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Posts Tagged ‘bishops’

Bio:  Irenaeus (ca. AD 130-200), believed to be a native of Smyrna (modern Izmir, Turkey), studied in Rome and later became pastor in Lyons, France. Around 177, while Irenaeus was away from Lyons, a fierce persecution of Christians led to the martyrdom of his bishop. Upon Irenaeus’ return, he became Bishop of Lyons. Among his most famous writings is Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies). This work condemned several errors but focused especially on Gnosticism, which denied the goodness of creation. In opposition, Irenaeus confessed that God has redeemed his creation through the incarnation of the Son. Irenaeus also affirmed the teachings of the Scriptures handed down to and through him as being normative for the Church. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer/CPH)

Reflection:  In the reading selected for this commemoration in  The Treasury of Daily Prayer, St. Irenaeus wrote regarding the heresies of his day and the truth of Scripture:

For error is plausible and bears a resemblance to the truth but requires to be disguised;  while truth is without disguise and, therefore, has been entrusted to children.

The shocking part of that quote is that the truth has “…has been entrusted to children”!  Not to the adults, not to the learned, not to theologians.  This is keeping with our Lord Jesus Christ who said,

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.    St.Matthew 11

and

2And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.   St. Matthew 18

One of my favorite theologians is my wife.  She once commented that adults like to think in terms of “moral grays”, a child does not:  it is either right or wrong.  It is that way with the Gospel:   a child gets it. I have done wrong, God is great as He loved me upon the cross. Creation is good.  I have done wrong.   We are forgiven. This is truth without disguise.  The Father reveals His truth to children not the “learned and the wise”. The learned and wise are those who love the wisdom of God as a obedient and loving child his father and mother. Jesus Himself entrusts it to children:  even if the child is 100! It is in keeping with Irenaeus and his love of Scripture is the lyrics of the old Sunday School song:

Jesus loves me! This I know,  For the Bible tells me so; Little ones to Him belong, They are weak but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.

Jesus loves me! He who died, Heaven’s gate to open wide; He will wash away my sin, Let His little child come in. Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.

 Yet, the undisguised truth of God’s Word has so much that even the most able minds can not understand it all.  In Irenaeus’ day there were the Gnostics who said creation is evil, spirituality is good. Plausible…except it is not the Scripture:  see Genesis 1! See Jesus Christ:  God became FLESH, His own creation!  It is the heretics, who have a enough of God’s own truth, to disguise and then complicate the truth of God’s own Word,  looking to themselves and a ‘superior’ spirituality.  It looks good but it is a wolf disguised in sheep’s clothing (see Matthew 7:15).  Beware,  said the faithful Bishop Irenaeus.  Irenaeus also famously said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.”  How?  Answer:  Jesus loves me.  Upon Him, the solid rock, we can grow and be edified, built-up by the Holy Spirit.  A child can get it and it is entrusted to His children of all ages and for all the ages until He comes again.

Almighty God, You upheld your servant Irenaeus, giving him strength to confess the truth against every blast of vain doctrine.   By Your mercy, keep us steadfast in the true faith, that in constancy we may walk in peace on the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

 

 

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Clement (ca. A.D. 35–100) is remembered for having established the pattern of apostolic authority that governed the Christian Church during the first and second centuries. He also insisted on keeping Christ at the center of the Church’s worship and outreach. In a letter to the Christians at Corinth, he emphasized the centrality of Jesus’ death and resurrection: “Let us fix our eyes on the blood of Christ, realizing how precious it is to His Father, since it was poured out for our salvation and brought the grace of repentance to the whole world” (1 Clement 6:31). Prior to suffering a martyr’s death by drowning, he displayed a steadfast, Christ-like love for God’s redeemed people, serving as an inspiration to future generations to continue to build the Church on the foundation of the prophets and apostles, with Christ as the one and only cornerstone. (from The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod website, see Blogroll on sidebar)

Reflection:  In the bio above and in the quote below the word “fix” is employed.  In the Prayer of the Day for the 5th Sunday after Easter, the Church prays,

