My house, says the Lord, shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.Isaiah 56:7
I was deeply honored to be invited to preach at the Lutheran Church in Matamba, Tanzania while on a mission trip there in 2017. Here is the manuscript. And special thanks to Pastor Nyambo, who translated my sermon into Swahili.
Bwana Akubariki. (The Lord bless you.) Amen
“My house,” says the Lord, “shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” (Isaiah 56)
How thankful I am today to be with you in the house of the Lord. To be here with you, in this church, which we remember today is a house of prayer for all peoples.
This is the first time that I have ever preached away from my country. The first time I have ever even visited your country. The first time I have ever been anywhere in Africa.
I am a little nervous. Because this is a great honor for me. And one that I never imagined having. It is deeply humbling.
And I am also very thankful today. Thankful to be here with you. Thankful to be in this church. And thankful to hear this word from the Lord, that His house is a place of prayer for us all, for all peoples.
But why is the church the house of prayer for all peoples? That is a question to consider today. And the answer, of course, is Jesus. The church is the house of prayer for all peoples, because the church is the house that Jesus built. Every church building was built by human hands. But the church is more than a building.
Some of you may have helped to build this building. At St. David, we had church members who helped to build our church building. But these are just buildings.
The church is more than this. The church is a place of prayer, a place of worship, a place to experience God’s presence and God’s love. And that place can only be built by Jesus.
Jesus built our churches. And he built them by giving his life. “Destroy this temple,” Jesus once said, “and in three days I will raise it up again.” And he was referring to the temple of his body. He gave himself for us. He died to give us life. And we are reminded many times in the Bible that Jesus died for all peoples. Jesus died for you. He died for me.
Jesus died for us, but now he lives. Every Sunday we celebrate this good news. Jesus is alive again. He rose from the dead. And after he was raised from the dead, Jesus went to prepare another house for us, a home called heaven. A home which has many rooms, and where there is no pain or sadness or death. A home where we will live forever, together, as brothers and sisters in Christ. A home where we will all gather around the throne, to worship our Lord and savior.
Our heavenly home has many rooms. But it is all one home. And we will all be together in that home. The church is a reminder of this.
And my being with you today is a reminder to me of that. That we will all be together in one, heavenly home someday. The everlasting house of prayer that is for all peoples. As wonderful as this building is, and as wonderful as my church back home is, they are just buildings. They are not our permanent home. They just remind us that our heavenly home is where we will all live together forever, a house that will truly be for all peoples. For you, for me, and for everyone that Jesus died for.
But Jesus did not just die for us. Jesus now lives for us. He has been raised from the dead. And he has promised to be with us always. And wherever we gather in the name of Jesus, he is with us. And how blessed I am to be here with you, today, in the name of Jesus. To be reminded that this is a house of prayer for all peoples.
You and I look different. We speak different. And we are different. We live in different parts of the world. And if I were to walk around your community later today, people would know that I am not from here. I am “Mzungu.”
We are different in many ways. But you know what? We are not different to God. We are the same to God. When God looks at us, He sees His children. And we are all the same. God sees us all as His beautiful children. All created in God’s own image. All loved by God. And all saved by the blood of the lamb, Jesus Christ.
Our two churches are very far away from each other. Most of the members of my church will never be able to visit you. And most of you will never be able to visit us. But we are together. Because we are together in Christ. Pamoja katika Kristo. (Together in Christ.)
To celebrate our being together in Christ, I have a gift for each of you. It is a small gift, but one that can remind us that we are together in Christ. I have a pen for each of you, and it is the same pen that I shared with the members of St. David.
The pen says “St. David” and “Matamba” on the top, with a cross between us. The next two lines says “Together in Christ” in English, and in Swahili. I want to give a pen to each of you, and I only ask you what I asked the members of St. David. That when you use this pen, say a prayer for us.
Let us be together in prayer, just as we are together in Christ. Let us be reminded whenever we use these pens that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ; that we all are part of the house of prayer for all peoples; that we all share one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all. Because we are “pamoja katika Kristo” – together in Christ.
We are together today, in this house of prayer for all peoples, to worship Christ, and to give thanks for his love. But there are many people around the world who do not know of his love. There are many people in my country who do not know they are loved by God. And there are probably many people in your country, too, who do not know of this love. Who don’t feel that love. It is true in my country. And I bet that it is true in your country, too.
All people, everywhere, have been created in God’s image. And all people, everywhere, are loved by God. But not all people know this. So many people live without hope. They live in fear. They live with a sadness that nothing in this world can fix. Only God can fix this.
And God is asking you and me to share God’s love. To bring hope to a hopeless world. To bring joy to a world of sadness. To bring God’s love to a world that needs this love more than ever.
You and I are invited today to do this. We are invited to join together in Christ to share his love with all. Because only then can the Lord’s house truly become a house of prayer for all peoples. Only then can the Lord gather the outcasts, as he promises to do in our reading from Isaiah.
Only when all of us do the Lord’s work, will the Lord’s house be full. Full of love. Full of joy. Full of hope. And a place of prayer for all peoples.
When Pastor Nyambo visited our church earlier this year, he preached a powerful sermon from our pulpit. Toward the end of his sermon, he asked us to consider a simple but very important question: “Can people see the presence of Jesus Christ in you?”
It is an important question, because it is only when people can see the presence of Jesus in us that we can share the hope of the gospel. It is only when people see the presence of Jesus in us that we can share the love of Jesus. It is only when people see the presence of Jesus in us that we can do the Lord’s work. The Lord’s house will become a place of prayer for all peoples only when the Lord’s people are filled with the presence of Jesus.
And so, I invite us today to continue this mission together. To share God’s love with people here in Matamba, and in the United States, and all around the world. We are together in Christ. Pamoja katika Kristo. And together in Christ, let us share God’s love with everyone, until all people experience the love that we are blessed to experience today.
To the glory of God. Amen