School's Out!
June 1, 2017, 12:16 PM

School’s out!  In any idealistic sense of childhood, this should be a happy thought – and for teachers as well!  When I was young (from about age 9 thru 18), my family would set out on a lengthy camping trip across the country or into Canada.  Sometimes this took up most of the summer; other years, especially when my dad was working in the summer time to augment the family income, several weeks.  So I got to travel a lot as a child, and even though I know my brother and I bickered quite a bit, I will never really lose my love of travel and seeing new places and meeting new people.  Probably this practice, plus the fact that I was born overseas, made it inevitable that I would join the Foreign Service when the opportunity presented itself.  Plus, it’s only been 2-1/2 years since I visited the seventh continent (Antarctica). 

So when Jesus sends out the disciples to witness to the Good News of God’s love to all nations, I kind of identify with how exciting and scary that must have seemed to them.  Of course, we know that Paul went to Rome – and tried to go to Spain, although he never got that far – and wandered widely in present-day Turkey, Syria, and parts of Iraq.  We have reports that Thomas made it to South India.  Plus Philip was found in the Sinai, where he baptized the slave of the Candace (the ruler of Ethiopia).  So, given that travel in those days was slower than now, it must have seemed to them that they did pretty well in fulfilling the call.

The Roman Empire provided safe and good roads and shipping routes – they built a massive communications and transportation network for the transport of people and goods and ideas.  Greek connections provided a lingua franca

As the years went on, and the power centers of the Church settled in Constantinople and Rome, both became the object of pilgrimage and the goal of political movers and shakers. 

While the rise of Muslim rulers in the Middle East did displace Christian authorities, Christian communities and practices remained viable and even dynamic for centuries.  Early Muslim rulers actually hired Christian monks as their administrative clerks, who were tasked with translating the great works of Greek philosophy, history, mathematics, and what passed for science of the day into Arabic – with the result that when the Moors captured Spain in the 8th to 10th centuries, many of these works that were lost at the hands Christian rulers in Europe were re-discovered and translated into Latin, engendering – along with other factors – the so-called 12th century renaissance, and contributing to the rise of the first great universities and teachers such as Abelard. 

There is good evidence that Christians made it into the Far East – and were found in the Great Mongol Khan’s court (Marco Polo found them there); and there are even hints that Christians made it to Japan during the Middle Ages, although I don’t think that’s a completely settled question.  Most of the Asian Christians we know about appear to have been Arian Christians, rather than the Trinitarians that the Church in the West and the Orthodox Churches became.  Arians date back to the time of Constantine, and were branded heretics by the winners at the conferences that brought us the Nicene Creed (325 and 381) because they believed that Jesus Christ was begotten of the Father at a particular point in time – i.e., not “eternally” – and was therefore subordinate to and not co-equal with the Father.

If you’re looking for something to do in the summer months, I encourage taking a trip to a place you’ve never been before – even just a day away, if that’s what you can manage – and see what you can learn that you never knew before!

O God, who created all peoples in your image, we thank you for the wonderful diversity of races and cultures in this world. Enrich our lives by ever-widening circles of fellowship, and show us your presence in those who differ most from us, until our knowledge of your love is made perfect in our love for all your children; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.    (BCP 840)