Alton Webteam: April 2021
In past newsletters we have celebrated St David's Day, remembered St Patrick and so it seems only right this week to mention St George, the patron Saint of England — celebrated on the 23rd April (Friday). I hope you put the flags up, wore your patriotic hats and re-lived his story!
George is said to have been born in what is now known as Turkey sometime around 280AD. At that time the mighty Roman army ruled over its empire and as soon as George was old enough, he signed up to become a Roman soldier. He rose through the ranks and eventually became a personal guard to the emperor Diocletian; he also became a Christian whilst on his travels which proved to be very costly.
My son has just been doing an essay at theological college about 'The persecution and martyrdom of Christians under the Roman empire (AD33-313) and how it resonates with the global church today' and emperor Diocletian was the worst! In the year 303 he passed a law to say that no one was allowed to become a Christian and subsequently persecuted the universal church.
It is said that when George heard about the law he faced a choice. He could remain a Christian and keep quiet about his faith and stop living as Jesus taught or he could be bold and courageous and try and do something about the law. The story goes that George gave away all that he owned and went to see the emperor intent on asking him to repeal his decree yet knowing what was likely to happen to him.
On 23rd April 304 George was killed because he had stood up for his faith and his brave action has never been forgotten!? He was buried in the town of Lod in Israel.
It was 1000 years later, during the Crusades that soldiers began creating stories about George slaying a dragon and rescuing the king's daughter (the bit we remember!). This came out of a book called 'The Golden Legend' which was written by the Archbishop of Genoa around 1275.
Whilst myth and legend will always surround people like St George, one thing we do know from history is that many brave Christians did stand up for their faith during the factual Roman persecution of Emperor Diocletian and suffered the consequences.
My son's essay (I get asked to proof read!) will go on to show that despite the religious freedom and tolerance we enjoy in the West there are many places around the world where Christians suffer for their faith today. Thousands of believers are in harsh prison camps in North Korea or killed; Christians who have converted from Islam in places like Pakistan are treated like second class citizens or worse; and despite the extraordinary growth of Christianity in China churches are government monitored, freedom is limited and once more it is getting much harder to be a follower of Jesus.
None of us knows how we might respond if faced with such pressures, but as we celebrate St George's Day lets offer a prayer for those around the world who suffer for their faith.
May God help us to stand up for what we believe in this ever-changing world reminded of words from the book of Hebrews:
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds... (Heb. 10.23,24)
Dr John Sentamu wrote this prayer for St Georges Day.
Heavenly Father, give us the bravery of St George
to stand up for the truth and the glory of God
that we have seen in the face of Jesus Christ.
Give us the strength to overcome
in our lives and in the world,
all that is contrary to your rule of justice and love.
Help us to be good news to the poor,
proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind;
let the oppressed go free, and
proclaim the good news of God's favour and Jubilee. Amen (2013)
The Spire Café
The café is now open at the URC/Methodist Church in Farnham where you are welcome to pop in and enjoy coffee & cake or a light lunch in the outdoor marquee.
The On-Line Service this week is led by Rev Philip Simpkins via www.altonmethodist.org.uk
Pause for Thought appears on the same church web site, weekly on a Wednesday.
It is hoped that regular 'live services' will be able to resume in all our churches towards the end of May.
Every blessing, Philip.
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