To Know the Love of Christ — By Deacon in training Julie Butcher
In the name of God, Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Amen.
A few weeks ago, I was in Midway, Utah, about an hour’s drive from Salt Lake City, attending the Triennial Assembly of the Order of the Daughters of the King. This assembly always meets the week before General Convention at a location nearby. I was nervous about traveling alone, but all went well. While I was waiting for my connecting flight in Chicago, a woman sat down across from me. She noticed my cross and said, “So, you are a Daughter of the King.” “Yes, I am.” She told me her mother was a Daughter. After we talked for a while, I asked her if she was a clergy person. She said yes, told me a little about herself as Gay Clark Jennings and told me she was the President of the House of Delegates for General Convention. I have friends in high places.
You know, I hope, that we have a small chapter of the Order here at Trinity – Annette Palmer, Nancy Piper, Wendy Slavin, and me.
IF you go to the Daughters of the King website, you will find the following description of who we are:
A Christian order is a community of people living under a religious rule. Because Daughters of the King accept a Rule of Life, we define ourselves as an order, not an organization. Our community is found primarily in our local chapters, but it extends around the world.
We don’t just enroll as members and attend meetings. After a three-month period of study and discernment, each new member takes lifetime vows to uphold the two Rules of the Order, the Rule of Prayer and the Rule of Service.
Daughters of the King are women and girls between the ages of seven and one hundred and seven who desire a closer walk with the Lord. We are Christian women, both lay and ordained, who are strengthened through the discipline of a Rule of Life, and supported through the companionship of our sisters. We are all at different stages of our Christian journey – some have just begun and some have been on this path for a long time. But no matter where we are on our sacred journeys, our primary goal is the same – to know Jesus Christ and to make Him known to others.
Empowered by the Holy Spirit, our vision as Daughters of the King is to know Jesus Christ, to make Him known to others, and to become reflections of God’s love throughout the world. If you want to know more, seek us out, we would welcome new sisters in Christ to join our chapter.
There were more than 500 women, from 15 countries gathered together in the most beautiful setting, surrounded by glorious mountains on every side. The weather was beautiful, sunny and hot, but the air was dry. We worshipped, sang, attended workshops, ate, sang, listened to speakers, sang, ate, and sang some more. The resort became a place of sacred and holy ground. I met some of the most amazing women you could imagine, women of deep and abiding faith, some of whom have suffered terrible tragedies, some who have lived under persecution because of their love for Jesus, and they were, without fail, filled with love, and happiness, and joy.
There were three women who especially had an impact on me. The first was Dr. Marta, from New Mexico. We connected right away and were having a great, fun time at one of the “hospitality” hours. Marta’s face is disfigured and I wondered what had happened to her. Marta was born in Guatemala, went to medical school and found her way to El Salvador, where she worked in a clinic. She was in her early twenties. This was during the 1980s after Archbishop Romero was killed and the civil war began. Soldiers came and when she went to the entrance of the clinic to see what was going on, she was shot in the face. She went down and stayed still. Many people were killed. After the soldiers left, villagers came and dragged her to safety. They hid under a cliff knowing that the soldiers would come back – and they did – in helicopters – after dark – shooting machine guns down into the village. They survived. I asked her who treated her wound and she told me she treated herself. She was too weak to walk and she couldn’t talk, so she wrote on a paper instructions for what supplies she needed from the clinic – bags of antibiotics, tubing, bandages, etc. They carried her to the river where they washed her wound. When she became a little stronger, they were able to get her out and to a hospital. Eventually, she made her way to the United States and to New Mexico, where she runs a clinic. Marta amazed me because she has no bitterness in her heart – she forgives those shooters – because she loves Jesus and Jesus said to love and forgive your enemies. This woman is full of joy. In her, I know the love of Christ.
