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Posts Tagged ‘Persecution’

This past week Sunni militants have taken over the 2nd largest city in Iraq.  The following quote is from a recent letter from Roman Catholic priest, Fr. Najeeb who lives in Mosul.  The full article is in First Things and can be found with this link.  As he asks:  pray for them.  

Bad news. I write you in a situation of violence in Mosul that is very critical and even apocalyptic. Most of the inhabitants of the city have already abandoned their houses and fled into the villages and are sleeping in the open without anything to eat or drink. Many thousands of armed men from the Islamic Groups of Da’ash have attacked the city of Mosul for the last two days. They have assassinated adults and children. The bodies have been left in the streets and in the houses by the hundreds, without pity. The regular forces and the army have also fled the city, along with the governor. In the mosques, they cry “Allah Akbar, long live the Islamic State.” Qaraqosh is overflowing with refugees of all kinds, without food or lodging. The check points and the Kurdish forces are blocking innumerable refugees from entering Kurdistan. What we are living and what we have seen over the last two days is horrible and catastrophic. The priory of Mar Behnam and other churches fell into the hands of the rebels this morning. . . . and now they have come here and entered Qaraqosh five minutes ago, and we are now surrounded and threatened with death. . . . pray for us. I’m sorry that I can’t continue . . . They are not far from our convent. . . . Don’t reply. . . .

“We are not protected by anyone, just the prayers . . . we need your prayers . . . I believe in the power of prayers . . . they can change the mind of persons . . . I ask in the name of all Christians in Iraq . . . to pray for us.”

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P1020383Now that I have your attention! This past week was college tour time with our youngest. I took the photo above during our college tour of William and Mary College(W and M), founded 1693, second oldest college in our nation, in Williamsburg, VA.  W and M is a state school. Our tour group is in the picture.  Needless to say, I was struck by the poster in the foreground.  Thomas Jefferson was a graduate of W and M.  The main building, designed by Christopher Wren, is the oldest college building in the USA and it has a chapel in it.  Maybe you heard the controversy of cross on the altar which is considered offensive to other religions.  It was decided to move the cross to the side and put it in a glass case, as a kind of an artifact:

Wren Chapel cross

Unusual for a college tour, we had two tour guides, a sophomore and a freshman. When we went to see a dorm room,   the very perky freshman explained that at the beginning of the year, her floor gathered together to set rules for themselves by a process of “self-determination”.  She thought this kind of awesome.

 

Three pieces of a puzzle:

  1. “I love female orgasm”
  2. Cross in  a glass case
  3. “Self-determination”

Oh, and one more piece of the puzzle:

4. Twice during the tour, we were regaled with the highlight of the year at W and M which is in December, ostensibly the Christmas season:  the yule log ceremony.  Every year a large “yule log”, a big piece of timber is brought in. Every participant in the ceremony is given a sprig of evergreen with which they strike the yule log, for “good luck” and then it is thrown into the fire to “burn away all our worries” over the upcoming final exams.  Then the President of this prestigious college is dressed up as Santa Claus and he reads “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”.  And they say there is no religion in a state school!

Back to the puzzle pieces and you have probably put them together.  Note, that in the bulletin board poster, orgasm is singular, well, as if the female orgasm is substitute for say, Jesus, as in “I love Jesus”. It’s all about SELF-determination.  It’s all about ourselves in the yule ceremony. Christianity is an artifact. Yes, there is religion at this state college and it is the religion of the mirror:  the self and the sacrament of the self is uninhibited and ‘free’ coitus.  The self rules in the self-confident omni-competent culture  which gives us everything we need:  from toilets to smartphones to air travel.  Christian religion can get in the way of  that…or should.  Religion itself, especially Christianity, is assimiliated to the society to go with the flow.  

As the Church, we too are recipients of the technological marvels of our time…as was the Church in the time of the great technological marvels of the Roman Empire.  Then and now, something is missing, actually Someone and then the elites wonder about the rise of rape, murder and suicide.

