Blood of the Lamb

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem.

Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, grant us peace.

Agnes Dei / taken for the Church of England’s Common Worship)

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(watercolor / Julie Cook / 2011)

The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
Exodus 12:13

God made a promise to His people that when the plagues descended upon Egypt
as a punishment to Egyptian people and their king, Pharaoh,
who kept the Israelites as captive slaves,
that He would spare the homes that were marked with the blood of
the sacrificial animals. . .the Spirit and Shadow of Death would “Pass Over”
the home marked with the blood,
yet woe to the unmarked homes as the Spirit of Death would claim the first born
of each home…

To be marked by the blood of the Lamb,
To be washed clean by the blood of the Lamb
To be saved by the blood of the Lamb.

I claim that blood today and everyday of my life,
to be marked, once again, on the threshold of my own home.
The sacrificial and saving blood of Jesus Christ.

Last evening, Lara Logan of 60 Minutes presented the story entitled Iraq’s Christians Persecuted by ISIS.
This Iraqi sect of Christianity, whose very inception dates to the 1st century–
to the time of the earliest followers of Jesus crucified,
sits precariously perched on the front lines between madness and annihilation.
The spoken language is Aramaic, the same ancient dialect of Jesus–
the only known group of Christians to still worship in His language.
Only a handful of monks remain in the 3rd century monastic stronghold and monastery
of St Matthews whose vista is a beautiful valley as old as time and yet eerily sits four miles from the Islamic State controlled border.

(click on the link to read and view the full story
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/iraq-christians-persecuted-by-isis-60-minutes/ )

These Northern Iraqi Christians, whose existence has flowed out the
fertile Nineveh plains of ancient Mesopotamia for almost 2000 years,
have withstood the kingdoms of Persia, the Ottomans, The Mongols and Kurds,
yet sadly it appears that there is one group who may actually have the final say
in the existence or final death of these ancient Christians…
The Islamic State also known as IS or ISIS or simply in Arabic as Da’esh.

The northern Iraqi city of Mosel now stands front and center as a
symbol of Da’esh occupation.
It is in Mosel, as well as the surrounding villages,
that these ancient Christians have claimed their home for nearly 2000 years.
Within the past several months roughly 125,000 Christians,
as well as clergy and monks, have fled due to Da’esh persecutions.

The homes of known Christians, as well as their churches,
are marked with a red spray painted arabic letter N which is the first
letter of the arabic word for Christian or Nasrani or Nazarene.

Nasrani-N-Twitter
(image taken from the web)

What an interesting irony it is to a different time and occupying force that once identified the homes and worship centers of a different group of people with a single yellow symbol.

eastofsuez_jude
(image used from Virginia Edu.)

Have we not learned?
Does history teach us nothing?

The identified Christians, whose homes are marked,
are told that they must convert, pay exorbitant fees to the occupiers and /
or face “the sword”–the now familiar beheadings of those who oppose IS.
The threat is real as children and wives are often taken as an incentive for
conversion.
IS also states that the Islamic law prescribes that girls age of 10 and older
are to be married off.
Escape seems to be the only option.

The priests and monks who Ms. Logan interviewed are now refugees themselves,
having sought refuge in Kurdistan, as they too have fled their churches.
They left with very little of the holy treasures which have been entrusted to
them for thousands of years which were the very building blocks of their
heritage and faith…which are in turn building blocks to our heritage and faith.

Many articles and manuscripts date back to the 1st century.
Sadly those treasures, those pieces of our global Christian heritage of both
faith and history, which were left behind, have most likely been burned and
destroyed by IS.
Just as we see in the images of the desecration of ancient churches.

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(This image taken from the web, IJReveiw)

This image from the UK’s Daily Mail shows an IS militant taking a sledge hammer
to the tomb of the Prophet Jonah who Christians, Jews and Muslims all revere.

article-2685923-1F81DA1E00000578-197_634x344

I just don’t know what the World, the global family of humanity, needs to see,
needs as evidence, in order to stand up… taking not merely an interest
but taking a stand, as to what is currently taking place.

The Obama Administration continues to refuse to call the attacks on the Christians
of Iraq, Syria, Egypt, etc as “Christian Persecution”

When asked by Logan, Archbishop Nicodemus Sharaf responded to what could be done,
what could be done by those “good” Muslims…
he stated that they could “Speak up. Of course, there is good people of
the Islam people. There is not all Muslim people [that] are bad.
I believe. But where is the good people? Where is their voice? Nothing.
Few. Few.

He then adds, “They take everything from us, but they cannot take the God from our hearts, they cannot.”

This 60 Minutes story comes on the heels of the latest news regarding the
“US Military Hit List” composed by IS.
It is a list of one hundred military personnel and their families—
names, addresses, personal information…
a seemingly harmless list yet actually a vile and sinister list
as it is a list intended for death.
IS has called upon all jihadists to kill these 100 individuals
and their families.

The information however was not hacked, not stolen but rather gathered
easily from Social Networks such as Facebook and even from Governmental
websites.

I just don’t know what it’s going to take for the free world to take
notice of the fact that the freedoms we all seem to take for granted are
sitting on a very fragile glass table and there are those who stand
ready with sledge hammers to smash the table and all that sits upon
it into oblivion. . .

I will close with a favorite quote I’ve often used before…
it is debated if this quote was first used by Dietrich Bonhoeffer or
by Martin Niemöller–both German Lutheran pastors imprisoned in
the Nazi Death Camps–
Bonhoeffer eventually being executed and
Niemöller being released at the end of the war.

“In Germany they came first for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to
speak up.”