Another woman I met was Zena. I don’t know how old Zena is, but she seems very old to me. She is a tiny, little woman who hobbles around with her cane. She has dark-skin and wears her gray hair in a very long braid wrapped around her head. Zena is from Jamaica and now lives Homestead, FL. Her faith impressed me because she leaves everything to the Lord. She worries for nothing and trusts the Lord to provide for everything she needs – and the Lord does! She told me stories of times when she needed money or this or that, and behold it would be provided in surprising ways. Zena has a ministry of prayer. She keeps a little notebook and she writes down different things she feels called to pray about. Zena asked me for my phone number and I gave her the number to my cell phone. She has called me every week since the conference and prayed for me over the phone – and I’ll tell you that without asking me what I might want prayer for, she starts praying and narrows right in on whatever happens to be on my heart. She always calls while I’m at work, but as soon as I see Homestead FL on my caller ID, I answer the phone and hear her voice. I stop what I’m doing and my whole body melts into a state of relaxed bliss. She has a sing-song accent and I love her. She is filled with the Spirit of Jesus. I know the love of Christ in Zena.
And another woman I met was a Messianic Jew who lives in Jerusalem and works at the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East. She is deeply involved in peacemaking work between Palestinians and Israelis.
The main keynote speaker was Canon Andrew White, who was the Vicar of St. George’s Cathedral in Baghdad, until this past November when the Archbishop of Canterbury pulled him out because of concern for his safety. Before going to Baghdad, he was the Director of the International Center for Reconciliation based in England’s Coventry Cathedral. The back cover of his book, Father, Forgive says this book is based on Coventry’s Litany of Reconciliation, which asks God’s forgiveness for the hatred, greed, envy, indifference, lust, and pride that corrupt our world. Most of his ministry has been involved in peace and reconciliation. He writes, “The kind of people I engage with are not usually very nice. On the whole, nice people do not cause wars.”
Today, he is the president of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East. This organization provides humanitarian relief to Christians in the Middle East. It costs approximately one million dollars a month to help the hundreds of thousands of Christian refugees from Iraq. His speaking engagements help to raise money for these efforts.
Canon White arrived late to the conference because he got trapped in an elevator and missed his flight. He laughed and said that Satan always does his best to keep him from doing God’s work. We were grateful that he finally arrived safely. In Canon Andrew White I experienced the love of Christ in a profound way.
Canon White is known for his involvement in reconciliation projects in Israel working between Jews, Christians, and Muslims. While in Iraq he worked to break down sectarian divides between Sunni and Shia extremists. Then, ISIS came.
Canon White told horrific stories of brutality suffered at the hands of ISIS. ISIS is slaughtering thousands of Christian men, women, and children. I’ve heard these stories on the news, but he made them real.
He told us that when people ask him why his is not scared, he says “perfect love casts out all fear.” (1John 4:18) He said the words of Paul are true for him and for us – “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
The congregants at St. George’s in Baghdad have had loved ones go missing, family members murdered, children shot because they say they love Jesus, had their homes and church bombed. And you know what one of his parishioners said? He said, “When you’ve lost everything, Jesus is all you’ve got left.”
In Baghdad, the symbol of the cross is very meaningful even though it is a reminder of a horrific and cruel death. In the midst of their suffering, their faith is symbolized by an instrument of torture and execution. In a city where so many Christians have been killed, their faith is made strong because they know that Jesus lived under persecution and was killed. Death could not hold Jesus – he broke the power of death. They believe that death cannot hold them either, because they know that one day they will see and be with Jesus. They know that Jesus will return to judge humankind and take those who love him to be with him forever. Every day they are surrounded by people who do not love God and who commit acts of violence in his name. Every day they remember that God will be their Judge. Jesus is coming back and there is nothing to fear because one day we will all be with Him in person.
Canon White slayed me. I wanted to throw myself at his feet and ask, “What can I do?” But, I was afraid he would tell me to go to the Middle East. I don’t have that kind of courage. And, I thought about Jerry’s fear that I will become a deacon and be sent to a far off dangerous place. So, I’ll be staying put for now. There are more stories to tell about my trip, but these are the ones that I have been carrying around with me since I got home.
And so this brings me to Paul’s prayer in today’s Epistle, for the church in Ephesus. This prayer seems as if it was written for people around the world today, in these scary times, that ALL PEOPLE would know the love of Christ.
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints; what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.