“Grant that we may love what You have commanded and desire what You promise, that among the many changes of this world our hearts may be fixed where trues are found, through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord…”

Our hearts, that is,  our wills are fixed, that is, guided, repented, repaired in the fruit of the joys of His crucifixion and resurrection by our hearts fixed on Him,  His forgiveness for us, in us, with us, His life in our lives. His gift of life is His blood.  We can not repair our hearts, our wills on our own.  No one did heart surgery on himself, one needs a physician. We are fixed by fixing our hearts and eyes on Jesus Christ and that “fix” is prayer, the prayer of faith in the Lord, in Whom we are made one in Christian love and Pastor Clement made this clear:

From Pastor and Bishop Clement’s Letter to the Corinthians:

This is the way, beloved, in which we found our salvation, Jesus Christ, the high priest of our offerings, the protector and helper of our weakness (cf. Heb. 2: 17, 3:1, 4: 15)

Through him we fix our eyes on the heights of heaven, Through him we see mirrored the flawless and sublime countenance of God (cf. 2 Cor. 3:18), Through him the eyes of our heart have been opened, Through him our foolish and darkened understanding springs up to the light,Through him the Master has willed that we should taste immortal knowledge;

For “since he is the express image of his greatness, he is as much superior to angels as his title is superior” to theirs (cf. Heb. 1:3-4)

Let us then, men and brethren, engage in our service with complete earnestness under his faultless order. Let us consider those who serve under our military commanders, with what good discipline, subordination, and obedience they carry out orders.  Not all are prefects or tribunes or centurions or captains of fifty and so on, but “each in his own rank”(I Cor. 15:23)carries out orders under the emperor and the commanding officers. The great cannot exist without the small; neither can the small exist without the great: there is a certain mutuality in the whole, and this is beneficial to it. 

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, Your servant Clement of Rome called the Church in Corinth to repentance and faith to unite them in Christian love. Grant that Your Church may be anchored in Your truth by the presence of the Holy Spirit and kept blameless in Your service until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

 

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Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, Your servant Clement of Rome called the Church in Corinth to repentance and faith to unite them in Christian love. Grant that Your Church may be anchored in Your truth by the presence of the Holy Spirit and kept blameless in Your service until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Clement (ca. A.D. 35–100) is remembered for having established the pattern of apostolic authority that governed the Christian Church during the first and second centuries. He also insisted on keeping Christ at the center of the Church’s worship and outreach. In a letter to the Christians at Corinth, he emphasized the centrality of Jesus’ death and resurrection: “Let us fix our eyes on the blood of Christ, realizing how precious it is to His Father, since it was poured out for our salvation and brought the grace of repentance to the whole world” (1 Clement 6:31). Prior to suffering a martyr’s death by drowning, he displayed a steadfast, Christ-like love for God’s redeemed people, serving as an inspiration to future generations to continue to build the Church on the foundation of the prophets and apostles, with Christ as the one and only cornerstone. (from The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod website, see Blogroll on sidebar)

Reflection:  In the bio above and in the quote below the word “fix” is employed.  In the Prayer of the Day for the 5th Sunday after Easter, the Church prays, “Grant that we may love what You have commanded and desire what You promise, that among the many changes of this world our hearts may be fixed where trues are found, through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord…”.  I like to play off that word “fix”.  Our hearts, that is,  our wills are fixed, that is, guided, repented, repaired in the fruit of the joys of His crucifixion and resurrection:  His forgiveness for us, in us, with us, His life in our lives.  We can not repair our hearts, our wills on our own.  No one did heart surgery on himself, one needs a physician.  We are fixed by fixing our hearts and eyes on Jesus Christ and that “fix” is prayer, the prayer of faith in the Lord, in Whom we are made one in Christian love.

