“Love your enemies” —the Arabic script on the left of the door.
“I will still pray for you” —the Arabic script on the right.
[Photo Taken of a Coptic Christian House in a northern suburb of Cairo]
PRAYER: (from the Lectionary)
“Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever, AMEN.”
SCRIPTURES: (from the Lectionary)
This means that in the final “shaking”, all that is impermanent will be removed, that is, everything that is merely “made”, and only the unshakeable things will remain. Since then we have been given a kingdom that is unshakeable, let us serve God with thankfulness in the ways which please him, but always with reverence and holy fear. For it is perfectly true that ‘our God is a consuming fire’ (Hebrews 12:28-29, Phillips Bible).
PRAYER FOCUS: Shaking the Church.
Imagine this: Your phone rings at 2:00 a.m. It’s your pastor, telling you that a mob of political radicals, angry at your church’s stand against abortion, has burned your church to the ground. By the time you drive to the smoldering wreckage that used to be your house of worship, you learn that the mobs have also burned and looted the Christian bookstores in your area, paying extra attention to the Bibles they stacked and burned on the sidewalk. What would you do?
But it can’t happen here, right?
After weeks of ignoring the deadly violence, the world’s various news media—and the political chattering classes in the West—are finally acknowledging the plight of Egypt’s Coptic Christians who have been targeted by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). Since the “Arab Spring” in 2012, Copts have come under increasing pressure and persecution from the MB and the now-deposed Morsi government. During this past week, MB-led mobs burned and/or desecrated scores of Coptic churches, murdering dozens of Copts and ransacking their homes and businesses.
The numbers are saddening:
· 38 Churches completely destroyed, burned and looted
· 23 Churches attacked and partially damaged
· 58 houses destroyed
· 100+ Coptic-owned shops and businesses destroyed
· 3 hotels heavily damaged
· 75 cars and buses owned by churches destroyed
Who are Egypt’s Copts? Quite simply, the Copts are the native Christians of Egypt. They are also known as the Egyptian Orthodox Church, similar to the Greek Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church. The word Copt derives from both Latin and Greek words for Egypt; it means, literally, Egyptian.
Copts constitute the largest Christian community in the Middle East and the region’s largest religious minority. Out of Egypt’s 83 million people, approximately 9 million are Coptic Christians, accounting for more than 10% of the Egyptian population. The Coptic Church is headed by a Pope, currently Tawadros II, who does not claim papal infallibility. Coptic traditions and practices would be familiar to most Christians, with some exceptions, one being fasting: virtually all Copts fast through Lent, and strict Copts endure some sort of fasting 210 days out of each year.
The Monday Prayer brings this to light, not to make political points, but rather, to make points of faith. Specifically we’d like to make three:
First, the Copts are demonstrating to the world that they hold their church buildings to be far less valuable than human life—even the lives of those who persecute them.
· Emerging photos, like the one that heads todays message, capture messages spray-painted on ruined buildings as well as written notes to their Muslim neighbors declaring, “Our buildings can be rebuilt again, but you are priceless, so stay safe and don’t worry about the churches.”
· Coptic Pope Tawadros issued a statement that read: “this had been expected and, as Egyptians and Christians, we are considering our church buildings as a sacrifice to be made for our beloved Egypt.”
· Other Coptic leaders have made similar statements on local and regional media, stressing that the Church is not buildings, but rather the people who are the Body of Jesus Christ.
Second, this week’s Lectionary is especially well suited to address the events in the Middle East in general, and Egypt in particular. The passages from Jeremiah and Psalms bring words of comfort and prayers for refuge; Luke describes a miracle of healing. But the author of Hebrews prophesies that the Church will be shaken; that everything man-made and shakeable will be shaken out while only the unshakeable things of God will be left. The Coptic Church is being shaken, and the things of God are becoming visible.
Third, and finally, rather than feel helpless in our distance from them, we can draw near to them in prayer. Please pray like this:
· Praise God for the manifest, marvelous faith of our Coptic brothers and sisters.
· Pray that the current violence in Egypt will end soon.
· Pray for the restoration of law and order, for the benefit of all citizens.
· Pray for the protection of the Coptic Church and its properties against attack by extremists.
· Pray that Egypt will be governed for the benefit of all its citizens, with people of different faiths being able to live once as neighbors in peace.
· Pray that Egyptian Christians will be able to serve in prominent roles addressing the needs of all Egyptians and bring healing and reconciliation in their country.
· Pray that people will encounter Jesus Christ, however that happens in this time, whatever the medium, that He will be glorified in all of this, that His kingdom will come and His will be done.
The Nicene Creed forms the primary definition of Christian Theology, beginning with, “We believe in One God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible…” The First Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.), which produced the Creed that bears its name and defines our faith, was headed by Pope Athanasius I of Alexandria, a Coptic Christian.
You and I, dear Christian, are inseparable, unseverable, from the Body of Christ in Egypt. Their suffering is our suffering. Their persecution is our persecution.
And their love must also be our love.
This week’s Lectionary prayer asks Almighty God to grant that “your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name.” As you pray this, please remember Egypt’s Copts—and their Muslim brothers and sisters.
It’s Monday Morning. What would you do if this was all happening to your church, to your Christian community? Pray.