The Christians of the medieval age, the so called dark age, started universities and colleges recognizing in humility the great gifts the Creator bestowed upon us to be taught and learned.   But when that humility goes…

Two more observations from college tours:

  1. At the University of Richmond (Richmond VA), founded by the Baptist church (but no longer associated with the Baptists) at one point in the tour, our able junior tour guide said we are at the heart of the campus.  “There is the Science building, over their the dining hall…”, etc…except right behind him was the sizable Gothic style Chapel, on possibly the highest point of the University of Richmond, but he did not mention that white elephant behind him.
  2. A few years ago, my wife went with our daughter to tour nearby Roanoke College, Salem, VA.  This is a Lutheran college of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the college is the second oldest Lutheran college in the nation. The Virginia Synod  of the ELCA has it’s offices in the old chapel on campus as they built a larger one some thirty of so years ago.  On their tour, when it was question time, my wife  asked for verification of the fact known to her that Roanoke is a Lutheran school.  The  guide responded that yes, it was, but (don’t worry) you’d never know it.

Will our colleges and universities know the Church is there?  There are many orthodox Lutheran campus ministers and ministries fighting the good fight. Pray for them and support them.  We are living in the post-Christendom era.  Sometimes we have to fight the vestiges of a Christianity and it’s distortions  of the doctrine in the Bible.  Never the less…

The Gospel lesson for this Sunday (7th Sunday after the Epiphany, 2/23/14) is St. Matthew 5:38-48 in which our Lord teaches us to love our enemies and pray for those persecute us.  Unlike, say Cairo, Egypt or Saudi Arabia, none of us have ever been slapped in the face or our clothes stolen off our backs or our church buildings burned to the ground.  Yet He calls us to love our enemies,  and the cultured despisers of  the Faith, that is, serve them as He has loved and served us who have been  His enemies…of God ( Romans 5:10).  Now we must point out the false teaching of many and not put up with it but with love and service to those in the universities and colleges and we can do it in only way: In Christ Jesus. And so who will believe if we  point the finger at them and not point them to the Savior? I close with verses from this Sunday’s Gospel and Dr. Paul Kretzmann’s commentary (1924):

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you. The injunction receives its application at all times and in all places. The impressiveness of the passage is heightened by the contrast presented in each member of the saying. Cursing is met with blessing; hatred, which leads to injuries, with well-doing; and abuse of all kinds, culminating in persecution arising from religious hatred, with prayer and intercession. Whatever meanness the enemies may devise, love’s ingenuity will find a way of overwhelming them with goodness. For its object is always to find ways and means of winning the adversary, and, above all, of gaining him for the Lord.

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From The Week:

The world’s most ancient Christian communities are being destroyed — and no one cares:

Christians in the Middle East have been the victims of pogroms and persecution. Where’s the outrage in the West?

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Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.-Hebrews 13: 3

Click here for a CNN report:

Horrible’: Christian churches across Egypt stormed, torched

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About Aquila, Priscilla, Apollos: Aquila and his wife, Priscilla (Prisca), Jewish contemporaries of St. Paul, traveled widely. Because of persecution in Rome, they went to Corinth where they met the apostle Paul, who joined them in their trade of tent-making:

Acts 18:  1After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, 3and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. 4And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.

Please note:  it was because of Roman persecution of Jews that Paul met this faithful couple in the Lord!  And so they met in Corinth in which the Apostle began his most important preaching and teaching of the Gospel.  The Lord brings about His plan in ways that to the human eye are hidden but He is working to bring us His salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ.  Further:  Aquila and Priscilla and the Apostle Paul were all tent-makers.  This is the way the Apostle supported himself so he would not be a burden on the congregations he was called to serve (cf. 1 Corinthians 9: 18), though, he was by no means against preachers receiving a salary so that their time could be fully devoted to freely preach and teach the word (cf. 1 Corinthians 9: 1-8).

