Martha Mutikani
10th May 2015
Finding Love in a Foreign Land

Thank you Father Andrew for giving me this opportunity to preach a farewell message.

I found love here at St Matthews, not only me but my family and perhaps most of you. As a foreigner in the UK it’s a struggle to settle in work, college, school and even church. I am glad the elections are over; it was beginning to feel uncomfortable.

Jesus says “You did not choose me, but I chose you” we are expected to behave as chosen people to love and serve with passion.

I was deeply encouraged by the love and passion of political leaders for their constituencies. Every election year it’s the same scenario, it’s like seeing a toddler learning to walk they fall and rise. I was struck by their love for their parties to succeed, perseverance and honesty. On Friday by lunch time we had three resignations from those who did not achieve what they expected, Nigel Farage of UKIP, Nick Clegg of the liberal democrats and Ed Milliband of Labour. Over the years I have watched politicians pursue their political dreams. Even after losing they pursue other areas but working with people, nurturing them. I can name a few, Michael Portillo who lost his seat in 1997 and Gordon Brown our former Prime Minister both have had successful careers after having lost initially.

When you love what you do and have an anchor like Jesus Christ you cannot give up. Loving someone involves sharing burdens and caring for the other’s welfare. I believe I am a branch of St Matthews, I will always be your baby. Many of you have watched me learn to walk, fall and rise. You never let me go; you persevered, nurtured and even completed the evaluation forms faithfully.

“Love each other as I have loved you” – We are challenged to extend our arms with a Christ centred love. Look at Christ on the Cross wide stretched arms welcoming every person who is willing to go to the cross.

It is weird to be commanded to love. But that’s the reality of our journey as Christians. It’s not a choice as some would say politicians choose. You cannot resign when you fail to love as Christians. You couldn’t resign from nurturing me!

Ask yourself how many people have crossed your path and found love?

I am not sure if you know what it is like to be in need of love in a foreign land?

A foreign land can be the dark moments of your life, or like me when I first came to the UK.

Jesus chose us so “that we might go and bear fruit” I believe I am a fruit of St Matthews.

Rose was an Anglican who immigrated to UK from Jamaica many years ago. Like any other faithful Anglican she had grown to understand that the Anglican Church was a place of welcome, she attended an Anglican church in Brixton. As she walked out after the church service the minister said to her “Thank you for coming but there is a black people’s church in the town centre you will find it more comfortable there”. That was the last time she attended her birth church. Rose’s story is not the only one but many immigrants who have left the CofE have never returned despite the changes over the years. Once relationships are damaged they are difficult to reverse hence the need to try and get it right in the first place.

When I came to the UK in 2000 we went to various churches until we attended St Matthews church Redhill- in December 2000. It was the first church where the vicar asked for our phone numbers and within a few days she had visited our home. The welcome, attention and love made us return. Worship was different! There was no dancing, no ululating – we adapted and you never complained when I ululated. No one ever said Shut up (Ululate).

The years that followed were characterised by affection from other members, visits to our home and being invited to join PCC, and participating in giving communion – in all significant areas of church life this helped me to continue exploring my call. Over the years other new members have found home here, there is a need for persistent affirmation, accommodating the new people’s views. In nurturing disciples you cannot afford to lose the passion even when they leave and never come back you keep on supporting- following the command of Christ.

“I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” Jesus in our reading presents Himself as the example of full obedience to the Father. To love someone is to accept them unconditionally, want to understand them and ultimately to sacrifice the little you have to make sure they feel loved.

Jesus wants us to bear fruit that might last. St Matthews is a town centre church, the diversity is amazing. The opportunity for growth in ethnic minorities is enormous but needs commitment and the type of love that says I am yours and you are mine. As a family we felt at home, I offered myself for service initially as a SPA in 2003. As I heard more nudging from God I did not know where it would lead, but I was given the opportunity to discern, grow and fellowship – it has been exciting and difficult at times. The Holy Spirit is at work – to strengthen us.

Hearing and acting on Paul’s encouragement on reconciliation to build long lasting relationships “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:19).

Here in Redhill St Matthews be the stabilisers and source of spiritual enrichment, especially where some people feel ignored. There are many passing by St Matthews – some creep into church and creep out before being noticed, avoiding being ignored. You are all here bubbling with love. You have given us that love; you can reach out to those here who have never understood what it is like to be loved. If you can’t reach out pray for those who can!

We depend on the Holy Spirit to create a strong will, to listen to conscience and the call of Christ to love one another, especially when making decisions, because wrong judgement can cause pain and feeling of animosity. Bonhoeffer a famous German theologian could not live with his conscience. He believed every Christian could not have any peace while the Nazi regime was in existence, the same hearing of God’s inner voice exist within all of us, let’s help in building an inclusive church. And on this VE day to remember all who gave their lives to help build an inclusive lets be attentive to God’s voice.

My command: Love each other. The cost of following Christ means loving even those we do not understand – those at the periphery. As the lovers of Christ we have the responsibility for who we are and what we do to enable the church to build lasting relationships. We can only draw each other together if we abide in the unity of the Holy Spirit being obedient to the call for total surrender to Christ. The Holy Spirit did not choose one nationality but everyone.

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other” You welcomed me and made me your friend, within that love I found my calling. Now I need to go and continue to bear fruit. On 27 June I will see some of you at Southwark Cathedral witnessing what you started in me, sending me off to bear fruit, loving those who cross my path irrespective of who they are.

Are you being called to serve in a different way? Let the Holy Spirit guide you, May Christ give you a purpose to help others find love whether you find yourself close to home or in a foreign land.

I am glad I found love and now the foreign land has become my home. Thank you St Matthews – let it not end with me, continue to reach out!