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11525 Big Bend Rd., Riverview, FL 33579  |  813-677-9482

Scripture - Story - Song

November 21, 2019

Each week Pastor Sarah blogs on the Scripture for Sunday's upcoming sermon. Use this entry as a way to prepare your heart and mind for worship. See you Sunday!

 

Sunday’s Scripture ~ II Corinthians 4:1-18.

 

Jack Vinson was martyred in the Kiangsu Province of Mainland China in 1932. A bandit told the missionary, I’m going to kill you. Aren’t you afraid?

 

Kill me if you wish, Vinson replied. I will go straight to God.

 

Vinson’s courage inspired this poem, authored by his friend EH Hamilton:

 

Afraid?  Of what?

To feel the spirit’s glad release?

To pass from pain to perfect peace, the strife and strain of life to cease?

Afraid – of that?

Afraid? Of what?

Afraid to see the Savior’s face

To hear his welcome, and to trace the glory gleam from wounds of grace?

Afraid – of that?

Afraid? Of what?

A flash, a crash, a pierced heart;

Darkness, light, O Heaven’s art!  A wound of his a counterpart!

Afraid – of that?

Afraid? Of what?

To do by death what life could not –

Baptize with blood a stony blot till souls shall blossom from the spot?

Afraid – of that?*

 

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The words of Tertullian, The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church, continue to resonate as we read Paul's words to the Corinthians: We are always being given up to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. In biblical times martyrs gave up their lives in order to give life - to sustain life - whereas our present reality connects martyrs with acts of terror, violence, and harm.

 

I think it is time we write a new story, by returning to the old, old story.

 

The idea of martyrdom in the faith is no longer associated with the Christian's religious identity, but I believe it should be. Writes Martha Sterne, "Our religious identity is usually associated with stability, prestige, comfort, satisfaction, and happiness. We get up on Sunday morning and go to the church that strikes our fancy...we are not harassed by civil authorities, and in our communities of faith we are almost never asked to sacrifice. Christian life and discipleship are frequently confused with good citizenship, appropriate decorum, and following socially acceptable norms and lifestyle"...but that is not what Christian life and discipleship are.** Christian life and discipleship are displayed in the witnesses of the martyrs - women and men who boldly, with great conscience - meaning the ability to determine right from wrong - sacrificed their words, acts, and lives to give life to the church that we enjoy today.

 

The testimonies of Christian martyrs challenge us to move beyond our comfort zones and as uncomfortable as their witnesses may make us – we must realize that we are their blossoms. Their testimonies should encourage and embolden us to articulate and share  what effect this precious treasure in clay jars has had and is having in our lives. While I do not advise looking for martyrdom opportunities, I also do not advise avoiding the to speak up, explain, or defend our faith.

 

The testimonies of Christian martyrs encourage us to trust - as they did - that if they gave it all, put their life on the line, God is faithful. Our culture says we live in a world of those who lose their life lose it. Our assurance from our God is that those who lose their life will find it and it will be everlasting.

 

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This Sunday in both services our congregation will experience Scripture-Story-Song: an opportunity to reflect in gratitude and offer songs of praise to our God for all our many blessings. These worship services will be a wonderful way to prepare our hearts and center our spirits for Thanksgiving celebrations next week. I look forward to this time of worship with you and encourage you to invite a friend that could benefit from encouragement and affirmation to join us! See you in worship, friends!

 

Prayer: “O to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be! Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; here's my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.”*** Amen.

 

*Jesus Freaks 74-75.

**Feasting on the Word Year B Volume 1 424.

***"Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing," The United Methodist Hymnal 400.

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