We were blessed this past Sunday by having as our guest speaker Amie Wiebe, district secretary for the Canadian Bible society, southern BC region. Amie’s personal testimony of the power of the scriptures in her coming to faith in Christ Jesus is powerful and moving. You can hear her testimony if you check out the Sermons page on our website (if it is not posted yet, the audio version should be up later this week).
Her presentation also included one of the most challenging videos I have ever watched. It was a mini-documentary of the Kimyal People of Papua, Indonesia, celebrating the arrival of the first shipment of the New Testament newly translated and published in their own language (http://vimeo.com/17025038). The joy of the people was matched only by their humble gratitude for the precious gift of the scriptures in their own heart language. They sang. They danced. They wept. They prayed. They praised God. In a holy echo of Psalm 78, they celebrated that now the scriptures, the Word of God would be a gift that would be handed down from parents to children to generations yet to be born. One could sense that for these people, the day that the scriptures were theirs to read in their own tongue, would be a day that the community would simply never forget.
The video was not simply inspiring but challenging. I could not help but wonder when last did you and I tremble with awe and sing with thanksgiving because of this honour and privilege of being able to read the Word of God in our own language. This past year was the 400th anniversary of the King James version of the Bible, and while not the first English translation, it certainly has been the most famous and influential in the western world. Yet we often forget that just three years prior to King Henry VIII commissioning a translation of the scriptures into English (a version that would become known as the Great Bible), William Tyndale was executed and burned at the stake for daring to make just such a translation. With dozens of English language translations available to us, we have become so accustomed to the freedom and advantage of reading God’s Word, that most of us can hardly imagine what it would be to have to depend on foreign language translations upon which to nourish our faith and seek to share it. May we refresh our appreciation of the gift of the scriptures, and show forth the depth of our gratitude, as the old prayer asks, by “reading, learning, marking and inwardly digesting Thy holy Word of life.”
The video challenged not only with the question of whether we adequately and consistently remember to treasure God’s Word in the Bible. I was challenged simply to consider whether we adequately and consistently remember to treasure the gift of faith, the gift of Christ Jesus and the gift of his grace to us. In the 21st chapter of John’s gospel, we find the intriguing story of Jesus’ three-fold interrogation of Peter as to whether the disciple loved him. After each assurance of his devotion, the Lord responded to Peter with the command to feed his sheep.
Most often, we understand this passage as speaking to the Lord’s restoration of Peter after his three-fold denial of Jesus on the night of his arrest. We also commonly interpret the passage as a commissioning of Peter for the work of ministry and evangelism. Yet as I pondered the explosion of thankfulness and praise from the Kimyal people in receiving the New Testament in their own language, I realized that far above their excitement over a book was a simple and pure outpouring of love for God. Perhaps that question, “Do you love me?” which Jesus posed to Peter and which is asked of every follower, is as much heaven’s longing for nothing more complicated than our answering love to God’s outrageous and extravagant grace to us in Jesus. An ancient prayer of the church voices it this way:
Lord, who am I, that Thou shouldst desire so much to be loved by me? And whom shall I love, if I love not Thee, my Jesus? Here I am, Lord; dispose of me as Thou pleasest. Give me Thy love; I ask nothing more. Make me all Thine before I die.
As I watched the video of a people in Indonesia “rejoicing with great joy,” I found myself voicing another classic prayer of the Church which simply pleads: “O my faithful saviour, Jesus Christ, I love Thee. May I learn to love Thee more.”