The Best Antidote

From “Get Yourself Ready,” In Season and Out of Season (1993)

And who knows but that Alfred Chipman, Andrew Adano, Josiah Were, and Horace Etemesi becoming bishops for “such a time as this” in the history of Kenya: a time of multi-party democracy, ethnic clashes, and economic hardships. Only they must not remain silent.

Jeremiah emerged at a time in the nation of Judah was poised on the brink of national and spiritual catastrophe, when the influence of pagan Canaanite worship had exerted a corrupting effect on Judeans. Religious apostasy had been followed by social and moral decay, and it fell to Jeremiah to present the implications of the Sinai covenant fearlessly in a desperate attempt to stop the destruction of the nation. It is not by accident this day we should set apart Alfred Chipman Andrew and Donna as bishops of the Church. God had chosen Jeremiah because he had a special task he wanted him to fulfill. Jeremiah felt inadequate to be a prophet because he thought he was not a good speaker and had no experience. God told Jeremiah, “You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them – do not fear.”

Fear is the most paralyzing of human emotions. In taking up a position like this, of the first bishop of Mount Kenya West or an assistant bishop of Kirinyaga, you may have some fears: fear of possible opposition from some quarters, fears of being misunderstood and misinterpreted, fear of lack of sufficient funds to develop the diocese, fear of politically motivated thuggery on your house, and so on. No leader is completely free from opposition and the best antidote is courage: God tells Jeremiah, “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you” (Jer. 1:8).

You will definitely be misunderstood, and your sermons will be misquoted. Remember Jesus too was misunderstood and misquoted. Last time I had the privilege of preaching here at St. Peter’s Church, was in June 1987. During a well-attended civic service, expounding Daniel 6, the story of how some leaders tried to remove Daniel, a very able civil servant from his Number Two position in Babylon. At the end of the service, the Nyeri District Commissioner, Mr. Mwihalule, told me that it was the best sermon he had ever heard. But on the following day he issued a press statement saying that the sermon bordered on sedition. During the whole week I was attacked by politicians who were not present when I preached. They misquoted and misunderstood me. But I was not afraid of them because I was convinced that the truth is, in the final analysis, triumphant. His Excellency, the President, brought the debate to an abrupt end by saying, “Let the bishop speak.”

And so, Alfred and Andrew, go wherever God sends you and say whatever he commands you to tell the people. Remember, “‘They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ says the Lord” (Jer. 1:19). If the Lord is with you to rescue you from them and there is no cause for fear.

David Gitari (1937-2013) was a Kenyan Anglican archbishop, the third primate of the Anglican Church of Kenya. He was a deeply committed evangelist and a leader in theological education, the founder of St. Andrew’s College of Theology in Kabare. As archbishop, he was bold in his criticism of political and social corruption. This sermon was delivered at the consecration of two bishops at St. Peter’s Church, Nyeri on July 4,1993.

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