Today my church hosted a mission luncheon, hosting the Assistant Director of OCMC, Fr. David Rucker. Fr. David and my parish priest, Fr. George, served on the Board together. It is important to me that a church be mission minded, so attending the luncheon to learn more about OCMC and my parish’s support was of interest to me. It was nice to see about 20 people there and the time together lasted for 3 hours. So much was shared by Fr. David that it is impossible to recount all of it here, but a few points stuck out.
Missionaries always ask ‘why’. They learn to not assume and make snap judgments about a culture’s religious practice. Asking ‘why’ reveals the thoughts behind the actions in a cultures’ worship practices. Fr. David taught a class on missiology at a Protestant institution of higher education. Since experience is the best teacher, Fr. David opened the class with a short time of prayer at a small altar he set up at the front of the classroom, which included venerating and censing icons. Upon asking for opening thoughts on what he had just done, one student felt comfortable enough to say, “You were worshiping idols.” Lesson 1: Always ask ‘why?’
Then there was the story about translating the word ‘sin’ into Chinese in order to bring the Gospel to the people. The word chosen translated ‘sin’ as a crime (thievery, murder) punishable by imprisonment or banishment. People would listen, smile politely, nod their head, all the while thinking to themselves, “I never committed these crimes! I do not sin! But obviously you have because you are not in your home country.” Clearly, a different translation of the word was needed! Understanding that sin is missing the mark and the mark is communion/relationship with God, the word ‘harmony’ was then used. Harmony is something that is well understood in the Chinese culture. Missionaries could explain that harmony is broken and Christ brings us to relationship with the Father and then with one another. Describing, defining sin as the loss of harmony, helped the missionaries explain the Gospel to the people in China. Lesson 2: If we really believe, “God is everywhere present and fillest all things,” and Christianity is really true, we will find in every culture the seed of Truth upon which to build.
Perhaps the most significant words I heard were those about Lent. That it is a time to close the doors for introspection, to seek forgiveness, and to make different choices. The church family is like any family – we bicker, we fight, we get angry with one another, we play together and live life. And like any family, we need to sit down with one another, take a good look inside and at each other, acknowledge we hurt and have hurt someone else, seek their forgiveness and then pray deeply in repentance. All the while knowing Pascha is coming! Lent is a time for us to look at all the blessings God has given us, take some of them away as a check and balance. Are we addicted to any of them? Are we abusing any of them? Are we grateful for all of them? Lent is a time of self examination, repentance, healing and celebrating.
It was a good day. Beginning the day with Divine Liturgy and remembrance prayers for those who have gone before us to eternity. A luncheon which focused our hearts and minds on bringing the Good News to those who have not heard it and seeing where we have lost sight of the Good News. An evening of rest for the journey towards Pascha beginning tomorrow. May it be blessed.
Forgive me, dear Readers, for any and all offenses I have done against you, knowingly and unknowingly. May God bless you with a prosperous Lenten journey.