Last Sunday we sang a very simple – but very lovely – hymn which perfectly summed up the words of Ephesians 1:2-14.
The great love of God is revealed in the Son,
who came to this earth to redeem everyone.
That love, like a stream flowing clear to the sea,
makes clean every heart that from sin would be free.
It binds the whole world, every barrier it breaks,
the hills it lays low, and the mountains it shakes.
It’s yours, it is ours, O how lavishly given!
The pearl of great price, and the treasure of heaven.
DT Niles (1908-70)
It was written by D.T. Miles (Daniel Thambyrajah Niles) who, apart from the many hymns he wrote, is well-known for his roles in the World Council of Churches, the National Christian Council of Ceylon and the East Asian Christian Conference (EACC), and for his equal commitment to the local church. At the time of his death when he was both a President of the WCC and the Chairman of EACC, he was also the Superintendent minister of St Peter’s Methodist Church (Jaffna) and Principal of Jaffna Central College.
He is famous for his commitment to evangelism and for saying, “Evangelism is witness. It is one beggar telling another beggar where to get food…” but he was equally as succinct and challenging in speaking about the role of the church, “The answer to the problems of our world is the answer that Jesus Christ provided, which is the Church.”
And serving alongside others, finding practical ways of being the church to others, was the focus of his life. He was invited to give the keynote address at the First Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Amsterdam in 1948, and he spoke again at the Fourth Assembly in Uppsala, Sweden, in 1968, after Martin Luther King Jr., who had been invited to preach, was assassinated. His text on that occasion was Revelations 21:5-6; “See, I am making all things new…” and he stood and preached words of hope and promise, reminding those gathered, “In every generation, God chooses whom he wills as his sign-bearers to carry convincing testimony to some aspect of his working….Martin Luther King will be remembered wherever and whenever the cause of human dignity is celebrated, wherever and whenever man’s search for community is espoused.”
Last Sunday we too celebrated, in visible, practical ways, what it means to be a church, as we worshipped and prayed and reflected together, and as some of the deacons and myself welcomed those who had come to the church over the last 12 to 18 months. There were around 30 people crowded into the family room of the church, but it was a wonderful chance to get to know names and faces, to share some of our stories and our struggles, and to welcome these people to our church. Thank you too to Peter Churcher, Kathy Joyce, Wendy Holland and Caroline Stein who helped with the food.
May we continue to be a welcoming church and a faithful church and a loving church – much like the welcoming and faithful God whose “great love…is revealed in the Son”.
This Sunday we continue exploring Ephesians. If you have time – please read Ephesians 2 before Sunday!
Grace and peace, and see you on Sunday – in person or on Zoom!