Henry Martyn is the saint we celebrate today in the life of the church–a relatively recent saint having died only in 1812. Martyn’s life was that of a missionary, spending a majority of his ordained life abroad, chiefly in India and Persia. He founded schools, and converted many to Christianity, much as you would expect from a missionary. However, he is probably best known for his translations of the Book of Common Prayer, the Psalms and the New Testament. He translated the New Testament into Urdu and twice into Persian. He translated the Book of Common Prayer into Urdu as well. And, towards the end of his life, he translated the New Testament into Arabic.
The gospel passage assigned for Martyn’s feast day is John 4:22-26. In the passage, Jesus is speaking with the Samaritan woman at the well. The sentence to which I keep coming back is near the end of the passage; the Samaritan woman tells Jesus what she knows about the Messiah. She says, “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” (John 4:25b)
As a missionary Henry Martyn accepted as primary the mission of proclaiming the Good News of God in Christ to those who had not yet heard and received God’s Word as manifest in Christ. Through his gift of linguistics he was able to give the people of India, Persia and the Arabic-speaking countries this Good News. He made the Word accessible.
I wonder for us today, who by the way are charged with the very same mission of proclaiming the Good News of God in Christ (6th promise in our Baptismal Covenant, BCP 305), how we make God’s Word known in the world? How do we, through our words and example proclaim God’s Good News? What do we do to meet those who do not know the love of God as revealed in Christ? Perhaps we cannot translate the gospels into Urdu, but we are all given gifts by God that can be used to proclaim the love of God. How will you use your gifts today?