I can still remember one of my first experiences of worship in a strongly multicultural context. I was a student and a group of us went to visit the Catholic cathedral in Adelaide. People from every continent were worshipping together that day and it struck me that Christianity is a truly global religion!
Spend some time thinking about the church where you are a member. What sort of family names do people have? What does this say about their ancestry? Were any people born overseas? If so, where were they born? Do you have any people who come to worship wearing traditional dress or speaking another language?
I often hear people talking about ‘German’ Lutherans, but if you dig a bit deeper you will find that our congregations are much more culturally diverse than we realise.
Read Acts 1:6–11. What does this reading say about Jesus’ plan for the gospel?
Jesus sent his disciples out with a message for the world! Jesus may have been in Jerusalem when he died and rose again, but the good news of his victory was not supposed to stay there. Jesus’ plan was for the word to go out from Jerusalem into the rest of the world, calling people everywhere to return to God and receive forgiveness in Jesus’ name.
Read Acts 2:5–11 and look back over the list of places. Many of the names will seem strange, but do you recognise any of them?
People were gathered there from all over the known world! God’s plan for the church was coming to fruition!
Through the people who heard the gospel in their own tongue, the good news of Jesus was beginning its journey out from Jerusalem and into the rest of the world.
Now dig deeper. Think more about verse 11: ‘… we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!’
Have you ever been in a situation where everybody was speaking in a language that you couldn’t understand? If not, imagine what it would be like. How did it make you feel? Lonely? Isolated? Left out?
Now imagine you are in church and everything is in a different language!
Would it make any difference if someone came alongside you and helped translate for you? What would it have been like for people at Pentecost when God came speaking to them in their own native languages? What does this say about God’s desire for ‘… all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth’ (1 Timothy 2:4)?
Read Revelation 7:9–17.
This is a picture describing the church as it is! All around the world, Christians are worshipping in their own languages and with local customs and practices.
In multicultural countries like Australia and New Zealand, it is a blessing to be able to worship together with people from different cultural backgrounds. It allows us to learn from one another’s life experiences, to see God at work in new and different ways, and even to understand ourselves and our own culture better.
Pastor Matthias Prenzler serves Victoria’s Goulburn Murray Parish, including the multicultural community of St Paul’s Shepparton, which includes many people from Burundi, Congo and South Sudan in Africa, and Trinity Echuca.
This feature story comes from The Lutheran July 2020. Visit the website to find out more about The Lutheran or to subscribe.