Monday, September 22, 2008

Worship in 6,900 Languages

As we sat in the South Common Community Centre, Mississauga Ontario – the world was walking by our table continually. In the 20 minutes that we waited at least 8 nationalities walked by our table. This place where the Chinese Church had their service is in the heart of a Multi Cultural community that Peterborough has never seen.

It is only 167 kms from our city but it could be another continent. What an amazing difference one hour and 50 minutes of driving makes.

I stumbled on to these important facts…
  • According to the U.S. Census bureau, about 6.7 billion people are living in the world (projected to reach 7 billion by 2012).

  • According to the Nations Online Project, these people live in 249 sovereign nations, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.

  • According to the National Virtual Translation Center, Earth's people speak a total of about 6,900 languages.
With Canada’s openness to the world and its warm welcome extended to so many – it is quite conceivable that we have some one from every one of the 249 sovereign nations living in our country. We may also have the better part of the 6,900 languages at one point in any one day.

We, as Canadians, pride ourselves on being “Bilingual” – but we are way more than that. How do you described over 2000 languages being spoken at any one time- or maybe 3000 or more. That is my Canada. Yesterday there were few speaking English and none speaking French. Our Mother tongues were something that they could use – but not something they pride themselves in.

It was fun watching people in the Community Centre.

I had approached the main information and administration desk to ask where the Chinese Church was meeting. The guy looked at me and asked what the name of the church was. I was puzzled as to how to answer that one. I had forgotten to ask Franki what the church’s name was… after all how many Chinese Churches meet from 2 to 4 PM on Sunday afternoon?

Well the South Common Community Centre, Mississauga Ontario has four distinctly different Chinese Churches – each possibly speaking a different Chinese language – each meeting at the same time – in four different rooms.

So we sat and waited for the Chinese people that we might know to walk through the door.

As Christian pastor I have often spoken about a verse that has a huge content tucked inside…

John 3:16 (ESV) "God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."

Its description of God’s commitment is huge. God’s commitment is much bigger that huge. My understanding is so little – as are, I suspect, many others around me as well.

I grinned to myself yesterday as we listened to and hummed along to the beautiful Chinese worship songs sung with such gusto. It was like heaven to hear them.

I grinned because – if I could just take this small group at that moment back to Peterborough and plunk them down into our church – what would people think?

I doubt we, as good “Peterborough-ites”, could handle something that different. The exuberance for one would throw us a little. As they were led by Franki only playing her guitar… it would throw us anyway – we have so much more. The fact that none of us in our church would understand their words would be a completely unnerving thing for us.

The worship was so good and so real. These people loved each other and loved singing together. Then when the Bible was read, they all read each word in unison – a beautiful experience of a rhythm all of its own.

Remember the stats that I quoted earlier? “According to the National Virtual Translation Center, Earth's people speak a total of about 6,900 languages.”…

Which one will be spoken in heaven? I am told that we will worship God using language. Others are there now doing just that… But which language will be the dominant one? Will it be yours?

If almost all the 7 million people now alive on earth, plus all the millions upon millions that have already passed away gathered to sing praises to God… what will its sound like?

A while ago…
One of my Young Assistant Pastors was confronted by an upset parent. He was upset because the Young Assistant Pastor had not made sure the youth group would attend a Southern Gospel Concert where the “Gaither kind of Music” would be played and sung.

The Young Assistant Pastor tried to explain that even the man’s own children didn’t like the music let alone a crowd of old people that would attend (sorry old people).

The man sputtered and being very close to losing it – shouted – “Why wouldn’t they – it is the music that will be sung in heaven?!!!” The irate parent went on to sputter that they better get used to it because it will be what heaven is hearing ALL THE TIME.

I was able to get the Young Assistant Pastor to at least laugh about the silly statement of this poor man.

Can you imagine the shock this poor dude will get when it is not the Gaither’s Music being played on heavenly harps? Can you imagine when he puts in his song request – and the harpist looks puzzled by his words let alone his song.

Too funny! Just too very funny!

I am truly sorry for you – if I stepped on your “Southern Gospel” toes… but IT WILL NOT BE THE MUSIC OF HEAVEN – nor will Country and Western or Rock n Roll…

With the Chinese people making up 25% or more of the population of the world and India taking the next 25% - over 50% will not be us… and within their groups there are 1000s of dialects. And THEIR MUSIC is VERY Different!

Yesterday I heard a small part of heaven sing. It came from their hearts and God smiled with deep pleasure. Oh it was so good… and I have missed this part so much!

I can’t wait for Heaven… and its 6900 different languages blended into one wonderful voice in pure praise for our Wonderful God….

Have a great big inclusive day….

~ Murray Lincoln ~

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