This weekly news summary replaces the usual output from the Anglican Communion News Service, which has been temporarily suspended.
As restrictions on gatherings begin to lift around the world, some churches are being allowed to reopen for small gatherings, while other religious leaders are unsure of whether that is the right thing to do. There are two quite different things which need to be said about opening churches (as often happens in Christian theology). We need to hear them both.
N T Wright. TIME Magazine. 21 May 2020
When eating with them one night, Jesus suddenly says “do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.” The disciples respond “are you going to restore the Kingdom to Israel now?”.
But Jesus again tells them to wait, saying “…and you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you…”. And, as the Church remembered this week, Christ then ascends to heaven.
What would it have felt like to be one of the disciples? Perhaps after hearing years of teaching about the Kingdom of God, and witnessing signs of the Kingdom, they felt ready to do the work. But, then they’re told to wait. To not preach the Gospel. Not pray for people. Not make themselves public. Do nothing. Stay where they are. And wait.
The Fruit of Faithful Waiting
In the Gospel accounts, the disciples continually wanted to ‘do something’. They wanted to extend God’s Kingdom. They wanted to change the world! Their lives and perspectives were ruled by action and seeing societal transformation. And that is not inherently a bad thing. But at this crucial transition point, Jesus told them not to do anything, no matter how good they thought their ‘doing’ was. Incredibly, this waiting culminated in a powerful moment in church history. In fact it led to the very birth of the church! And what happened next was exactly what was needed for the Gospel to create transformation: God showing up and empowering them in a way that was completely different to what they had ever experienced before.
The result of the disciples’ faithful waiting and obedience to Jesus was the tangible, experiential power of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of their faithful waiting was the formation of the Church. The fruit of their waiting was, ultimately, the transformation of the world.
The Inside Impact of Waiting
Why did Jesus ask the disciples to wait before sending the Holy Spirit?
Of course, let’s be clear, their waiting did not somehow ‘qualify’ them to receive God’s blessing. Earning the Holy Spirit denies everything Jesus’ death and resurrection accomplished. But rather, perhaps the natural by-product of the disciples’ faithful waiting was that the very shape of their hearts were transformed into vessels that could receive what God wanted to give them. And it was through their faithful, obedient, surrendered waiting that they were able to receive it. What we can do while Waiting
Over these last few weeks we’ve all done a lot of waiting here in Aotearoa. We, like the disciples waiting in the Upper Room, have been holed up in a house waiting for change, and not knowing what might come next. But now our country is beginning to get ‘active’ again. Shops are opening. Alert levels are lifting. Church small groups are meeting. ‘Stuff’ can start happening again. And it’s exciting.
However, during this time, I’ve been blessed to be a part of the NZCMS staff who, in amongst all the various tasks and roles that we still must complete, haven’t rushed off to do what we’ve always done before. But we have been using this time to ask each other questions such as:
“What are the new opportunities that are available now?”
“What will cross-cultural mission look like in the future?”
“What is the prophetic call of God to the Church right now?”
The disciples weren’t asked to wait when things weren’t possible. Jesus asked them to wait when they could have started preaching the Gospel. And now we find ourselves in a similar space. Our alert levels are dropping. But I believe that now is the most important time for the New Zealand Church to wait on God.
The temptation is so strong to just ‘go back to normal’. But what if, now, God is not calling us to rush back into doing what we’ve done in the past but to wait on him and be open to seeing the ‘new things’ that He wants to birth in us and the Church?
Maybe now is a good time for all of us to lay our strategies, tasks, and attitudes before the feet of Jesus, surrender them to Him and ask for the Holy Spirit to speak. Because, I believe God takes our willingness to give Him our ‘doing’, and turns it into the gift of an obedient heart, more fully able to live and serve in His power to achieve His mission of bringing God’s kingdom to earth. If only we would just wait for a while.
Marcus Jones. Premier. 22 May 2020
An Iranian Anglican Church member has been reconvicted of membership of a “Zionist Evangelical Christian” group “hostile to the regime” at his retrial, and convicted of the additional charge of “propaganda against the state”.
Article 18 website. 18 May 2020
On the day preceding Pilate’s careless populist hand-washing referendum, that dispassionately determined the fate of Jesus, a very large crowd spread their cloaks on the ground for him as he entered Jerusalem, in a kind of instant royal celebration.
