by Rev. M.Barnes, Former Pastor of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church of Warsaw
Recently I have come to know a new term in my working vocabulary, bloggify. Used in a sentence: “Pastor, you should bloggify that sermon!” Sigh. Here goes… with some major additions and deletions .
“Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?” (Lutheran Rite of Confirmation)
For many centuries the church has included this question in the Rite of Confirmation. During times of peace the question is seen as antiquated or even a bit harsh. After all, is there really any persecution like this anymore? Unfortunately events in recent years have escalated and the very group that has persecuted and martyred men, women, and children for no other reason than their faith in Jesus Christ, have made bold statements about coming to our shores. Indeed, they have even stated that they are already here.
Thus the question we pose to our dear catechumens at the end of their formal studies becomes a bit more meaningful, and gives us reason to pause and recall that vow which we ourselves have made. “Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?”
Sunday we remembered one who is a part of the great cloud of witnesses who kept the faith even in the face of death. He was a missionary and an Apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ: Bartholomew. He died in a horrific way for having dared to proclaim Gospel. We hear his story and it horrifies us. And yet his is not alone. From the time of the beginning those who have trusted in God and have proclaimed his Word in teaching and in life, have faced opposition, even death. Yet they were not alone. Bartholomew was not alone. We are not alone.
There is One who has walked that path of opposition and persecution before us. There is One who has faced the abandonment of others. There is one who went through cruel torture and death on a merciless cross. Jesus walked the same path that we face as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. But death was not the end of the journey. Having accomplished our salvation by His suffering and death, He rose physically from the dead and has given us the victory and vindication that He has earned.
Jesus walks the well familiar path with us, with all who suffer because of Him, and He keeps us firm in the faith and strong in the face of all who would oppose Him. He is your rock and your fortress who gives to you the life that can never be taken away.
Pastor Michael Barnes
Festival of St. Bartholomew, Apostle
Martyred for the Sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
Skinned alive and crucified upside down in Armenia by the pagan brother of the King of Armenia. (The king came to faith through the proclamation of the Gospel by Bartholomew.)