Friday, January 27, 2017

I Hate Catholics

Some should be executed, others imprisoned, most punished in some fashion and Catholicism as a religious practice should be abolished.  And if you do not share this sentiment then through your ignorance or indifference, you are propagating hate and injustice!

The Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day on August 24/25 of 1572 inspired the murder of thousands of French Huguenots not just in France but throughout all of Europe.  For the next two hundred years, my family suffered at the hands of hatred...torture, rape, imprisonment, murder...a conspiracy to dehumanize all Protestants perpetrated by Catholics with the aid and support of the French government and The Vatican.  The situation was in such despair that Abraham Michaux, born in 1672 of Sedan France, fled to Amsterdam Holland in 1690 with his father Jacob Michaux.  King Louis XIV of France continued the godless destruction of the Protestant church, causing thousands of refugees to seek asylum elsewhere in Europe.  Abraham Michaux appears on a the Dutch Reformed Church roster of January 28, 1691.  A the age of 20, Abraham married Susanna Rochet at this same church.  They met while working at a gauze and lace factory.  Susanna had her own harrowing tale of fleeing France years earlier.  Her family hid her in a barrel aboard a ship in order to smuggle her out of France and into Holland.  (facts taken from an historical genealogy blog)

My family, by the grace of God, was able to flee such horrific persecution and through a land grant from England, arrive in the New World to help settle the frontier.  Our family received 574 acres in what is today Powhatan County.  (I'm still a littler bitter all that James River water front property didn't make its way to me!)  We lived in Stafford County for a period of time after arriving here until 1705 when we settled in what was then known as Manakin Towne where our 574 acre land grant was located.  (facts taken from same blog referenced above)

There are still the remains of an Episcopal chapel there in what eventually became known as Michaux, Virginia.  A family cemetery plot is just down the road from the chapel overlooking the James River.  I have visited there many times, even taken my family to stand on this ground that is sacred to me still today because that is the beginning of my heritage in America.  My children are the tenth generation of Michauxs to live in this beloved Country.  There is a family Bible beautifully preserved in the archival collection at Union Theological Seminary.  I was allowed to spend time with this family Bible several years ago.  The feeling of gently turning its pages created in me a profound appreciation for the legacy that has come to me through centuries to cherish God's Word and worship Him fully.  Many names were written in its margins as this Bible not only served as a source of spiritual nourishment but also a proud family genealogy.

Here is another wonderful piece of Michaux history in Virginia...taken from a plaque placed at that little Episcopal Church.  The plaque was erected in 1937 and states, "This tablet is dedicated to the memory of Abraham Michaux and Susanne Rochet Michaux...their heroic spirit, their loyalty to truth, their fidelity to Christ we treasure as our richest heritage."  France was robbed of the contribution these citizens could have made because of hate and prejudice.  But thank God for Romans 8:28 and His promise of ultimate goodness in every circumstance!

By now I trust you have realized that I don't hate Catholics, that I have no ill will toward Catholics individually or Catholicism as a Christian religion.  Those opening sentiments were what could have been my emotional heritage.  I wonder if Jacob Michaux could have said that?  I wonder if Abraham Michaux or his wife Susanna could have said that?  Possibly their Christian character was strong enough to withstand such sentiments I shared in the opening of this blog?  But my suspicion is their humanity would have prevailed given the atrocities they most certainly witnessed first hand of the brutality of Catholics in France in the 16th, 17th, and early 18th centuries.  But which generation was the first generation to choose to forgive?  Which generation was the first generation to not make this hatred part of the emotional heritage given to their children?  If I were able to step back in time and observe the attitude of my ancestors, who would be the turning point?

So here comes the irony.  My family left France because of barbarous acts.  I wonder how may of my ancestors became guilty of such acts against Native Americans...against Blacks.  I find it terribly sobering and highly probable that persons in my family became the "Catholics" they abhorred.  Meaning, there are families here in Virginia and elsewhere whose heritage of hatred doesn't trace itself back to a religion or a political entity...but to my family name.  They suffered at the hands of Michauxs.

I'm inspired to share this blog today because few people in this life don't have a heritage of hate working through their family.  The question becomes whether or not I am willing to be the person in history who decides that a different heritage is going to be gifted to the next generation.  For some, this challenge is much more difficult because their persecution, their suffered injustice is not historical, on the contrary, it is devastatingly present.  I know for me, not only am I committed to teaching my children the sacred virtue of being forgiving, I am also praying, talking, asking, studying, reading, and striving to determine how God is asking me to help route out injustices that are taking place today, here in my city and beyond.

Who were the people in France who sat idly by while thousand of Huguenots were killed?  Citizenship means that I not only fight to preserve equality that serves me but equality that serves all.

Pastor Fred


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

"All of this..."

As I was reading yesterday, I was struck by the the phrase "All of this..." we find in verse 22 of Matthew 1.  I have read that verse many times in my life and have never stopped to consider their implication.  Of course we know the first chapter of Matthew 1 chronicles for us the genealogy of Christ through Joseph and also gives us details about how Joseph learned she was pregnant with the Messiah.  The Holy Spirit inspired Matthew to write those words in verse 22 because He wanted the world to know everything that is about to follow in the story of Jesus in this gospel (and all the gospels) is a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies.  Matthew1:22-23 is a grand declaration of the sovereignty of God at work to save the world!

But yesterday when I was reading, I realized "All of this..." wasn't just referring to the details regarding Mary.  "All of this..." is inclusive of all the details which means even the details regarding Joseph.  For Mary, she had no knowledge of being pregnant until after her angelic visitation (Luke 1:29-31).  Not so with Joseph.  Matthew 1 is very clear.  Joseph already had knowledge of Mary's pregnancy prior to his angelic visitation.  In fact, based on his intentions given to us in Matthew 1:19 he assumed that Mary had disgraced herself and their engagement by betraying her vow to Joseph by becoming sexually involved with another man.  Why is this important?  Because God intentionally allowed Joseph to feel betrayed before He intervened.  God could have easily said to Gabriel, "While you are there telling Mary she will become pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit make sure you tell Joseph too.  We don't want him to feel betrayed...he should know."  Did Gabriel forget?  Not likely!  Matthew 1 says "All of this..." meaning the timing of Joseph's notification was by God's design.

Why would God do this?  I believe God was preparing Joseph to be the kind of father to Jesus and husband to Mary that would be demanded of a man who had been given such a grand destiny.  Can you imagine the kind of character required of a man to take on such a responsibility?  Our character is not formed in the ease of life.  Our character is formed when tested, when tried.  The stress of life accelerates the growth of virtues in us.  God wanted Joseph to face the appearance of betrayal, the sting of public humiliation, and the weight of shame.  God was preparing Joseph for his purpose in life, to be the earthly father of Jesus and the husband of our Savior's blessed mother.  God had Joseph in a season of virtue growing pains.

Are you in an "All of this..." season as you start this new year?  Are you facing hardship that feels overwhelming?  Do you feel as though you are suffering in innocence, meaning your hardship is not the consequence of your own foolishness?  My encouragement to you is find patience.  Psalm 27:13-14 might be your verses for this season!  Trust in God's goodness and His timing to reveal that goodness to you!  He is making you ready!  You have a divine destiny!  You are chosen!  You are special!  I guarantee that your pain now is far less than what it could be if He allowed your purpose to approach you only to find you unprepared.  God knows what you need to be victorious in this life.  He shapes us so that we can serve Him... "All of this..."

Pastor Fred