Burned at the Stake in Our Traffic Circle???
Eighteen months ago our church session recommended to the Chapel Hill congregation that we move into the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. This was a principled, prayerful decision born out of deep theological conviction. The congregation affirmed that decision by a vote of 92% in the affirmative.
I wonder what the vote would have been if it had been taken 450 years ago in Scotland.
In the early 1500’s, there were stirrings in the Church. An increasing number of Christians sensed that God was calling them back to a more biblically faithful expression of their Christian discipleship. Martin Luther and John Calvin were among those who led the way in a movement called the Protestant Reformation. A Scotsman named John Knox studied under Calvin and carried his teachings back to his Scottish homeland. These teachings—that the Bible is the sole and final authority for faith and life; that salvation comes to us, not by works but by the grace of God; that Jesus Christ alone is the Head of the Church—were considered radical and seditious. Nevertheless, these “radical” teachings began to take root. The brightest and best of a young generation of Scottish Christian leaders embraced these teachings and began to spread them… and paid a great price.
Patrick Hamilton was the first martyr of the Scottish Reformation. He was tricked into appearing before a church council, tried, arrested and burned at the stake outside of St. Salvator’s Chapel in St. Andrews on Leap Day, February 29, 1528. It took him six hours to burn because the wood was wet. He was 25 years old.
On March 1, 1546, George Wishart was burned at the stake outside of the St. Andrews Castle. He was charged with heresy, one of his offenses being that he taught the New Testament in its original language, Greek. He was 23 years old.
On July 4th, we pause to remember our political parents whose wisdom and courage, even unto death, made possible the country that we call our home. On St. Andrews Sunday, the last Sunday in October, we at Chapel Hill pause to remember that our spiritual inheritance was also purchased for us at great cost. As I mentioned at the start… I wonder how our vote would have gone if there was a stake and firewood standing in the traffic circle outside our church, ready to greet those who chose to declare their religious convictions?
I am grateful for the religious freedom we enjoy and look forward to celebrating that with you this coming St. Andrews Sunday. As is our tradition, we will also pause to remember all Chapel Hill saints who have gone before us to be with the Lord, and we will take extra time with those who died in this last year, a year of significant loss for us.
Come clad in your tartan best and we will celebrate our past, our present and our eternal future in the hope of Christ!