Saturday, July 25, 2020

Grounded in Hope

JULY 26, 2020

TEXT:               Romans 8:26-39

Today we observe Proper 12 in this season known as Ordinary Time, or the Season after Pentecost.  Let’s begin with the Collect for the Day.

Collect of the Day – Proper 12

Looking back 2,000 years expecting to pin certain dates to certain events can be tricky.  Scholars make their best guesses on dates various books of the Bible were written.  Paul’s letters fall into that category. We can only make educated guesses as to when they were written – and in what order.

Paul traveled far and wide spreading the gospel he had come to know, in the days following that dramatic event on the road to Damascus. He went through many cities, preaching, planting churches, and sharing the good news.  But keep in mind that traveling in that day was perilous, and being a Christian missionary added to that danger.

Paul knew the perils well.  In his Second Letter to the Corinthians, he shared what he had endured:

11:24 Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters;[e] 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked. 28 And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches. 

Paul was well aware of the dangers surrounding him.  His life was in danger, constantly.  Yet, he wrote the words that are our second lesson today. I consider the theological high point of the Christian scriptures and the foundation for all our hope.  Hear a portion of them again:

8:37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This is Paul’s astounding statement of faith, found in chapter 8 of his Letter to the Romans.

Nothing.  NOTHING. Nothing that life throws at us will overwhelm the love of God.  Paul’s words echo what page 298 in the Book of Common Prayer says about Baptism:  The bond established by God in baptism is indissoluble.

As you face today’s challenges – whatever they may be – remember Paul’s words of hope – hope that nothing can overcome.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

An Icon of Faith

JULY 22, 2020

OBSERVANCE:            Mary Magdalene

On the Western Shore of the Sea of Galilee, three miles north of the modern city of Tiberias, archeologists in recent years have uncovered the ruins of the ancient village of Magdala.

It was in that area – perhaps some nearby community – that our Lord first encountered one of the most notable women of the Bible – the woman we honor today, Mary Magdalene.

In two different gospels accounts, we are told that Jesus cast out seven demons from her.  It appears that she accompanied our Lord in his foot travels around Israel and Judea. She was present at the crucifixion – all accounts agree.  And in the most remarkable circumstances, she was the first witness to the Resurrection in all four gospels.  In fact, in John’s gospel, the resurrected Jesus appears to her alone – calling her by name.

A little noticed fact, though, is found in Matthew 27:61.  Keep in mind that the disciples had largely headed for the hills or denied their relationship to Jesus as the trial and crucifixion took place. Now, 2,000 years later, Cynthia Bourgeault, an Episcopal priest and contemplative, has noticed this verse.  Here is the remarkable reality: After Jesus has been tried, convicted, executed, removed from the cross, and entombed, Mary sits vigil… “sitting opposite the tomb.” In Jewish terms, she sat shiva.

Mary Magdalene was faithful to Jesus.  She alone was close-at-hand in those precious, traumatic times.  As the great theologian Paul Tillich would note, she had been grasped by the ultimate concern. Nothing would shake her faith.

Mary went on, from the tomb, to share the good news with the disciples. Her role has prompted her to be referred to as the apostle to the apostles.

Her level of faith is a model to us.  We, too, are called to have faith – to trust – no matter what life throws at us.  That can be difficult – even seemingly unbearable from time-to-time.  But that is the ultimate level of trust – to trust that the grave is not our end.

Let us pray.


Saturday, July 18, 2020

A Refiner's Fire

JULY 19, 2020

TEXT:   Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Collect for Proper 11

The Gospel reading today follows on last week’s lesson.  And, its theme is very similar. 

Jesus is teaching his listeners beside the Sea of Galilee.  He is speaking in terms they are familiar with – agricultural images.  This parable is of the Weeds and Wheat. You can find a link to this passage on the newsletter. It is Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43.

Jesus tells the story of an enemy who sows the seeds of weeds among the good seeds of wheat.  While the seeds are growing, it is hard to distinguish one from another.  So, the sower tells the workers to wait.  When the harvest comes, the weeds will be separated from the wheat, and burned.

Reading this passage, I am reminded of a series of novels I read by an English author named Susan Howatch.  There were six of them, I believe, and they focused on key theological themes in the Church of England from the 1930s to the 1960s. The protagonist in the first three books was an Anglican priest, Jon Darrow, who was also a mystic.

In one of the novels, a female character was wrestling with the issue of good and evil.  Her concern could be described in Martin Luther’s theology: Simul Justus et peccator – We are simultaneously sinners and justified.  Not either/or.  Both/and.

In such a state, she wonders, how do we attain the Kingdom of God when we depart this earthly plain?

Jon Darrow responds – and his response is resonant with the gospel passage today.  When we die, he observes, our spirits are refined like the proving of gold.  Impurities are removed – only the pure essence remains.  As Jesus says, “Then the righteous will shine like the Sun in the Kingdom of the Father.”

I have known people who are likely to pass through the trial virtually intact.  I have known others of whom there will be little left.

We each await our refining.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

A Question from the King

JULY 15, 2020

TEXT:   Matthew 25:31-46

Years ago, I was serving my first cure as a priest on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  I was also deeply involved in the Diocese of Mississippi’s annual medical mission to the central American country of Honduras.

I had been asked to do a video presentation on the mission for our diocesan convention. So, I found myself interviewing Bishop Leo Frade, who was then the Bishop of Honduras.  I was recording the interview.

When asked about the impact the Mississippi medical mission had on the very rural area of it’s focus (I described as being 35 miles from the nearest light bulb), Bishop Frade went to the passage from today’s lectionary – what is known as the Great Judgement.

You know the story.  It is best known by verse 40: And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” 

Years later, I was serving a parish in Starkville, Mississippi.  I was trying to persuade a pediatrician, who was a member of the parish, to go on the mission.  He objected. “David, we’ve got all these poor people here in town and in the Mississippi Delta who need medical care. Why do we need to go to Honduras?”

He had a good point.  We can find our mission to the hungry, the sick, the stranger, the naked, the homeless, those in prison at our own front door.  They are all around us. Our eyes of faith can help us see them.  Our hands of faith can help us serve them.

Jesus did not say that those people needed to be blameless.  They are who they are.  The work of caring for them is our mission.  The questions asked by the King in the Great Judgement are the questions we will ultimately have to answer.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

The Depth of the Soil

JULY 12, 2020

TEXT:   Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

I would encourage you to read the Gospel lesson for today.  It is Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23.  You can find the Sunday lectionary link on the email posting you received this morning.

Jesus told stories to get his point across.  He spoke in images which were familiar to his listeners.  Since Israel of his time was primarily agricultural, many of his stories focused that theme.

Today’s lesson is no exception.  This is the Parable of the Sower.  Jesus tells us about a sower who goes into his field to cast seed – seed which is hoped to yield fruit, whether that is grain or something else.

Jesus tells us how the grain is scattered – some fell on the pathway, others fell on rocky soil, and some were cast among the thorns.  And some fell on good soil.

The seeds that fell on the pathway, on rocky soil, and among the thorns were doomed.  They would not flourish.  They would either be eaten by the birds, choked by the thorns, or die from lack of good soil.

But those that fell on good soil flourished – they took root, grew, and bore much fruit.

Jesus is using the seed as an image for the Good News which he brings. Some of his teachings will fall on deaf ears, or fallow hearts, for a variety of reasons.  Other things will distract from the call of the kingdom.  The call of the kingdom may be received with gladness immediately, but other things will distract and draw people away.

That means, on some level, that idolatry has taken hold.  Something which is more glittering, more attractive, more compelling – in the moment – has drawn the heart away from the Good News.  That was truth for Jesus’ listeners 2,000 years ago, and it is true for us today.

There are many things which compete for our attention and primary loyalty.  Notice I said “primary”.  We all have many loyalties, and many are worthwhile.  But in order for the seed of faith to take deep root and bear fruit, we must give the Good News the primacy it deserves.