From Pastor and Bishop Clement’s Letter to the Corinthians:

This is the way, beloved, in which we found our salvation, Jesus Christ, the high priest of our offerings, the protector and helper of our weakness (cf. Heb. 2: 17, 3:1, 4: 15)

Through him we fix our eyes on the heights of heaven, Through him we see mirrored the flawless and sublime countenance of God (cf. 2 Cor. 3:18), Through him the eyes of our heart have been opened, Through him our foolish and darkened understanding springs up to the light,Through him the Master has willed that we should taste immortal knowledge;

For “since he is the express image of his greatness, he is as much superior to angels as his title is superior” to theirs (cf. Heb. 1:3-4)

Let us then, men and brethren, engage in our service with complete earnestness under his faultless order. Let us consider those who serve under our military commanders, with what good discipline, subordination, and obedience they carry out orders.  Not all are prefects or tribunes or centurions or captains of fifty and so on, but “each in his own rank”(I Cor. 15:23)carries out orders under the emperor and the commanding officers.The great cannot exist without the small; neither can the small exist without the great: there is a certain mutuality in the whole, and this is beneficial to it. 

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Intro:   Polycarp’s martyrdom on this date around AD 156 deeply impressed the nascent Church and can not be glossed over.   Polycarp was a link between the time of the Apostles and post-apostolic era.  He was martyred when he was 86 years of age by being burned,and when the flames did not hurt him, he was stabbed in the heart.  Eyewitness accounts said the smell was of baking bread.  His name means, “much fruit”.  Below is a short bio from The Apostolic Fathers edited by Jack Sparks of the Eastern Orthodox Church:

“Take the oath and I will let you go,” said the proconsul. “Revile Christ.”

“I have served Him eighty-six years,” replied Polycarp, “and in no way has He dealt unjustly with me; so how can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”

Thus the aged and much revered bishop spoke, in full knowl­edge of the outcome. His martyrdom was sealed. His life had stretched from the days of the apostles till the middle of the second century, and on a February day in about 156 he moved on with honor to the church enrolled in heaven.

We first meet Polycarp as the relatively young bishop of Smyrna when the aging Ignatius of Antioch was on his way to mar­tyrdom. It was in Smyrna that Ignatius made that famous rest stop on his final journey, and Polycarp was the only individual on record to whom the great martyr ever addressed a personal letter. In the years that followed, Polycarp gathered Ignatius’ letters and passed them on to others.

Irenaeus, who was bishop of Lyons in the latter half of the second century, tells us that Polycarp was a disciple of the apos­tle John and indeed knew others who had seen the Lord in the flesh. The witness of Irenaeus is important because he appar­ently grew up in Smyrna. What he says of Polycarp indicates that the bishop of Smyrna was most concerned about the pres­ervation of the orthodox faith. One incident he reports demon­strates the severity of Polycarp’s attitude toward heresies and heretics. Polycarp, says Irenaeus, once met the heretic Marcion on the streets. “Do you recognize me?” asked Marcion. “In­deed,” replied Polycarp, “I recognize you as the firstborn of Satan!” (Adv. haer 3:3,4).

Though Irenaeus hints at several letters by Polycarp, only  one has come down to us. That letter is to the church at Philippi and reflects the same concern for truth and orthodoxy we have already mentioned. His letter is filled with, indeed almost made up of, quotes from the Gospels, Acts, and Epistles of the New Testament, as well as the letters of Clement and Ignatius. Some critics have sneered at Polycarp because he is so uncreative and offers no new theological insight. We can be glad he was the way he was. Through Polycarp we have not only a link with the ear­liest days of Christianity, but a faithful transmission of apostolic doctrine as well. No, he was not creative. He was a loyal disci­ple of Christ and the apostles.

Near the end of his life Polycarp made a visit to Rome to dis­cuss with Bishop Anicetus a number of church matters, appar­ently including the date of Easter. The Eastern churches were still celebrating Easter on the exact date of Jewish Passover, while Rome was using a specified Sunday each year. Neither agreed to change, but their fellowship was not disturbed. Before he left Rome, Polycarp, at the invitation of Anicetus, led in the celebration of the Eucharist. The two men parted in full agree­ment to leave their respective traditions as they were.

