►What if our church had to meet in secret?

►What if following Jesus meant facing violence or even death?

►What if owning a Bible was illegal?

►What if family members turned against you because of your faith?

►What if you were put in prison for your faith?

►What if spies were watching your every move?

This week’s Gospel Reading makes demands on us to be disciples of Jesus; but, for us in Beckenham, however, everything is on demand, our Church, our Services (although truncated because of Covid 19, nevertheless, we always have Live Streaming). But, as Christians, we are free to come and go as we please and I suspect those six questions above have never entered our thinking and why should they? No one bothers me if I don’t want to follow Jesus, and no one is interested if I do follow Jesus and why should they? In over 70 countries in the world these six questions are a matter of life and death and Christians put their life on the line every minute of every day just to keep their faith in Jesus Christ.

We cannot change the world, but we can support our Christian brothers and sisters, and this weekend’s Gospel makes that demand of us. I feel compelled to support every Christian literally fighting for their right to know Jesus Christ. It is the duty of every Christian to remember other persecuted Christians because it gives them hope and help when they face attacks, opposition or exile and sadly, loss of life.

You can never see his/her face.

You can never know his/her name.

But he/she can know you care.

Paul writing to the Corinthians uses the word Parakelin (which is a Greek word, meaning “called alongside of”. It embraces the posture and position of alongside rather than over and above). Paul had himself come through a time of terrible suffering and the wonderful message that he gives to the Corinthian believers is that God the Father is “the God of all comfort who comforts us all in our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Cor1:3-4). Paul also calls him the “Father of compassion” so, we know that tender consolation was in Paul’s mind. But God does more than sympathise. He is the God who strengthens us and inspires us to endure, he is the God who encourages us to face our troubles boldly and bravely. Let us, as the parish of St Edmund’s be always there for the persecuted Christians as their Parakletos (one who consoles).

SEVEN PRAYERS

This week, pray for Christians who are denied the right to worship freely.

Day 1: Pray for those in countries where Christians must remain hidden. Guide them so that they find others to worship with.

Day 2: Pray for those who are denied the right to build churches. May the laws be reformed and justice prevail.

Day 3: Pray for those whose churches have been destroyed and who have been driven from their homes. Lord, please help them to rebuild their church, wherever they find themselves.

Day 4: Pray for those who are scared to attend church because of surveillance. May they find new places to worship and Christians with whom to share.

Day 5: Pray for those who must travel far to find a safe space to worship. Keep them safe from detection.

Day 6: Pray for church leaders who have to find new ways to meet with their flock. May they be courageous and clever in their approach.

Day 7: Give thanks for the faithfulness of our persecuted brothers and sisters. Thank you, Lord, that the church cannot be constrained within a building, but that everywhere, Christians are finding new ways to be part of the kingdom of God.