The Great Commission on Display

The Great Commission on Display

Author: Geneva Wright
June 21, 2021

How vast and beautiful are the plans of God! Across ages and continents, He has always been at work: redeeming His people, healing divisions, and drawing His diverse church together in the unity of worship.

This truth was unexpectedly illustrated to me the summer before my junior year of college, when I traveled to Jordan alongside fifteen other American students to undertake a two-month Arabic language program. My memories of that summer have a slightly dreamlike quality to them. The Jordanian dialect is very different from the Modern Standard Arabic taught in our textbooks, and my paltry language skills were ill-equipped for the demands of the real world. Unprepared for the relentless heat, unable to read the street signs or ask for directions, I spent most of the time being led from one place to another, feeling completely adrift.

One Sunday, a professor offered to take any interested students to a Catholic Mass at his church. A small group of us agreed to go—perhaps five—and the professor arranged for us to be picked up by a friend of his who spoke no English. I remember us getting into the friend’s car, a beat-up van with no seatbelts, and heading down the highway out of town. Sitting in that van, gripping the hand rest, and watching the countryside fly past, it occurred to me that I had no idea where we were going or who was driving. The thought was terrifying and thrilling all at once.

The disorientation didn’t stop when we arrived at the church. I had never been to a Mass before, let alone one in a foreign country, and of course the service was entirely in Jordanian Arabic. My classmates and I filed into a pew and did our best to copy the movements of the people around us, looking and feeling extremely out of place. Understanding nothing of what was being spoken, I let the priest’s voice wash over me.

And then, all of a sudden, I realized that I knew what he was saying. Although I can’t explain it, and I couldn’t have translated the words themselves if my life depended on it, the shape and tone of them were as familiar to me as breathing—they were the historical prayers of the church found in the Book of Common Prayer.

The Reformed Episcopal church, the liturgical denomination that I grew up in, based its services on this book. Almost by instinct, I could sense that the same prayers and exhortations I had recited every Sunday throughout my childhood were now being lifted up to the Lord:

Glory be to God on high,
and on earth peace, good will towards men.
We praise thee, we bless thee,
we worship thee,
we glorify thee,
we give thanks to thee for thy great glory,
O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty.

Nearly six thousand miles from home, in a language that I could not speak, I was witnessing a foretaste of Revelation 7:9: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.…”

The experience was a profound reminder to me of the unity that is possible through the worship of God. His family spans the globe: cutting across mountains and oceans; running through national borders and political parties; bringing together different cultural groups and ethnicities. Imagine, on any given Sunday, how many millions of believers come together to recite the Apostles’ Creed—the same fundamental beliefs, expressed in hundreds of unique and beautiful languages. We have brothers and sisters in China and Nigeria and Egypt and Australia we will never meet in this life, but with whom we will one day spend eternity. Isn’t that an incredible thought?

The Great Commission is a gift—not just to the nations and people groups who have yet to hear about Jesus, but to all of us. The gospel was first carried to my white European ancestors by Middle Eastern missionaries—perhaps the ancestors of the very Jordanian Christians with whom I was privileged to worship. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” Jesus said, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). On that hot Sunday in Jordan, I glimpsed an image of the Great Commission in action. Through the zeal and compassion of those early Christians for the unreached people of the earth, centuries later, their descendants could worship Christ alongside each other in unity. Hallelujah!


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