Today they sing in Singapore and raise their arms to praise the Lord in Tokyo and Mexico and many many many more – in Ethiopia they shout and ululate in South Sudan; in Michigan the lights come out and colors play across the scene to show what we’re so glad about – the Nyarafolo celebrate in rhythmic circles, clapping hands; it’s quieter in dry Kuwait and Syria and Timbuktu, but all the saved participate – because we know that He’s not dead, our Master, Brother, Rescuer! The grave was empty, and instead He met the women, then the men and told them He must go ahead to send His Spirit, help us through, and He’d be with us every day, then gave us all this work to do: tell everyone about our King! So sing in Paris and Peru!
What a massive celebration took place yesterday! There was an earth-shattering event long ago that changed the rules and opened the door to Life to all humans who choose to step through it, no matter their ethnic identity or geographic roots. God so loves the world that he came to earth in human form, Jesus, who made atonement for our sins through his death on the cross — but rose to life and is our Rescuer and Sovereign!
This Life-giver was the Creator of our universe, an amazing tribute to his ingenuity. Just think about the all the proofs that our Lord loves diversity. Think about the approximately 10,000 species of birds that have been identified so far here on earth! Scientist say that there are about 369,000 flowering plants, and roughly 73,300 tree species. Maybe you dog-lovers know that there are about 450 species of dogs known to exist. What an imagination our God has, and what artistry!
Then we come to human beings. I stand in a grocery store and watch the people bustling down the aisles, not a one of them exactly like another, even those who seem to have the same skin color. Noticing the shoes or clothing they are wearing gives a clue to their personal priorities and physical needs, their love of color or style preferences. God made us diverse and gave us creativity and imagination.
When we take time to think about all the different cultures in the world, we don’t come close to counting them all. Even within a North American neighborhood there may be families from Asian, Hispanic, Indigenous, Black or White cultures. And some of them may be mixed, like I am, having been raised as a missionary kid in Africa who had to learn what it meant to be an American in the United States. And those things morph as the decades pass.
God loves all this variety in people groups and cultures. Even music is radically different, as well as worship styles in churches. From classical or traditional hymns, to gospel, to popular contemporary Christian, to rap, to country style, there are so many ways to express praise and truth right here in the U.S. As different generations and communities bring in their preferences, things change.
Even in just one country, an ethnic group can be identified by their style of worship music. Take the percussive drums and balaphones in the video above, and the response of the women, men and children in the Easter service in this small group in northern Cote d’Iviore, the Nyarafolo. When they discovered that they could praise the Lord in their own rhythms with whole-body praise, the celebrations came alive.
I like to picture the way yesterday, Easter Sunday, there was so much exultation rising in song all around the world. The Lord has been accomplishing his purpose, calling all peoples to come into his welcoming arms to find rescue, hope and true life. Paul explained this to people in Athens, underlining the way the Creator, the Lord of heaven and earth, planned this diversity as part of his purpose for each people group to come to know him:
From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. (Acts 17:26-27 NIV)
He is not far from anyone, no matter where they are! When he finds a hungry heart, he knows just the right way to pull that unsuspecting person to himself. Christianity Today recently published the moving testimony of an Irish Protestant who went to prison because of his political violence, and to his own surprise was drawn to the Bible (which he had not ever read) and not only believed, but has done amazing evangelistic and pastoral work upon being released: https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2022/january-february/david-hamilton-protestant-catholic-northern-ireland-prison.html .
And I cannot help but think of how Jesus appeared one night to Lacina, a young man in Tiepogovogo, several years before we arrived in his village to learn Nyarafolo. Jesus told him that if he would follow him, many others there would follow him too. Lacina protested that he had no idea how to “know” him; he couldn’t read, for one thing. But the next day he told his best friend Sikatchi about the vision, and they began to search. It was hard to figure out what people were saying in other languages in area churches in the towns. Then we arrived, and the two young men waited for the right time to approach us and ask us to teach them. The Lord knew who to prompt, how to prepare the way for these Nyarafolo to find him!
What Jesus did for us at the cross, his perfect once-for-all sacrifice that opened the way for us to become part of his family, and his miraculous resurrection, this is what makes it possible for anyone to come to him for rescue. Probably everyone reading this belongs to one of those other nations or people groups that inhabit this huge earth, rather than to the Jews that were his chosen people. Through what he did in his historical work in and through them, we now are a part of his Kingdom. What grace!
He still has work for us to do; there are still peoples who do not know about him. As we go and share the Good News, that diversity in his Family increases yet more. It is just what he wants! I like to imagine the beautiful colors of people and the joyous sounds of different choirs or musical instruments that might be surrounding the Throne, thanking him for all he has done and who he is!
Praise the LORD.1 Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.
2 Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.
3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, 4 praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, 5 praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.
6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD. (Ps. 150 NIV)
Now Psalm 150 in Nyarafolo: Ŋúnugo 150
1 Ye‑ Yewe gbùʔɔrɔ wè !
Yeri Kulocɛliɛ gbùʔɔrɔ́ wi saawalidɛngɛgɛ nī gè !
Yeri wi gbùʔɔrɔ́ nyìʔɛnɛ nī lè, bàa wi ŋɔri ti tìi tìí dè.
2 Yeri wi gbùʔɔrɔ́ wi kakpoliyo kɛnmɛ nɛ̄ bè !
Yeri wi gbùʔɔrɔ́ wi kpuɔmɔ kɛnmɛ nɛ̄ bè bàa pi ‘kpúʔɔ nɛ̀ tóri bè !
3 Yeri wi gbùʔɔrɔ́ yeri sìnbanyɛgɛ wíi gè !
Yeri wi gbùʔɔrɔ́ nɛ́ màʔagɛlɛ bɔ̀licɛrigɛ ní gè, nɛ́ gɔri ní wè !
4 Yeri wi gbùʔɔrɔ́ nɛ́ pìnbile ní lè, nɛ́ yuɔrɔ ní dè !
Yeri wi gbùʔɔrɔ́ nɛ́ màʔagɛlɛ yakpuɔnrɔ ní dè, nɛ́ maana ní lè !
5 Yeri wi gbùʔɔrɔ́ nɛ́ kányiɛrɛ yakpuɔnrɔ ní dè dàa ti sɔ́migi nɛ tùngú dè !
Yeri wi gbùʔɔrɔ́ nɛ́ kányiɛrɛ yakpuɔnrɔ ní dè dáà ti cî nɛ tùngú kpuʔɔ dèb !
6 Yɛgɛ ó yɛgɛ ki ŋɔ́gi gè, kiri Yewe gbùʔɔrɔ́ wè !
Ye- Yewe gbùʔɔrɔ wè !