Archive for August 10th, 2013

About Lawrence:  Early in the third century AD, Lawrence, most likely from Spain, made his way to Rome. There he was appointed chief of the seven deacons and was given the responsibility to manage Church property and finances. The emperor at the time, who thought that the Church had valuable things worth confiscating, ordered Lawrence to produce the ‘treasures of the Church.’ According to tradition,  Lawrence brought before the emperor the poor whose lives had been touched by Christian charity. He  jailed and eventually executed in the year AD 258 by being roasted on a gridiron. His martyrdom left a deep impression on the young Church because he was a Roman citizen tortured and executed by Roman authorities.  Almost immediately, the date of this death, August 10, became a permanent fixture on the early commemorative calendar of the Church.  (adapted from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH). 

Reflection: I would think Lawrence knew the location of the Church’s treasure! He knew exactly where it was as in the old pirate maps: when X marks the spot, that is the Cross of Jesus Christ.  He knew that the treasures of Christ’s grace is for the  poor, the lame, the orphans and the widows, for all who hunger and thirst for righteousness,that is, the poor in spirit.   In the midst of Watergate in the 70s, Bob Woodward was told by his informant, “to follow the money”.  All of the world follows the money.  Lawrence did not “follow the money”: he followed His Lord and yours.  As a steward of Jesus Christ, His deacon, Lawrence maintained earthly treasure probably well but gold does not make the Church, only the blood of Christ.

When the Church and her Christians think the true treasures of the church are in the offering plates/big budgets  or our “creative ministries” or our programs, and not the Cross and Sacraments, Scripture and Service in His love, then, “…we are in danger of losing the things that make the Church in favor of those who claim to make the Church.  Church leaders only gain legitimacy when they are the delivery point of the divine gifts.” (Pr. Murray, A Year with the Church Fathers, CPH)  Lawrence and many others so delivered the divine gifts and were delivered up as martyrs and their witness heartens us.

We pray…Gracious Lord, in every age You have sent men and women who have given their lives for the message of  Your Gospel and all the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ.  Inspire us with the memory of those martyrs for the Gospel, like Your servant Lawrence, whose faithfulness led them to the way of the cross, and give us courage to bear full witness with our lives to Your Son’s victory over sin and death, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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If Jesus is the good Shepherd, then we must remain the lost sheep found by Him. If we are finding the Shepherd, then we can no longer call Him the “good.” We will be forced to call Him the lost Shepherd and ourselves the good sheep. This is a true transvaluation of values, in which the sheep become good and the Shepherd is called lost. Such a transvaluation of values is actually laughable when it is put in such stark terms. Could we conceive of the sheep being brought back to the fold, dirty, bleeding, bedraggled, in the arms of the shepherd, and then claiming to his fellows: “Look, I have found and returned that poor shepherd to the fold. If I hadn’t gone out looking for him he would never have found his way back here, poor lost man. It was a good thing that I pretended to be gone astray and cast down so I would be able to rescue him from the wilderness.” How his flock would laugh him to scorn and mock him for this ridiculous pretense.

 This is the ridiculous contention of people who claim to have “found Christ.” I was unaware that God had declared Him missing, or in need of our rescue. Such a contention is deserving of our gentle ridicule like the sheep who “finds” the shepherd. Satan tries to worm his way into the relationship between the sheep and the shepherd, so that just at the point in which God has worked His gracious will, there is the poisonous injection of work righteous talk on the part of the sheep found by Christ, who now crows, “I found Christ.” Satan just loves it that you have taken the pride of place from the good Shepherd. While this may be a kind of weak or confused talk on the part of the saved person, it still turns the gospel onto its head. The gospel turned onto its head is the law and cannot save.

 When people say to me, “I found Christ,” I reply as gently as I might, “Oh, I didn’t know He was lost. Where did you find Him?” Usually, this elicits a self-deprecating smile. “No, of course. I did not find the lost Shepherd. The good Shepherd found me, the lost sheep.” We must not turn over the values of the holy gospel with the false contention that we found the shepherd. To argue for our finding God is a breach of the First Commandment in which we have not just taken on the divine task of seeking and saving, but in the highest blasphemy, finding God Himself. If the Lord is my Shepherd, this I shall want to avoid.

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