it speaks, again and again

While we were at meetings in Phoenix earlier this month, my friend, Tony, shared this story with me. I urged him to take the time to write it down. He did so. One thing has led to another and I asked if I could post it here, my first ever guest post! Enjoy it - and pass it on to others...


In February, while planning a SE Asia programme partner visit, I was asked to preach in a church in Indonesia on the verse, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful,” (Lk 6:36 ), with the theme to be emphasised being ‘Reflecting God’s Mercy.’  I only expected to preach this message once. It seemed to be a very specific assignment.

When I looked at the verse in context, I noted that Jesus’ teaching on the subject begins with the words, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” (Lk 6:27)

This seemed like a difficult assignment for any preacher, especially a visitor from a different country and culture.  I obtained permission from the pastor to preach the whole passage (Lk 6:27-36).

I read, researched, and struggled for two weeks trying unsuccessfully to nail the heart of the message. I couldn’t construct a coherent outline; nothing was coming together. Then, in a moment of Holy Spirit illumination, the outline in four points came to me with clarity and conviction. I was almost afraid - by both the experience, and the content of the outline! Who was I? How was I, an outsider, a visitor, to preach this message in a context, and to a people I hardly knew? After all, this audience is a small religious minority (15% max) in a hostile religious culture.

However, I preached the message (with translation into Bahasa Indonesia) twice at that church, and many people were deeply challenged, and encouraged. They realized that living in a Christian ‘ghetto,’ and treating people of the majority religion as ‘enemies’ is no longer an option.  Some people came to the second service to hear the message again, and take notes.

I travelled from Indonesia to Thailand, where I was asked to speak at short notice to a seminary faculty. I decided to preach the same message, with tweaks, again with translation, this time into Thai. This group were challenged about what and how they teach young Thai future Christian leaders to relate to ‘outsiders.’  They are a tiny religious minority in a culture largely indifferent to the Christian gospel.

Then on to Myanmar, where I preached the same message twice, once in a deeply divided Christian tribal context.  I had actually politely declined an invitation to speak at a special event, but my reluctance was ignored, and, on arrival, I found myself featured on the programme of a widely promoted event.  Some leaders came to me, admitting they needed to hear this message. Treating fellow Christians as enemies, just because they’re from a different (sub) tribe, is a scandal, which brings the gospel into disrepute.  The other occasion was in a small church plant in Yangon, in the midst of an overwhelmingly Buddhist community, again through translation (into Burmese). 

I returned to New Zealand, to a long-standing visiting preaching invitation.  On the basis of my experiences in SE Asia, I decided to preach the same message, this time explicitly referencing the hostility and intolerance of NZ’s secular culture towards Christians and the gospel. Same response! This was the Sunday BEFORE the Christchurch terrorist mosque massacre.

Finally, I asked to preach this same message (instead of following a schedule) in my home church, just over a week AFTER the shooting, with specific reference to the Christian response to the NZ Muslim community, and families of victims. The audience was hushed and subdued, as the Holy Spirit challenged and convicted the people. Muslims are people too - not ‘enemies,’ but people to be loved in the name of Jesus. One leader’s comment was, “he knocked it out of the park.”

I am amazed again, and in awe of, the power and relevance of the Word; how God speaks to different peoples, in different cultures, through different languages, at crucially different times, through the same message brought by the same preacher.

To God Alone Be the Glory!


“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”  (Hebrews 4:12)

From Tony Plews, Executive Director, LeaDev-Langham (New Zealand)

Comments

Kitty said…
Paul, did I miss the link to this sermon? I sure would love to hear it!?!
Your faithful friend, Kitty
Definitely, Kitty - and others who may be interested.

The easiest way to do this is to contact Tony directly through the website - leadev-langham.org. On the home page go to 'About' on the drop-down menu at the top and then click on 'Contact Us'. Tony may wish to add further details, if he wishes to do so.

Thanks again

Paul
Tony Plews said…
I will post a link to one version in a little while. Although the Lord has been speaking through this message, it’s still evolving, and becoming more focused and refined.
I will consider invitations to preach it if/when able and appropriate.
Contact me tony@ldl.org.nz, or +6421-683393.
Grace, Tony

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