In a building made of thick stone blocks, a building that stood for centuries in the center of the mountain village hymns of praise echoed in lyrical French. Early in my stay in Le Chambon sur-Lignon, thirty three years ago when I was a beginner in the language school the only parts of the worship service that I understood were the Lord’s Prayer and the Words of Institution before Communion. As the months passed and my French improved and I became acquainted with those who had worshipped in Le Temple their whole lives long, I came to understand not only the service of worship, but the service of the worshippers.
Forty years earlier the members of that congregation, led by their pastor Andre Trocme, defied their nation’s laws and opposition in their community by secretly, quietly welcoming into their homes, into hiding and safety thousands of Jewish children fleeing in terror from the Nazi occupiers. The first child came in the night with a knock on the parsonage door, and a fleeing, frightened Jewish mother pleading, “protect my child.”
Each week in worship we prayed together, “Et ne nous soumets pas à la tentation, mais délivere-nous du Mal” In English we pray, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Some translations of the Lord’s prayer make the translation, “and lead us not into times of sore testing but deliver us from evil.”
The Nazi era was a time of sore testing for Christians in Germany and occupied countries like France. Would the Christians acquiesce to the civil and national authorities in order to keep themselves from harm, or would they take seriously the call of the Gospel to welcome the stranger, treat everyone as their neighbor, share bread and wine and hope in memory of Jesus? Would they be willing to risk their own lives in order to care for the “least of these” God’s children? In Le Chambon, among the protestant congregation of Le Temple, their answer was bravely, faithfully to follow Jesus.
Though I have prayed all my life those familiar words that I would not have to live through a season of sore testing, I believe that season is upon us. This week even while we celebrate our freedoms and our liberty from tyranny as a nation, as a nation we are separating children from their families and locking them in camps–keeping them from the freedom they, and their parents have risked everything to gain.
This is not a matter of partisan politics, this is a matter of basic human decency, a matter that all good people of whatever ilk, but especially Christians, followers of Jesus Christ must stand against. We who pray to be delivered from evil, in times of sore testing must do everything in our power to deliver our neighbors from evil, too.