by Bob Wickizer

Will our Children have Faith?
Bob Wickizer
Malachi 3:1-4; Hebrews 2:14-18; Psalm 24:7-10; Luke 2:22-40

Our Gospel today tells the story of the presentation of Jesus in the Jerusalem temple. We also commemorate this week the day of the “Martyrs of Japan.” I would like to connect these two events in a question that needs to be asked, “Will our children have faith?”

We very modern westerners tend to think that the practice of crucifying people for their belief in Christ ended somewhere between 32 and 36 AD with crucifixion of Jesus. But then, we would be wrong. The most recent public crucifixion of Christians occurred in Japan on February 5, 1597 when 26 missionaries were crucified. Twenty five years later, another 180 Christians including children were put to death in several waves of executions in Nagasaki. Those executed included priests, nuns, monks, missionaries and lay people from many nations as well as Japan. We commemorate them on our calendar on February 5.

We would like to think that such brutality has ended but we need to pay attention to the facts on the ground. In the year 1900 in China another 700 Christians were executed including Baptists, Anglicans, Methodists, Lutherans and Presbyterians. In Mexico the last execution of a priest took place in 1939. His crime was wearing a clergy collar in public. In fact if you look at a 2001 article on the global facts of Christianity since its inception, you will find some disturbing facts.

Scholars trying to estimate the number of people martyred in antiquity may be forgiven because their sources are difficult to find and notoriously inaccurate. But if we simply wanted to get a gross (and I do mean gross) estimate of the number of people martyred for their Christian faith let’s say to one significant figure, then we can ignore all of history up to the year 1900. The historical records and sources since 1900 are widely available and reasonably accurate. The number you are all waiting ...

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