By Reuben Kigame

Have you ever stood on a queue and you hear the cashier or hospital attendant call, “next please?” That is the feeling I have as I write this to you. The main difference between death and someone calling the next person to move forwards is that we always know who is next, but for death, indeed none of us knows who NEXT ON LINE is.

Because of the “niceties” of life such as food, drink, being with family, graduating, sex, winning a tournament, getting a baby, etc, we always imagine that death is so far away from us; and we always believe that somebody else will go before us. … If you think that way, you are very wrong. … Or perhaps you imagine that, if you have money, a house, an education, BIG BUSINESS OR GOOD health, you will be here longer than those who are not as endowed as you. If you think this way, you are also wrong.

On Monday morning this week, Heaven called, “Next please!” And one of the most powerful people in the world, Bob Collymore, moved on.

So, between you and me, who is next?

If money could buy life or health, you can be sure Mr. Collymore would still be around, because Safaricom makes profits in billions of Kenya shillings (millions of dollars) and so the company would not have let its boss lack money for a hospital bill, no matter how much! No family member would have held any resource back to buy even a few more years. … If education was the criterion for a long life, then many of our professors would live long. If being smart in military tactics, terror and political intrigues was enough to buy life, then Idi Amin, Osama, Hitler, Napoleon, Mussolini, Mandela, Jomo Kenyatta and Julius Nyerere would still be alive.

May this be a reminder to everyone who gets to read this. May those among our African leaders who wish to die in power or steal votes to be ahead of everyone, those who change constitutions in order to hold onto power, those who steal from the government and from the taxes of the people, those who kill, those who thrive by exploiting others, etc, know that they will not do this forever. May those who fight for Church leadership, those who receive bribes to miscarry justice, those who promote decadent and destructive behaviour know that their time is short. May those who keep yelling that there is no God, those who are planning an abortion, those who are organizing the next march to promote gay rights, or anyone planning to cheat in an exam know that before midnight, before this week ends, in the next one year or several years, they will hear, “Next” and it will be time to face the Maker of this world and the Giver of life.

In the same way, please remember that even if you think you are so good or successful, people like you can be called at any time. Good behaviour does not cushion anyone against death. Bob was a good man in the eyes of many. What his standing was before God, we do not know. During the memorial service, his colleagues, family and friends, government leaders and clergy alike will say very good and kind things about him; but what does God say of him now? Even at a human level, we may still ask, what shall we say about you after you hear, “next” and move on? Michuki was a useful man to the Kenyan society. He is gone. Princess Diana and Mother Theresa both died on the same day, one remembered as a beauty queen and the other as charitable and lover of the poor and destitute. One of them died surrounded by money, royalty and media attention, the other in obscurity. God called “next” and they both left the world.

On Monday, Bob Collymore died. About twelve hours after him, God called “next” and my mentor, Dr. Norman Geisler, responded. About exactly five years ago, my mother-in-law, Joyce Oywaya, who participated in the writing of Kenya’s National Anthem, was called and she went. About thirteen years ago, Mercy Wanderwa, my wife of 15 years, was called at the age of 37 and she responded, leaving me with three children, 14, 12 and 2 years. At least for her, I know she was so right with God. Now my only desire is that when I or any member of my family is called, we will be as ready as she was.

So who is next? You or Me?

Let me conclude. Last week, Bob Collymore could still have responded to some questions by journalists, eaten or drunk something served by his wife or signed a cheque for his company. By Tuesday evening he had been reduced to ashes! Even the memorial service and all the speeches will be done with him missing. I doubt that his ashes would hear the sermon at All Saints Cathedral or any of the songs complete with the playing of the pipe organ which he would have enjoyed a great deal. Don’t ask me if the dead hear what we say. That we will discuss at the Pamoja Fellowships in future. … He is gone. That is it! Only God knows where next. … I have been challenged once more. If I were you, I would do my best to be ready when God says, “Next!” meanwhile, I will work even harder to leave a great legacy for God, my family and my country. Indeed that is all I do these days. And yes, I desire even more to spend quality time with my spouse, my children, my friends, and most of all, my God.

I have preached from the passage below, but let me let the words of this Psalm by Moses trickle deep into your soul as I simply recount them without commentary below:

Psalm 90:

1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations.
2 Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the whole world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
3 You turn people back to dust,
saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.”
4 A thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.
5 Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—
they are like the new grass of the morning:
6 In the morning it springs up new,
but by evening it is dry and withered.
7 We are consumed by your anger
and terrified by your indignation.
8 You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.
9 All our days pass away under your wrath;
we finish our years with a moan.
10 Our days may come to seventy years,
or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
11 If only we knew the power of your anger!
Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due.
12 Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
13 Relent, LORD! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.
16 May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children.
17 May the favor[a] of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us

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