On 3rd June we were blessed to welcome our incredibly talented and joy-filled friends Ny Ako to the church as we celebrated the 200th Anniversary of Welsh missionaries Thomas Bevan and David Jones travelling to Madagascar to share the gospel with them.
Our friends told us that coming to Wales was like ‘coming home’ and we certainly had a fab time welcoming them to our home and into our hearts.
As we sang, danced, laughed and praised, some of the below reflections were offered:
Reading: 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12-15
In the reading, we hear of how David and the whole of Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with castanets,[d] harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals as the ark of the covenant…the symbol of God’s promise to always be with Israel…was brought into Jerusalem. They danced with all their might!
Throughout the Bible we are told that God’s people danced with sheer joy at God’s love, God’s rescue, God’s promise to always be with us. It was an act of praise, a symbol of joy, a prophetic act.
Take Miriam – Moses and Aaron’s sister. She’s best known for making sure Moses would be brought up by his real mum alongside Pharoah’s daughter but it’s much later in the story, when she’s leading the freed Israelites in song and dance once they’ve crossed the Red Sea, that she’s called a prophet! Now a prophet is essentially a woman or man who God calls and equips to proclaim God’s love and justice and purpose…and Miriam did this through song and dance. What’s more, she was about 80 years old at the time…so no excuses about dodgy knees or hips!
Dancing, then, can be an act of praise like with King David…it can speak a prophetic message, as with Miriam, or perhaps it can even whisper to us something about who God is!
Last week, if you can think that far back, we were thinking about The Holy Trinity; how we could describe it or symbolize it…and all of our pictures fell a bit short.
Well, a group of early Christians from Turkey, called the Cappadocian Fathers, suggested that perhaps the best way to think about God as Trinity was to think of God as a circular dance of love. Think of a dance, they said, where three dancers join hands and move in a circle, stepping faster and faster as the music speeds up. Eventually, those watching from the sidelines, can no longer see individual dancers, only the moving energy of the whole circle. Searching for a metaphor to describe God’s nature and activity, the Eastern theologians looked at this kind of dance and said, “That’s what the Trinity is like.”
And ever since then, Christians have used this image of dance as a way of picturing the Holy Trinity. One of them was author CS Lewis, who said that, ‘[God is] a dynamic, pulsating activity, a life, a kind of dance.’ Lewis even suggests that the calling of each of us, the task and privilege and joy of every Christian is to enter into that divine dance, for in doing so we join with the Source of love and life itself; we become immersed with joy, grace and peace.
Well, today, we are blessed to have the opportunity to observe and participate in such beautiful dancing by our sisters from Madagascar who bring with them a message about the divine dance of love.
Reading: Lion Storyteller Bible: Goodbye At Last
“So off the friends went, down the hill – and into the whole world, to tell the story of Jesus.” Jesus told his friends to share the good news of God’s love to the whole world – whether just down the road or the other side of the world. Well, to the early church Wales would have seemed liked the edge of the world! It felt similarly to this boy from Bromley! Today of course, we take for granted how easy it is for us to pop on a plane, fall asleep and wake up on the other side of the world yet up until very recently, such a journey would have taken months to complete. This was definitely true of two men named David Jones and Thomas Bevan.
You see, in 1816, the London Missionary Society decided to send missionaries to Madagascar.
David and Thomas were both from Ceredigion and both were training to become ministers when they volunteered themselves to be tell the story of Jesus in other lands and in February 1818 they began the long and dangerous trip to Madagascar, arriving there almost 5 months after they set off!
In July 1818 they made their home in Toamasina on the East coast of the island and soon brought their wives and children over. They shared with their new friends the story of Jesus and the truth of God’s eternal, extravagant love as they pointed out where God was already at work in their lives. Whilst many of the locals welcomed their new Welsh friends, Thomas, David and their families soon discovered that life in Madagascar was not always easy and in 1819, David’s wife and Thomas and all his family were to die from malaria.
Of course, the story didn’t end there…the story of the life of Jesus, the love of God, the work of the Spirit was still shared with the people of Madagascar and no illness, no persecution even, could put out the light that had been seen. Today, that light shines bright as the Church in Madagascar is involved with education and community projects, peace building and campaigns for justice.
Earlier this morning we spoke of the circlular dance of the Trinity, well there’s a circular dance in the Madgascan – Welsh link as now, many people are still called and sent to share the story of Jesus in other lands…but the direction of travel is not simply from Wales to Madagascar; but from Madagascar back to Wales…as we see with Miara…who along with his wife Rebecca and their children, Hannah and Seren, are shining as a light on a hill in Penrhys.
And each of us are called to do the same! For most of us this won’t mean packing up our bags and getting on a plane to some far-flung location…yet all of us are called to be missionaries – to be gospelers, disciples, sharers of God’s story and song wherever we live or work or play. God encourages us to reflect the light of Christ in those neglected nooks and shadowy streets of our communities and lives; so to reveal God’s colour and love and melody! All of which feels like the cue for another dance…
So like the missionaries Thomas and David, Miara and Rebecca, let’s go sing of God’s love wherever God sends us.
Like King David and the prophet Miriam, let’s rumba with righteousness, gyrate with joy and hornpipe with hope.
And like the wonderful dancers, singers and music makers of Ny Ako, let’s jump up and join in with the rhythm of God,
the composer of the cosmos, the Lord of the dance, the symphonic Spirit. Glory be to God! Amen.