by Thomas Prachar
This past spring, I had the privilege of attending an Intercultural Conference in Edmonton. Lutheran Church–Canada brought together individuals and entities from across our church who are involved in proclaiming the Gospel to those of different languages and cultures. We heard the stories—both challenges and joys—of those on the “front lines” who proclaim in many languages and to different cultural settings the saving message of Christ crucified, risen and ascended.
I was impressed by the passion of those who made reports about the work they were undertaking in our church. It was evident that everyone was thoroughly committed to their task. That zeal showed on their faces and came through in their voices as they told how the Lord was blessing their individual efforts to proclaim Christ to people of their own culture and language. On a prayer walk around the area of the host church in Edmonton, participants compassionately prayed at various locations or for individual people they met along the way.
When I reflected on my own passion for the “harvest fields,” I felt shame and sorrow. What had happened to my own “fire in the belly?” Had age slowed me down, or was it that I had lost touch with parish life since becoming a district president? It could be these or even other factors that have dimmed my passion. Despite this, the Lord continues to use me as His “clay pot” with all my imperfections in order “to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
I also learned something about time at the conference: I am a slave to time, and often that is not a good thing. The conference heard from everyone attending who was involved with intercultural ministry. Many times my eyes wandered to my watch as I thought, “If each person takes this much time, how will we fit everyone in?” In the end, everything worked out. But I realized how much my life is dictated by time. Of course, we need to be aware of the passing hours and minutes as time brings structure to our lives. But sometimes I get so obsessed with time that important things can be pushed away, because, well, “I just don’t have the time.” I left the conference resolving not to be such a “clock-watcher,” and instead to take more time for the important matters. The modern use of this word applies to me with all its best intentions: “Chill!”
I was also reminded that often the Lord’s work takes time. The intercultural participants were willing to give their time and sweat to plan, coordinate, talk, listen, laugh, cry, sing, and rejoice in their field of labour. Of course, any “results” or fruit of our labour are in the Lord’s time. And sometimes it’s difficult to wait for the Lord to act.
Often the Lord’s work takes time.
Time. Passion. These are elements that can assist us in doing our Lord’s work. It can take time and understanding for a congregation to welcome fellow Christians of a different culture or language. In the Lord’s time, His Gospel seed will take root and produce fruit. I hope that we take the time to be fed with God’s Word and Sacrament at every opportunity. Through these means, He will increase our passion and commitment to reach out to those around us of any culture or language who do not know Jesus as their Saviour.
Rev. Thomas Prachar is President of the Central District of Lutheran Church–Canada.