G is for George

G is for George

St. George is everywhere in Ethiopia. He’s a saint. And he’s a big deal. It seems kind of odd to me that a guy named George, who also happens to be the patron saint of England, but he’s a big deal in Ethiopia.

There’s a beer named after him.

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A prominent football club in Addis is named after him.

And there are two beautiful churches in Ethiopia that are named after him. There’s the St. George Cathedral in Addis Ababa. And there’s also the rock-hewn, cross-shaped church in Lalibela. It’s also named for St. George. Shaped like a cross, this sanctuary was carved out of one giant rock and it’s one of eleven monolithic church buildings in Lalibela. And it’s not only a national treasure, but a world treasure. The story goes that the emperor who commissioned the construction of this amazing building was inspired by a mystical visit from St. George.

While I’ve been to Ethiopia three separate times, I’ve never been to Lalibela. I would love to visit. Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity when we return to Ethiopia. Hopefully, that’ll be sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I’ll just have to find inspiration from photos that my pal, Marshall, took a few years ago. Be sure to check them out.

Ethiopian Icon of St George

So who is this St. George? The legends differ, but he was some type of Christian warrior in the 4th century who was traveling on horseback through a town – possibly Beirut, possibly in Libya, possibly somewhere else – when he discovered that a dragon was terrorizing the town. In order to appease the dragon, the citizens fed the beast two sheep a day. When they ran out, they started offering their daughters as sacrifice. George defeated the dragon. The community was saved. And they converted to Christ.

Many believe the spirit of St. George helped the overmatched Ethiopian army defeat the Italian army in the Battle of Adwa.

So he’s a pretty big deal in Ethiopia.

Egyptian Christians, St. Bartholomew, and counting the cost

In light of recent news of the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt because of their faith, I was reminded of something that I had written 10 years ago for a church history class while in seminary. It was a meditation based on the painting of St. Bartholomew. Christian tradition says that Bartholomew the Apostle was martyred for his faith. It was a brutal execution.

St. Bartholomew

You can read the whole devotional thought here, if you’re really interested. It’s OK if you aren’t. That’s not really the reason I’m writing today.

I really want to share one of the meditation’s final paragraphs. Because the point is just as important today as it was when I wrote it ten years ago.

The image of St. Bartholomew calls upon us to pray for the persecuted church around the world.  It tells us the story of the millions of Christians who have given their lives for the sake of Christ and His kingdom.  It is a startling reminder that the price of following Jesus Christ is not cheap.  It is not a road that will be traveled lightly.  There will be trials and persecution of all kinds.  In the end, it could cost the believer everything – including the loss of life.  It is the example of St. Bartholomew that encourages the believer to press on towards the prize, knowing full well the costs involved.  It is with that same confidence that we face the perils of following the Lord of all things.

I think these martyred Egyptian Christians do the exact same thing. While the nations rage and come up with a fitting response to these barbaric acts, let us count the cost and take up the cross with reckless abandon. Let us live in boldness, full of hope, joy, and love, as we press on towards Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

I know it’s not easy. I’m not pretending it is. But this is how we are going to change the world, my friends.