In turn, Aquila and Priscilla  joined Paul in his mission of proclaiming the Christian Gospel. The couple later traveled with Paul from Corinth to Ephesus:

Acts18:18: After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila

Priscilla and Aquila established a home that served as hospitality headquarters for new converts to Christianity. Apollos was one of their numerous Jewish pupils in the faith:

Acts 18: 24Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to himthe way of God more accurately.

Please note:  It was this faithful couple who taught the talented and highly educated Apollos regarding Christian Baptism!   Apollos, with his erudition, was obviously humble and had an ear as one being taught. Priscilla and Aquila were in business.  Business is a vocation in this world for people to serve their neighbor, but this is also a clear narrative of the way in your daily vocation you may so teach the “…way of God” to those who want to know.  Priscilla and Aquila knew their catechism.

Then later, Apollos:

…wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.(Acts 18)

Aquila, Priscilla, and Apollos are all remembered and honored for their great missionary zeal.

Pray for all businessmen, tradesmen, day-laborers; pray for the mission of the Church and missionaries in daily life that the Lord’s salvation be brought to many a listening ear and heart.

Let us pray…

O Lord, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, whose very name is holy, teach us to be faithful hearers and learners of Your Word, fervent in the Spirit as Apollos was, that we may teach it correctly against those who have been led astray into falsehood and error and that we might follow the example of Aquila and Priscilla for the good of the Church You established here and entrusted into our humble care; for You, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, live and reign, one God, now and forever. 

(Adapted from The Treasury of Daily Prayer)

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Collect of the Day:

Heavenly Father, in the mist of our sufferings for the sake of Christ grant us grace to follow the example of the first martyr, Stephen, that we also may look to the One who suffered and was crucified on our behalf and pray for those who do us wrong; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Lessons:

2 Chronicles 24: 17-22

Psalm 119: 137-144

Acts 6: 8–7: 2a, 51-60

St. Matthew 23: 34-39

We are now  in the Twelve  Days of Christ Mass which concludes on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6th (this year it is a Sunday).  The first 3 days after Christ Mass are today’s feast, then tomorrow St. John, Apostle and Evangelist and then The Holy Innocents, Martyrs.  The contrast between this day, along with The Holy Innocents and the common sentimental understandings of Christmas are sharp but should not be.  Pr. Kaj Munk, a Danish Lutheran Pastor (13 January 1898 – 4 January 1944), who was  executed by the Nazis for his resistance to their tyranny, caught this contrast in the sermon cited after the biography on St. Stephen.  Stephen was the first martyr. “Martyr” is from the Greek word for witness.  Pr. Munk also so witnessed and many do to this day.  We thank the Lord for their faith and hope and love in service to Jesus Christ and their neighbors.–Pr. Schroeder

About   St. Stephen, Martyr, from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House:

St. Stephen, “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5), was one of the Church’s first seven deacons. He was appointed by the leaders of the Church to distribute food and other necessities to the poor in the growing Christian community in Jerusalem, thereby giving the apostles more time for their public ministry of proclamation (Acts 6:2-5). He and the other deacons apparently were expected not only to wait on tables but also to teach and preach. When some of his colleagues became jealous of him, they brought Stephen to the Sanhedrin and falsely charged him with blaspheming against Moses (Acts 6:9-14). Stephen’s confession of faith, along with his rebuke of the members of the Sanhedrin for rejecting their Messiah and being responsible for His death, so infuriated them that they dragged him out of the city and stoned him to death. Stephen is honored as the Church’s first martyr and for his words of commendation and forgiveness as he lay dying: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” and “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:59-60).

“The Christ Child is the world’s Savior and Prince of Peace because He is the world’s greatest war Lord. Apparently there is the most glaring contrast between the Christmas gospel and that for St. Stephen’s Day–between the Christ Child and the first Christian martyr. But in reality there is the closest connection.

