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Instant Church?

messy-ch-pentecost

No, this is not another blog about another way of “doing church”!

It is inspired by the fact that I really enjoyed Eddie Arthur’s Pentecost post this morning!

Pentecost: Miracles Don’t happen

OK; miracles do happen – but stick with me on this one.

Sometimes the events of the day of Pentecost are presented something like this; the Spirit descended on the disciples, they reached out and preached in the streets in all sorts of languages, 3,000 people became Christians and the church was now a glorious multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-lingual group.

That’s a great story; but unfortunately, the New Testament picture is somewhat different in a few crucial respects. Yes, the disciples rushed out and preached in all sorts of languages (or were understood in different languages) and many people became believers (the term Christian is not appropriate at this point in the story). However, as we saw yesterday, the people who joined the disciples were all Jewish, this was not really a multi-ethnic group.

Eddie goes on to emphasise the point that, as we read further in the New Testament, we see that the early church was just like all our churches – brilliant yet flawed.

Eddie concludes with the words below, but do take a look at the rest of his blog – more good bits in between.

Sadly, there are no miracles which will make the church more diverse; only the gritty work of sharing, learning, making mistakes and forgiving one another. It isn’t glamorous, but it is the way forward for the church in our increasingly diverse world…

Just one final thought; part of the problem of integrating people into the early Church lay in the fact that the Jewish people saw themselves as being better than others; a privileged race. We wouldn’t be guilty of that would we?

Wouldn’t it be great if Bible translators , in fact all sorts of cross cultural missionaries, could have their own mini Pentecost and not have to struggle to learn minority languages? But God doesn’t seem to work that way…

100 days

Around Easter time I shared some excerpts from 100 Days 100 Years. Just a few days ago (Day 91) I was particularly touched by the way Barry Forde applied Queen Esther’s situation to all of us – way back then ever since and today.

100 years. Of bloodshed, politics and redrawing maps. Of leadership that promises liberation, that is arrogant, that results in death. Of ungodly alliances between religion and state, religion and culture, religion and whatever cause that needs religion, or is needed by religion, to serve its purpose. Of false masters. Of the displacement of peoples. Of inequality, intolerance, bigotry and prejudice. Of being in control, or being controlled. Of differing perspectives. Of political manipulation and murderous plans. Of twisted and twisting minds. Of the excesses of greed, drunkenness, pride, vanity. Of the exploitation and trafficking of people. Of the objectification of women. Of wondering, “Where is God?”
Esther

Esther denouncing Haman

100 years. This was Persia. This was the time of Esther. This was then. This is now. “For such a time as this”. (Esther 4:14)
As another famous saying aptly reminds us, “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
The truth is, we do not get to choose the era in which we encounter the same recycled pattern of sin. The same frail and failed human condition. We do not get to choose the context in which it is our time to honor God, or not honor Him. We do not get to choose the moment when, for whatever reason, we find ourselves in a position to do the right thing, or do the easy thing. Moreover, as with Esther in her own moment of truth, we do not get the promise that if we do the former, all will go well for us in the here and now.
What we do have is the truth of the real Easter rising. For such a time as now, and for all time, this is the only answer to the human problem. Our challenge, and our prophetic witness for the sake of the lives of those we live among, is to bear witness to this truth in our era. Our time. Our 100 years.

 Prayer

Lord God, in the time You have placed us, make us faithful ambassadors for Christ. Give us the wisdom of heaven to know Your will, and the courage to walk in it. Amen.

Barry Forde

I wasn’t going to blog the whole Day 91 post, but it’s so good, why not:)

 

 

 

Slberloeffel-Shiny-Spoon-Silver-Reflect-Cutlery-Fr-0205

How valuable is your Bible in your language? More valuable than the latest iPhone? The latest living room wall sized TV? Your dream car? An exotic holiday?

What about a shiny new spoon? Or a new enamel plate?

Wycliffe Canada colleague Jack Popjes remembers a prayer meeting in a fairly remote part of Brazil many years ago…

I will never forget that girl’s prayer during night class!

We were in the last stages of the Canela translation program. Two dozen young Canela men and women surrounded me, sitting on logs, heads bowed in prayer. We had sung hymns set to Canela indigenous music patterns, and in a few minutes would read and talk about a new draft of the translated Scriptures.

Now, it was time to pray. I heard prayers asking God to heal sick children, for a good crop, and for help to find a lost bush knife.

Then a young mother prayed:

“Great Father in the Sky,” she began. “I want to thank You for sending our brother Prejaka, and our sister Tehtikwyj, to us so long ago when I was just a little girl. They taught us to read our own language. Then they worked with us to translate Your Words into it. Now we can read Your Letter to us. Now we are discovering that You love us very much. Now we can learn how we can live to please you. Please help them to finish the Book soon.”

