Jesus’ enemies often threaten to arrest and kill him. He admonishes his disciples, “Whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 10:38-39).
German pastor, theologian, conspirator, and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer challenged the churches to reject the Third Reich. Most didn’t. Bonhoeffer was found out, imprisoned, and executed a couple of weeks prior to the end of the war. Bonhoeffer may have prayed from his favorite songbook, “Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel. For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust.”
I met Maria Cristina Gomez during a visit to El Salvador in the mid 1980s. I served as a mission interpreter with Alfalit Latinoamericano, a Christian literacy and grass-roots community development ministry. Maria was a teacher at a Baptist school in her war-torn country. She directed Alfalit’s women’s program and was a leader of a teacher’s union. One day heavily armed men burst into her classroom and dragged her away while her students watched in horror. The next day, her body was found on a trash heap.
Are we willing to witness to Christ even to the ultimate sacrifice? When we bear witness to Christ to others, we too are martyrs because witnessing is martyrdom, no matter the cost.
Whenever Maria’s community remembers her and other martyrs, the people shout in solidarity, “Maria! Presente!” because Maria indeed is present with the resurrected Christ.
Jesus, what am I willing to die for in order that I may live in you? Help me to witness to you. Amen.
The readings in Jeremiah and Psalm 71 are repeated in a pair from earlier in the year (January 28—February 3). They describe the authors’ confidence that God has had plans for their lives since even before they were born. God similarly knows each one of us and has a calling on our lives. The reading in Hebrews gives us confidence in the permanence of the kingdom of God, to which we have access through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We are not to take this lightly; we should worship God with due respect. In a synagogue on the sabbath, Jesus teaches a lesson about mercy. When he encounters a woman in need, he places her need above religious regulations. If religious traditions trump mercy, then our priorities are out of alignment.
Read Jeremiah 1:4-10. How do the children in your life live out God’s call on their lives?
Read Psalm 71:1-6. How do you continually praise God as your refuge?
Read Hebrews 12:18-29. How do you discern what is required of you in praising God in the new covenant?
Read Luke 13:10-17. How do you observe the sabbath now? What sabbath practice might you start that puts God’s reign into action?
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