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

After calling the crowd together with his disciples, Jesus said to them, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me and because of the good news will save them. Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? What will people give in exchange for their lives? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this unfaithful and sinful generation, the Human One will be ashamed of that person when he comes in the Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

Mark 8:34-38

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Think

Does God want us to suffer? I don’t think so. In the world as God created it, in the Garden of Eden, there was no pain or suffering. I do believe, though, that God wants us to choose. We sometimes make choices that hurt ourselves and others, and other people can choose to hurt us. Suffering is a part of being us, being human.

And God knows that in a broken world, we are going to suffer because of our faith. The message of Christ is countercultural, which makes it unpopular, especially among the most powerful. Jesus calls us to follow him, and the road is one that comes with a cross. However, it is also a road that leads to eternal life.

We typically don’t strive to suffer, but we recognize that the suffering we experience brings us closer to the path of Christ. The best part of our faith is that, despite the fact that we sometimes suffer, we are never alone. God is with us always.

Stephen Mazingo

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Pray

God, be with me, and give me the knowledge of your presence through the good times and the hard. 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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