A few years ago, I was transfixed and moved by the story of the 20 Christian martyrs who were beheaded by Islamic terrorists in Libya by the shore of the sea. Their crime: Refusing to curse Christ. There were some powerful things I learned about these brave men.
First: they were, as Christians, only allowed to work in certain jobs, mostly menial. But one of the men captured, imprisoned, and killed wasn’t Christian. He was a Muslim from a neighboring country. Not speaking the language well, he, too, was forced to take menial work.
When the captors learned this, they begged their “brother” to reassert his faith in Allah and Mohammed. He refused. While in prison, he was amazed by the faith and the compassion of his cellmates. There with freedom being offered on a platter, he shook his head, pointed to the others, and said, “Their God.”
Finally, some folks wondered why there was only video, no audio, of the actual beheading. The sound was turned off deliberately – for one thing, that brave Muslim had just confessed faith in Jesus. And only skilled lip-readers in their language could make out what the martyrs were saying in their last seconds of life. They were not cursing God – or their captors. They were not begging for mercy. Their words were, “O Jesus! Lord!” Their executioners thought that confession of faith could be silenced by flicking a button. It could not!
The Holy Spirit inspired me to write a poem-hymn in their honor. Only after I’d finished it did I wonder if it fit any halfway familiar, suitable hymn tune! Actually, there are TWO. The first is less familiar but very powerful. It would be perfect for a choir to sing as an anthem. The tune is “Das Neugeborne Kindelein,” and its most familiar use is in the beautiful Communion hymn, “Victim Divine, Your Grace We Claim.” The other is Melita, AKA the Navy Hymn, most familiar to most Lutherans in the hymns “Eternal Father, Strong to Save,” and “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less.”
I think the Holy Spirit knew those melodies, associated with such noble hymns already, would be perfect for this new hymn.