Thursday, February 5, 2015

Martyrs of Japan

Martyrs of Japan

The Martyr of Japan have a story to tell of what it truly is to be Christian.  Jesuits first brought the faith to Japan in the 16th century and were followed soon after by the Franciscans.  The church grew rapidly, and it is estimated that by the end of the 16th century that there were more than three hundred thousand believers in Japan.  Unfortunately there were problems due to rivalries between Franciscan and Jesuits and because of intrigues by both the Spanish and Portuguese governments.

Concerned, the Japanese government had 6 Franciscans and twenty of their converts, crucified and then stabbed at Nagasaki, on 5 February 1597.  A nobleman tempted the youngest, a boy to renounce his faith, but instead the boy asked to be shown his cross and embraced it.  The church grew.  From 1614 until 1854 a programme of persecution began, in which Christians were crucified, buried alive, and tortured.  Churches were destroyed.  But the Japanese Christians proved true martyrs indeed (the word martyr means witness).  Despite a lack of clergy and contact with the official church, there were still practicing Christians, worshipping underground, when contact with the west was reestablished. 

Two things are to be learned.  First, we should all learn from the example from the Japanese Christians, and persevere, no matter what.  The second thing we should learn, is that it is very important to concentrate on establishing indigenous pastors from early on, so that if the missionaries are driven out, the church may continue on in its fullness.

Collect:    Heavenly Father, despite much suffering, your church in Japan continued through persecutions.  Grant that we observing their perseverance, would have the courage to follow where they lead the way, proclaiming Christ with our very lives.  This we ask in his most blessed name.  Amen, 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Anskar: Apostle to the North

Anskar, Apostle to the North

Anskar, a Saxon was born in 801 in what would be modern day Picardy.  In 826, when King Harald of Denmark asked for missionaries, Anskar, a Benedictine monk, was one of those who was sent out.  Sadly, he was ridiculed by his peers for his missionary fervor. Later he also led a group to Sweden.  He built school, and had dealings with the Vikings, who were a tough lot to evangelise, because they thought the breaking of oaths to be honourable.  Because of the precariousness of the political situation, he returned to Hamburg, of which he became the first Archbishop.  He helped consecrate Gotbert, the first Bishop of Sweden and is held to be the Apostle to the Swedish people.  We remember Anskar most for being Apostle to the North, (Denmark, Sweden and Iceland) and because despite the fact he did not see the fruit of his works, he continued his labour.  May we do likewise.

Collect:  Lord Yeshua, your servant Anskar was called to Denmark and Sweden to proclaim the Gospel, and you gave him strength to continue despite disparagement and deterrence from those around him.  Grant to us and our clergy like steadfastness of mind to obey your call, and trust in you for the seed planted to grow.  This we ask through Yeshua haMoshiach, who lives and reins with you and the Ruach haKodesh, one God in glory everlasting.