I read a remarkable story this week about a young boy in Nigeria. This August, a Sharia court in Kano, Nigeria’s second-largest city, (located in the predominantly Muslim northern region), sentenced 13-year-old Omar Farouq to 10 years forced hard labor in prison for the crime of blasphemy, “publicly insulting” Allah. Allegedly he committed this crime during a dispute with a friend. Farouq’s lawyer appealed the sentence, and naturally human rights advocates around the world have also condemned the Sharia court decision.
Piotr Cywinski, the director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial in Poland wrote an open letter asking Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to pardon Farouq but if nothing less, he wrote, “I suggest that in place of the child, 120 adult volunteers from all over the world, gathered by us — myself personally among them — should each serve a month in a Nigerian prison.” (CLICK HERE to read more.)
WOW! Here’s what’s amazing. More than 120 people immediately volunteered to go to prison in place of Farouq so he might be forgiven and freed! THIS is the good in humanity. THIS is what we need to see more of in our world! And we have seen the idea of an innocent person volunteering to take the place of someone convicted of a crime in the Bible! Here’s one example, the story of Joseph in Genesis 44.
This chapter records Joseph’s encounter with his 11 brothers many years after they sold him into slavery. Since then, God had raised him to a position of great power in Egypt so that he was second only to Pharaoh in authority. But so much time had passed, and Joseph looked so different, that when his brothers came to Egypt begging for food after a famine in their land, they didn’t recognize him. Joseph chose NOT to reveal his identity and instead, he launched a plan that would show whether his brothers had any remorse over the way they had abused him.
Joseph had his silver cup put in his youngest brother, Benjamin’s, sack of grain, so that it would appear that Benjamin had stolen it. After the brothers were given grain for their families, they left Egypt and Joseph sent his servant after them to apprehend and accuse them of theft. They denied it, of course, but after conducting a search, the servant found the silver cup in Benjamin’s sack so the brothers returned to answer the charges.
Judah spoke for the brothers and knowing they could not clear their name he offered that they all become Joseph’s slaves. Joseph declined the offer seeing it as unfair to punish those who had not been caught with so-called stolen goods. Judah then told Joseph that they had had another brother, but he was dead (which must have amused Joseph, considering he was still very much alive!) Judah explained that he had only persuaded their father to allow Benjamin to go with them to Egypt by promising that if he did not bring Benjamin back, his father could blame him:
[Judah said to Joseph,] “Now therefore, please let your servant remain as a slave to my lord in place of the boy; and let the boy go back with his brothers. For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the suffering that would come upon my father.” Genesis 44:33-34
While neither Judah nor Benjamin was guilty of theft, Judah did not know for sure that Benjamin was innocent. But still, out of love for his brother and father, Judah offered to take his brother’s place as a slave in Egypt!
This is a little bit like what Jesus did for us! It’s MUCH more than throwing a lifeline to a drowning person or merely risking His life to save the world. Jesus LITERALLY sacrificed His life in order to take upon himself our guilt and shame so we could be forgiven and have eternal life!
I have flooded myself with questions about this story. What motivated so many people to volunteer to sacrifice so much to share Farouq’s sentence? How must members of the court who sentenced this boy be feeling about all this? How can ANYONE think this Sharia law is fair and just? I genuinely believe that while our criminal justice system is NOT perfect, it’s pretty darn good! But I also accept that even the best human criminal justice systems cannot and DO not replicate God’s perfect justice here “on earth, as it is in heaven!” As of today, I have not found an updated response from the Nigerian government but oh, how I pray!
HOW WONDERFUL TO SEE SO MANY PEOPLE, and NEW PEOPLE, IN CHURCH LAST WEEK! I loved the energy in church on Sunday, WOW!! I do want to remind everyone that we are working hard to keep everyone protected so we will have overflow seating in Wesley Hall if and when we need it! If you would be willing to volunteer to watch the LIVE FEED with others in Wesley Hall if we get crowded, please let Shiela Haynes know so we have plenty of room for our visitors and guests.
Here’s a reminder of our occupancy from 9/20
– Sanctuary: seating must be separated by ONE pew
– Main floor pews: ONE couple and ONE single, TWO couples, THREE singles or ONE family of 3+ per pew)
– Balcony: FOUR short sides pews (ONE couple or ONE family up to FOUR per pew); ONE long per (THREE singles, TWO couples, or ONE larger family)
– Choir: if couples sit together, TWP couples seated every alternative pew (Couples & TWO singles or FIVE singles)
WE’RE LOOKING TO START OUR NURSERY AGAIN! While we were planning to do this in the new year, we’ve determined a safe strategy to be able to move forward sooner and we’re looking for 2-3 AWESOME childcare givers! We are a Ministry Safe church, so we always have two adults working together who have had background checks and taken a very thorough, and enlightening, Ministry Safe training. The nursery will be available on Sundays from 10:30 – NOON. If there are no children, they will assist Paige in our Children’s Church so our volunteers can go to worship. If you know anyone, please have them contact CYNDIE EWERT.
UNITED METHODIST WOMEN HAVE A RADA CATALOG FOR YOU! This wonderful group of women exists not only to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ and be in supportive fellowship with each other but to contribute to missions in the global ministries of the UMC church. And guess what, with Christmas just 11 weeks away (YIKES!) you can help just by SHOPPING the Rada kitchen products! Rada is MUCH more than a KNIFE company, they have an entire line of great kitchen products and with so many more people cooking at HOME these days, having the right tool for the job makes all the difference! If you plan to buy something, this Sunday there will be a Rada catalog for you to take home and begin making your wish list – we’ll be providing details next week on HOW to order.
ARE YOU TAKING PICTURES? If you have special events and wonderful happy moments to share, please email or text me a picture to share on Sunday morning!
ALL SAINTS DAY: Sunday, November 8, 10:50 am ~ Once a year we celebrate the communion of saints as we remember those who have died during our current year, both in our local congregations and throughout the Church universal. On November 8, we’ll light candles for members of our church family who have gone to heaven this year: Bobbie Henson, Mary Sharrai, Tillman Turner and Katie Park, but we will also include immediate members of YOUR family if you would please get us their names. Thank you for helping us plan ahead!
THIS SUNDAY we start a new series called DROPLETS of GRACE ~ I’ll be asking where you HEAR God, SEE God and FEEL God’s presence around you, especially in difficult times! If you have a story to share please let me know! For this Sunday you might want to read the story of Samuel, 1 Samuel 3:1-20, so you can answer God’s question, “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW.
Stay safe, see God’s droplets of grace all around you!