Monthly Archive June 7, 2021

The Last Sermon

Bishop Ken has never had problems writing sermons. One day he is rushing home to draft one, but when he finds his wife and daughter crying, he struggles for the whole week to come up with one. Now, he has a few minutes before he stands to deliver a sermon that addresses his personal issues, congregational and national concerns.

“Let the weak say, ‘I am rich.’ “

“Let the poor say, ‘I can see,’ “

“Let the blind say, ‘I am strong,’ “

“It’s what the Lord has done in me…”

Bishop Ken smiled as he attempted to bring his mind back to its body. Those near him were too focused on their singing to notice his rendition of Hillsong Worship’s ‘What the Lord Has Done in Me.’ He thought of the show he would have caused if they had been singing a popular Swahili chorus that is often accompanied by forward, backward, sideways movements and sometimes for him, emptying pockets in proof that there is no other equal to Jesus.

His eyes strayed from the lyrics projected on the overhead screen to the shoes of one of the worship team leaders. He could almost see the reflection of the microphone. In less than 30 minutes, as he delivered his sermon, his pair of shoes would replace the worship leader’s. He felt all the eyes and TV cameras glued on him in a competition of who would finish a full body scan and get the scoop of his sermon. But he was certain his wife and daughter’s had better things to focus on even though they were seated two rows behind him.

Today was one of those days he was reminded of how divinely inspiring the decision of the church to change the sitting arrangement was—the pastoral team, elders and deacons now sat with the rest of the congregation. Previously, they would be on the raised stage, facing the congregation.  This meant that when the female-dominated choir was presenting, standing in front of them, the default screen saver was the posterior anatomy.  Over the years, that had not been much of a problem until a female guest musician presented a single from her bestselling album. She had squeezed her body into a nightwear that passed for a dress, then trapped particular regions for effective display. As an accompaniment to her vocals, she wiggled and gyrated. This prompted a deacon to comment that the Holy Spirit had been denied full access. The bishop then told the congregation that the church had decided to change so that the pastoral team and church leadership would sit with the congregation. In private, however, he told his colleagues to anoint their eyes and cleanse their imaginations. 

Of course the bishop meant to save the pastors and male-dominated church leadership from themselves and the Evil One. In one meeting, the bishop was categorical. “The swirling rumours are too many to be ignored — pant-less pastors, nude choir girls and ushers, and impious activities on the pews and offices.  Involving body organs and fluids is taking fellowship too far. It is time for each one of us to bear his own cross; to pray for the recalcitrant organs, anoint them, and if need be, take them to the altar for special prayers.”

Ken, a senior pastor then, had a major struggle not to burst out laughing. He had a clear image of some taking turns to present their minds, hearts and other offending organs at the altar. He saw some hopping up and down and others elevating their crotches. Even today, the flash of that image caused him to search for a quick distraction to restrain himself from bursting out in laughter.

He looked at his notes. The two scriptures and a few doodles stared back at him. On another Sunday, his notes would have rivalled a thesis. Still, he remained hopeful of a revelatory word.

His mind moved to seven days ago, when it all started.

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Mama’s Boardroom

John and his siblings had been brought up in the smooth and quiet, urban life. When his parents decided it was time for the family to move to the farm, the transition was shocking. John looks back at his cheeky ways of coping with the shift by focusing on the conversations in the semi-traditional kitchen. A third of the happenings are true; the rest are tales from John’s imagination.

I will never forget the word spaying. On one cold afternoon of April 1998, Lubji, my younger brother, played the word in a tightly contested game of scrabble, thus scoring fifty bonus points and earned an unassailable lead. As he counted, he gleefully told me the meaning –the process of removing a cat’s ovaries. The meaning stuck with me and eased my suffering. Lubji had written many bingo words and there was no sign of him slowing down. On that afternoon it seemed like he was adding the meanings of those long words to his repertoire. I confirmed the meaning later and realized that spaying is not limited to cats.