The crowd believed Jesus had come in fulfilment of his nation’s hopes - answering (for some at least) the longing for a king who would bring peace to earth from heaven itself.
Then Jesus entered the temple and the mood changed dramatically. In (another) deliberate and provocatively dramatised act, this time angry and disruptive, Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers and dove sellers. (Matthew 21:12)
The Temple - Herod’s self-aggrandising vanity project, had come to embody all that was wrong with the nation of Israel, Jesus’ nation, at that moment in its history. Israel self-identified as the nation chosen to represent God to the world. Yet its leaders had bowed the knee to popular nationalism, exceptionalism, wealth, power, privilege and violence - subverting a vocation to reveal God’s creativity and beauty within the world. A vocation intended to bring blessing to the people of neighbouring nations.
Jesus’s outraged protest brought the Temple system to a temporary but grinding halt. A fleeting moment of enforced sabbath. Business as usual momentarily stopped.
An act of judgement. Perhaps a perilous last opportunity for repentance for some.
But nothing would halt the business of Temple and its vested self-interest.
Jesus had wept over Jerusalem, the city he loved. He foresaw the disaster that was to befall it. The idol of nationalistic aspiration and its embrace of violence, heedless of social injustice, would lead to an inevitable and devastating conflict with Rome. The Temple was to be destroyed, the city ruined, society unravelled. Business as usual heedlessly recommenced, pursuing a broad, careless way of indifference, would lead to disaster.
So what, if anything, does this have to concern us? That was then. This is now.
We of course live in incomparably different times, way beyond the purview of the gospel writers. Yet we too are standing at a moment when business as usual has been temporarily suspended. COVID-19, a globalised twenty-first century pandemic has enforced a grinding halt.
Are we, in continuity with the first-century residents of Jerusalem, at one of those defining moments of choice and decision?
Certainly we are experiencing a grim moment of sadness and loss and dislocation. A time of lament. But also a time of cleaner air, cleaner water ways, an unprecedented and unimagined fall in air travel. A pause in the processes of climate change. A moment, perhaps surprisingly, of community cohesion.
Our own enforced sabbath?
Fanciful allegorisation or a distant, faint echo of Leviticus 26:34-35?
But will the world, will we, return to business as usual in a few months time - heedless of the harm our economic systems are causing to our planet, with unsustainable pressures on its habitats and ecosystems?
Or might we imagine a narrow, and counter-cultural way of challenge, change and subversion that mitigates our instincts to return to an ultimately unsustainable status quo?
Jesus, in his death, drew upon himself the violence and destruction that was to break upon his society. Christian faith is predicated on the belief that through the resurrection, violence and destruction do not have the last word - and that there is a narrow, counter-intuitive, but selfless way to a future that offers hope to people and the planet. A way that saves us from the wrath of potential environmental calamity, of which Covid-19 is perhaps an admonitory precursor.
What might that way look like for the church and our society and can we find the resourcefulness and prophetic courage to pursue it?
…when our limitless, hyper-competitive society’s CO2 levels reach our outermost atmosphere and literally hits the ceiling, when the law that everything must get bigger, faster, greater is set against our common survival, a new world stands at the door, and that world has never been as close as it now.
Or as far away.
 Our House Is On Fire by the Thurnberg family (2020)
Harriet Sherwood. Guardian. 25 May 2020
Bishops join in criticism of Cummings amid calls to step down over lockdown travel – Christian Today
Christian Today. 25 May 2020
Christian Today 23 May 2020
The Right Reverend Simon Barrington-Ward, well-liked Bishop of Coventry – obituary – Daily Telegraph
Daioy Telegraph. Obituary. 19 May 2020
This weekly news summary replaces the usual output from the Anglican Communion News Service, which has been temporarily suspended.
I used to work for a global anti-slavery organisation. The founders of the organisation were passionate, faith-filled, Jesus followers who were dedicated to seeing God’s Kingdom come through the rescue of men, women and children around the world. They were willing to pay the price to follow God and serve His world. Yet after several years of giving their all, there was little to show for it.
When one of the founders talked to his mentor about this frustration, the mentor described their deep commitment to their work as “prayerless striving.” They were desperate to see God’s Kingdom break through but spent little time in prayer. When I joined a decade later, the work day for the entire staff began in personal devotion and prayer. Later in the day, every office around the world stopped their work as investigators, lawyers, social workers and administrators, and gathered to pray for God’s Spirit to move powerfully.
