Mission Festival 2020 – The Gospel for every tribe and tongue

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Welcome to Immanuel’s Mission Festival 2020!

We welcome Chris and Janine Pluger.  They are returning to Lutheran Bible Translators after a four-year hiatus in Watertown, South Dakota, where Chris has been teaching Spanish and Janine has worked as an administrative assistant at Great Plains Lutheran High School. They previously spent five years in Zambia with the Nsenga Bible Translation Project, which dedicated their New Testament in 2016.

Chris and Janine are making plans to work with multiple Bible translation projects in Ethiopia alongside the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY). Chris will also assist with the education of future Bible translators.

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The Sky’s The Limit


The sky’s the limit. Usually when we say those words, we mean them in a good, positive way. If, for example, you go to a graduation and there’s a person giving a speech, you might hear the person say those word. There’s no limit to what each of you can accomplish. This morning we are going to begin by taking a look back at the beginning. And there we’ll see that the sky was the limit. But that was not good at all. In Genesis 11, we read: “Now the whole world had one language and a common speech.” (Gen. 11:1 NIV11-GKE)


Way back at the beginning people were united in their speech. They had one language.1(Gen. 11:1 BHS-T)}}. And not only this, but they one set of words.2(Gen. 11:1 BHS-T)}} And so, their language was easy to communicate. They were united in language. But there was also another way they were united: 2 As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. 3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”” (Gen. 11:2–4 NIV11-GKE)


They were united in their need for a name. They needed a name, a reputation. So they built a Ziggurat stretching into the skies so that they could look over at God instead of up at him. But they also built a city with walls so that other people wouldn’t be able to conquer them. So they were united—both in language and the need for a name. But they weren’t the only ones who were united. We read: 5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” 8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel —because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.” (Gen. 11:5–9 NIV11-GKE)


The Lord was united too. He was united in his understanding of them. God’s word tells us that the sky was the limit to what they planned. And, as we mentioned at the start, this seems like this would be good. But it is not. For, if God did not intervene the sky would be the limit to the evil they would plan and ponder.3(Gen. 11:6 BHS-T)}} So the Lord steps in and confuses their language and frustrates their plans.


And my dear friends in Christ, here is where we start. And we need to start here. For it might sound strange, but it is a gift that there are differences languages and dialects. For if there is this difference then there cannot be unity in planning and carrying out evil.


But the fact that there are thousands of languages out there does present us with a problem if we are going to share the gospel. And we’ll talk about that soon.




Jesus Cares for the Outsider


There are people not like us. The farther you get away from your home, the more you will see that there are people not like us. Here, in these words, we meet a man who, in so many ways, is not like the people around him. He is a Roman Centurion. He is a commander of hundreds and thousands. But, yet, as we read these words, we are fascinated by him. In Matthew 8, we read: 5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”” (Matt. 8:5–6 NIV11-GKE)


This Centurion is an outsider. But yet, he seeks Jesus out and sends messengers to him. He goes to Jesus. And in the words that follow we see why: 7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?” 8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”” (Matt. 8:7–9 NIV11-GKE)


The man goes to Jesus because he knows Jesus. Here is this Roman of all Romans. For Roman people, their world revolved around {\app imperium} (power). He tells Jesus that he is a man of authority.4 But he is also a man under authority. And what is so amazing about him is that, while he recognizes that he has power and authority to give orders and they are obeyed, he recognizes his place in the greater chain of command. God is above him. God gives commands. And when he gives commands, instantly they are obeyed. So he asks Jesus to give a command, since Jesus is in control of all and over all. What an outsider—what a non-Jewish man this was. But look at Jesus’ response: 10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.” (Matt. 8:10–13 NIV11-GKE)


Jesus is amazed. Jesus is amazed that this outsider understood God’s word and his place in God’s world better than the Jewish people did. And instead of shutting him out because he was an outsider, he cared for him. He reached out through his word even before this and gave him faith to understand his Savior and trust in him. And he would give up his life to pay for this outsider’s sin.


And, my dear friends, that is our task today. We too are asked and invited to care for the outsiders and share our faith with them. And one of the ways to show that you are an outsider is to speak a different language. So we strive and struggle to bring God’s word into their own language so that they, just like this Roman would see God’s great love for them.




After Division, there is Deliverance


Look at where our thoughts began this morning. First, there was such division. People could not speak the same language anymore. So, since they did not know what the others were saying, they could not trust them. But in our closing words, look at what happens. In the book of Revelation, we read: 9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”” (Rev. 7:9–10 NIV11-GKE)


In this book we find powerful poetry. So many people from so many different languages. But is there discord and division? No. And the reason why is because of Jesus, the Lamb of God, who made them pure in his sight with his own blood. And as a result they are at peace. They hold palm branches in their hands. But also there is another result: 11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”” (Rev. 7:11–12 NIV11-GKE)


There isn’t just peace, there is also praise. Let that be our goal and prayer too.



1 ”שָׂפָ֣ה אֶחָ֑ת“
2 ”וּדְבָרִ֖ים אֲחָדִֽים“
3 ”יָזְמ֖וּ“
4 “ⲉⲝⲟⲩⲥⲓⲁⲛ” (Matt. 8:9 GNT-WAS)

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