These four posts are based on the sermon I presented on the first Sunday of 2018. I took a New Year focus because of the timing but I hope the material and personal reflection is of interest at other times of the year. I acknowledge that some turns of phrase may have their origins in the book Firstfruit that I had read last year after visiting Saxony and historic Moravian sites.
Zinzendorf's work to build unity Zinzendorf built among those disparate Czech believers had a lasting impact on the history of Christian mission. What happened is that Herrnhut began to send out missionaries to other nations. It started with a chance meeting between Ludwig and a slave from the Caribbean island of St Thomas. This man had recently been converted. which surprised Ludwig since, in his view, the Dutch colony was a thoroughly Christian place. However, he found the gospel had not been extended to the hundreds of slaves; it seemed to have been purposely withheld, in case knowledge of the Bible, and its emphasis on human rights, caused rebellion. In 1732, the church at Herrnhut sent two missionaries to St Thomas and not long after, two to Greenland. Many more followed, and a great number were added to the faith. However a huge price was paid by those volunteers, as many died of tropical diseases and other tragedies.
Over time, sharing faith with those who had not heard became part of the DNA of the Moravian tradition, and it still is. The Moravians sent out missionaries long before Baptists or Presbyterians did, and today there are the Moravian churches in many places around the world – Jamaica, Africa, Canada, India and Scandinavia. My 2017 Children's Service for Christmas told the story of the Moravian Star which is seen in these places, and around the world. The biggest mission movement was to America, which Ludwig thought could provide a haven for European refugees; years later he ended up being one of them, when he was exiled from Germany himself. By then he had been ordained as pastor.
As far as I know there are no Moravian churches in New Zealand, but Ric and I loved worshipping in the church at Herrnhut; there was lots of great singing, the sermon was translated for us, and the pastor was a woman. The visiting preacher - from the USA - told us Moravian there is ‘Lutheran lite’, so perhaps that’s what I am! In Psalm 96 the Hebrews were enjoined to "publish God's glorious deeds among the nations, and t“Go to all the world” in Matthew 28 enlarges this global commision.
In 1735, a young English vicar sailed to America in hopes of bringing the Christian faith to the native people. His mission failed, but his ministry ended up changing the face of the English church. The reason was that on the ship he met some Moravians. The liveliness of their faith and personal relationship with Christ impressed him deeply. On his return to London, he attended their Bible studies, and on May 24, 1738 had a spiritual experience that “warmed his heart” and assured him of salvation. That man was John Wesley, and this experience empowered him with a Spirit of great boldness in Christian mission. The Methodist movement he founded has continued to share the faith, to celebrate community, to nurture the young and to welcome the stranger.
This I have done for you; what have you done for me? Count Nicholas Ludwig van Zinzendorf sought to know Christ personally and to experience God’s leading in his life, and his influence continues around the world today.
To Think About: So the fourth question is, How might I be more intentional about sharing my faith this year?
From the Moravian Daily texts for this third week in Epiphany:
... we affirm that the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.
Let us love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul,
with all our mind, and with all our strength.
Loving God, in the midst of this busy day help us to remember your profound love for us,
Be close to us as we choose words and actions in our dealings with others.
In the midst of this busy day help us to remember that we are your ambassadors to the world.
May others see and hear in us the message of your life-giving love.
In the midst of this busy day help us to remember that in Jesus Christ you set for us a pattern for living.
Be near to our hearts as we make decisions concerning matters both great and small for we seek to give all of ourselves to you.
Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glory without fault and with unspeakable joy,
to the only God, our savior, be glory and majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all time, now, and in all ages to come,