Dear Friends - Travelling – John 14 v. 6
During Advent, having followed Mary and Joseph on their journey to Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus and the coming of the Magi, we now move on into this new year of 2019. So, I would like us to think about journeys and travelling.
The daily devotion book of our Council for World Mission for 2018 was entitled ‘Travelling Together’. For the United Reformed Church, the focus has been on ‘Walking the Way’, living the life of Jesus today. Now, through our Synod, we are being introduced to something called ‘Stepwise’, which is looking forward in the ways congregations and individuals can be helped in their daily lives.
Hence the heading above! First, I would like to mention a journey in life which my parents took. When my father was a young man, he felt the call of God to work in China to spread the good news of Jesus. Two years later, my mother followed him, and they were married in Shanghai Cathedral! They were to work with hill people. The physical journey travelling from the city high up into the hills entailed my mother being carried in a sedan chair, not as simple as catching a bus! Their missionary journey involved long separation from family and then, for my father, internment during the war.
As a result of the family connection with China in the past I have become interested in the work of the Bible Society both last year and in this coming year in China. You may have heard media reports of the closure and demolition of church buildings, but this has been largely directed against unregistered churches which the Chinese authorities see as illegal and a threat to society. Despite challenges, the church in China is growing fast, with around one million people coming to faith each year. The authorities have approved the printing of 3.4 million bibles in 2019.
The total population of China is 1.37 billion, 21 times that of the UK! The work of the Bible Society in China is only a ‘drop in the ocean’ in such an enormous country. On the other hand, this ‘drop’ may continue to ripple outwards gradually to reach many more people.
We trust too that what we are able to do through our small church community here in Marlow will also spread outwards, especially to those in need. Over the page are some words I find inspiring – you may recognise them as they are from a hymn we sang last year (see New Forum May-June 2018).
God who sets us on a journey
To discover, dream and grow,
Lead us as you led your people in the desert long ago.
Journey inward, journey outward,
Stir the spirit, stretch the mind,
Love for God and self and neighbour marks the way that Christ defined.
Keep us travelling in the knowledge
You are always at our side
Give us courage for the journey,
Christ our goal and Christ our guide. Words by Joy Dine © Revd Mervyn Dine
May God’s blessing be with you in the new year.
From your fellow traveller,