–Pastor Martin Niemöller, 1945

What is your mission statement?

And I believe that what I believe
Is what makes me what I am
I did not make it, no it is making me. . .

excerpt from the song Creed
Rich Mullins

“All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I hold another creed, which no one ever taught me, and which I seldom mention, but in which I delight, and to which I cling, for it extends hope to all; it makes eternity a rest – a mighty home, not a terror and an abyss. Besides, with this creed, I can so clearly distinguish between the criminal and his crime; I can so sincerely forgive the first while I abhor the last; with this creed, revenge never worries my heart, degradation never too deeply disgusts me, injustice never crushes me too low. I live in calm, looking to the end.”
― Charlotte Brontë

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(deer hair caught in a barbed wire fence / Julie Cook / 2015)

It seems as if every business, corporation, agency, assembly, organization, all across the planet, has some sort of mission statement, guiding principle placard or pledge of delivery—some sort of proclamation of purpose, commitment of services rendered or a list of the promises made– ready to be executed by and to both its members and or consumers or customers.

Everyone it seems these days, needs some sort of directional treatise.
A form of purpose-driven compass that is clear, concise, transparent and “consumer friendly”. . .
Nothing hidden
No duplicity
No secret agendas
As in a “it is what it is” sort of realism which seems necessary in which to conduct bushiness, function as a corporation, or basically to serve ones clients, consumers, stakeholders, stockholders–i.e., the general public.

In the year 49AD there was a meeting of the early church fathers–Paul, Barnabas as well as various Bishops and Apostles. The new upstart “religion,” or cult as some leaders of the day observed, those who were continuing to follow the teachings of the Nazarene, were finding their numbers of followers growing exponentially. Direction, teaching and leadership was quickly becoming paramount. The tradition of oral teaching was the norm. The majority of people were not versed in written communication or literacy. Reading and writing had been entrusted to the rabbis, Sanhedrin and Roman prefects.

There had to be some sort of cohesiveness or unifying factor in which all followers could claim, relate to, and use as a basis of their faith.
Yet there was still the conundrum of the importance of the Law of Judaism.
Jesus, a devout Jew himself, had spoken of the importance of the Law. And yet His teachings, His death and subsequent resurrection had turned some of the Law upside down by bringing forth “amendments” to the older Laws of Moses. Not only were there commandments of what not to do such as the forbidding of sexual promiscuity or any unnatural sexual act, the eating of raw uncooked meat, the eating of sacrificial animals and the drinking of animal’s blood, the making and worshiping of idols, the forbidding of stealing, committing murder, infanticide, abortion, etc– there were now commandments of what a believer was to do such as loving and treating others as one would wished to be treated and the belief that all are called to be followers, not just Jew, but Gentile as well, and therefore all that one must do to follow is to be willing to pick up one’s cross and claim as well as live the teachings of Jesus.

It was time for a verbal proclamation of belief to be firmly established.
A specific written treatise which could be held up for all followers and non followers alike to be able to hear, see, read, proclaim, as well as live.
It was to be the cornerstone of the infant Christian church.

The declaration known as the Apostles Creed was born:

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth,
And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried; He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From there he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, I believe in the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Yet as was typical of any new teaching, or in this case a new way of life, there came those who wanted to craft and sculpt the new Church as their own. Allowing ego, pride, misguidance, selfishness, avarice, disbelief, or simple ignorance to filter in and dilute the purity of the given Word. There were those who waged their own agendas against what was considered to be the Truth.
Discord, quarrels, uneasiness, disagreements were becoming rampant.
Heresies began to abound.

In 325 a new council meeting was requested by leading bishops wishing to quell the latest rising of heretic teachings. These were the men of trial and tribulation. Many having endured persecution, torture and often escaping with barely their very lives. Men who were greatly invested in the necessary and correct direction in which to set the future of the Christian faith.
Emperor Constantine, who was the leading Holy Roman Emperor, oversaw the historic meeting.

Three hundred years had past since the first council in Jerusalem.
Bishops, deacons and priests from Rome to Palestine, from Asia Minor to Hispania, from Greece to Gaul, from Georgia to the Danube region, from Armenia to Syria all converged in Nicaea, present day Turkey, in order to silence growing heretical teachings and to finally bring a cohesive understanding to the doctrine of the Trinity. Finally establishing that all Christians would be on the proverbial same page.

Time was also allotted to the sorting out of various directional issues such as deciding on one agreed calculation to be used in order to determine the yearly date for the Easter celebration as well as considering cases of extreme spiritual demonstrations of self denial such as self castration. Extreme directions believers felt compelled to follow as signs of deep devotion and as a way for attaining a higher level of “holiness” which were all more self destructive than spiritually edifying.

The Council was in session for over a month.
Not only were new Church cannons, or laws, established— such as the prohibition of extreme demonstrations of asceticism (i.e. self castration); the establishing of a specific process for the ordination of clergy; the forbidding of young women, while visiting alone, to enter the home or chamber of priests; the forbidding of usury among clergy; a specified “proper” procedure for holy Baptism; as well as the establishing of a new creed.

Enter the Nicene Creed.

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.
Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.
And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The cornerstone and guiding principle of a young church.
A lasting, declaration of belief.
A creed written approximately 1700 years ago, recited and unchanged to this day.
A unifying statement for all Christians–Catholic, Orthodox and the various Protestant denominations to be recited and proclaimed.

And as Rich Mullins so aptly stated. . .
“. . . I believe what I believe
Is what makes me what I am
I did not make it, no it is making me
It is the very truth of God and not
The invention of any man. . .”

Yes, it is indeed making me. . .