I heard an intriguing sermon a few weeks ago. It was especially significant because of what was happening just outside of our classroom/church…

We are building a new “kanisa!” We’re building a new church!

The sermon was discussing the difference in “kanisa” and “kanisani” in the Kiswahili language. In a nutshell, “kanisani” is the actual building one goes into to worship God. (Ex… “Twende kanisani kumabudu Mungu.” Let’s go to the church to worship God.) “Kanisa” is the dwelling place of God (via the Holy Spirit) within one’s self and even amidst a community of believers. (Ex… “Sisi ni kanisa!” We are the church!) It is necessary to keep both our kanisani and kanisa in good working order if we want to truly live out our Christian faith honorably to God. But how do we do that?

To start, it’s helpful to frequently visit and use both! Then you know what’s in good condition and what could use some work. Both will also take time to improve and repair. I’ve learned that anything that’s worth ANYTHING, takes time…

Any kind of work is always better with good company. Fortunately, we’re blessed to have the opportunity to strengthen both our kanisa and kanisani alongside others. Friends and family to support us, comfort us, mourn with us, and yes, even call us out when the situation presents itself. God speaks to us on how to maintain our kanisa/kanisani through the Bible and our onsite supervisor, the Holy Spirit, doesn’t take sick days.

But let’s get practical here. How can/should we care for the kanisa inside of us? Regular and meaningful prayer time with God, reading Scripture, and worship are just a few ways to keep up the maintenance. Also serving and loving others does wonders for our spirit and daily perspective on life. John Wesley focused on 3 things when it came to maintaining his kanisa: Love God, Do Good, and Do No Harm. Are you able to center your life around these 3 simple rules?

So, kanisa and kanisani are different but still both important and vital to care for. The amazing, and yet daunting, beauty of kanisa is that it can’t be destroyed to pieces by others and taken from us without our participation in it’s destruction. Here lies our challenge: to not only strengthen the kanisa within each of us but protect it from our selfish desires to re-design it into a self-shrine.

God dwells within you. And you are God’s holy temple designed in God’s image. I was reading an email from a former Pastor and Co-worker of mine, Dr. James Howell, and here’s what he shared about being made in God’s image.

“God makes us in God’s own image.  Some think that means we enjoy the blessing of reason – but aren’t unreasonable people, or those who are debilitated with mental challenges, still in the image of God? Rusty Reno wisely defines this image as “the intrinsic spiritual dignity God has bestowed on humanity… making us capable of fellowship with God”; it is “the basis of our supernatural vocation, the capacity to do what God intends for us, greater than any possibility resident in our natural powers.”  But like some old coin, the image in us gets worn, blurred – so we need restoration work, or the “new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24).

   Made in the “image of God,” we are charged with divine responsibility:  to have dominion over the earth, to care for what God has made, not lording over like a petty potentate, not seizing the goods of the world for ourselves, but exercising faithful dominion, the way a parent guides a child, or a gardener tends to flowers, or a musician strives to capture the wonder of the moment the composer overheard something from the heavens.”

Therefore, being made in God’s image is a beautiful gift allowing for unity and communion with God. Being made in God’s image is also a great responsibility because it shows us that God has equipped us (and therefore has charged us) to care for the earth and the people within… including our own selves… our own kanisas. Based on this how might this affect your choices and actions in life? What’s the condition of your kanisa and what is next on your kanisa’s To-Do (or better yet…To-BE) list?

May your kanisa and your kanisani not gather dust but be used to the potential that IS there! We are created in God’s image and let’s not let it go to waste!

Sisi ni kanisa na twende kanisani kumabudu Mungu!