Pause

When people think about church, they usually do not think about suffering. Some may think about hymns or prayers. Some may think about a place that cares. Some may even think about a boring old building filled with out of touch people.

What if, when we thought about church, we remembered a young woman from the 3rd century, Saint Perpetua, who believed in a loving God with such faith that she chose to be tortured and put to death rather than recant her belief?

Would we look at those old buildings differently?

Take a moment today to think about faith and church differently, and consider how many have suffered and continue to suffer so that we may worship and serve Christ.

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Listen

When Abram was 99 years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am El Shaddai. Walk with me and be trustworthy. I will make a covenant between us and I will give you many, many descendants.” Abram fell on his face, and God said to him, “But me, my covenant is with you; you will be the ancestor of many nations. And because I have made you the ancestor of many nations, your name will no longer be Abram but Abraham. I will make you very fertile. I will produce nations from you, and kings will come from you. I will set up my covenant with you and your descendants after you in every generation as an enduring covenant. I will be your God and your descendants’ God after you. God said to Abraham, “As for your wife Sarai, you will no longer call her Sarai. Her name will now be Sarah. I will bless her and even give you a son from her. I will bless her so that she will become nations, and kings of peoples will come from her.”

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

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Think

Abraham and Sarah are prominent characters in the Old Testament. Who doesn’t remember singing “Father Abraham” a thousand times when you were little? What does their story have to do with a faith that suffers?

We read about the covenant, or agreement, that God makes with them. The agreement is that God will make it so they can have children. As a symbol of this agreement, God changes their names from Abram (exalted father) to Abraham (father of all) and Sarai (princess) to Sarah (noblewoman).

Where is the suffering? They are old. They have tried all their lives to have children in a time when having children was the most important thing. They have suffered. Now they are going to give birth to many nations. The raising of this child is not easy. Those children will suffer as well — basically, what we read in the rest of the Old Testament. Yet, they believe. The agreement means God will be with them through all that will come, and that makes them strong.

Stephen Mazingo

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Pray

Dear God, the covenant you made with Abraham and Sarah gave them strength through the trials they had to face. Give me this strength in the covenant you made through your son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Go

Be a comfort to those who are suffering. Take time to have compassion, as Christ has compassion for us. Let the sacrifices of many and the passion of the faithful be your guide and strength. Go into the world.

Stephen Mazingo

Stephen Mazingo was born in Jacksonville, NC. He attended his church youth program and diocese events, and it was through these experiences that he decided to pursue the track to priesthood. After graduating from Virginia Theological Seminary, Stephen served his first post as a missionary of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Matlosane, South Africa. Stephen then served as Associate Rector at St. James Parish in Wilmington, NC from 2008 to 2012, and was called to St. Peter’s in Fernandina Beach, FL in January 2013.

Wondrous Love: O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go

Mark Hayes - markhayes.com

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