Dr. M. Mani Chakko

October 31, each year marks the day of Reformation. Reformation is an on going process in divine-human history and hence confining Reformation only to October 31, 1517 is not justified. Reformation has been an on going act of God in the human from the beginnings of human history paving the way for the human to experience life in all its fullness. Whenever there was a threat to the divine plan for the human to experience this life in its fullness, God had to intervene from time to time through people to set things right. Reformation event, which happened through Martin Luther on October 31, 1517, is one of such reformation events. However, this particular event assumes significance as this day is generally regarded as the day when the Protestant reformation began against the practices of the Catholic Church, which eventually led to the formation of the Protestant Church as distinct from the Catholic Church.

One of the Biblical texts that is read for reflection on the Reformation Day is Jeremiah 31:31-34.It is a call to the people in exile to a life of newness in the midst of brokenness. This call to reformation is a call to embrace divine generosity. Like other prophets before him, Jeremiah has spent ample time and energy on the claim that Israel has systematically and long-term violated the covenant agreement of Mt. Sinai. They have violated the Ten Commandments of Sinai by economic policies that abused the poor, by foreign policy that depended on arms, by theological practice that offended God and by illusions of privilege before God. Such violation brings with it severe sanctions, culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem and the deportation of its leading residents. But now in the book of Jeremiah, in the wake of brokenness and its resultant shame, defeat and anxiety, Jeremiah asserts God’s resolve to renew the covenant that has been broken by ancient Israel (Jeremiah 31:31-34). It will be a renewed covenant, but one that stands in continuity with that of Sinai. What guarantees continuity from old broken covenant to new covenant is that both feature Torah; both line out the mutual fidelity of God and Israel by instruction and guidance for obedience that put Israel under obligation to God. The difference is that this time Israel will have a ready inclination to obey as it did not have in its ancient recalcitrance; the covenant now will be a glad practice of mutual fidelity. This will be for Israel a genuine starting over!

The ground for such starting over is to be found, singularly, in God’s ready resolve to begin anew. God, says Jeremiah, is ready to forgive and to forget, so that the renewed relationship is one of generosity and grace on God’s part.

It is indeed my prayer that we will rediscover and thereby celebrate God’s generosity of forgiving and forgetting our evil acts providing us ample opportunities to experience life in all its fullness which God gives to all. This celebration of Reformation is an on going activity bringing about transformation in us and through us in the other. When this happens in the family of the Bible Society, we can say with grace and humility that the Bible Society is a Reformed and a Reforming Community.

Rev. Dr. M. Mani Chacko
General Secretary
The Bible Society of India

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A decades-long project to translate the whole Bible into American Sign Language (ASL) from the original texts in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek was completed last month. ASL is the mother tongue of 408,000* Deaf people in the US and several other countries, and is the only one of the world’s 400 sign languages with the full Bible.

It was carried out by a team of more than 50 people, most of whom use ASL as their first language, with the help of eminent theologians and exegetes from different Christian confessions. This close collaboration has ensured that the American Sign Language Version Bible (in video format) is easy to understand, faithfully and accurately conveys Biblical truth and is accepted by all major Christian denominations.

“We celebrate the faithful, diligent work of those who have worked with Deaf Missions through the years to get all 66 books translated into ASL – the native, preferred and heart language of Deaf people,” says Deaf Missions CEO Chad Entinger.

According to Deaf Missions, there have been more than one million downloads of the ASLV Scriptures so far. In a video on their website, JP, a young man, shares how being able to access the Bible in ASL helps him in several ways.

“It helps my understanding of sign language and broadens my communication through different ways to sign things,” he explains. “I become so engrossed in it that I watch some parts over and over again so I can study and meditate on it. Sign language is very beautiful and exciting and it draws me into God’s Word.”

Over the many years of the translation project, as technology rapidly developed, the team adapted its approach several times to make the most of new opportunities to break down the barriers preventing Deaf people from accessing the Bible. Their experience is helping other sign language translation projects, and the ASLV Bible will be used as a resource for sign language Scripture translation around the world.

Source: Deaf Missions and American Bible Society.

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Mr. Vanlalthanga, age 72 with hearing impaired, a cheerful and untiring volunteer for the Bible cause from Durtlang, Aizawl has a firm conviction that there is nothing more important in life than spreading the Word of God.

His mission is to reach out the whole of Mizoram as his area of operation! He goes from house to house, and even visits different government and Church offices campaigning for the Bible Society, proclaiming that one of the key ways to receiving God’s blessings and healing is to get involved in the ministry of the BSI by giving donations for the Bible production and distribution. It is rather surprising to know that he could even convinced the present Chief Minister of Mizoram State Mr. Zoramthanga to become the Patron member of the BSI. He always blesses the donors with a gift of his handmade wooden cross in return to the donations they made for the BSI. People like Mr. Vanlalthanga are indeed an asset to the ministry of the Bible Society.

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Fr. Stan Swamy, S.J.,an 83-year-old Jesuit from Jamshedpur province in India, has spent more than 40 years advocating for the rights of the marginalized, particularly of Adivasi (tribal/indigenous) communities. He was arrested on October 8, 2020 and sent to jail under false charges and is one of the latest in a recent string of arrests of human rights defenders in the area. Let us pray for the early release.


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