August 17

August 17
About 10 years ago, we, as a congregation, gave some of the benevolence portion of one of our Capital Campaigns to “the Plaster House” in Tanzania — a halfway house for children coming out of Selian Hospital with casts (“plasters”) on arms or legs.  They didn’t need to be in the hospital, but conditions in the villages were not good for folks in casts.  The director of the hospital and the Plaster House ministry was American missionary Dr. Mark Jacobson.

Mark and his wife, Linda, are at present on home leave in Minneapolis and have, like all of us but even more so, been personally struggling with the George Floyd murder.  In a recent letter, he included the following:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come.  The old has gone, the new is here.”
2 Corinthians 5:17 

Yet reconciliation is costly and hard and creative.

Amongst the Maasai people, who have been my teachers now for many years in Tanzania, we learn of both the cost of reconciliation and the power to create a new reality.

One of the most serious offenses among the community is to kill, to murder.  And murder can lead quickly to outrage, vengeance, and further violence.  When this occurs, the perpetrator, admitting his guilt, retreats to the home of his mother, where he literally lays down under her bed of protection.  The murderer has thus confessed and admitted his sin and as he is in community, the community seeks a way to reconciliation.

The elders gather to seek reconciliation.  First a negotiation on reparations.  How many cattle, the most precious of Maasai possessions, indeed their very lifeblood, how many cattle will be paid in reparation.  The cost of reconciliation is great and many cattle are required.  When agreed upon, a ceremony of reconciliation is called by the healer-priest, the loiboni.

Both families gather together in a great circle.  Into the center, two nursing mothers come, one from each family.  They exchange their infants and nurse the other’s child.  The cost of reconciliation is great.

Then two of the senior elders, the male leaders come to the center of the circle where each, with a slight slice from their elongated knife, draw blood from the wrist of the other and intermingle it with their own.  The cost of reconciliation is great.

Then a blessing is pronounced by the loiboni,spoken and with the sprinkling of milk in a baptismal like ritual, which calls upon God to bless this reconciliation.  It is holy work.

As the ritual ends, the loiboni announces the miracle of reconciliation, the hope of a new creation.  For now, the two warring families are transformed into a new, larger, single family.  It is a symbolic and literal creation of a new family.  Even to the extent that intermarriage between them is now forbidden.  “The old has gone, the new is here.”

The cost of reconciliation is great.  Not to reconcile leads unto death.  The hope of reconciliation is even greater.  In Christ, “The old will go, the new will come.”

Therefore my friends, let us Go!  We are sent. Remembering always Christ’s promise to us, “I am with you always, even until the end of the age.”


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