Jesus is telling us to be focused – to not be drawn away from his Good News by a glittering, flashy object which may attract us briefly.  Be focused, instead, on the message which gives life. That is where we can take root and bear much fruit.

Being the People of God

JULY 8, 2020

TEXT:   Psalm 137

This psalm is not part of today’s daily lessons… but it connects to the Old Testament lesson which is from the Book of Deuteronomy.   It is near to the conclusion of the Hebrews 40-year sojourn in the wilderness.

During their time wandering between Egypt and the Promised Land of Canaan, the Hebrews had become a great and numerous people. Even though Moses had trouble managing the people, the creation of a numerous people was part of the promise made to Abraham in the Book of Genesis.

The Hebrew term is qahal Yahweh – the people of God.  A key element of God’s promise to Abraham was that this childless man would have descendants that numbered like the stars.

Moses was called to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt – not one or two people, but the whole mass of them.

Hundreds of years later – after Saul, David, Solomon, Elijah and other prophets – this people found themselves exiled from their Promised Land to the strange land of Babylon.

Nevertheless, they maintained their identity.  They identified themselves as a people of the covenant… a chosen people.  They would maintain that identity during the ensuing centuries as they spread across the known world in what was known as the diaspora – the dispersion.

Sadly, it was their maintaining their identity as a community of faith that led to the various pogroms, persecutions, and ultimately the 20th century Holocaust.  Yet, to this day, they maintain that identity as qahal Yahweh – the people of God.

In a sense, we lay down beside the waters of Babylon now.  We are in a time unlike anything we have ever seen.  We are largely separated from one another and from that which is sacred and holy to us.

The challenge is for us to be the qahal Yahweh – and not just individuals on our separate journeys.  We are to recognize the tie that binds and, as best we can, hold and treasure one another as members of a Holy Community.  Not just individuals, passing like ships in the night.

In the coming days, we will be seeking to be that community of faith, even though we are in a very strange time.  We must maintain our care for one another, seeing that we show that we both love God and one another as ourselves.

I invite your prayers… your commitment… your suggestions… for living into our role of being the people of God, even as we lay down by the waters of Babylon.

Freedom from the Shadow

JULY 5, 2020

TEXT:   Romans 7:15-25a

Paul is approaching what I think is the high point of Christian scripture in the Epistle today. Coming weeks will have us reading Romans Chapter 8 – which is truly profound and hope-filled.

But, today, Paul – from whom we get the name of our parish – is writing about something which afflicts us all.  The desire to do one thing, but our tendency to do something that is less noble.

As the comedian Flip Wilson said many years ago, “The devil made me do it.” If Paul had been present in the 1960s, he would have seen some truth in Wilson’s joke.

It may be something less sinister that causes us to “do that which we would not do.”

Year ago, there was a Swiss psychologist – someone who was a friends and rival of Sigmund Freud.  His name was Carl Jung.  Some of his concepts have survived the years better than some of Freud’s ideas.  And some have been accepted as ways of seeing our spiritual life.

A key idea is the shadow.  It is that part of ourselves – we all have one – which we deny, disown, and act as if it doesn’t exist.  But exist it does – and the more we attempt to hide it, the more it controls our lives in hidden, perhaps toxic ways.  In other words, the part of ourselves which we seek to hide, controls us from the hidden background of our personality.

The more we seek to hide it or deny it, it influences our actions.

Hence, the shadow.

Paul expresses the human frustration we feel when we do something that we would not want to do:  “Wretched man that I am!  Who will save me from this body of death?”

But there is an answer: Name the shadow.  Bring it into the light of day. Don’t let that part of you control you and your actions.  When you do that, it loses its power.

Walking with Jesus and journeying deeply into life of the Holy Spirit – moving in your life – you may name and expose the shadow.  As you overcome the control of the darker side of you complex personality, you can say with Paul, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Being Stewards of the Vineyard

JULY 1, 2020

TEXT:   Matthew 21:33-46

As we approach the annual Independence Day holiday, I am struck by the lesson for today’s lectionary.  I would encourage you to read it.  It is Matthew 21:33-46.  It is a widely misinterpreted parable – the Parable of the Vineyard.