Canela village where the Popjes worked

Canela village where the Popjes worked

Then came the part that brought tears to my eyes and engraved itself into my memory.

“I also want to thank You for all Prejaka and Tehti’s friends in Canada. Every month their friends send money to them. They know that our brother and sister don’t have a food garden here like we do. They need money to buy food, and their friends in Canada send it to them.

“They don’t send it just because they are their friends. They send it because they are our brothers and sisters. Just as You are our Great Father, You are their Great Father too.

“They could keep the money, and buy nice things for themselves. Maybe they see a new enamel plate, or a shiny spoon, and ask themselves, ’Should I buy this for my family?’ But then, they decide not to buy anything, but to send the money to our brother and sister so they can stay here and help us have Your Word.

“And they sure chose right, because Your Word is so much more valuable than a new spoon, and better than an enamel plate. As a reward, give these friends, our brothers and sisters, lots of healthy children; make their gardens grow well, and keep them from getting sick. Amen.”

Bible translation is going on in 2,267 languages in more than 230 countries as you are reading this:

  • Somewhere, people are reading or hearing the Word of God in their own language for the first time.
  • Somewhere, the Holy Spirit is revealing the Father to someone who has only recently heard about Him.
  • Somewhere, the Holy Spirit is inspiring new believers not just to thank God for His Word, and for those who bring it, but also to ask Him to bless those who send the money which makes it all possible.
  • Somewhere, God is blessing donors to Bible translation and cross-cultural missions who are responding to prayers by new believers such as that young Canela mother.

This story is an encouragement to support Bible translation: if you do, keep doing it. Somewhere, someone may be thanking God for you.

Someone who you will not meet until eternity may be praying God’s blessing on you because, as that young Canela mother said,

“You sure chose right.”

PCI logo

Once every four weeks, Wycliffe Bible Translators UK & Ireland has the opportunity to submit prayer items for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland weekly Prayerline.

In Prayerline, published today and covering the next 7 days, Wycliffe focussed on some current events in N. Ireland…

On Sunday past our Wycliffe NI Church Engagement team leader Ricky Ferguson was back in his old stomping ground speaking at Fahan Presbyterian Church in Donegal. His topic was “Bible Translation: what’s it all about?” We give thanks for how Ricky was taught and mentored in Fahan as he grew up and for the work he is now doing sharing his passion for Bible translation worldwide.

Fahan

Fahan Presbyterian with Ricky & Marlene Ferguson middle front

This coming Saturday, Ricky’s wife Marlene is taking a team of five to Union Road Presbyterian Church, Magherafelt who have invited us to put on a primary children’s missionary adventure day. They are expecting at least 100 children from the area to explore the theme “Let Your Light Shine!”  Pray for Marlene, her team, the children and all the local helpers involved.

We are excited in the Belfast office that by the time you are reading this, two new applicants will have been interviewed.  Pray that all will go well and that we will be able to share good news in our next contribution to Prayerline.

Please pray with us and our Presbyterian partners…

To view the whole Prayerline published Wednesday 13 April 2016 with the Wycliffe item at the end Click here to download Word file

wycliffe-logo-colour

Mark’s Gospel ends on a puzzling note.

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

They needn’t have worried because when they got there, the stone was rolled away and instead of finding Jesus’ body they were greeted by, and rather frightened by, a young man dressed in a white robe – presumably an angel – who said:

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ “

And did they go off rejoicing to tell the “disciples and Peter” as the young man had instructed them?

No!

Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

It’s an unexpected ending, abrupt and incomplete. But our Bibles tell us that that is where the earliest and most reliable manuscripts end. Verses 9-20 are included invariably with the comment that they are from later manuscripts. What is going on here? Many Christians, scholars and non-scholars, have puzzled over Mark’s abrupt end. I’m not going to discuss the theologians.

Instead I want to recommend a book written by Cedric Longville, a Wycliffe Bible Translators UK & Ireland colleague and former Legal Adviser to the Secretary of State of Wales.

Cedric had pondered this puzzle for a long time – and researched it. Mark’s Gospel was (obviously) written by Mark and probably dictated by Peter. It was Peter’s story. Why did Peter stop at verse 8? Was it something to do with his denial of Jesus? Why did Peter not tell how he was re-instated and commissioned by Jesus to lead the early Christian church? Why was that left to John?

Cedric decided to write a Bible mystery story and since Peter is central to the mystery, he called it The Sea Walker.

You can download The Sea Walker from Kindle. I hope you enjoy it; I did.

Some Kindle reviews:

An enjoyable journey through second century Roman Empire times to propose a reason for the abrupt ending to Mark’s Gospel.

A thoroughly enjoyable read! Murder, mystery, suspense – it’s all there. And some excellent devotional Bible teaching along the way

What do you think…

 

Our final work experience student of the year has spent three days in the Wycliffe Bible Translators UK & Ireland Belfast office learning a thing or two about what we do. Judith attends a school in Belfast where she studies languages – and here are her reactions…

What really surprised me during my time at the Wycliffe office in Belfast was that every skill can be used in helping to convey God’s word to people in their own language.

When I heard “Bible translators”, I automatically assumed that everyone working for Wycliffe had linguistic skills. However, that’s not the case. There are artists, teachers, lawyers and musicians; each person has a specific way of aiding this work. Before my work experience, I was completely ignorant of the fact that pictures need to be translated in order for them to be relevant to the particular people group. For example, a picture of a mansion isn’t going to have much bearing to someone living in a hut.

Paratext Bamunka Acts 2

Paratext: Acts 24 in the Bamunka language of NW Cameroon: this is the software that Judith writes about below

On my second day, I visited Michael and Miranda Jemphrey. I was so humbled by their willingness to have me in their home. Michael showed me the software that he uses as a translation consultant and explained the various things shown on the screen: an English translation, a French translation, a Greek translation and the translation that they are currently working on. They gave me such a better insight as to how people at home can aid the translators that are all over the world.

Through my three days at Wycliffe, I began to understand how truly blessed I am. Having the Bible in my heart language, and in various translations for me to choose from, is such a great privilege.

Kouya New Testament dedication T shirt (Côte d’Ivoire)

Kouya New Testament dedication tee shirt (Côte d’Ivoire) – the verse in Kouya is Hebrews 4:12

Hebrews 4:12, “For the Word of God is alive and active”. God is active and so is His Word! Every person deserves the Bible in their own language. Why? Because God is the ultimate-linguist: He speaks every language and cares for every speaker of each language. No language is better than another. When the Bible is in a person’s heart language, they become more receptive; God is no longer such a remote, impersonal God. He is present and personal to the individual

My thanks to Judith for this guest blog about her work experience with us.

Judith also attended our First Steps day event on 6 February 2016 at Ballyhenry Presbyterian Church Newtownabbey. To find out about more First Steps events and to register go to

There are still at least 1,800 languages that don’t have a Bible.

Find out more about Bible translation and mission and the ways that you could become involved on our website.

It must have been in the early 1990s, in my first year or so teaching at Vavoua International School in Côte d’Ivoire. I had taught History for years in a Belfast school, but at VIS I taught more English in the early years. There was a book of short stories – and one of the short stories was called Let’s go to Golgotha by Gary Kilworth… not that I remembered either the title or the author when the Easter account in Mark’s Gospel earlier this week sparked the memory.

So I went online and found the title and author, but not a way to see the text of the story. Solution – Facebook message some of my VIS English students from around that time and off went the following query to Michelle, Kristin and Anna in Australia and New Zealand.

Hi Guys! Do any of you remember reading a science fiction story in a book of short stories published (I think) in Australia. It was about time travel tourists at Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion.The punchline was that the crowds shouting for the release of Barabbas and Jesus’ crucifixion were…
But let’s not spoil the story!
Within an hour or so, I got a message back from Michelle:
Stuart Townend and Keith Getty’s hymn How Deep the Father’s Love For Us has these lines:
Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life.
I know that it is finished.
And this is what Kilworth’s science fiction story Let’s go to Golgotha is all about. Jesus’ once for all sacrifice on the Cross dealt with the sin of every human being that had lived, was living or was to live. It includes every one of us.
Gary Kilworth creates a society in which people can not only go on a package holiday to exotic places worldwide; they can book with their Time Travel Agency and choose a trip to any time or place in history. The people in the story chose Jerusalem at the time of the crucifixion of Christ.
Pilate presents Jesus to thew crowd

Pilate presents Jesus to the crowd

Time Travel Agency employed a clergyman to brief the tourists on the Crucifixion Tour…

We will arrive on the day that Pilate asks the inhabitants of Jerusalem whom he should set free, as the citizens are permitted to grant amnesty to one prisoner over the Feast of the Passover.  When the crowd begins to shout “Barabbas”, as we know it must, then you must shout it too. You must not appear to be different in any way from the rest of the citizens. This is vitally important. You have to appear to be in agreement with the rest of the crowd.
And on the trip, that’s more or less what happened – except that the tourists discovered something that neither they (nor presumably their clergyman briefer) expected.
All the inhabitants are in their houses, praying.
And then it dawned on them, the horror of what they had done.
Look at the crowd! Look around you! There are no Jews here. No natives. The only ones here are us. The holiday-makers. Do you realize the enormity of what we’ve done? The whole guilt of mankind rests on our shoulders.
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