(Jesus said) "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." Matthew 5:43-44
During my parish years I made many mistakes.
The worst was when I cancelled Christmas.
Actually, I didn't cancel Christmas. Feeling it unsafe for people to be out, my elders and I cancelled the children's Christmas service. The first time we cancelled the service was because of a snowstorm. Then we had to cancel the rescheduled date because of another snowstorm. Then we cancelled the second rescheduled date because of ... you guessed it ... a snowstorm. Finally, with Lent around the corner we just decided to skip the service, and we moved on.
No matter how well intentioned, it was a mistake. It was a mistake that pleased nobody. Parents didn't get to see their children perform; the children didn't get to say their well-memorized pieces, and the teachers thought all the rehearsal time had been for naught.
The Christians of Minya, Egypt, made no such mistake. Unbroken, they have been celebrating Mass for 1,600 years. Consider what that means.
* It means these people had been saying Mass for centuries when our ancestors were worshipping oak trees in Germany. They kept saying Mass when Rome fell and Islam came to power.
* They said Mass when empires rose and when those same empires fell. They said Mass when Napoleon came to town, and they said it when England's General Gordon was serving as their protector.
* In times of flood and drought, in times of want and plenty, in times of wealth and poverty, they said Mass.
But last Sunday, for the first time in 1,600 years, the church leaders told our brothers and sisters in Minya, "Do not come to church. It is too dangerous. For your own safety and that of your family, please don't come to church."
It occurs to me that the decision was not made lightly. Indeed, for a church with that kind of unbroken tradition the political situation must be pretty bad. No, make that very bad.
In truth, things are terrible in Egypt for the Savior's followers. Dozens of churches have been destroyed; Christians have been raped, beaten and murdered.
This is why I ask that you, the tens of thousands of Daily Devotion readers, pray for these people. Ask that the Lord will bring peace to this ancient land and that the Savior's redeemed be able to worship Him as they wish and He wants.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, this Sunday, if You will, I shall go to church. As I walk or drive, may I consider how blessed I am to do so in safety. Please support those who are persecuted. Be with them in worship and when they must worship at home. Most of all I pray for those who are doing the persecuting. May they be brought to see the error of their ways and the peace that comes from faith in the Savior. In His Name I pray. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries