Wednesday, 27 June 2012


I bet most of you never heard of Bishop Kivengere. Neither had I before he came to speak at our meeting. The Bishop came from Uganda. He came to Canada after he had escaped Idi Amin, who had terrorized the land and purged it of opposition. Then egged on by radical Muslims he began persecuting Christians. Massacres followed. Then the Anglican archbishop was dragged from his home in the middle of the night by army troops and accused of disloyalty. The troops then shot him in front of his family.

It was soon discovered that the army was also looking for Bishop Kivengere. Christians smuggled him from house to house until he reached the border with Tanzania. He fled across the border in the jungle in the middle of the night. He came to Canada to raise money to help the many refugees from Idi Amin.

That night at St. Paul's in Toronto, he spoke on the woman with the issue of blood. This woman had spent her entire savings trying to find help for her condition. She had come to the end without effective remedy. Then God spoke to her heart and told her that if she could touch the hem of Jesus garment she would be made whole. This alone was a promise hard to believe after years of fruitless effort. But desperation breeds faith.

This was not the only bridge for her to overcome. As some of you know, those women who were menstruating carried the remains of a once potential life. For Jews to touch a dead body meant contamination with death. This meant that one could not enter the temple until they had been cleansed of this. Furthermore, any person touching somebody who had touched a dead body was also unclean. When the woman with the issue of blood went to touch the hem of the garment of Jesus she was carrying the fear that he would become angry with her for making Him unclean.

Despite this the woman pushed through the crowd, probably crawling on all fours and letting people step over her. When Jesus came close enough she lunged forward and caught the hem of his his garment. She felt the power of God flow through her body and her body restored to health. What a relief that must have been to her.

But then, Jesus stopped and asked, "Who touched me?" Asking this in a crowd of followers sounded crazy even to His disciples. Everybody is touching you! But Jesus had felt the power of God go out to heal somebody. Imagine her feelings of fear that it would be discovered that she was the guilty one, who had presumed to touch this holy prophet without first cleansing herself. It would matter not that this was impossible; that she had been unclean for years. But Jesus persisted. At last she confessed that it was her and hung her head.

Jesus made an example of her. He declared that her faith had made her well. Instead of anger Jesus expressed commendation. She did not understand that Jesus was God and God could not be contaminated. Not only that but God was expecting her to exercise her faith. By identifying her He was able to tell her that the healing belonged to her.It was not an accident. It was not a theft. It was not an indignity. It was a gift from her loving God. What a blessing! How could she have gone through the rest of her life not knowing and understanding that? She could not and she did not because of Jesus's love for her.

Bishop Kivengere was able to make this story come alive. The people he spoke about were not theological but real. They had real fears and real emotions. Kivengere was a humble Christian and had no pretensions of importance. He did not act like an important person but just a person. Then he said something I will never forget. I need to remind you that this was the 70's. Society was reforming in the wake of  the race riots of the 60's. The black nations of Africa had just emerged from western imperialism. They ejected whites from their countries on mass and spent much rhetoric lambasting the West for their horrendous crimes. (In return for Soviet aid) In the midst of this era Bishop Kivengere stood up and thanked us, the white countries, for sending our missionaries to bring the gospel to his country.  He said this with such sincerity that it stunned me. At that time I could not remember any black who had a kind word for whites in those days - not one. It was that extraordinary. I will never forget how he blessed us that day.

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