Acts 1, vv1-8
At the beginning of the Book of Acts the risen Jesus is with his disciples. ‘Will you now restore the kingdom to Israel?’ they ask him. They simply could not grasp that Jesus had come not to restore former glory but to inaugurate a Kingdom of God which was quite different from, for example, the kingdom of God’s chosen king David. This new kingdom is not based on nationality, on history and certainly not on nostalgia. This kingdom is the rule of God in human lives and societies, as the parables of Jesus point out. And the fact that God had raised Jesus from death was (among other things) the ultimate confirmation that what he had been teaching about this new kingdom was indeed the purpose of God.
So Jesus goes on to speak of this kingdom, this rule of God, spreading out, like ripples on a lake after a stone is cast, starting in Jerusalem and eventually reaching the whole world. This was the motivation of Christian leaders and preachers throughout the centuries. The first disciples themselves travelled throughout the ‘known world’ (e.g. Thomas going to India) and the message spread subsequently further and further.
Brian Wren once wrote a hymn which unfortunately did not make it into ‘Rejoice & Sing’. It begins:
‘Once from a European shore strong nations sailed around the earth,
to purchase claves with bales of cloth, to plunder, conquer and explore.
Give thanks that some upon that tide, with faith and failings like our own,
went out to preach in lands unknown that Christ for all the world had died.’
And the final verse begins:
‘Lord, open out our hearts and minds to show what still your church could be:
a source of hope and unity, a prototype for humankind.’
From time to time we hear a word from the so-called front-line of mission, such as Mark Nicholson speaking to us today (September 4). But all such a visit does is remind us that we are all, in faith and hope and love, furthering the spread of this kingdom, or, by the way we live, preventing it.
Revd Peter Brain