“Therefore do not be afraid of them. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known.
What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light;
what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy
both soul and body in Gehenna. Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.
We're all familiar with the song, His eye is on the sparrow. The song comforts the weary and discouraged with the promise of God's watchful presence.
When we turn to that passage in Matthew 10, we discover it's a word of assurance to persecuted and doomed Christians.
There is perhaps no one who feels more abandoned than those imprisoned and awaiting execution. The seventeenth century, with the invention of the guillotine, saw killing mechanized. The Nazi's further refined the process with their system of internment and death camps.
First they forced the condemned to wear identifying emblems -- yellow stars -- even as they went about their business. Eventually, soldiers gathered Jews, Poles, gypsies, homosexuals and Catholic religious into internment camps, then shipped them with a calibrated schedule by train to the death camps. Those who were gathered had little recourse and less hope for deliverance. Uncertain of what was happening, they saw only the boxcars filled with the chosen, and then departing -- to return empty.
If they knew little of what would happen, they knew also that the Allied nations knew nothing of what was happening. The BBC, heard throughout the western nations of Europe even under Nazi occupation, said nothing about the internment camps. Perhaps the British and Americans didn't even care. Had they known what these trains carried they might have bombed the railroad bridges. Abandoned by the entire world, doomed by the machinery of death, the future closed remorselessly upon the condemned.
Nonetheless, like the 120 Chinese martyrs whom we commemorate today, Jews and Christians in Occupied Europe sang and prayed words of comfort as they remembered the promises of God. HIs eye is on the sparrow.
There is the story of Etty Hillesum. Packed into a boxcar with her family and other Jews, she pushed a postcard through a crack in the wall. A kind stranger picked it up and mailed it to her friends: "We have left the camps singing."