It is a classic story by Jesus.  He tells of Wicked Tenants who refuse to give the owner of the Vineyard the appropriate percentage of the crop.  In fact, they ultimately beat the owner’s son, cast him out of the vineyard, and kill him.

It has been interpreted as an allegory – one-to-one symbolic story, with each person representing an actual figure in history.

The New Testament – and specifically Jesus’ teachings – is not interested in allegory.  The passage from Matthew today, the Parable of the Vineyard, is about – among other things – substituting our will with God’s will.

We see that theme again and again in scripture.  The Garden of Eden, the grumbling of the people in the Wilderness, David and Bathesheeba, and the many things which the prophets preached against in later years. Elijah, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel – all spoke to the tendency of the people substituting their will and desires for the Divine way.

Jesus invites us to humility… to trust… to prayerful discernment… to not confuse our own desires with the desires of the Holy One.

It is hard, no doubt. We are a strong people.  We have a history that we see as evidence of being blessed.  Nevertheless, we should approach our future as a nation as a people who are indeed being blessed – but not flippantly, automatically, assuming that we are always correct in interpreting the mind of God.

Scripture tells us, too, what happens when we think we are independent and always right.  Nations – even God’s own people – are cast out of the Vineyard.  Humility, prayer, and true discernment can help us here the Divine guidance we so desperately need.

A Different Understanding of God

JUNE 28, 2020

TEXT: Genesis 22:1-14

I would encourage you to read the first lesson, from Genesis 22, linked to this post a little further down.  It will help you understand my comments today.

This passage – Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his son Isaac – has been called one of the most disturbing passages in all of scripture. Why would a loving God ask Abraham to sacrifice their heir of promises that God had made to him.

To make sense of this passage, one must understand the topography and history of Jerusalem. Let me share that with you.

There are three valleys in the ancient city of Jerusalem:  the Kidron Valley, which is between the Mount of Olives and the city’s walls;  the Tyropean Valley, also called the Cheesemaker’s Valley, and Gehenna, or Hinnom Valley.

The site to which Abraham brought Isaac for sacrifice is believed to be a massive rock outcropping, which ultimately became a central place of worship.  It was in the Ancient Temple at the time of Jesus and is now within the massive Islamic holy place known as the Dome of the Rock.  It was on that rock that Abraham meant to sacrifice Isaac.

But Jerusalem had a history even before the time of Abraham.  A pagan cult known as the Molechites – those who worshiped the God Molech – used to sacrifice children in the Hinnom Valley, also known as Gehenna.  Gehenna ultimately became a garbage dump, and a place where the bodies of criminals and unclean animals were burned.

So, there had been sacrifice of children nearby by the Molechites.

The story of Abraham gets across an important point to biblical-era listeners.  Yahweh – the God of Abraham, Isaac and his heirs – does not require or desire sacrifice of children.

That may seem obvious today.  But, in the biblical-era Mid East, that was Good News.  The God of Abraham was a loving God.

Hundreds of years later, Jesus would talk about hell.  The word he used for hell was Gehenna, the valley where human sacrifices – a tragic garbage dump – took place.

Today, thanks be to God, we are much more advanced.  We would not consider sacrificing our children.  But we have the truth: Our God is a loving God who has Jesus speak lovingly of children, referring to them as examples of those who will enter the Kingdom of God.

The Law of Unintended Consequences

JUNE 21, 2020

TEXT: Genesis 21:8-21

I would encourage you to read the first lesson today, from Genesis 21:8-21.

I want to talk with you this morning about what I call ‘The Law of Unintended Consequences”… or the “Boundless Grace of God.”

Genesis is one of the most interesting books in the Bible.  In this passage, we have the continuation of the patriarch story.  Abraham and Sarah have conceived and delivered the second of the three patriarchs, Isaac.  His birth is the begging of the realization of God’s promise to Abram earlier in Genesis.

