Lucy, Martyr at Syracuse, 304
Samuel Johnson, Moralist, 1784
The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’
Corrupt are they, and abominable in their wickedness;
there is no one that does good.
God has looked down from heaven upon the children of earth,
to see if there is anyone who is wise and seeks after God.
They are all gone out of the way;
all alike have become corrupt;
there is no one that does good, no not one.
Have they no knowledge, those evildoers,
who eat up my people as if they ate bread, and do not call upon God?
There shall they be in great fear, such fear as never was;
for God will scatter the bones of the ungodly.
They will be put to shame, because God has rejected them.
O that Israel’s salvation would come out of Zion!
When God restores the fortunes of his people then will Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad.
Save me, O God, by your name and vindicate me by your power.
Hear my prayer, O God; give heed to the words of my mouth.
For strangers have risen up against me, and the ruthless seek after my life;
they have not set God before them.
Behold, God is my helper;
it is the Lord who upholds my life.
May evil rebound on those who lie in wait for me;
destroy them in your faithfulness.
An offering of a free heart will I give you
and praise your name, O Lord, for it is gracious.
For he has delivered me out of all my trouble,
and my eye has seen the downfall of my enemies.
O God, you have cast us off and broken us;
you have been angry; restore us to yourself again.
You have shaken the earth and torn it apart; heal its wounds, for it trembles.
You have made your people drink bitter things; we reel from the deadly wine you have given us.
You have made those who fear you to flee, to escape from the range of the bow.
That your beloved may be delivered,
save us by your right hand and answer us.
God has spoken in his holiness:
‘I will triumph and divide Shechem,
and share out the valley of Succoth.
‘Gilead is mine and Manasseh is mine;
Ephraim is my helmet and Judah my sceptre.
‘Moab shall be my washpot;
over Edom will I cast my sandal;
across Philistia will I shout in triumph.’
Who will lead me into the strong city?
Who will bring me into Edom?
Have you not cast us off, O God?
Will you no longer go forth with our troops?
Grant us your help against the enemy,
for earthly help is in vain.
Through God will we do great acts,
for it is he that shall tread down our enemies.
Hear this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel,
and who came forth from the loins of Judah;
who swear by the name of the Lord,
and invoke the God of Israel, but not in truth or right.
For they call themselves after the holy city,
and lean on the God of Israel;
the Lord of hosts is his name.
The former things I declared long ago,
they went out from my mouth and I made them known;
then suddenly I did them and they came to pass.
Because I know that you are obstinate,
and your neck is an iron sinew and your forehead brass,
I declared them to you from long ago,
before they came to pass I announced them to you,
so that you would not say, ‘My idol did them,
my carved image and my cast image commanded them.’
You have heard;
now see all this;
and will you not declare it?
From this time forward I make you hear new things,
hidden things that you have not known.
They are created now, not long ago;
before today you have never heard of them,
so that you could not say, ‘I already knew them.’
You have never heard, you have never known,
from of old your ear has not been opened.
For I knew that you would deal very treacherously,
and that from birth you were called a rebel.
For my name’s sake I defer my anger,
for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you,
so that I may not cut you off.
See, I have refined you, but not like silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of adversity.
For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it,
for why should my name be profaned?
My glory I will not give to another.
1 Thessalonians 3
Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we decided to be left alone in Athens; and we sent Timothy, our brother and co-worker for God in proclaiming the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you for the sake of your faith, so that no one would be shaken by these persecutions.
Indeed, you yourselves know that this is what we are destined for.
In fact, when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we were to suffer persecution; so it turned out, as you know. For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith; I was afraid that somehow the tempter had tempted you and that our labour had been in vain.
But Timothy has just now come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love. He has told us also that you always remember us kindly and long to see us—just as we long to see you. For this reason, brothers and sisters, during all our distress and persecution we have been encouraged about you through your faith. For we now live, if you continue to stand firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.
Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you.
And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you.
And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
God our redeemer,
who gave light to the world that was in darkness by the healing power of the Saviour's cross:
shed that light on us, we pray,
that with your martyr Lucy
we may, by the purity of our lives,
reflect the light of Christ
and, by the merits of his passion,
come to the light of everlasting life;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.