[Image: Kenyan Peace, 2014, L. Borch (original image)]
Location: Masai country, Kenya
Revelation 15:4 (NKJV)
4 Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, For Your judgments have been manifested.”
Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the opening of the New York's World Fair in 1964. [NYT article HERE]. I doubt seriously that many champagne corks were popped nor that there were aging "boomers" singing Auld Lang Syne with misty eyes toasting the "good ole days" in loving, and probably erroneous, memory of it.
As I have said before, I was there on my high school senior trip and, though I do not remember the specific date, it was not long after its opening. As a wide-eyed kid from the back woods of Mississippi, I was impressed though the historians rate the fair as a failure. It didn't "make a profit", you see, and therefore by 1964 standards and by today's, that puts it in the "not worth doing" mode.
Interestingly enough though, as the referenced article points out, that particular World's Fair was the first in which significant participation and cultural exchange was provided by what we now call 3rd world countries. Africa was well represented as well as other areas. In that sense the "Fair" may well have been a taste of the future... for the essentially racist America that existed in 1964, both North and South, which was not all that encouraging of non-European immigration, has all but disappeared. I suppose the ordinary white middle-class American, entering the African Pavilion, and being politely greeted by a seven foot tall Watusi warrior, might find a few of his (or her) presuppositions challenged, especially those assuming White supremacy in all things.
What the '64 Fair heralded culturally then is being fulfilled geographically now.
Linda Borch and her husband recently were able to visit Kenya and go on a photo-safari. I am extraordinarily jealous but I am somewhat mollified by her graciously extending access to her photographs. This particular scene evokes a sense of peaceful beauty that is uniquely African. I doubt that a similar vista could be recorded anywhere else and it reminds me that not only every race/tribe of man has its unique glories but also every geographic (and indeed cosmic) entity has its own brilliance also.
It is the multi-floral patterns of Creation that remind us of the depths of God's Person and work. I don't see how anyone can ever grow bored exploring the local and distant horizons available to them. God's creative genius is registered in this... that colors and patterns and textures can be arranged in an infinite variety, but as with all great artistic masterpieces, there is a central unifying theme. Every thread in the tapestry is integrally related to all the rest and the grand proclamation is the overall effect that surfaces from them all.
In the passage quoted above John hears the joyful proclamation by the redeemed and glorified hosts of heaven, singing praises to God in ecstatic anticipation of "all the nations" coming to bow down before Him. In many ways, now is the high-tide of African Christianity. Since 1964 Africa has moved on many fronts, away from the stereo-typical disparaging idea of a continent full of "poor ignorant black savages" who have never heard the gospel, to a region with fully indigenous Churches and Denominations who, interestingly enough, are sending 'missionaries' to the US. In 1964 we, the US, were at the top of the food chain, both in respect and culturally and with the strongest Christian witness in the world. Now... not so much... and it is with some shame that we Christians ought ponder what is happening.
The gospel "comes" to a people in their pre-ordained time and bears its fruit in due season. But, as the history of the great "Christian" nations that preceded us, bears witness, the "gospel" can also "leave" a people. The flow of history shows an ebb and flow, or more precisely, a flow and ebb, as the Holy Spirit takes the things of Christ and works His great work in the nations of the world.
It is God's plan to have His harvest be just as multi-floral as His Creation. It is the inter-weaving strands of various tribes and cultures and languages that exhibit His Genius. The movement of the gospel in time reflects this harvest. As in any harvest, after a field is reaped, it is only the stragglers that remain.
As we Christians ponder the spiritual state of the world, we will see readily enough it is in those very nations that in 1964 were barely blips on the cultural awareness scale that today exhibit the most vitality and energy in their spiritual walk even if the broad region is still immersed in tragic wars and persecution. It may very well be that we are in the "Century of the Third-World" as the old and tired nations that have dominated the world scene retreat into the shadows.
God never leaves Himself without a witness and even in apostate Israel, there were still seven thousand who had not bowed their knee to Baal, and so, even in a "burned over" region that has grown callous and self-focused in its Christian witness, there is still many who respond and rejoice in the good news of the Kingdom of God. However, it appears that if we want to see the most powerful works of the Holy Spirit, we might find them in an African plain more readily than an American suburb.