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      Nurturing people in the image of God since 1868.                                                                          POB 397/520 Dry Creek Rd./Smithville, TN

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JUST ONE WILLING MONK

He was the last person you'd expect to find at a gladiator fight - a monk. A monk from the country, now in Rome, swept along by thousands of people elbowing their way through the narrow streets toward the towering coliseum.

He'd been abandoned on the steps of a monastery when he was only a few weeks old and had lived his entire life there. No one forced him to become a monk. He simply grew up in the company of these dedicated men and decided to join them. His whole life was surrounded by walls and farms and open countryside.

But he read. That was one great benefit of being a monk - teaming how to read. And when you read., you travel to faraway places even if you never leave home. In his readings the monk had visited Egypt and Jerusalem and walked dusty roads with Jesus and Paul. And he had read about Rome. The great city of Rome not so very far away. He knew he'd never see the Holy Land ... but Rome? That was one place he could see.

So the monk prayed. Should he go to Rome? Did God have anything for him to do there? Some reason to be in that great city?

And the monk seemed to hear a clear answer - "Go to Rome". When he told Father Joseph at the monastery, Father Joseph gave him permission to go.  Urged him to go, if that's  what God wanted. What he'd do there no one knew. Rome was beyond anything the monk had imagined. Streets churning with noise and smells and people everywhere, people. Slaves, workmen, senators, generals, they all were in Rome. It seemed the monk found everything he could dream of in Rome except one thing: a reason for being there.

In the very  middle of Imperial Rome, just down the hill from the Emperor's palace, was the pride of the city: the Coliseum. It was spectacular and always seemed to be packed with people. The monk went to the Coliseum. After all  when in Rome....

What he saw there made his heart freeze. Gladiators by the dozens mowed each other down as the crowd roared with approval. Men decapitated, disemboweled, blood soaking the packed earthen floor of the great stadium. The monk stared in disbelief. Everyone - even the emperor - applauded as one man after another fought and died. The monk, not thinking, leapt onto the field of battle. He grabbed the arm of the nearest gladiator, "Listen!" he pleaded. "In the name of Jesus Christ who died for you, you don't have to do this!"

The gladiator shrugged him off and continued circling his opponent, looking for an opportunity to thrust him with his sword. Meanwhile the crowd pointed at the unarmed  monk who was running to the next pair of gladiators. This was something new - a monk? What was he doing? What was he saying? The monk ran between the next two gladiators.  "In the name of Jesus Christ who died for you, you don't have to do this!" he shouted.

When the spectators realized what he was trying to accomplish. they  became infuriated. They  hurled rocks down upon the monk who had tried to stop the bloodshed. He raised his arms to shield himself, but too many  rocks struck him. The monk knelt on the bloody ground, staring up at the angry faces in the Coliseum. "In the name of Jesus Christ who died for you. you don't have to do this!" Then crumpling to the ground, still not knowing why God had sent him to Rome, the monk died.

The crowd hushed. The emperor rose to his feet stood for a long moment staring at the monk's body, and then turned and walked out of the Coliseum. He would, because of the martyred monk,  abolish gladiatorial contests. The centuries old tradition of death would end.

What particular work does God have in mind for you?

For His Cause,
Tim Woodward