Readings for Martyrs of the Reformation Era
“For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.” (2 Corinthians 4:11)
The Roman Catholic Church commemorates the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales on this date: men and women who were executed for treason between1535 and 1679 for their allegiance to the Catholic Church. In recent years, the Church of England has shared this commemoration, broadening it to all of the English saints and martyrs of the Reformation era. This commemoration remembers not only Anglican martyrs like Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer, and Nicholas Ridley, who died for their adherence to the Church of England, but those Catholics who were killed by Anglicans – along with all other Christians who were persecuted by their fellow Christians for their beliefs, most notably the Anabaptists and the Quakers. (from Lesser Feasts & Fasts 2018)
This is a new addition to the Lesser Feast and Fasts. But I think a much needed one. Our beloved Episcopal Church has made, and will probably continue to make, mistakes. We have had U.S. Confederate Priests who owned slaves. Our church has been on the wrong side of “respecting the dignity of every human being” many times. I believe however, we are getting better. We are not perfect yet and may never be but we are trying.
As the Roman Catholic Church commemorates the wrongful death of forty men and women and our English Church also includes Roman Catholic English saints and martyrs of the Reformation we are getting better. It was so painful for me to read about an Amish – Mennonite person who turned back after being chased to help an English sheriff out of quick sand only to be arrested by that same sheriff and eventually burned at the stake. That’s wrong on all Christian levels.
I have told the story of Absalom Jones, first African American Episcopal priest. He was invited to join Richard Allen in the formation of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. But he didn’t. He stuck with this church, the Episcopal Church. You can’t make something better by leaving it. Good people must stay in their neighborhoods to make it good and better. Good people must stay in their work places to make it good and better. The same holds true for our houses of worship, good people must stay in their church to make it good and better.
I recommend that you read the whole section of the 2 Corinthians 4: 5 – 12. It really applies to our Church as it dies to the old, sad and sinful ways and is born again, over and over into the life of Christ. Or as St Paul says, “For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.” (2 Corinthians 4:11)
Let us hear what the Spirit is saying through and to the people of the Creating Word and then let us “Ponder anew what the Almighty is doing.” John Thomas Frazier Sr.