Archive for August 28th, 2017

We turn to You, the Lord our God and as best as we can give we give You thanks.  We beseech You that in Your goodness You will hear our prayers and by Your power:  drive evil from our thoughts and actions, increase our faith, guide our minds, grant us Your holy inspirations, and bring us to joy without end through Your Son our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.              

(A prayer adapted from a benediction by which St. Augustine ended at least two of his sermons)

About Augustine of Hippo, Pastor and Theologian: Augustine was one of the greatest of the Latin Church Fathers and a significant influence in the formation of Western Christianity, including Lutheranism. Born in AD 354 in North Africa, Augustine’s early life was distinguished by exceptional advancement as a teacher of rhetoric. In his book Confessions he describes his life before his conversion to Christianity, when he was drawn into the moral laxity of the day and fathered an illegitimate son. Through the devotion of his sainted mother, Monica, and the preaching of Ambrose, bishop of Milan (AD 339-97), Augustine was converted to the Christian faith. During the great Pelagian controversies of the fifth century, Augustine emphasized the unilateral grace of God in the salvation of mankind. Bishop and theologian at Hippo in North Africa from AD 395 until his death in AD 430, Augustine was a man of great intelligence, a fierce defender of the orthodox faith, and aprolific writer. In addition to Confessions, Augustine’s book City of God had a great impact upon the Church throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection: How do we live as Christ’s very own, His Church, in a Roman world?  St. Augustine was contemporary to the fall of Rome. Empires do not easily fall and in their demise,the foundations are shaken.  This is from a summary of Augustine’s magnum opus, The City of God (Sparknotes: “St. Augustine: The City of God”) and what prompted the Bishop to write this book: 

In A.D. 410, a pivotal moment in Western history, the Vandals, under the command of their king, Alaric, captured the city of Rome. Rome was known as the Eternal City because the Romans thought that it would literally never fall, and the year 410 shook this belief to its foundations and ultimately led to the collapse of the Roman Empire. The world itself seemed to have been destroyed, and everyone sought answers about what to do and what to believe in. Those who adhered to the waning pagan faith were quick to blame the Christians, claiming that the gods had abandoned Rome because many Romans had forsaken them and taken the new faith. These Romans claimed that Christians were not patriotic enough because they asked people to serve God rather than the state, and they advocated forgiveness toward enemies.(emphasis my own)

We too are living in Roman times and possibly in the collapse of an Empire and large parts of the Church. When we look at the carnage reaped in lust and greed, the raging denial of marriage, the immorality of wealth not related to the Commandments and morality, we may not be overcome by the Vandals, as was Rome of old, but we are vandalized by the denial of God’s Law and God’s Christ.  The Christians are being blamed for being too rigid, so judgmental and the beginning of the wholesale denial of Christians’ free speech. 

How do we live as Christ’s very own, His Church, in a Roman world?

Today’s Epistle reading is 2 Corinthians 6: 1-18 and in the Treasury of Daily Prayer, the Writing selection is from a sermon by St. Augustine. St. Augustine preached on these verses from the Epistle reading:

“Therefore go out from their midst and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing.”

St. Augustine on this verse:

How many and vehement rebukes did Jeremiah preach against the sinners and wicked ones of his people. Yet he lived among them, he entered into the same temple with them, celebrated the same mysteries; he lived in that congregation of wicked men, but by his preaching “he came out from among them.” This is what it means “to come out from among them”; this is what it means to not “touch the unclean thing.” It means not consenting to them in will and not sparing them in word. I say this of Jeremiah, of Isaiah, of Daniel, and Ezekiel, and the rest of the prophets, who did not retire from the wicked people, lest they should desert the good who were mingled with that people. (emphasis my own)

 It means not consenting to them in will and not sparing them in word.  We will find ourselves as the Church in trouble by not sparing them in word as we give our witness by not consenting with them what we do and don’t do.  We are called to do so by not lording it over others, but by serving them in love as we too have consented in will, in thought, word and deed, with sins the Lord deplores and has carried in His sinless body upon the Cross.  Our service of witness is with the Apostle, we too are chief of sinners. Neither did St. Augustine, and the Church then, adopt the practices of their Roman world and neither did they adapt the Church, her sacred songs and prayers and the orthodox doctrine of the Scriptures to an immoral society.

O Lord God, the light of the minds that know You, the life of souls that love You, and the strength of the hearts that serve You, give us strength to follow the example of Your servant Augustine of Hippo, so that knowing You we may truly love You and loving You we may fully serve You–for to serve is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ, our lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.

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