Blood Letters — Faith Faces Despotism

Blood Letters — A Witness to the Church

Earlier this year, the book “Blood Letters: The Untold Story of Lin Zhao, A Martyr in Mao’s China” written by Lian Xi was published (New York: Basic Books, 2018).  I commend it to you.  Lin Zhao’s story is that of a young woman who confronted with tyranny, regained a centering point by reexamining and recommitting to her Christian faith.  She moved from being a dedicated member of the Communist Party, then experiencing the tyranny of Mao Zedong, to become a voice against totalitarianism.  Awakened again to her Christian faith she rejected the deceits and brutality around her exhibited by authorities. 

In seeking to find a life of integrity and truth amid the brutality and despotism, this remarkable woman drew on the Christian faith she had learned as a youth when educated in Methodist Schools.  Her faith became the source of hope — and truth.  She wrote letters and essays that circulated among the faithful outside of prison.

blood letters cover

In prison, authorities took away her paper and pens.  Lin Zhao continued to write.  She wrote on torn pieces of bedding, using her own hair and blood from pricked fingers to compose her letters and reflections.  Later, when she was given writing implements again, she often continued to write with her blood.  Lin Zhao was martyred in 1968 for her beliefs.  She is seen as the most famous of the martyrs of this time. Today, thousands in China continue to be inspired by her resistance to evil.

As intolerance, bigotry and suppression of descent rise in our world today, the witness of Lian Zhao becomes especially significant.  As attacks on a free press surge threatening to overtake truth and decency, this singular voice is a gift to us all.

My sermon on November 25th referencing her story — and that of many others.  If you wish, you can read it here: God’sMirrorforChurch 11-25-18.

We give thanks for the courage and witness for all of God’s people, especially for the witness of Lin Zhao.

Mirrors of Truth

Mirrors of Truth

We are arriving at the Reign of Christ Sunday (Christ the King).  It is the conclusion of the seasons known as Kingdomtide and Pentecost.  2018 is one of the unusual years when the Reign of Christ Sunday comes after Thanksgiving.

The scripture lesson is from John’s Gospel, the 18th chapter.  The lesson tells of Jesus’ encounter with Pilate — the Roman Governor who questions Jesus and has yet to be answered verbally for two millenia.   Pilate asks “What is truth?”  Jesus is SILENT —  He just stands there.  He has already given the answer by how he has lived.  Truth is discovered in right relationships rather more than in right answers.

Parker Palmer in To Know As We Are Known writes “In prayer I begin to realize that I not only know but am known.”  Palmer says “Truth is in relationship… “The hallmark of a community of truth is in its claim that reality is a web of communal relationships, and we can know reality only by being in community with it.”

So the sermon tomorrow will focus on the mirrors of truth I have known over the years — those who included me in the conversation toward truth.  [You can find it on the church’s webpage at http://www.fumcsd.org.]  I will be speaking of Olive and Sidney Anderson.  We knew them in Atlanta when in graduate school and teaching at Emory.  They worshiped, as did we, at Trinity UMC in downtown Atlanta.  Here is a part of the story that unfolded slowly as we knew them:  Anderson, Sidney (An Disheng) (1889 ~ 1978) – Methodist Mission Bicentennial.

Their amazing lives – the lives of these two were mirrors into the Reign of Christ which came into view as we were blessed to know folks like these and call them friends.

More recently another has demonstrated what God’s realm is about.  Bob Wilson worships every Sunday at San Diego First UMC.  He sits about six rows back on pulpit side.  His wisdom and good will exudes to those around him.  Recently Bob has made a generous response to the victims of wildfires in Paradise, California.  You can read about it here: Bob Wilson’s Generosity.  [http://enewspaper.sandiegouniontribune.com/infinit/article_share.aspx?guid=68587f94-6283-4340-ae0f-107fc920b4d9.

Folks like Sid and Olive Anderson and the Bob Wilson, each in their own special way, leave behind a legacy that answers the question “What is truth?” They answer through their lives, each in his/her own unique way.

Yeats speaks of the truth of legacy-making through relationships in this poem.

Though leaves are many, the root is one;
Through all the lying days of my youth
I swayed my leaves and flowers in the sun,
Now may I wither into the truth.

William Butler Yeats, The Coming of Wisdom With Time