Knowing my hatred for cats and Biology, Lubji, a kind soul like the rest of the family — Our parents, Mama and Mzee: my siblings, Jimmy, Suzy, Kessy, Kaleft and Freshi — felt, perhaps, that spay provided a unique opportunity for my two hatreds to converge and may be breed a passion. If that was the intention then it was brilliant for, if Biology had topics and practical lessons with interesting titles like spay, I might have taken a keener interest and even excelled at it.

I had hoped that the next time I would encounter the word it would be on my rack of tiles as I prepared to obliterate Lubji, but I encountered the word sooner and in the unlikeliest of places: kitchen, Mama’s boardroom. One night after supper, Mama and Mzee retired early and left me and my siblings in the boardroom. Lubji meant to put Mama’s cat on a family planning regime which he aptly called spaying. He mixed laundry blue with water and served the cat as the family veterinarian had advised him. The veterinarian would come over to mainly attend to the cows, dogs and chicken; questions about cats would pop as a by the way.

After three months, Lubji learnt that the spaying regimen had not worked as promised. As if to mock him and the concoction, the cat added the number of kittens that time round. This only served to encourage a determined Lubji. He told us that more ingredients would be needed. The concoction would be mixed in warm water. In went generous portions of the laundry blue, tea leaves and a bleach. “I am preparing for you a delicacy.” Lubji stirred the concoction looking at the cat reassuringly. The poor cat sat on Mama’s bench, their bench, unwittingly waiting for her goodnight milk. Lubji and the concoction were ready. “Puss, puss, puss,” he called out as he stood to wait on the cat.

The kitchen door opened.

Mama stood on the threshold. She placed her left hand on the door frame at the height of her shoulders and used the right hand to hold the door open for the rest of her to walk in. Only her head got in. Her eyes pierced through the conspiracy and the choking fumes of bleach. She lingered on Lubji’s concoction and her cat.  She then let the rest of herself in.

“Overachievers! Whose cat do you mean to serve bleach? No! No! No! Not my cat! I know you have never liked this cat, but I have never complained of feeding it or its kittens. Since the blue did not work the first time round–.” Mama knew her pet had been served with blue in April. “Let nature take its course. Allow the cat to breed till it stops on its own volition. And when you have you own cats, you can decide the menu. ” That meant letting the cat breed till catopause. With that she left the kitchen. If it was not good-old Mama’s intuition about impending mischief that directed her to the kitchen, then it must have been telepathic summoning by one of the endangered lives of her beloved cat.

Lubji, with his concoction, followed her. Obedience was not a problem, not at this age, but craftiness still was. As Mama turned left to the house, Lubji turned right into the darkness. A few steps and he met his target: Poppy. Lubji was not about to let his invention go down the drain. He served Poppy the concoction. In Lubji’s words, she lapped the delicious liquid hungrily and begged for more. A few months down the line Poppy dutifully produced a healthy litter of Poppilets. The unanimous conclusion was that the blue, which was meant to be the main ingredient, was fake; a product brewed in some contraband-like place.

Poppy, was not the only other animal that needed neutering. She ranked high on the list of animals that we disliked. The others included Muiru, a black cow, and many of the cats. Poppy was a dog whose life story continues to amaze me to date. She lacked basic dog intelligence and wisdom. Poppy could eat anything anywhere anytime. She even ate chicken poop. How low can a dog sink? It was conventional for the chicken to eat dog poop. The only time she showed some semblance of above average intelligence was when she started eating eggs on Sundays.

Afterwards I asked Lubji what score he had to settle with the cat. I was certain he was not being moved with compassion because of the many mouths Mama was feeding. He told me it was about weeding out weak genes. The cat had born enough kittens and it was growing senile. It had stopped eating rats. There was this time Lubji locked it in the store overnight and the cat pulled a Garfield. There was laughter. The cat must have been playing hide and seek with the rats and mice. “We must put a stop, otherwise we will end up with generations of cats who easily forget their primary duty of eating mice and rats,” Lubji said. I couldn’t agree with him more. I made a note to reduce the milk ration for that cat.

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