Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Reformation Sunday!

Autumnal Bucolia
Originally uploaded by paynehollow.

This last Sunday was Reformation Sunday - a time to remember the faith of our mothers and fathers in the Protestant traditions. Our own Michael Westmoreland White preached the sermon and did a fine job.

Michael never fails to have a great deal of information that is new even to those of us who think we know a bit. Below is an excerpt from the sermon dealing one of our anabaptist matriarchs.

Inspiring. Incredible.

But although the movement began with mostly educated leaders, it quickly became a people's movement, spreading most among the lower classes. Despite persecution, the movement spread like wildfire as a very evangelistic lay-led movement. The Anabaptists stressed personal discipleship (hence believers' baptism), living by the Sermon on the Mount, nonviolence, religious liberty and church state separation, simple living and economic sharing. And it was very egalitarian in the early stages, with women as often taking leadership roles as men for the first generation or so.

One of those women, for instance, was Maeynken Wens. Maeynken was part of an Anabaptist congregation in Antwerp, Belgium. She dared to read the Bible for herself and then discuss it and study it with other believers.

To make matters worse, she proclaimed the gospel to any who would listen. Sister Wens was arrested by the authorities and charged with heresy by the Inquisition. For six months, they tortured her in prison to get her to reveal the names of the leaders of her Anabaptist congregation. They also told her they would release her if she recanted her beliefs, came back to the Catholic faith, and promised never to preach again. She refused.

So, she was sentenced to death by burning at the stake. So powerful and persuasive a witness was Maeynken Wens, that the authorities were afraid she would convert others who witnessed her public execution. Therefore, they took a wooden tongue-screw and fastened her tongue to the roof of her mouth.

They brought her children to her execution so they would learn what happened to heretics. When the flames burned his mother, Maeynken's teenaged son, Adriaen fainted. But after the ashes cooled, he sifted through the debris that had once been his mother, and found the tongue screw. Maeynken had been physically prevented from preaching at her execution, but her testimony lived on.
by Michael, whose testimony also lives on


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