- The Washington Times - Monday, July 8, 2002

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Richard D. Hogue at Liberty Grove United Methodist Church in Burtonsville:

On Christmas Day 1992, Pastor Wally Magdangal was to be hanged in the Saudi capital of Riyadh for blasphemy. The 42-year-old Filipino pastor had been arrested because his growing house church had become too noticeable. On December 23, he wrote out his last will and testament for his wife and young daughter. The religious priests had tortured every part of his body, trying to force him to renounce his faith in Christ. They beat him through 210 minutes of mocking interrogation and then handed him a pencil and demanded him to name other Christians.
He said, "I was so weak they placed the pad of paper in my lap. They forced the pencil into my hands. I prayed, 'Lord, you've got to help me here.' And I began to write the names of Billy Graham, Charles Spurgeon, Mother Teresa. And after a few days they were so mad because they had been all over Saudi Arabia looking for them."
How right can things be when the worship of God becomes the source of hatred and violence? It doesn't even shock us anymore to learn of greed and deceit in corporate America or sexual hanky-panky in political America. But when that which is supposed to lift us up and supposed to make us better becomes degrading and dehumanizing, then you know something is deeply wrong.
And when we look for the worst place of all, the place where humanity reaches its lowest point, where selfishness and vanity seem most pronounced, where money and politics and religion have combined to do their most destructive deeds, when we look for that place, we find it on that ancient Friday when the sky turned black and the angels covered their faces and the Son of God was tortured to death upon the cross.
When we look close at that place, as close as we can, when we look at this God-man, this Jesus, and realize that He has died for us, in our place, with love in His heart and forgiveness on His lips, when we realize that He is giving Himself for us, dying so we can live, taking upon Himself the sins of the world, and allowing all that is wrong in this world to fall upon Him, then we ask ourselves: What can this mean that God is for us?
Yes, God is for us. The Scriptures say in Isaiah, "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast, and have no compassion for the child she has known? Even if she could forget, I will not forget." Parents can forsake you, parents can let you down, but God is for you.
God is for you. Not "maybe," not "was" or "will be," but "is" for you right here and now. God is for you. God is on your side, God is cheering you on, lifting you up, caring for you. God is for you. Your picture is on His desk and in His wallet. Did you know God has a tattoo? In Isaiah 49:16, God says, "I have written your name on my hands."
Jesus was God's most precious gift to the world, and He gave Him up for us. And if God has given us so much, why should we not give whatever we can? Do you know what Jesus is doing right now? He is at the right hand of God, praying for you. As He prays for you, at the right hand of God, you are there with Him. For what power is there in the universe greater than the prayer of Jesus?
Following protests from the Philippine Embassy, Amnesty International and the U.S. government, King Faud ordered Magdangal expelled from Saudi Arabia rather than executed. It is said that over 500 Muslim clerics resigned their state posts in protest of his decision.
Next week: a sermon by a pastor in the District

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