Today we celebrate Cyril and Methodius. Brothers in the 800s, born in Thessalonica, they are honored as founders of Slavic literary culture and apostles to the southern Slavs. Adept at languages, they spread the Good News by translating liturgies and Scripture into Slavonic. One might think their work was universally celebrated, but the brothers faced much opposition. Although the Pope in Rome supported the brothers’ ministry, Cyril and Methodius received a lot of harassment from German bishops who saw Slavonic as a barbarous language. Methodius was even imprisoned at one point, accused of heresy, and kicked out of the area; but Methodius just kept coming back.
It is interesting, then that we get Paul’s words to the Ephesians today. Paul is reminding the Ephesians that he has been advocating for the full incorporation of the Gentiles. What he has been preaching is that Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise. We have heard Paul’s plea for Gentiles for ages, but sometimes I think we do not understand the radical nature of Paul’s work. God had a chosen people for a long time; they had been through famines, draught, and homelessness in the desert. Now, all the laws and customs seems irrelevant in this new reality where Gentiles can join them.
The pattern keeps repeating itself. The disciples didn’t want newbies distorting what they had so carefully constructed. Cyril and Methodius faced the same challenge: the established Germans didn’t want these Slavs and their uncivilized lives ruining the Church community. We do it too. We exclude all the time: her hair is too purple; we don’t want them coming in like they own the place; “those” people don’t even speak English.
But our Gospel lesson stops us right there. “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news in the whole creation.” All the world, the whole creation – not just people who look, act, talk like us. Our questions today are many. Who are we excluding? Who is missing from this room? How might we be bold enough to go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation? Amen.