Setting aside “productive time” to pray saw more fruit than we could have imagined, breakthroughs in places where there had been resistance, and thousands of people rescued into lives of freedom. The work remained as challenging and costly as ever before, but was now under-girded by prayer and that made all the difference.
Praying as One
Many of us already have rhythms of prayer in our daily lives individually and as local faith communities. Many of us already pray faithfully for our Mission Partners, and for the places and communities they serve. We pray because we believe that God’s Spirit is active and working to bring about His Kingdom. We pray because we believe that prayer makes a difference – in this world and the one to come. What we do here has echoes in eternity!
But sometimes we forget the power of praying together. In Chronicles, God says to his people “[I]f my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (Chron 7:14), God makes this promise to a collective. Jesus affirms this when he says “when two or three are gathered in my name, there am I with them”(Matt 18:20).
Yes, God hears and responds to our individual prayers. But when God’s people come together in agreement to pray for the things of God’s Kingdom, something happens, something shifts.
This year, the NZCMS Intercultural Communities Project is helping to lead the Wellington Anglican Movement as they engage in Thy Kingdom Come, a global prayer movement from Ascension to Pentecost. After Jesus ascended into heaven, his disciples “along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers”(Acts 1:14) joined together constantly in prayer. When the day of Pentecost arrived, God poured out the Holy Spirit on these followers and sent them to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom.
We know that our world still needs the transformative work of the Spirit. We know that frequently the movement of God’s Spirit has come through a movement of prayer.
The most powerful thing we can do, to see God’s Kingdom come, is to pray together; to pray as one people in the name of Jesus.
The Global Church
Thy Kingdom Come helps to connect us with our brothers and sisters in the global church in a way that we don’t often have opportunity to do. Joining our brothers and sisters in this way is an act of loving care, mutuality and solidarity. It reminds us that we are all part of the one body – and that we are united in both our joys and suffering in Christ, through the one Spirit. Likewise, we can be encouraged that others will be praying for the things that we long for, interceding on behalf of our friends and family, community and country.
Praying with the global church also helps to reinvigorate our own prayer lives.
Have you ever been in a room with someone fervently interceding and been inspired to pray with more boldness?
Have you sat in silence with others, the air thick with the
presence of the Holy Spirit?
Have you heard testimonies of healing, of freedom, of miracles and had your faith enlarged?
Have you spoken words of a liturgy that feel like they were written just for you?
Praying with others who are different from us reminds us of God’s goodness and faithfulness, refreshes and redirects our energy, and enlivens and re-energises our own faith. Will you join us in this global movement of prayer?
Join the Global Movement
You can access the resources created through the Intercultural Communities Project and Anglican Movement Wellington here: https://movementonline.org.nz/blog/thy-kingdom-come-21-31-march-2020
Or connect with the global movement here: www.thykingdomcome.global
As NZCMS, one of the gifts that we offer to the church in New Zealand is our connection to those engaging in God’s mission throughout the world. We have curated these multimedia presentations from our partners sharing from around the world to be used over Thy Kingdom Come.
NZCMS Intercultural Communities Enabler
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Cara bentley. Premier. 15 May 2020
Sean Coghlan. BBC News website.15 May 2020
Belief that Donald Trump was ‘anointed by God’ increases among American Christians – Christian Today
Nate Flanagan. Christian Today 13 May 2020
Prime Minister gives Tim Hughes award and labels UK Blessing video a ‘sensational singing masterpiece’ -Premier
Cara bentley. Premier. 14 May 2020
Justin and Hailey Bieber talk about having ‘the peace of Jesus’ during coronavirus pandemic – Premier
In the latest episode of their newly-launched web series on Facebook Watch, pop star Justin Bieber and his wife Hailey opened up about how their faith in Jesus is keeping them anchored during the coronavirus lockdown.
Premier. 13 May 2020
Theos website. 13 May 2020
Thy Kingdom Come launches new elements including ‘prayer and care’ in response to COVID-19 as preparations for global prayer campaign get underway – C of E
Archbishop of York's website. 12 May 2020
This article describes one small church’s experience in welcoming and supporting newly-arrived asylum-seekers in Ayia Napa. It outlines the need, and the response of the church community, and offers some key pointers that may be useful to other churches.
Michael Graham. Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf. 12 May 2020