But it is not that simple.  Sarah, being elderly and without child, had given her slave girl Hagar, to serve as a surrogate for her. Abram and Hagar had conceived and delivered a child.  His name is Ishmael.  But he is not the bearer of God’s promise.  Only the child of Abraham and Sarah could carry forth the promise – the Covenant with God… for all the nations of the world to bless themselves by Abraham name.

Sarah has seen her son, Isaac, playing with the son of Hagar, Ishmael.  She encourages Abraham to banish Hagar and Ishmael – which Abraham does.

The passage tells us that Hagar and the child who has been rejected by his father, Ishmael, are near death in the desert.  But God intervenes.

God tells Hagar that his promise will extend to Ishmael as well – he will live, and that Ishmael’s descendants will be a great nation.

There you have the seeds of the three great monotheistic religions having claim to Abraham.  The Jews and Christians claim lineage from Abraham, because we trace our roots to him back through Isaac and Jacob.  The Muslims claim their roots to Abraham through their descent from Ishmael.

So, it is all quite interesting.  Abraham intended to send Hagar and Ishmael away – to be done with them.  But the boundless mercy of God provided another avenue. Ishmael – though separated from his father – would flourish as a people.

Here’s my point:  God can take our sinfulness, our conflicted motivations, our human brokenness, our lack of commitment, and use it for his purposes.  That doesn’t mean we look for opportunities to fall short… but it does mean that the fate of the world and God’s kingdom does not ride on our shoulders alone.

We are not in charge.  We are agents of the Most High.

Strength from Weakness

JUNE 14, 2020

TEXT:   June 5:1-8

Collect of the Day

On occasion, I walk a half-marathon.  Walk, not run – 13.1 miles. I have done six, thus far.  I generally do it as a fund raiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

While I don’t have a precise regimen, I build my mileage as the race approaches.  My usual walk is 2.5 miles.  As the races gets closer, I will be walking eight miles.

It makes 13.1 miles seem a lot shorter.

The message is that strength builds on strength.

People who lift weights know the principle.  In order to build muscle mass, the body must strain against resistance. So, someone who is beginning weight-lifting starts with light weights.  Someone who is more experienced has graduated to heavier weights.

Time, effort, and energy produce greater strength.  In a sense, practice makes perfect.  Or, at least, practice produces resilience.

That is what Paul is writing about in today’s New Testament lesson from his Letter to the Romans.  In his words:

And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. 

Paul did not see senselessness in the suffering that he and other Christians faced.  Suffering brings endurance; endurance brings character; character brings hope – and hope does not disappoint.

I would suggest that is a helpful way to view the present time.  The challenges we face can prepare us for greater challenges.  In facing the pandemic, we find new ways of being people of God.  In facing the economic downturn, we become more frugal and more free to share with those who are not as blessed.  In facing the political and social changes, we move toward what our founders called “a more perfect union.”

Today’s challenges may seem unique.  They are not. Christians have been building endurance, character, and hope on experience for many years – even from biblical times.

The Dynamics of Baptism

TEXT:                        MATTHEW 24:16-20

Today is Trinity Sunday, one of the great observances of the church, following on the heels of the Feast of Pentecost – the birthday of the church, celebrating the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Let’s begin with the Collect of the Day and the reading of today’s gospel:

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Matthew 24:16-20

Last Sunday, we celebrated the Gift of the Holy Spirit.  Today we observe Trinity Sunday. Implicit in each is the Holy Spirit and Baptism.

Jesus tells his disciples in the last verses of Matthew’s gospel, to “go into the world, baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

There are two components of baptism I want to emphasize: justification and sanctification.

Justification is first.  In the act of Baptism, we are justified before God.  We are made right with him.  Our slate is cleaned. As page 298 in the Book of Common Prayer says, “Holy Baptism is the full initiation into Christ’s body, the Church. The bond established by God is indissoluble.”

As Jesus says, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Paul emphasizes that point, too, in Romans 8.

But, is our baptism like the dog catching the car – we don’t know what to do once we have it?

That is where sanctification comes in.  For most of us, it is a lifelong process of growing in Christ – of emulating his life and teaching.  We grow in holiness.

