and his other detractors. Paraphrased, it might sound something like, “I must keep on working, I do not fear you or death, I must free my people, including you, no matter the price.”
Over the past two weeks, I took part in an urban leadership training along with a cohort of leaders at Kariadudu in the northern part of Nairobi City. David, a member of our cohort, is one of the pastors who serves in this community of some 30,000 people.
His church recently relocated to a dumping ground after they lost their place in another property in a neighboring community. The local authority, which gave them some space in the dump, didn’t imagine David and his team would transform it into something usable. But they did. They cleaned it up and built a 40 ft by 30 ft metal structure that serves as a church. It sits in the middle of an active garbage dumping site, an informal elementary school and mud-walled shacks. People say it’s the kind of place “where churches go to die.” However, for David and his team, the church is there to give life to the most vulnerable. And it does!
But David is not alone. Our cohort included more than 35 men and women from diverse backgrounds who share the same counter-intuitive mission as he does. They lead small congregations of people living in hard places, offering them hope in fellowship, healing through prayers, and a place to belong through a community of faith. All of them are determined to serve in these spaces. They ignore the voices calling them to flee from the mission.
Just as Jesus journeyed to Jerusalem, knowing that he would pay the ultimate price, these leaders are journeying with resolve to carry the Good News to the margins. Death or news of impending peril will not deter them. They have embraced the motherly heart of a God whose deepest longing is to embrace His children, even those who reject Him.
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”
This year, as we Kenyans wait for our national elections, we are confronted with the demons of tribalism, disunity and a myriad of potential conflicts because of our political differences. It all looks like a death trap set before us. The easiest thing to do would be to abandon our mission posts and join in the rivalry and scapegoating alongside our tribesmen or women.
But as we gathered in community with our cohort, we were reminded again of a God with a mother’s heart for all people, and His Son’s willingness to live it out in spite of the consequences. Our cohort in Kariadudu was rejuvenated in our calling to journey together in a way that brings healing and reconciliation to the city. Accompanied by Jesus, we are able to go through any challenge to celebrate good news in hard places.
Dwelling Among Us
How are we continuing to journey with Jesus to Jerusalem, embracing the promise of freedom beyond death? How are we confronting the powerful on behalf of the marginalized? How are confronting rivalries between us to build the life-giving synergies on behalf of our cities? Can we hear and embrace the motherly heart of God and accept the call to gather under her wings for healing and restoration in our cities?