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Archive for November 14th, 2016

The Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) Church’s construction in Istanbul,Turkey,  was initiated by Emperor Justinian.  It is considered to be one of the architectural greats in the world.  It currently is a mosque. Hagia Sophia,and the Divine Service celebrated therein,  was a main reason for the conversion of Russia to the Christian Faith.  In the year 987, Czar Vladimir of Russia, wanting to know the true religion, sent envoys to various neighboring countries who had been urging Vladimir to embrace their faiths.  It was at the Hagia Sophia, where the full festival liturgy of the Byzantine Church was celebrated, they found their ideal.  They reported to the Czar:  “We no longer knew whether we were in heaven or on earth…nor such beauty, and we know not how to tell of it.”

Bio:  Justinian was emperor of the East from A.D. 527 to 565 when the Roman Empire was in decline. With his beautiful and capable wife, Theodora, he restored splendor and majesty to the Byzantine court.

The Emperor Justinian and his wife Theodora

During his reign the Empire experienced a renaissance, due in large part to his ambition, intelligence, and strong religious convictions. Justinian also attempted to bring unity to a divided church. He was a champion of orthodox Christianity and sought agreement among the parties in the Christological controversies of the day who were disputing the relation between the divine and human natures in the Person of Christ. The Fifth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in A.D. 533 was held during his reign and addressed this dispute. Justinian died in his eighties, not accomplishing his desire for an empire that was firmly Christian and orthodox.

Reflection:  The union of Church and a state has always had a troubled history.  Justinian’s rule may have been the exception but it can not be norm.  The entanglements of Church and state in the United Kingdom, the Geneva of John Calvin, the union of Czarist Russia with the Orthodox Church, the dispensationalist false hope of the 1,000 year reign of Christ and the close interaction  of Popes and politics for centuries, have been less than salutary.  It is one reason the Reformation was so needed.  The Pope was also a temporal ruler and wielded the sword.  This is not the province of the Church who is to only bear the Sword of Spirit.   The Church, and churches, holding political authority  has meant at times the loss of Christian and political freedom.

The confusion of the kingdoms, the political kingdoms set up by the Lord and  the kingdom of God by given and ruled by His Word, puts a patina of the eternal on earthly kingdoms which is idolatrous.  This clearly shows it is against the clear Word of Scripture.  After Jesus fed the 5,000, they wanted to make Him king, but He escaped.  When Jesus was bound in front of Pilate, He said My kingdom is not of this world.  In Romans 13, it is clearly stated that the wielding of sword is for earthly rulers alone. The Lord sent out His Apostles armed only with the Word of God. 

 We are seeing in our times how politically weak is the kingdom of God…even amongst those who say they are Christians!  Pastor and Professor Johann Gerhard teaches the Reformation Lutheran and Biblical understanding of  the two kingdoms and so encourages us to live nobly as God’s people amid the kingdoms and nations of this world:

Paul extols for us in 1 Tim. 6, calling it a good confession, which it most certainly was. For it includes very much—actually everything that is relevant to Christ’s kingdom. Initially, Christ states that His kingdom is not a worldly kingdom which stands in external splendor or is defended by outward force. Rather, His kingdom is within us, as we read in Luke 17. He reigns in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Since it is not a kingdom of this world, it is, then, a kingdom of the cross, wherein the servants of this kingdom are not recognized. Instead, they lie hidden under the cross, and are secretly hidden from the spite of the Enemy, as David says in Psa. 31; that is, God rules and protects the kingdom of Christ in such a manner that reason cannot grasp how it is done. Because it also is not a worldly kingdom which from the outside has a stately appearance, it is thus despised by many. Later in the Passion (story) we will hear of how the soldiers gave a reed into the Lord Christ’s hand, so that they might demonstrate that His was indeed a reed kingdom, that is, a weak kingdom, and that the kingdom of Christ appeared to be so weak that it might actually soon collapse. Further, since it is not a worldly, earthly kingdom, we too (who would be its members and subjects) should not first seek worldly goods, temporal benefits, and external fortune (happiness). Christ’s kingdom is in the world, but not of this world. We should not seek after that which the world regards as a high priority. Instead, we should strive for heavenly blessings.”

Let us pray…O Lord, almighty and ever-living God,  You have given exceedingly great and precious promises to those who trust in You. Rule and govern our hearts and minds by Your Holy Spirit that we may live and abide forever in Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.   Amen.

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