Today in the calendar of saints we celebrate the life and ministry of Channing Moore Williams (b. 1829), Missionary Bishop of China and Japan who died on this date in 1910.
Bishop Williams, amongst other things, a proud graduate of The Virginia Theological Seminary, is known for a number of accomplishments…aside from his magnificent beard. On a more serious note, Bishop Williams spent over 50 years abroad in China and Japan. Along with Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewski, one of Williams’s close friends (another fellow who appreciated a good long beard), Williams helped to
translate the bible into Chinese. In a solo effort Williams translated portions of the Book of Common Prayer and bible into Japanese. In 1874 he founded St. Paul’s University in Yedo (now Tokyo). However, perhaps Williams’s largest achievement was the establishment of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai, the Holy Catholic Church of Japan which brought together both English and American missions which established the Anglican Church in Japan.
The gospel reading for Bishop Williams is Luke 10:1-9:
“The Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, `Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, `The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ “
As a brief aside, I have to tell you all that I am a fan of Godly Play. One of the things that I think is a real gift that Godly Play brings to both children and adults is the concept of “wondering questions.” Now, I realize that more broadly this concept is not a creation of Jerome Berryman, but to name these questions we all have when we encounter Holy Scripture as “wondering” calls out to us that we all question and that those questions are not only normal, but help us to grow spiritually. But I digress…
So I wonder as I read this passage from Luke, what does it mean to us today to hear that, “the kingdom of God has come near to you,” and what do we do with the knowledge of that nearness of the kingdom in our lives? Does it make any difference in the daily operation of our lives? How would we live our lives if we were alert and on the lookout for the kingdom’s presence in our lives, as Jesus commands us to be (from the Gospel passage from Mark for this past Sunday, Mark 13:24-37)?
If we believed that the kingdom of God has come near to us, and we were on the lookout for that already arrived kingdom, imagine our shift in perspective. Imagine if not only were we on the lookout but actually FOUND the kingdom of God in our lives. What change in perspective or attitude do you think we would experience? Would we be more thankful? Would we be constantly thanking God for those gifts? Would we feel closer to God in general? Would we just get numb to all of the blessings that we receive when indeed the kingdom does come near to us?
During this season of Advent, as we prepare with joyful expectation for the kingdom of God not only to come close but for God Himself to be born into the world again for us this year, let us look with fresh eyes and loving open hearts marking the moments when the kingdom of God has come near to us. Now. Where we are. And let us give prayerful thanks to God for those moments, those gifts, those glimpses of the kingdom in our midst.
In the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,