The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church

Martyrs of the Twentieth Century (Memorial) – 

Martyrs are Christians who have been put to death because they chose to remain faithful to the gospel and counted “the truth as it is in Jesus” dearer than life itself. In the twentieth

century more Christians suffered for this reason than at any other time in the Church’s history — there are the three million Armenian Christians who died under Turkish brutality during the first World War; the million Orthodox who perished in the Soviet Union in the 1920’s and 30’s; the unknown number of Albanians who disappeared in their government’s efforts to suppress Christianity; the hundreds of Germans, both Protestants and Catholics, who died because they resisted Hitler and his Nazi regime; the Burmese Christians who were killed simply because they believed in Christ; the hundreds of African Christians who suffered because they condemned the terrorism of colonial authorities and Black nationalists alike; and the many who were killed because their Christian witness made them oppose racism or social and economic injustices. If we were not careful, the sheer number of martyrs might stagger our efforts to remember them, and why and how they died. So, today’s memorial is meant to be a small act of resistance, a refusal to be silent in the face of terror and injustice. We collect our intentions around a thankful remembrance of the Christian Martyrs of the Twentieth Century and learn anew the ancient truth, that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

Almighty God, who chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, teach us to honour your Martyrs of the Twentieth Century, that we may stand fast in your truth, proclaim your salvation in the world, and fulfil your commandments in love; through Jesus Christ our Lord,who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  The source of this post is not known.  It is quoted from my daily devotional reading.

Canada Day

Canada Day is a national holiday, not a feast of the Church; and yet it is right that we Christians offer prayer and thanksgiving today, because all the good things which we enjoy as Canadians have their origin as gifts of God. The resources of our land and the oceans which border it, our diversity as Canadian people, the heritage of Confederation and our nation’s continuing efforts to ensure peace and justice for all its citizens — all these things call the Church to remember and celebrate the God who gave them. At the same time, we as the people of the Church must accept an immense responsibility as citizens of Canada. We believe that divine grace seeks to fulfill what divine power has created. We are the servants of this saving purpose of God: we do not leave the concerns of Canadian society behind us when we enter our churches; we enter our churches in order to gain fresh strength for the work of making God’s justice, compassion, and wisdom ever more present in the life of our nation. On Canada Day, our task is to dedicate ourselves to the mission of bringing all our country’s resources — natural and human — within the circle of God’s redemptive love in Jesus Christ.

Almighty God, whose wisdom and whose love are over all, accept the prayers we offer for our nation. Give integrity to its citizens and wisdom to those in authority, that harmony and justice may be secured in obedience to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

Taken from Daily Devotional Anglican Meditation.

 

 

What advertising agencies do for their clients, we’re called to do for Christ.

Originally published on Christ Notes – Week of 23 October 2013

You’ve probably heard these slogans: “Just do it,” “Drivers wanted,” and “It’s everywhere you want to be.” And you’ve almost certainly heard of Nike, Volkswagen, and Visa; however, you probably have never heard of the advertising agencies that coined those slogans: Wieden & Kennedy; Arnold Communications; and Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn.

In a lot of ways, we’re supposed to be like those advertising agencies. We are called to proclaim the name of Jesus to the entire world; we’re not called to proclaim the name of our denomination, our ministry, our church, or our pastor.

Compare how often you talk about your church or your pastor versus how often you talk about Jesus.

When unbelievers see Christianity, I can’t help but wonder how many of them simply see a bunch of denominations fighting about petty issues: Contemporary vs. traditional worship? Drums and guitar vs. organ and hymns? Powerpoint slides vs. hymn book? Jeans and tee-shirt vs. suit and tie?

Instead, wouldn’t our testimony to the world be so much better if, with one voice, we proclaimed “Jesus!”? In Romans 15:9, Paul writes, Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name. Paul’s singular focus was on making the name of Jesus known throughout the world.

