We gather together here for the public worship of God our Father and His Son, Jesus, Who reigns over all of heaven and earth. We declare this proudly and gratefully and today we proclaim this truth with no fear of persecution. But throughout the world and throughout the history of the church there have been and are places where bearing the name of Jesus has meant certain death.
This is the story of martyrdom. To be a martyr is to be a witness, a testimony, to the Lordship of Jesus over all things. This week the headlines in the news included the story of 21 Coptic Christians beheaded by ISIS thugs simply for bearing the name “Christian.” The murderers made clear that they were executing these men because they were “followers of the Cross.” Persecution of Christians for their faith is alive and well and we should be very aware of this truth.
Some have asked if these Coptic Christians were actually martyred given the fact that we would probably consider them to have some very unorthodox views on the Person of Jesus Christ. And while it is true that we would have some strong disagreements on very important doctrines of the faith, it cannot go unnoticed that these men were beheaded for refusing to renounce Jesus, even if they were confused about Him at some level.
For twenty-one centuries now, the testimony of the church has rocked the world of unbelief – unbelief of all kinds. This has occurred while the church herself has been slowly growing up, maturing in her understanding of what God has given to her. And we are far from done. In the midst of the work of the kingdom, the Lord asks each one of us, each one of you, whether you will follow Him or not. Will you pick up your cross, deny yourself, mortify your own flesh, and follow Him to Jerusalem, to Gethsemane, to the Cross, to the grave, so that you might follow Him out of the tomb and into eternal life?
You are called to be faithful even if that faithfulness means faithful unto martyrdom. And you are called now to come and worship this Christ that splits the world in two and renew your vows of faithfulness to Him because of His faithfulness to you.