Tag Archives: Britain

A Word in Time: Monday

This is today’s Bible study in the Methodist Church’s A Word in Time series.

Acts 1:1-8

In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over the course of forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. ‘This’, he said, ‘is what you have heard from me;5for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’

6 So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ 7He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’


“… you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (v. 8)

Background

Living in an age where fake news can travel around the world before the truth has got its boots on – to misquote an old saying – we know only too well the power of communication. Knowing how to get your message out – whether it’s a political campaign or an advertising slogan – is essential if you want to get people on your side.

As Jesus comes to the end of his time on earth, he has been giving the disciples an intensive course in missiology ready for this moment. They are convinced now that he really has risen from the dead, but need a bit more understanding about what comes next.

The answer is not ‘go’ but ‘wait’. Why? Because good communication needs the right network and it isn’t in place yet.

The “promise of the Father” (v. 4) is the gift of the Holy Spirit and a promised power to witness to the truth of the Resurrection and the new reality of the kingdom of God to change lives.

It’s only a matter of days before the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Then the disciples understand exactly what Jesus meant by saying “and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”.

The Galilean boy band will be in on the start of a world tour: beginning where they are but spreading out on the coat tails of the expanding Roman Empire – the very occupiers who have tried to crush the Jewish people. From Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and into the known world the story of a risen Messiah rockets as believers tell it.

Within a very few years the story of Jesus had reached Britain … the ends of the earth?

To Ponder

  • How difficult is it to wait when you have a message you want to share? What can be gained by waiting?
  • What networks do we ignore at our peril?
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Understanding without understanding

German_pastors

I wrote a few days ago about the experience of a service where we all offered prayers in our respective languages – a kind of speaking in tongues.

One of the other rich experiences of being at the Extended Cabinets meeting of the Methodist churches in Europe has been to watch and hear people respect each other’s languages.

I often felt inadequate at my lack of facility with language and increasingly angry that I was refused the opportunity to learn my native language, Welsh, when I was in school (partly to do with living in Monmouthshire which, until 1974, was administratively a mongrel county – neither in Wales nor England).

But it has been a joy to realise how much of a language’s meaning you can deduce from inflexion and tone, even if you can’t understand the words: Russian for example. I found that I could follow parts of the German more easily.

The photograph above is of the German pastors singing to us at the final evening worship. It was almost impromptu: done with about 30 minutes notice at the request of Gita, a Latvian minister, and their harmonies were terrific.

But one of the richest uses of language came during the worship as the week together unfolded. Every Bible reading was heard in at least two languages – usually German and English – and occasionally in Russian as well.

We often sang hymns that could be sung in multi-language versions and in the German Methodist book were printed in German and English. On the morning the EurAsian delegation led our worship we sang:

Holy, holy, holy

My heart, my heart adores you

My heart is glad to say the words

You are holy, Lord

and we sang it in Spanish, Russian (with a phonetic translation on the screen), German and English.

There was resistance from some people to using the translation headsets for the main seminars, but for those who were willing to be a part of that way of joining together it was another sign of the unity of this event.

And so now I’m home in Britain with invitations to Norway and Russia (Moscow, St Petersburg and Siberia) and with groups from Latvia and Germany thinking of making visits to see Fresh Expressions projects fror themselves.

It brings home afresh what a responsibility it is to carry the message of God’s grace in action – and what a privilege it is to be a part of the way he moves beyond the barriers we think exist.