August 31, 2014
Matthew 16:21-28
Romans 12:9-21
Exodus 3:1-15
Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45c

Losing and Finding
Proper 17 | OT 22 | Pentecost 12

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Mary Austin

The grisly video -- especially for those who could actually bring themselves to watch the “snuff film” of Islamic State (ISIS) militants beheading photojournalist James Foley -- was sickening. Foley had been held hostage by the group for more than a year and a half since being captured in Syria, and they claimed that his “execution” was in direct retaliation for American airstrikes on the group’s positions in northern Iraq. Foley’s treatment by his captors appears to have been influenced by the degree to which he was a symbol of America -- Nicolas Hénin, one of the French journalists who shared a cell with Foley for a time, noted that Foley “became the whipping boy of the jailers” once they discovered that his brother served in the Air Force. But Hénin also observed that Foley’s killing was “completely ironic” since he had become “an avid reader of the Koran who wanted to promote dialogue between Christians and Muslims.”

In the next installment of The Immediate Word, team member Mary Austin discusses how Foley’s life and death is a powerful personification of the love and devotion that Jesus talks about in this week’s gospel passage -- that we must be willing to lose our lives in order to truly find them. It’s also a moving example of the kind of love Paul talks about in this week’s Romans text, in which we are counseled to “Love one another with mutual affection... rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.” That attitude was certainly underlined by the remarkable reaction of Foley’s parents, who described their son as “a martyr” who was “courageous, fearless, very compassionate” and who “felt the world needed to know about suffering.” By using their moment in the stressful media spotlight to speak of sorrow rather than vengeance, they exemplified another of Paul’s themes in this passage: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil... never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God.” (Jeremiah has a very different viewpoint in the opening verse of this week’s alternate Old Testament reading, when he demands that the Lord “bring down retribution for me on my persecutors.”) Here’s a preview:


Losing and Finding
by Mary Austin
Matthew 16:21-28; Romans 12:9-21

In words that are hard to understand on ordinary days, Jesus says “those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” On extraordinary days, we find the truth of what he says. 

The life and death of journalist James Foley draw us to the depth in Jesus’ words. 

Foley, beheaded on camera by fighters from the Islamic State army, had been held captive since November 2012. His life was threatened, if not lost, as a captive. Still, his roommate during some of those months said that Foley found an added sense of purpose even in such limited circumstances.       

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, “Frenchman Nicolas Hénin spent seven months in the same room with the U.S. reporter and even recognized the shoes he wore in the execution video as a pair they had shared.” Asked if Foley had imagined the day of his release and made any plans, Hénin replied, “Oh yes. He wanted two things; either to work for the Committee to Protect Journalists or work on interfaith dialogue and rebuild bridges between the Christian and Muslim worlds.” The numbing experience of captivity had opened his eyes to other places of need in the world, and he imagined dedicating his time to new ways to serve the bonds between people.

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Immediate Word Team
(Click on photo
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George Reed

Mary Austin

Ronald H. Love

Dean Feldmeyer

Leah Lonsbury

Chris Keating