Zimbabwe #4: Worship

CCAP City Church choir

by Ted Wright, for the team

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!

We five did rejoice – along with 300 +/- at CCAP City Church in downtown Harare. People had gathered from near and far to celebrate its formal dedication. Founded in 2011 as a prayer house adjoining Harare Synod headquarters, this worshiping community has now achieved the status of mpingo (congregation). Its brick-and-steel structure resounded with joy as choir after choir brought songs of praise. Some had come from as far as Bindura: more than 100 km (62 miles). In local vehicles on Zimbabwean roads that’s saying a lot.

Praises alone lasted almost two hours. Our partners prioritize worship! Since they had asked me to preach, I chose as a text Romans 12:1-2. Reading first in Chichewa, then Chizungu (English), I proceeded to ask why we had all come together. Some might say: “for the church dedication.” Others: “I was requested or invited.” Others still: “In order to sing.” And some: “to pray for healing… for a job… for a partner… for wisdom… for forgiveness… for a new start.” But has anyone come intending to offer oneself as nsembe yamoyo: a living sacrifice? It’s common for worshippers to want gifts from God; not so much to offer gifts to God.

Yet sacrifice is the oldest form of worship in the Bible! And it’s expensive. So, what did our ancestors know? They knew that partnership with God is not a one-way street. God has already given, freely. God is the source of life and health. To be true partners, we too must give - and offer something more substantial than words.

But does God really want or need dead animals? Look at Psalm 40:6-8, Psalm 51:17, or Micah 6:6-8. God wants us: heart, soul, mind and strength. This is what pleases God most.

In cultures where church leaders can often be driven by ego, at least in part, it’s instructive to remember the two men in the temple (Luke 18:10ff). And to remember Jesus’ teaching of John 5:44 – How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes only from God?

Following the liturgy of dedication – all in Chichewa, yet similar to the 1946 Book of Common Worship – they dismissed us for a bit of food and drink in the vestry prior to our rushing to the airport. Hard to leave, with the service going strong - even at the three-hour mark. And when we arrived to check in for our flight to Lusaka, what did we find? Flight oversold. Switched to another carrier, three hours delayed.

So, I’m coming to you live from the departure lounge,

Ted Wright