That is our goal – to become more like Christ, day-by-day; to grow in grace; to see others and the world through his eyes.

If you need to refresh your memory as to what that is, I would encourage you to review the Baptismal Vows that we have all taken – either in our own baptism or in the baptisms of others.  They are on pages 302 to 305 in the Book of Common Prayer. As one of our collects says, Read, Learn, Mark and Inwardly Digest Them.

God bless you all.

The Blood of the Martyrs

JUNE 3, 2020

In my opening video for you, I talked about my belief in “existential redemption” – God’s ability to move through the most challenging circumstances, even death, to bring about New Life. Think about the Hebrew’s standing on the shores of the Red Sea, with the Egyptian army drawing close in their chariots.  Think of the cross on Golgotha, and the Messiah hanging from it. Hope was dead.  But, it was only the beginning.

The church calendar, providentially, today emphasizes that point.

Let us pray:

 O God, by whose providence the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church: Grant that we who remember before you the blessed martyrs of Uganda, may, like them, be steadfast in our faith in Jesus Christ, to whom they gave obedience, even unto death, and by their sacrifice brought forth a plentiful harvest; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Matthew 24:9-14

On this day in 1886thirty-two young men, pages of the court of King Mwanga of Buganda, were burned to death at Namugongo for their refusal to renounce Christianity. In the following months many other Christians throughout the country died by spear or fire for their faith.  
These martyrdoms totally changed the dynamic of Christian growth in Uganda. Introduced by a handful of Anglican and Roman missionaries after 1877, the Christian faith had been preached only to the immediate members of the court, by order of King Mutesa. His successor, Mwanga, became increasingly angry as he realized that the first converts put loyalty to Christ above the traditional loyalty to the king. Martyrdoms began in 1885. Mwanga first forbade anyone to go near a Christian mission on pain of death, but finding himself unable to cool the ardor of the converts, resolved to wipe out Christianity. 
Matryrs of UgandaThe Namugongo martyrdoms produced a result entirely opposite to Mwanga's intentions. The example of these martyrs, who walked to their deaths singing hymns and praying for their enemies, so inspired many of the bystanders that they began to seek instruction from the remaining Christians. Within a few years the original handful of converts had multiplied many times and spread far beyond the court. The martyrs had left the indelible impression that Christianity was truly African, not simply a white man's religion. Most of the missionary work was carried out by Africans rather than by white missionaries, and Christianity spread steadily. Uganda now has the largest percentage of professed Christians of any nation in Africa.  
Several years ago I heard an African clergyman, born of pagan parents, tell of his conversion. He said: 
One afternoon I was bicycling along a road and met a young man about my own age bicycling in the opposite direction. He promptly turned about and began to ride beside me and to talk. He spoke with great enthusiasm about Jesus, whom I had never heard of before, and how He had destroyed the power of death and evil by dying and rising again, and how He was God become man to reconcile man with God. I heard what my companion had to say, and before we parted I had accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Now, the young man who preached the Good News of Jesus Christ to me that afternoon had himself heard of Jesus for the first time that morning.
Renewed persecution of Christians in the 1970's by the military dictatorship of Idi Amin proved the vitality of the example of the Namugongo martyrs. Among the thousands of new martyrs, both Anglican and Roman, was Janani Luwum, Archbishop of the (Anglican) Church of Uganda.     
Janani Luwum, archbishop of Uganda, martyred by Idi Amin in 1977

Uganda is the largest Province in the Episcopal Church… the most Christian country in all of Africa.

The Blood of the Martyrs is the seed of the church – attributed to the early church father, Tertullian, late in the second Christian century.  A more faithful translation is this: "We spring up in greater numbers the more we are mown down by you: the blood of the Christians is the seed of a new life," 

When we are baptized, we are baptized into the death of Jesus – not just into the promise of eternal life.

One of my favorite hymns includes these words:

When through the deep waters I call thee to go
The rivers of woe will not thee overflow
For I shall be with thee
Thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee,
Thy deepest distress.