Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, our Lord,
On behalf of the delegation of the Ev. Lut. Church of Finland I want to thank you cordially for this opportunity to pray and praise with you our common God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We have travelled very far. We flew for 12 hours by aeroplane, and it was such a long time I thought that we had flown to the moon or another planet. It took two days to travel here. But is has been worth it. Last Thursday we spent a wonderful day with the Maasai community near Morogoro City. When we return home, it will be impossible to describe to our families and church members how beautiful your country is and how friendly your people.
As you know, our church supports in many ways the Maasai people through our organisation, the Finnish Mission Society and its project by the name of HiMWA. The Maasai people are a very famous African tribe in Finland. You have a good name. At the same time we are aware the challenges which you and the pastoralist life style are facing in Tanzania. It is our hope and prayer that we could support the prosperity, happiness and future of your great culture and that we could support your life in Jesus Christ, our common Lord.
Honestly speaking there are many differences in your life here on the savannah and our life in Finland. Just a short example. I have five children with my beloved wife Hanna. Between June and August our children like to swim in the lakes and rivers and they enjoy the midnight sun, because in those months the sun shines through the day and night. But between December and March Finland is frozen, and full of white snow and ice. Then they ski and play in the deep snow and go ice-fishing on the lakes which are covered by a thick layer of ice. The ice is so thick that you can walk and drive with a car over the lakes.
Despite these differences in weather and nature there are many things which we have in common, and which actually unites us and make us one.
First of all we all have one God and we all are children of one God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. According to the Bible, our Holy Scripture, we are created in the image of God. You and I are created by God’s love, not by hate. You and I are images of God’s dream, not the results of cosmic accident. As man and woman we are equal in the eyes of God. As Maasai people and Finnish people we all are called to live in peace and harmony with God, with our neighbours and with nature.
Unfortunately, this harmony does not always exist. As Lutheran Christians we confess that we all bear the wounds of the sin of the first man, Adam, and are capable of much evil against the Creator and our neighbours. The wars between nations and broken relations between husband and wife or fathers and sons are signs of the sin of the first man, Adam.
Despite these rifts and troubles our God is still searching for us, still loves us, and still calls us to communion with the Creator.
What unites us, is that we all are baptized in Jesus Christ. In what way does this unite us? It make us people of freedom. The holy baptism has freed us from the devil and all the powers of evil. When the holy water of baptism has touched our head and the holy word of God has touched our heart, we have become free and there is nothing, absolutely nothing to be afraid of. We belong to Christ, whose resurrection has made us free, who protects us and who leads us toward the kingdom of heaven.
As Martin Luther puts it: In the holy baptism God has given you all his mercy, Christ has given you all his works and the Holy Spirit has given you all the Spirit’s gifts. Therefore we have many reasons to rejoice and be happy.
Baptism is not only a gift but also a call and an invitation. In Baptism Christ calls us to be living members of Christ’s body, that is, his Church. You have heard this calling when you have gathered together to hear God’s word, to praise God’s mercy and to ask for God’s help in your needs and troubles. Therefore God rejoices in Heaven and we rejoice that we can pray with you.
In Baptism Christ also calls us to live a holy life in his church and with other Christians. What does it means to us today? It means of course love your neighbour, celebrate Eucharist, pray together and follow God’s law.
I think one important thing is to show compassion and friendship for those sisters and brother who are poor and who are in trouble.
You know, in many cultures it is not appropriate to show your troubles or burdens or tears to others. In many cultures people want to hide their troubles and sufferings. However in Christ’s church we are free to also share our troubles with God and to ask for God’s help in the midst of our suffering. When Jesus Christ, the Son of God, walked among us, he wanted to help the poor and give dignity to those who were oppressed. The Apostle Paul encourages us as Christians: rejoice with those sisters and brothers who are happy, cry with those sisters and brothers who are in trouble. We call that sympathy or compassion. That is very important for us Lutherans. Yours troubles hurts us, and your victory is also our victory.
Compassion and mutual love is very important also between husband and wife. As I have said, I have one wife called Hanna and five children. In the holy baptism Christ calls me also to be a good husband and loving father. To me it means that I try to listen to my wife, show her respect and love, and be always faithful to her. As a Christian I believe that in the eyes of God we are equal as husband and wife. The Apostle Paul writes: Among baptised Christians there is no man or woman, because in Christ we are all one. It means that a good relation between husband and wife is based on true friendship, not ownership. True friends are equal, they always try to discuss together and they make their decisions together. It is not always easy, because we both have our own will and opinion. But believe me, it is the best way, because then both can be happy and both can be heard.
I have two sons and three daughters. To be a good father means that I respect and love each of them equally, both sons and daughters. I try to put them all through school so that they all could have equal opportunities to develop their best skills. In that way their best skills come to profit the whole family and the whole community. That is one reason that Lutheran Christians has always appreciated education. In many places their schools are the best schools.
I thank you for this opportunity to celebrate with you. It is my hope and prayer that you will continue and grow in walking the way of Christ as his beloved children and faithful disciples. I ask that you pray for our church and all our sisters and brothers in Finland.
May the almighty and gracious God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, bless you and keep you, now and forever. Amen.