It’s not about your church, your ministry, your Bible study, your small group, or your denomination. Your single focus should be on shouting the name of Jesus to all peoples. Your life should be a walking advertisement for the hope, peace, and joy that’s available to all people in Christ.

Prayers of a man in prison

In an earlier post, I observed that the church’s mission goes beyond our preferences and perceptions of how, where and who to serve. The church’s mission is rooted in Jesus’ command in the great commission defined in Matthew 28 v 19 – 20 to teach others about who God is and what it means to follow Him.

True it is that there are many people who won’t be reached initially through Biblical teachings. Like Jesus, we also have to commit ourselves to activities that cater to both the physical and spiritual well-being of others. This is what sets the Church apart from other social service organizations.

Christians must commit to intentionally and actively understanding the needs in our communities and beyond and make a collective effort to address these needs by spreading the Good News in word and action. Acting on this understanding of mission in the local context will require the abandonment of assumptions and judgements about people and their circumstances. Mission will require us to go into places where all hope seems to be dimmed by the darkness of sin, suffering and despair. In the face of resistance, we must still press on with sharing the Good News.

Prisons are dangerous, difficult places where inmates have many reasons to have very little or no hope. With lives rooted in poverty, abuse, abandonment, addiction and crime, some are repeat offenders, never having been given any guiding principles, labelled as incorrigible, despised and forgotten by their families.

The Prison Chaplaincy Programme at the Cowansville Correctional Centre offers the opportunity for mission. Under the leadership of Rev. Canon Tim Smart, volunteers visit the prison to participate in Bible studies and fellowship meetings lasting more than an hour each week. These meetings provide the opportunity for inmates to hear the Good News and commit themselves to personal transformation and eventual reintegration in the society.

During a visit nearly two years ago, one inmate, serving a life sentence, expressed his helpless, hopeless frustration at being locked away from society and his desire to die, rather than continue living in prison. The inmate, who I will call “Louis,” is a repeat offender with a heavy criminal record, once considered among the most dangerous criminals in Québec. In his frustrated state of mind, he vehemently declared that the teachings of the Bible on hope and salvation could have no meaning to him.

On the face of it, we could empathize and take a hands-off approach, offer to say a prayer and not persist with bringing the message of hope and the Good News to this frustrated man. However, in the months that followed, it was the commitment of the Prison Chaplaincy Programme volunteers to fulfill the Church’s mission that has led Louis to share the following prayers that he wrote earlier this year and has taped to the wall of his cell:

Prayer of an inmate
Lord, from the depth of my cell, here I am humbly before you, calm and at peace by your great mercy O God my Saviour.
I thank you for this day – one more has passed. Even if the other inmates say that I’m serving a long, hard sentence, in this way I’m getting to know you better O Jesus.
It is not easy to be on the inside, in prison and to call on Your Name. When the other inmates hear Your Name, they say that they are here because of You. This is why I need Your strength. Increase my faith so that I may live each day in the joy of Your forgiveness and in the hope of Your presence.
Watch over my family who are on the outside. Fill them with your love and peace and may we one day,
By Your grace, be reunited. Amen

I’ve changed
Lord, I no longer recognize myself. I, who was violent and impulsive, have become calm and patient.
I, who wanted to win always and everywhere, have learned to become a good person.
I, who was lazy and a thief, now work to earn my living.
I, who would always be ashamed to pray to you alone, here I am, praying to you along with other people.
Frankly Lord, I have come a long way. Never would I have believed that I am capable of changing this much. You know how happy I am. I am comfortable in my own skin. I am at peace and I feel free.
But what I want to say to you, above all, is that I am aware that this change does not only depend on me. Much of it comes from You. For this reason, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Amen

These beautiful prayers of a former criminal are testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit working through people who are committed to mission.

Sharing the Good News and helping to transform lives, everywhere, at all times and in all places as God leads is the best and right use of the teachings of the Bible. That is what mission is all about.