Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Red Dirt Ramblings: Lectionary inspiration from Cameroon

Many of you have already heard me proclaim that the church in the Third World will very likely one day save the church in the First World. I honestly believe that the spiritual rumblings around the world are genuine, authentic, and can transform the local church in America.

So I’ve decided to start a new feature on this blog, entitled “Red Dirt Ramblings.” Every week, I will choose one of the lectionary readings and write a brief reflection based on a story, experience or reality of life in Cameroon. In the future, I may even invite some of the pastors to submit reflections.

The result, I hope, is a rich treasury of new sermon material for pastors and preachers, and possibly even for those who lead Bible studies. Now you don’t have to save talk about Cameroon for just those Mission Moments – here’s an excuse to mention it in your sermon!

Unfinished Business
Week of September 9
Luke 14:25-33 (especially verses 28-30, 33, as found below)
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the fo undation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ … In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”
New International Version
In trying to state the high cost of becoming a disciple, Jesus uses a parable that might not actually work in Cameroon today. He offers the example of someone who wants to build a tower. Jesus says that the builder will not start work until he is sure that he can carry it through to completion. Otherwise, if he can only get the foundation laid and the work stalls, he will become the laughingstock of his neighbors.

For Americans, this sounds like good common sense. Every venture requires a solid business plan, budget, timeline, and evaluation phase.

But construction is done differently in Cameroon. Take a drive down any street in Yaounde and you will see numerous buildings in various stages of construction. Cameroonians who want to build a house, build slowly, because they have to use cash to finance the project. Typically, no one has the total amount needed in his or her hands to complete the work immediately. So the owner builds slowly, step by step. First, the land is cleared. Then the foundation is laid. Then the walls go up, floor by floor. From start to finish, the process can take years!

This is not a source of embarrassment for Cameroonians; it is simply the way it has to be done to complete the job! In fact, beginning the project before one has all the means procured to complete it, could be viewed as a sign of awesome faith! Faith that what is begun, will ultimately be completed!

Jesus is trying to make the point that following him into Kingdom-living requires great personal sacrifice. One doesn’t enter into the journey lightly, or without counting the cost of the journey.

Of course, very few of us know what the journey will end up requiring. We can’t tabulate the cost entirely. There will always be unknown expenses.

And so … like Cameroonian house builders, we start anyway. We clear the land of trees and snakes, and begin pouring the cement with holy confidence. We have no idea when we’ll have the strength to finish, but with God’s help, we know we shall.