The statistics tell a story all by themselves. During the ten days of Proclamation, over 400 people joined together to read the whole of the Bible aloud, from the book of Genesis through to the end of the Book of Revelation. Countless more came simply to listen to the richness and beauty of God’s Word, read from almost twenty different English translations, as well as in French, German, Portuguese, Polish, Swedish, Dutch and Japanese. Readers were men and women from across the generations, from twelve different congregations along with two Christian organizations. All were bound together by their faith in Christ and their love for the scriptures.
While the facts and figures are amazing in themselves, what really mattered, however, was that God showed up. This was not just a human undertaking. God was present through the Holy Spirit to bring about something far more important. People from our different churches gathered together and gained a fresh sense of being one people of God here in the Cowichan Valley. It did not matter if Baptists were reading scripture in the Presbyterian church, or folks from the Alliance congregation were proclaiming the Word within an Anglican place of worship. We were all Christians together, feasting on the manna of God’s Word, hungry for his truth and blessed with being together in his praise.
New relationships were forged, and a deeper mutual regard and esteem was forged. While the folk from the Nazarene or Pentecostal churches might have differing traditions in worship from those who normally attend St. Peter’s Anglican, or there might be variations of emphasis on a few fine points of doctrine between the Salvation Army and we Presbyterians (for that matter, there are often more than a few points of disagreement over doctrine within congregations!) all that mattered during the ten days of Proclamation was that God’s Word was being read, heard, celebrated and enjoyed.
After virtually every portion of scripture was completed, the reader would end by saying “This is the Word of the Lord.” And the folk in the pew listening would respond with this profound note of awe and respect: “Thanks be to God!” We found ourselves bound by this sense of wonder as to how this ancient text resounded in our contemporary lives with such clarity, power and meaning. God’s Word is truly alive and moving, as relevant for our lives and churches today as when those words were uttered centuries ago by storytellers and priests, prophets and apostles.
But something else happened as God’s Word was read and we sensed God’s Spirit at work in our midst. I believe something shook and moved within the heavenly, spiritual realms. It was not that the scriptures were read aloud in a couple of church buildings. God’s people in this Valley were proclaiming the very Word of the Lord and its power was echoing over this whole community. God’s sovereign claim and truth was being affirmed over every power and principality that would try to hold sway in opposition to the Kingdom, and I believe his Word will not return to him empty. Something profound happened not only in the heart of those of us who shared directly in this Proclamation, making us more determined and eager to be the means by which God’s truth would penetrate every dark corner and the promise and grace of Christ would confront and claim every heart and mind in this region. I believe, to use imagery from the book of Revelation, that the angel of the Church of the Valley was roused from a sleep of timidity and uncertainty, and made strong to assert the challenge and invitation of the gospel to the watching world around us. While no single event is, by itself, the beginning of a revival, I believe none the less that this Proclamation of God’s Word has summoned a renewed longing and commitment to work and pray together for that end, that revival would happen in us by the Word and Spirit and flow like a mighty force of hope and blessing across this Valley and across this Island.
Near the end of the Book of Revelation, we read: The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. My prayer is that, having drunk of that water of life flowing in the Bible, the Bride and Body of Christ here in the Cowichan Valley has found afresh its cry, “Come, Lord Jesus. Come!”