Summary: A sermon focussing on the resilience of Christian faith under persecution.
Sermon for 4 Easter Yr C, 2/05/2004
Based on Rev 7:9-17
By Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, &
Chaplain of the Good Samaritan Society’s
South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta
In our second lesson today, John of Patmos reminds the churches in the province of Asia that God is with them in the midst of persecution. Around that time, Christians living in the province of Asia were under a great deal of persecution. John of Patmos gives his readers a message of encouragement and hope—in the end, God is victorious, God will deliver the people out of their persecution. It was the power, presence, victory and hope that we all have in Jesus our Christ that John of Patmos wanted to share with the Christians in Asia. However, in order for him to share this message with them; he had to write the book of Revelation by using images and symbolic language. This style of writing is called apocalyptic literature. Apocalyptic literature was usually written during periods of persecution; when Jews and Christians could not speak clearly and directly to those who persecuted them. If they did speak clearly and directly, then their persecutors would kill them. Therefore, they wrote about their faith and those who persecuted them indirectly; by using various images and symbols that were understood by their audience. It was like a secret code language, today we might call it “underground literature or counter-cultural literature.”
For example, in our text today, when John of Patmos speaks of those who are clothed in white robes; he is referring to those who have been saved and made pure by Christ; the Christian martyrs who will remain loyal to Christ through the persecution; the Christian martyrs who refuse to worship the Roman emperor as a god. In this context, John encouraged the Christians of Asia to remain loyal to Jesus Christ; at the end of the persecution there was victory over death, the earthly rulers, and the powers of evil. The victory belonged to the loyal Christians who shared in Christ’s death and resurrection.
The issue of loyalty to Christ is equally as important for Christians today as it was for those second century Christians in Asia. Christ’s power and presence among the loyal Christians of Asia gave them strength to survive and even grow under their persecution—the same is true today as well. The following example bears faithful witness to Christ’s power and presence among loyal Christians today.
He Huaizhu was such a staunch Communist that even the love letters she exchanged with her husband were filled with references to the party and Chairman Mao.
But at the end of her life, as China became increasingly capitalistic, she felt herself losing faith in her ideology. She questioned the materialism and the obsession with money that she saw around her in the new China.
As she lay dying of cancer, she met a Christian woman in hospital who volunteered to take care of her family. The woman, a barely literate labourer, visited her home, gave He Huaizhu massages and made meals for the family.