The Rev’d Derek Arnold
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READING John 15.18-21
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.
Today we celebrate George, the Patron Saint of England, who was probably a soldier living in Palestine at the beginning of the 4th Century. Some say the story of him slaying a dragon may be due to him being mistaken for Perseus’s, who slayed a sea monster, which is a myth associated with Lydda, where George was martyr in about the year 304.
Sadly as I write this reflection we as a country are in a much stronger place in our fight against the pandemic but there are other countries who are suffering great losses and are still fighting and hoping to slay the mythical beast and we take a moment to remember, those who have sadly lost their lives in this pandemic.
I was dealt this passage last year and although it is only 3 verses, I always find it hard to comprehend and get my head around. I guess we need to realize that enduring those tough things in life is a normal part of the maturing process for all Christians. We need to remember that God is working his will in us, in ways that we often cannot see or appreciate at the time.
It seems to me that by hiding away from the difficult things we experience; we are in fact distancing ourselves from identifying with all aspects of Christ. As long as it is possible, think that enduring the bad stuff, as well as the good makes us better servants of Christ. Job said, “When I am tried I will come forth as gold.” We too need to have this optimistic outlook for the stresses that we may face as this will help us triumph through the most difficult of circumstances.
There are numerous examples of people throughout history who have endured persecution for the sake of Christ. In Hebrews 11.35-38 it says, “Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted, and mistreated. The world was not worthy of them.”
God used these great pioneers of the faith like Saint George to lay a trail for the rest of us to follow. Many great Christians were humble people who when attacked, did not retaliate in kind, but kept entrusting themselves to the Lord and his greater purposes. And we need to allow God to work through us regardless of whether we can fully understand all that is happening to us.
And I think that ties in perfectly with the command from Jesus to ‘Love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us’. Which I think is probably the most difficult of all the commandments given to us by Jesus, and yet that is what God calls us to do. Remember when Stephen prayed for those who were stoning him recorded in the book of Acts. This was not the act of a weak person, but rather one of strength that relies on God’s sufficient grace. (2 Cor. 12.9, 10)
God of hosts,
who so kindled the flame of love
in the heart of your servant George
that he bore witness to the risen Lord
by his life and by his death:
give us the same faith and power of love
that we who rejoice in his triumphs
may come to share with him the fullness of the resurrection;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen