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Jesus, Light of the World

Jesus, Light of the World

I have just sent this off to Prayerline, the weekly mission prayer news from the Presbyterian Church in Ireland‘s Council of Global Mission. Wycliffe gets an entry every four weeks and this year, I’m delighted that we have the Christmas slot for a week starting 21 December 2016.

Wycliffe’s December contribution for PCI Prayerline

More people than ever before know Jesus’ name in their language this Christmas because of Bible translation. Here is a small sample of the name of Jesus in 3,000 plus languages with some Scripture. Speakers of up to 1,800 languages are still waiting to have the name of Jesus translated for them. #endbiblepoverty

Jezusi (Albanian)

يسوع (Arabic)

Յիսուս (W Armenian)

Езус (Belorusian)

যীশু (Bengali)

耶穌 (Chinese)

Ιησούς (Greek)

Íosa (Irish)

イエス (Japanese)

Иса (Kazakh)

ഈശോ (Malayalam)

Isus (Romanian)

Иисус (Russian)

যীশু (Sylheti)

ܝܫܘܥ (Syriac)

இயேசு (Tamil)

เยซู (Thai)

Ісус (Ukrainian)

Giêsu (Vietnamese)

uJesu (Zulu)

This Christmas Day the Wycliffe UK & Ireland prayer guide asks us to:

  • Thank God for the birth of Jesus. Also thank God that many more people can read about the birth of Jesus through the translated New Testaments that have been launched during the past year.

As you read and hear the familiar Christmas accounts in the Bible this week, ask God how he might want you to be involved in helping the name of Jesus to be translated into new languages and be known by the speakers of those languages.

 

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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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Life can become overwhelming at times. Database frustrations at work. Car needing fixed unexpectedly. A dodgy washer in an overflow pipe. Family illnesses and daily hospital visits. Worries and concerns about children and grand children. Losing something that seems important but probably isn’t.
All too easily we allow life to get way out of proportion.

Judas betrays Jesus

Judas betrays Jesus

Are you reading the Gospel accounts as Easter approaches? I’ve been reading Mark’s account along with many other people following SU WordLive; last Friday it was Jesus’ betrayal and arrest in Mark 14:43-52.

This is not what the disciples were expecting. This is not what contemporary understandings of the Messiah expected. But Jesus, throughout all he was and was still to suffer, knew that events were going exactly as God intended.

 “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled. Then everyone deserted him and fled. ” Mark 14:48-50

So the disciples fled. Soon Peter would deny Jesus. In the SU WordLive commentary, Graham Cray writes some encouraging words in the Deeper Bible study section:

They were not a hopeless crowd. Jesus chose them, as he has chosen us. Judas’ duplicity and the arrest at night ‘with swords and clubs’ (v 43) was far more cowardly. Despite their promises and the brief flash of a sword, there was little the disciples could have done. They could not change the physical circumstances, while spiritually the work of the cross was something Jesus must achieve alone. God’s purpose prefigured in Scripture was being fulfilled. God’s plan is not dependent on our successes.

The New Testament is clear that it was their encounter with the risen Jesus and empowerment by the Holy Spirit which later made these disciples such effective witnesses. Fruitful and faithful discipleship is not a matter of inherent strength of character but of dependence on God and encounter with the Holy Spirit. Jesus can turn cowards into martyrs, but more often he takes ordinary, reasonably competent human beings and teaches them that to be of service they need to trust his power, not their competence.

This ordinary, somewhat competent, human being takes comfort from Graham Cray’s words, but much more from the fact that everything was not going wrong – Jesus was fulfilling his Father’s plan of salvation.

I’m looking forward to Easter weekend and to going on the Passion Walk in Belfast on Good Friday morning.

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Second in a series on First Steps NI 2016…
IMG_2201

Dorothea sells toilet rolls

It happened after lunch. It was fun, frustrating and focussed on cross-cultural adaptation. It was a role play called Trading Places: a fictional market place simulation using real cultural rules – with toilet rolls, bananas, oranges and second-hand trainers.

Dorothea, Clare and Stuart were the frustrators and the First Steppers were the frustrated, but hopefully also the learners.

