Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Wednesday of the First Week of Advent

Isaiah 25:6-9
Psalm 23
Matthew 15:29-39

REFLECTION: “Hunger, Brutality, and Hope”
If you've been following the news out of Iraq and Syria of late, you know that there is a great political, military, and humanitarian crisis that persists throughout the Middle East. Just this week, the United Nations was forced to suspend its food voucher program for refugees for lack of funds. All this is the result of the unrest caused by the Syrian civil war and the rise of the so-called Islamic State.

While ISIS targets many different victims, their everyday treatment of Christians is just as brutal as what we have seen when American and European aid workers and journalists have been trotted before the camera and beheaded. Canon Andrew White, the 'Vicar of Baghdad', shared in a recent television interview the story of a group of children who were told by ISIS militants that they must convert or die. When they responded, "We love Yeshua", they were brutally beheaded on site. After weeks of hunger, the deprivation of their human dignity, and an attempt to get them to leave their faith behind, these little children, some as young as eight, were killed on the spot. 

Think of that. An eight year old saying "We love Yeshua" as a knife is held at his throat. Racked with hunger, facing death... an eight year old still loves Jesus. We spoke of childlike faith in connection with our Gospel reading yesterday... this is childlike faith in action!

You see, those children... indeed every Christian who has ever faced the choice of recanting their faith or the sword, has always had to make a choice: do I embrace with faith the promises of God, like those we hear in our first reading and our psalm - promises of presence, contentment, and of preservation (even in the face of certain death); or do I not.

While Jesus' miracles are inspiring stories which teach us that God is sovereign over his creation and can do things that defy rational explanation... we did not witness them personally. We have to embrace his work... his saving work as much as his miraculous works... with simple faith. It is that kind of simplicity of faith that will transform us in every circumstance into the kind of person who, no matter how bad things get, truly believe that the Lord shepherds us, and is leading us to a refreshing stream, a fulfilling banquet, a place where pain, and sorrow, and tears are no more.

If I was to face the sword today, with the cry of 'convert or die', would my simple trust in Jesus overcome my fear and embolden me to confess, "I love Yeshua"?

You can view Canon White's video concerning the current plight of Iraq's Christians here: