Apparently my efforts to blog more frequently during Lent have not been realized. *sigh* Oh well, so it goes. The inconsistent blogger returns and hopes that you are all well.
Today I received an email from Forward Today, part of Forward Movement, which is a ministry of the Episcopal church. Like many email things, I do not read it every day, but today I did read and what a gift I was given.
In the church, today is the feast when we remember Perpetua and Felicity along with their companions. They were early martyrs of the church. Author of the post, Rev. Scott Gun is an Episcopal priest and the Executive Director of Forward Movement. He writes:
Perpetua was a catechumen, not yet baptized, when she was summoned to appear before the Roman authorities. She refused to make a sacrifice in honor of the emperor. At a public hearing, she said, “I am a Christian.” She was sentenced to death, to be martyred in an arena by wild animals. She faced death bravely, urging those around her to remain steadfast in faith.
This Lent one of the things that I have prayed and meditated upon is those who have been persecuted. Many in the United States believe that they are persecuted because of certain laws that seem to infringe upon faith. When I think of that versus the plight of the Christians in the Middle East who are seriously persecuted, I want to shake my head. Because freedom of religion is understood by many in a particular way in this country, it kind of distorts things. Yes, people may be infringed upon, but persecuted? We kind of live in the belief that our right to practice holds a meaning, but what about when our right tramples someone else’s right? It is a problem.
Anyway as I read on and took in more of Rev. Gunn’s words, I really had to pause:
It might be tempting for us to read a story like this and think of it as little more than a fanciful legend. But it is more than that. For one thing, the blood of those martyrs, along with the blood of countless others, had the opposite effect from what the empire’s authorities wanted. From their witness, the church was made stronger. People were inspired by the way Christians faced death, clinging to their Savior and Lord Jesus Christ until the end.
If fanciful legend is what we think, then we are in trouble. If comparing our contemporary issues with being killed for our beliefs, we are in even bigger trouble. How do we discern what really matters? Rev. Gunn gets to that:
We certainly do not face persecution for our faith. But there is another danger. It’s easy to make sacrifices to false gods. Do we worship the accumulation of wealth? Do we choose to remain silent while others suffer injustice? Do we treat our churches are social clubs rather than outposts of God’s kingdom? Do we honor power and might over love and sacrifice?
Some may disagree with the persecution part, but I stand by my understanding of what this means, and my understanding follows that same way of thinking. Yes, persecution can start small and get big, but small is not the persecution part. Is your life in danger for your faith? Or are you challenged by how the world is not in sync with your beliefs? If it is the latter, then that is where we are called to find God and seek what really matters.
These words bear repeating as I ponder this.
It’s easy to make sacrifices to false gods. Do we worship the accumulation of wealth? Do we choose to remain silent while others suffer injustice? Do we treat our churches are social clubs rather than outposts of God’s kingdom? Do we honor power and might over love and sacrifice?
What Perpetua, Felicity, and their companions were grounded in was their faith and deep belief in Jesus Christ. There would be no lie, white or otherwise, no hiding, no saying they would go along when they knew that would be wrong. God does not ask us to impale ourselves in pain to prove our faith, but our faith requires the kind of courage that overflows with pain and discomfort. And death. It may “just” be death to the ego, to the self, but death is part of the deal. After all, you can’t have Easter without Good Friday.
Speaking of “dying” to things, what ideas do we hold onto that keep us from God? Is it prejudice? Mistrust? Outright rejection? Is it possible to hold thoughts of Perpetua and Felicity in our heads and imagine that today’s Perpetua or Felicity might be a Muslim, a refugee, a Central American, a DREAMer, an African-American, or even someone who is Jewish – or anyone else we might want to deny.
As we move through Lent, may we all find ways to press into that discomfort of facing what really matters. And may we open our arms and our heart to what really does matter. Before it is too late.