I am still planning to come back to the question of how the cross and the atonement feature in Tanzanian theology, but here I want to give a write up of our pastor’s sermon from just before Christmas, because it neatly summarises some important themes in Tanzanian theology. It was the sermon I’ve already I mentioned here and here where he talked about three of the ten names of Jesus in Luke 1-2. Clearly there was a lot going on in the sermon, for me at least!
The first name was Jesus, which means Saviour from Luke 1:32. The Saviour from sins is the One who can break sin’s power in your life.
The second name was Son of The Highest. This is about the source and efficacy of Christ’s power. If you are pulled over by a police officer, their own status is irrelevant, because what matters is that they are the conduit and representative of the Republic of Tanzania. That is the power you are responding to, rather than to the person themselves. This is the kind of power that Jesus has, delegated from The Highest, that is, his Father. In Christ, this power lives in us. Because of his power activated for us humans, we are able to be confident in the face of other spiritual powers. We no longer need to be afraid. Pastor Dondo said, if you are born again and apply God’s wisdom, the devils have to obey. Pretty much just that sentence could sum up Tanzanian theology as we have experienced it. It’s not about us effecting change, it’s about God’s power in the world.
This leads on to the third name…
From Luke 1:78, Jesus is the Dayspring, or the sunrise. Because God’s power has come, is real and is available, Jesus brings a new day, a chance for new beginnings and a fresh start. If you are tormented by past failures, help captive by demons, tortured by bad experiences, a better day is dawning in Jesus. Life can be different.
At this point, there was a call to come up the front of church and bring your case to God, even to bring your tears to God, and let Him make all things new. As this happened, we sang, ‘Jina lako linauweza’ ‘Your name is able’.
Here is the gospel in a fear/power context: do not be afraid, you need not be resigned or passive. God is with us, and God is for us. In Him, there is a new day.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.