Promises for the Persecuted: Part 1

July 9, 2020

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 ~ Sunday's Scripture ~ Romans 5:1-5.

 

This Sunday we begin a two-part series entitled Promises for the Persecuted. In this series we will define and explore experiences of persecution, as well as look towards the hope contained in Scripture for those that experience persecution.

 

For my blog posts for the next two weeks, I am grateful to share a resource with you from Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church. It is an order of worship for A Service of Prayer for Persecuted Christians. I trust that God will speak to you through these words and reflections. I look forward to our time together in worship.

 

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Resource: https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/a-service-of-prayer-for-persecuted-christians

 

INVITATION TO PRAYER

 

Let us pray for the persecuted church,

for their oppressors,

for nations that foster persecution,

and for those who ignore it.

 

Let us read the Holy Scriptures,

finding there the stories and witness of hope

borne by those who lived through ordeals to the glory of God,

and hear the promises of the gospelfor all who are persecuted for righteousness' sake.

 

In our prayer for persecuted Christians,

let us not narrow our compassion for all who suffer,

whatever their profession or creed;

let no hatred or prejudice enter our hearts for anyone.

 

Called by the Holy Spirit to unity with the persecuted,

let us enter into their suffering,repenting of our ignorance,

refusing to be silent,ready to reach out to them in their isolation. Amen.

 

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Read: Daniel 3:13-18.

 

Reflection: Misconceptions breed fear and violence.Misconceptions about Christianity create a climate in which persecution can take place. These misconceptions come through ignorance and through disinformation. Once Christians have been made objects of fear or contempt through disinformation, then they are bound to be subject to discrimination and persecution, usually without protection or sympathy.

 

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Read: Matthew 5:1-12.

 

Reflection: A report of persecution of Christians around the globe.In North Korea, China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, and Mexico, Christian men and women suffer in jail, while their families miss their presence at home. Miss Li from Jiangsu, China, writes, "We have suffered great persecution. Many of the church leaders have been arrested and fined. Some were beaten and thrown in jail. Brother Cui was sentenced to five years." [from http://www.idop.org]

 

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Read: Romans 8:14-17.

 

Reflection: Hear the words of The Rev. Rinaldy Damanik unjustly imprisoned in Indonesia. "To enjoy the warmth and cheerfulness of the dawn, there is no other way but to pass through the darkness of night," says Damanik from his prison cell. "In this world I have learned that truth very seldom wins, in fact mostly it is defeated. However, I strongly believe that one day it will be discovered. God is the true truth, and eternal God. He is full of forgiveness and blesses us with truth and grace, which gives us the powerful ability to face any challenge and suffering." [from http://www.idop.org]

 

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Read: Romans 8:18-25.

 

Reflection: Hear the words of The Rev. Rinaldy Damanik unjustly imprisoned in Indonesia. "Although at the moment I am very bothered, sad, worried, as well as angry with what happened in Central Sulawesi and Indonesia in general, I still and will always praise God all the time in my life for everything I have been experiencing up to now. Being in this prison really makes me more realize the miracle of God, because I can understand more what God means by saying: 'I will never leave you be alone.' I can see that there are many many people who suffer more than me. Please think and pray for them, too. Every day I'm sure that I will have something to eat, to wear, and a place to sleep, but as you know many others don't have this privilege."

 

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Read: Romans 8:26-30.

 

Reflection: Bishop Cyprian (mid-3rd-century AD), in a letter commending the martyrs, addresses those who might yet face persecution.I not only beseech but exhort the rest of you ... If the battle shall call you out, if the day of your contest shall come engage bravely, fight with constancy, as knowing that you are fighting under the eyes of a present Lord, that you are attaining by the confession of His name to His own glory; who is not such a one as that He only looks on His servants, but He Himself also wrestles in us, Himself is engaged, Himself also in the struggles of our conflict not only crowns, but is crowned. But if before the day of your contest, of the mercy of God, peace shall supervene {come first}, let there still remain to you the sound will and the glorious conscience {ready to endure suffering}.

 

Cyprian, Epistle 8.Cyprian himself was beheaded on September 14, 258 AD.

 

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Read: Romans 8:31-39.

 

Reflection: Listen to this account of persecution and martyrdom of a young woman named Perpetua. A violent persecution being set on foot by the emperor Severus, in 202 {AD}, it reached Africa the following year; when, by order of Minutius Timinianus, (or Firminianus,) five catechumens {new Christians being instructed in preparation for baptism} were apprehended {and jailed} at Carthage for the faith: {among them} Felicitas and Vibia Perpetua. Felicitas was seven months {pregnant}; and Perpetua had an infant at her breast, was of a good family, twenty-two years of age, and married to a person of quality in the city. The father of Perpetua, who was a pagan, {wanted her to offer sacrifice to "the well-being of the emperor."} Perpetua, before her death, wrote: "We were in the hands of our persecutors, when my father, out of the affection he bore me, made new efforts to shake my resolution. I said to him: 'Can that vessel, which you see, change its name?' He said: 'No.' I replied: 'Nor can I call myself any other than I am, that is to say, a Christian.'"

 

Perpetua and Felicitas and the others refused to offer sacrifice and they willingly accepted death in the amphitheater at the hands of gladiators and wild animals. Adapted from The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Volume 1 by the Rev. Alban Butler (1864 edition published by D. & J. Sadlier, & Company).

 

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Prayer: "He left his Father's throne above (so free, so infinite his grace!), emptied himself of all but love, and bled for Adam's helpless race. 'Tis mercy all, immense and free, for O my God, it found out me! 'Tis mercy all, immense and free, for O my God, it found out me!"* Amen.

 

*"And Can It Be," The United Methodist Hymnal 363.

 

 

 

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