Reverend Patrick Evans, Senior Pastor
Praying for the Persecuted
Easter is always a great Sunday. Every Easter Sunday as a pastor has been a wonderful
experience. The church is filled, the music is wonderful, families come, and God is worshiped. Easter is a wonderful time. Yet this year on Easter Sunday evil struck at the body of Christ. I had just finished sunrise service when I heard the news "Churches Bombed".
It broke my heart. I thought, "This will need to be addressed in the sermon. Something this grievous needs to be addressed." But sadly, this is not a new story. The church has faced persecution since the beginning. It is part of the Christian story.
While at seminary, we were discussing how to address the fact that, when one part of the church is attacked, we are all attacked. After all, we are brothers and sisters in Christ. So we addressed it one day in worship. We took a portion of the bulletins that day and marked them with a check mark. Then during the call to worship we had the people with marked bulletins move to the choir loft. We then participated in liturgy where each group read to the other. The persecuted Church was represented by those in the choir loft. We prayed for one another and spoke encouraging words. It was a powerful moment.
Later a friend stopped to talk to me about the service. He had received a bulletin with a mark, and he moved into the choir loft. He said it then occurred to him in a powerful way. "Patrick, I did not choose to be part of the persecuted church, but there I was. It changed my whole outlook. I now understand people do not choose to be the persecuted church."
It struck home with me as well. I felt a new connection to people I have never met, because I prayed and spoke words of life. It occurs to me today. We should pray not only for the persecuted church, but we should also pray for those who persecute us. Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount said,
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," Matthew 5:43,44. We should pray.
"Dear Lord, today we give thanks for you and your son who came to earth and knew persecution. We give thanks for the church and our salvation. We also lift to your throne of grace the people who mourn for the loss of loved ones, we pray for the ones harmed in the bombings. We boldly ask for healing of body, soul, and mind. We are grieved by the actions of hate, yet, we pray for the persons who perpetrated these acts. We ask that you come into their hearts. That your grace changes them, and may they experience the overwhelming love of Christ.
Dear Lord, we also ask that we be given a new heart for those who would harm us. Give to us a new heart. For Christ died for all people. Our salvation is a gift offered to us, may we freely offer it to others, until your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven, Amen."
Church we can and should pray. Until all the world has a wonderful Easter. It is a grace offered to us. We need to pray for our brothers and sisters in this humanity. May God have mercy.
Grace & Peace,
Rev. Patrick Evans