The pagan Christmas with eating and drinking and parties and family joy may well be contained in the Christian celebration, but it can never take the place of it. Jesus Himself took an interest in family life, and He attended parties; but He was, nevertheless, ever on the way to the cross. Let us sing Ingemann songs and eat goose and play with our children about the glittering Christmas tree; but we must never forget that the coming of Christ to earth means dauntless struggle against evil. And if we kneel by the manger in other than sentimental moods, we shall become aware that one hand of the little Child is open and kindly, the other clenched in blood.

We wish one another Merry Christmas. And we mean; may your Christmas goose be delicious–or your meatballs, if that is the best you can afford this year; may you have fuel to keep your house warm; may you have friends and loved one about you; may your tree glitter in its wonted beauty and the hymns sound with their old power. And may there, through it all, be one song in your heart: ‘My Jesus, I want to be where Thou alone wilt have me.’ Yes, but there are so many doubts and questions that spoil my Christmas joy.

Well, but who promised you joy? It may be better that you have a poor Christmas. Don’t be like a spoiled child and think of God as a great Santa Claus who has in His bag some sort of electromagnet with which to give your brain cells such a shot that everything becomes gloriously clear to you, and that you can be happy, in harmony with yourself and the world. My friend, perhaps your doctor can do that for you with a stimulant that will send the blood to the brain and clarify your mind so you see things in bright perspective. This has nothing to do with real joy. True Christmas joy, no matter how much or how little of it you may comprehend, means that you have Christ, and that you go where He wants you to go.”

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The Gospel Reading in the Daily Lectionary for the Friday After Pentecost (ELCA): St. Matthew 10:24-33

“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master; it is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Be-el’zebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.

“So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim upon the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.’!’

A Reflection by Fulton J. Sheen (1895 –1979)

Deny not your Master even under opposition. “But he that shall deny me before men, I will also deny him before my Father Who is in heaven.” So long as we are hated, we are worth troubling about. The church that would give only a moral tone to secular movements can die of its own inanition. If the pagan forces of the world left us untouched, if they did not calumniate us, seek to destroy us, set up rival claim.

The Church can still make the evil forces of the world angry. It can still inspire persecution. Therefore Christ is with us. The exhilaration of being counted a foe of evil is the joy of honor. Our heart is warmed by the tribute of enmity from those areas of life, where to be counted friends, or not to be counted at all, would be to stand condemned as salt without savour, and as feeble candles whose light had gone out.ants to the soul, it would mean that we would have lost our influence, that our touch was gone, our stars did no longer shine. Do men shake fists over the tomb of Napoleon? Do armies storm and rage against the grave of Mohammed? Do forces assault the tomb of Lenin? These men are dead. But they do storm the citadel of Christ; they do rage against His Spouse; they do kill the members of His Body; they do try to stifle the young hearts that would breathe His name in school. Therefore Christ must be alive today in His Body which is the Church.   From Characters of the Passion by Bp. Sheen

Closing Prayer:

O God, Who hast taught the hearts of believers by the illumination of the Holy Ghost, and gathered together a Christian Church by Him, grant us also that Thy good Spirit cleanse our hearts, lead us into all truth, sanctify us, give us zealous minds, and comfort us in every time of need, that Thy Church may realize the promise of Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, to conquer over all the gates of hell. Amen.

J. K. Wilhelm Loehe, Lutheran Pastor and Missionary, (1808-1872)

About Bp. Sheen:  Here is a trivia type question and answer:  Who was the first televangelist?  Answer:  Roman Catholic Bishop Fulton J. Sheen.  Maybe there were others ‘way back then’ but Bp. Sheen was quite popular during the fifties on TV.   He said and wrote some pretty good things…even though he was not a Lutheran.  The quotation above is from  the excellent 4 volume series For All the Saints:  A Prayer Book for and by the Church which is basically a Lutheran breviary or daily prayer book, as is Treasury of Daily Prayer from The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

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