Sermon extract from Link Church Visits – 2017
Something that I have become more and more passionate about over the years as I have engaged in short term missions is the gift of the World Wide Church and being a member of the diverse body of Christ. We all have different gifting and unique callings, for some of us that takes us to places like Latin America, but for others that means staying where we are and ministering to our friends, family and neighbours. That is part of the beauty of being a member of Christ’s body and a people, a Church, which crosses oceans and cultures. I would like to share a few stories with you now that I hope illustrate this.
For the first story I would like to transport you all to a beautiful farm in Uganda. I wake up in my small guest room to the sounds of birds and crickets joining in with the rhythmic sound of African drums. I go outside and am welcomed by the clear blue sky and the rich, green hillside. Trees and plants are flourishing and the hillside is dotted with small wooden and clay-brick buildings. I follow the sound of the drums and am greeted by a group of lively Ugandan young people as they sing praises to the Lord. We sing and we dance, a real celebration of the new day. Everyone lifts their prayers to God at once and I hear a voice saying, ‘thank you Lord that today you chose me to be one of the fortune ones who woke up to this new day when we know so many did not.’ A soft reminded of the harsh reality of life for so many people.
The service continues and it has its own liturgy, different from my own, yet I do not feel like an outsider, in God’s house everyone is welcome.
At this beautiful farm where young people come to be trained in new skills and discipled by loving staff, God is present and at work.
Now let’s journey to Mumbai, India. The smell hits me first as I walk towards the maze of tiny one-roomed houses that make up a slum so vast I can hardly believe my eyes. The thin passageways are littered with rubbish with uncovered sewage channels running down the sides. I tread carefully but the dirt is unavoidable. We reach a church, or rather a small corrugated iron shack and inside we are welcomed by happy smiles and eyes wide with wonder. Many present haven’t seen a white person for a long time if ever. The service begins and even though there is a language barrier that means I don’t understand anything, I quickly learn that some things don’t require language.
God’s presence is very real in this place, the air may smell horrendous and the location may be less than desirable, but God’s people are gathered and His Spirit is with us.
I am humbled and blessed.
I will now take you with me to a hillside in Rwanda. All I can see for miles around are hills, we have just been planting pineapples and the suns heat is beginning to take its toll on the group. We shelter in the shade of a mango tree and as we sit we see colourful shapes appear in the distance, people come and join us for fellowship and worship. The genocide in Rwanda has left a lot of communities torn apart and broken, now I witness true forgiveness and reconciliation as victims and perpetrators come together to share their stories and Praise God.
I had never understood forgiveness until now.
Finally I would like you to join me in Paraguay. Here I am sat in a small chapel, where together with only a few other English speaking people I say words I have spoken for many years. Creeds, collects, confession and prayers, words I know well. I am blessed to be able to worship in my own language and though the members are few in number, over the weeks I see how faithful these few are. They come together each week and have fellowship, welcoming me into their small congregation and showing me devotion and commitment to the Lord.
For me these stories illustrate some of the elements of the Worldwide Church, the first shows the nurturing of leaders in a community in Uganda, the second reveals the humility of members of the body of Christ amid extreme poverty in a slum in Mumbai, India. The third speaks of God’s forgiveness and reconciliation in a community once devastated by genocide and the fourth reminds us that numbers are not important as long as the members are faithful.
The words that we all say when we share in communion, ‘though we are many, we are all one body, because we all share in one bread’ now hold new meaning to me as I remember all our brothers and sister from across the world when I take communion wherever I am.
We are all united in Christ and I am honoured to be a member of such a diverse body.