Clare

Clare sells bananas & oranges

I’m not going to reveal the cultural rules here. Suffice to say that all the rules used are genuine and exist in real cultures somewhere, but not together in one people group.

Cultures are different, but no one culture is either “right” or “wrong” – if we want to work in cross-cultural mission, we need training to learn how to live cross-culturally so that we will behave and communicate in culturally appropriate ways.

Stuart sells second hand trainers

I guess the punchline is this – the most amazing example in history of someone making a cross-cultural transition was when Jesus, the Son of God was born as a human baby.

Jesus identified totally with the Jews of first century Palestine, demonstrating God’s love to them in market places, in fishing boats and in their homes. In following him, Christians today need to be prepared to adopt to the culture of those around us wherever God has placed us.

Find a Wycliffe Bible Translators UK & Ireland First Steps day near you!

Clare negotiating a sale… or maybe just ignoring some people?

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Oku Rich Fool Cover

A few days ago I blogged on the idea that Jesus’ Parable of the Rich Fool could be a good parable for Boxing day – see The Rich Fool:Jason Ramasami style

Today however, on the cusp of 2016, I think it’s a parable for any time of the year and for every culture. I want to illustrate it by showing you how the Oku Bible translation and literacy team from NW Cameroon  produced the parable in a booklet before they had completed the whole New Testament in Oku.

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’

14 Jesus replied, ‘Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?’ 15 Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.’

16 And he told them this parable:

Oku Rich Fool 1

Oku Rich Fool 2

Oku Rich Fool 3

Oku Rich Fool 4

Oku Rich Fool 5

That’s it! The Parable of the Rich Fool that Jesus told to a first century Jewish audience in Palestine, probably in Aramaic – translated into Oku and graphically illustrated in the cultural style of 21st century rural NW Cameroon

I wonder how many Oku readers will see this post: if there are, I’d love to hear from you. For the anglophones, the parable is below in the NIV version of Luke’s Gospel.

Whether in Aramaic, Oku or English, Jesus’ message is the same: God must take first place in our lives.

‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, “What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.”18 ‘Then he said, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’”

20 ‘But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”

21 ‘This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich towards God.’

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A parable for Boxing Day…

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’

14 Jesus replied, ‘Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?’ 15 Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.’

16 And he told them this parable:

Jason Ramasami’s illustration of this parable seems very suitable for Boxing Day, a day in times past, when people opened their Christmas boxes – or presents… Also a parable very relevant to our society’s consumerist view of Christmas.

The parable of the rich fool

The parable of the rich fool | Jason Ramasami

The parable of the rich fool  (Luke 12:13-21 NIV)

Continued from above…

‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, “What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.”18 ‘Then he said, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’”

20 ‘But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”

21 ‘This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich towards God.’

 

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Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State in Sinjar town, walk towards the Syrian border, on the outskirts of Sinjar mountain, near the Syrian border town of Elierbeh of Al-Hasakah Governorate.

Earlier this month I posted Room or no room at the inn or no inn… in Bethlehem.  It was a borrowing from Alan Wilson who had beaten me to it this year. Then just a few days ago, I came across Kezia’s post Alternative Nativity which is a poignant mix of Scripture words and contemporary photos.

Here are some extracts from Luke’s Gospel (The Message) and recent photographs that Kezia has put together to focus our thoughts as we approach Christmas and on into Christmas Day and beyond. I hope you will go on to read Kezia’s full post.

About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for.

So Joseph went to Bethlehem. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was obviously pregnant by this time.

0 image.adapt.990.high.Roszke_Border_091415.1442263172703

But there was no room for them in the inn. While they were there, the time came for her baby to be born; and Mary gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger.

1 yannisbehrakisreutersbaby

These are not the cosy images of a school nativity play or Sunday School or even perhaps what might happen in our churches this Christmas.

But then the words of Luke’s Gospel and Matthew’s Gospel have nothing cosy about them either. Perhaps we should acknowledge that current events can help us de-sanitize our Christmas story this year and give us a real insight into the risky and radical arrival of how God the Father translated himself from divine into human in the person of God the Son.

This year, may we all meet the boy who became the man who was crucified and resurrected for you and me.

Thanks to Kezia for permission to re-post. Why not return to the link at the top and read her whole post.

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