Who was born in 1994? If you were then you share a celebration with “The Lion King” and the year when “Hakuna Matata” entered the global English language! The phrase was around before that – you’d have come across it in a Swedish comic, in a Boney M song… but Timon the Meercat, Pumbaa the Warthog made it internationally famous when they tried to teach Simba, the Lion Cub, to forget his troubled past and concentrate on the present. “Hakuna Matata” was then nominated for the best original song in the Academy Awards. It is a Swahili expression with is best translated as “There are no worries”.
There’s a reference to that idea tucked away in the middle of 1 Peter 5, the epistle you chose for this service.
This letter was probably written just before, or around, the time of Nero’s persecution early in the history of the growing Christian church. And it was composed by Peter who knew a thing or two about trusting God in terrifying situations. Over the thirty years since the resurrection and ascension Peter had continued to experience God’s faithfulness. “There are no worries" even when you’re imprisoned for your faith.
So he writes to these believers challenging them to live differently from those around them because they belong to God. They are the people of God who are to love one another and to love God; they are to love their enemies and to be self-controlled. And in chapter 5 Peter sums up what he’s be writing about in the earlier chapters. Have a right attitude to one another and to God.
Being in Kenya will throw up many challenges. Going as a team has its own unique joy with incredible times of fun and deep fellowship. But there will be other times when you could see someone far enough and you will drive each other up the walls! Some of the rules of behaviour will seem very strange to our western eyes… long trousers for men, skirts for women… yet to break these conventions could cause offence and hurt relationships that have been developed over many years. Before every meal, however simple, you’ll wash your hands. In a gathering you’ll greet everyone, if not individually then in the traditional group greeting. Over these past few months you’ve been well trained and now you’re ready to go – to please God and to love one another both on the team and your new friends in Kajiado diocese.
Peter writes to people, ordinary people, who face an unknown future. For some it will be persecution. For all, it will be a time of change.
Change can leave us unsettled and anxious. Just think how people reacted to the 2004 BCP and the new hymnal! We’re comfortable with the familiar: we like food we recognise, tea as we choose and a bedroom with everything we enjoy. In Kajiado you’ll face all kinds of things that are new and different. To be polite there are times when you’ll need to take food that maybe you’d not have chosen, and you’ll experience smells and sights that you’d certainly prefer not to have sniffed or seen.
In all the changes you’ll find, the name of your team will be a constant reminder to turn over all your fears, anxieties, worries to God. “Hakuna Matata” – “There are no worries”. And this is to be true also for friends and family at home.
“Hakuna Matata” – “There are no worries because God gives you COURAGE”.
Courage to face your fears and anxieties. Courage to look inside. In Kenya there will be fewer distractions – no Facebook, no play stations... There won’t be so many places to run so that you don’t have to think about the things that are bothering you.
One of the best bits of my days in Kajiado was the early morning times of quiet when many of us scattered over the site, giving each other space and silence to be in God’s presence to read, pray and think. To allow God to search our souls and to grow spiritually. Give yourself this space to let God do a deep inner work in your life.
And you can have courage to do this knowing that God is faithful to all the promises in scripture. For example, Isaiah 41:10 “do not fear for I am with you … I will strengthen you … I will uphold you … “ Use wisely your time in Kajiado to grow spiritually. God will give you the courage to move on “Hakuna Matata” – “There are no worries”.
“Hakuna Matata” – “There are no worries because God gives you WISDOM”.
James 1:5 “… if any of you lacks wisdom … ask God … it will be given …” being in Kenya will be a time of great learning. You’ll understand more about difference and how that our western ways are not necessarily the best ways! There will be times, maybe especially when you’re about to return home, when everything will seem wrong and the consumerism of the west will appear even more immoral and indecent.
Ask God for wisdom to see what God wishes to teach you. And if you are open to the divine voice, then “there are no worries”.
“Hakuna Matata” – “There are no worries because God gives you STRENGTH”.
Each of you has unique abilities, strengths, gifts. Encourage each other to use the talents that you have – don’t try to be someone else. God will give you the strength to do what God is asking you to do. Philippians 4:13 Each of you will discover that you operate “… through God who gives me the strength.”
On our building project I never once worked up on the roof like Kenny, nailing the corrugated iron to the roof trusses. But I did help to make the trusses. Being on a team allows each person to use his or her gifts so that together you will do a great work for God. Do encourage one another and those alongside whom you work; remember that whatever you do, you do it in the strength that God supplies.
“Hakuna Matata” – “There are no worries because God gives you FAITH”.
Evidence of your faith started long ago. You demonstrated faith when you first explored the possibility of going on this team, when you were willing to see if God was calling you to go to Kenya this year. There are many words of encouragement in scripture. For example, psalm 37:5 “Commit your way to the Lord, trust in him and he will do this.”
You are going to Kenya because, as The Message says, “the strong hand of the Lord God is on you”. Remember that: The strong hand of the Lord God is on you. At each point of this journey there is a step of faith. Remember it is faith in God who is more than able to supply all that you need. God who fills you with the Holy Spirit and who has promised to be with us until our journey’s end.
There are no worries because God gives you courage, wisdom, strength and faith.
To worry is to be “pulled apart”. God alone keeps us fully integrated. Sometimes this will require a deliberate choice. Making a choice to hand over to God all the thoughts and anxieties that would pull us apart. And maybe that’s a word especially for the people who will be at home – your parents, families and friends.
When I was a teacher I was head of year 10 who often became anxious before their assessments. In assembly one week I described how that when they go to bed at night they could build an imaginary shelf and on it place their worries one by one so that they could sleep relaxed, knowing that the worries were there to be taken down in the morning if they wished! A couple of weeks later one of the lads came to me to say that he’d built a second shelf since he never took the worries back!
Perhaps in Kajiado you’ll need to build a shelf, or take an extra bag into which you deliberately stuff your worries. And if you find that something is beginning to pull you apart and you can’t deal with it then make a conversation time with one, or two, or three others. Ask them to listen to you and to pray with you. You are a team and you have responsibilities for each other. This is part of your loving God and loving one another.
“Hakuna Matata” – “There are no worries because God is with you”.
May God change you more and more into the likeness of Jesus Christ – to whom be the honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.