Monday, December 12, 2016

From All Their Distress He Rescues Them

By Melanie Rigney

… I will change and purify the lips of the peoples, that they all may call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one accord…  (Zephaniah 3:9)

The LORD confronts the evildoers, to destroy remembrance of them from the earth. When the just cry out, the LORD hears them, and from all their distress he rescues them. (Psalm 34:17-18)

Jesus said to (the chief priests and elders), “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.”  (Matthew 21:31-32)

Lord, I praise your awesomeness.

Spoiler alert.

Near the end of my favorite Western, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Ransom Stoddard (Jimmy Stewart) finishes his confession to a newspaper editor that Stoddard, a U.S. senator and likely vice presidential nominee, was not the one who shot the evil Liberty Valance a lifetime earlier. It was the act for which Stoddard had become famous, delivering the Shinbone area from terrorism. But the true shooter was Tom Doniphon (John Wayne), who became a bitter alcoholic in the aftermath and whose funeral had drawn Stoddard back to Shinbone. (And let’s not forget that Ranse also stole Tom’s girl in the process.)

The newspaper editor considers the situation for a moment, then destroys his notes. “This is the West, sir,” he says. “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

And that is what we have done with Saint Lucy, for centuries before the emergence of what we call today call “fake news.” All we really know about her is that as a young woman, she was martyred in early fourth-century Sicily for being a Christian. Was it a disappointed suitor who betrayed her? Were her eyes really gouged out? Were efforts to take her to a brothel and burned at the stake thwarted by divine intervention, resulting in soldiers killing her with their swords?

What matters here, the fact or the legend?

Spreading the Lucy legends certainly doesn’t hurt anyone these days, even though they may indeed be “fake news.” But the most soul-stirring of the Lucy stories is fact: She did not deny Christ, and died for her faith. Now that’s fact worth remembering, printing… and striving to emulate.

Spend some time in conversation today with a courageous Christian, living or dead, about ways in which you can strengthen your faith.

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