Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky

There are few men and women in the Church Calendar more unusual than Bishop Schereschewsky. His story serves as a reminder to me of how it is not how we plan our lives that matters, but how we respond to the changes which present us with new opportunities for faithful service.

Schereschewsky, born in Lithuania in 1831, was studying to be a rabbi, which would not have been at all a bad thing. However, he became interested in Christianity and began reading a Hebrew translation of the New Testament. He moved to the United States and began studying for ministry in the Presbyterian Church, which would not at all have been a bad thing. After two years at a seminary, he decided to become an Episcopalian and finished his studies at General Theological Seminary. After ordination, he went to serve as a missionary in China and would, I suspect, have been quite content to serve as a mission priest and a translator of Scripture, and that would not have been a bad thing at all. However, in 1877 he became Bishop of Shanghai, and serving in that post would not have been at all a bad thing for him to do for a very long time. Stricken with paralysis, he resigned his see in 1883 and set about the difficult task of continuing his translation work. Before his death in 1906, he had completed his translation of the Bible, typing some 2,000 pages with the middle finger of his partially crippled hand.

Life, as someone once said, is what happens while we're making our plans. Whatever Bishop Schereschewsky had planned for his life, his response to the changes that came was one of faithfulness. As someone who had been an outsider when he first heard the Good News, he gave himself to the work of sharing that Good News with other outsiders.

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