Last of all we have an eyewitness account of the martyrdom of Polycarp. Perhaps by request, the church at Smyrna pre­pared a full account, to be sent to the church at Philomelium and other places. This clear and simple testimony of the martyrdom of an aged saint should bring tears to the eyes of any believer. Some have questioned the record because of the miraculous ac­count of the means of his death. But there is great danger in rejecting a miracle on the grounds that “such things just don’t happen.” Some have done so and thus have rejected the mira­cles of the Scriptures.

Polycarp’s last prayer is characteristic of the man and a clear testimony of his faith. He concluded with, “I praise you, I bless you, I glorify you, through the eternal and heavenly high priest Jesus Christ your beloved Son through whom to you with Him and the Holy Spirit be glory now and forever. Amen.”

Below is a selection from The Martyrdom of Polycarp.  Please note that the first Christians were accused of “atheism” because they would not sacrifice to the false god of Caesar, and so they were considered as not believing and thus imperiling the ‘divine’ order of the Empire and the Emperor.

“…the police captain, Herod, and his father, Nicetes, met (Polycarp); they transferred him to their carriage and sitting down beside him tried to persuade him, saying: “Why, what is wrong with saying, ‘Caesar is Lord,’ and sacrificing, and so forth, and thus being saved?” At first he did not answer them, but when they persisted, he said: “I am not going to do what you advise me.”  Since they had failed to persuade him, they uttered threats and hurriedly pulled him off so that as he was descending from the carriage he scraped his shin. And without turning around, he walked along briskly as though he had suffered no injury. As he was led into the stadium with the uproar so great that it [the announcement of Polycarp’s apprehension] was not heard by many….

 Now a voice from heaven came to Polycarp as he was entering the stadium: “Be strong, Polycarp, and play the man!” (Josh. 1:6,7,9.) No one saw the speaker, but many of ours heard the voice. And then as he was brought forward, there was a great uproar now that they heard that Polycarp had been apprehended. So when he was brought forward the proconsul asked him whether he was Polycarp; and when he admitted it, he tried to persuade him to deny, saying: “Respect your age” and all the other things they usually say: “Swear by the Genius of Caesar, change your mind, say, ‘Away with the atheists.’ ” Polycarp looked sternly at the whole crowd of lawless heathen in the stadium, indicating them with a wave of the hand, groaned and looked up to heaven, and said: “Away with the atheists!” When the proconsul persevered and said: “Take the oath and I will let you go; revile Christ,” Polycarp replied: “I have served him eighty-six years and in no way has he dealt unjustly with me; so how can I blaspheme my king who saved me?”

 Since he persisted and said: “Swear by Caesar’s Genius,” he answered: “If you vainly expect that I will swear by Caesar’s Genius, as you suggest, and pretend to be ignorant who I am, listen (to what I say) openly: I am a Christian. If you want to learn the teaching of Christianity, name the day and hear (about it).”  The proconsul said: “Persuade the people.” Polycarp replied: “To you indeed I have considered myself accountable; for we have been taught to render fit honor to rulers and authorities appointed by God in so far as it is not injurious to us [cf. Rom. 13:1,7;1 Pet. 2:13ff]; as for these, I do not consider myself bound to make my defense before them.”

Comment:  Note that what the Christians were asked to do, burn a little incense to Caesar and swear by him is really a ‘small thing’, as it was pitched toward the Church.  As the proconsul said, what is wrong with saying, Caesar is Lord?  Indeed!  It might seem such a small thing to “go with the flow”, do what others are doing which seems so much fun and the like.  But it’s not a ‘small thing’ and Polycarp knew what it meant:  denying Jesus Christ who saved him.  

I like Fr. Sparks’ comment that Polycarp’s one letter shows he was not creative.  He quoted the Bible. No, he was not creative. He was a loyal disci­ple of Christ and the apostles.”   I took a course in seminary, “Creative Ministry”.   We make ministry ‘creative’?  No, the Lord does.  He re-creates us through His Ministry of Word and Sacraments through His called pastors and bishops.  Polycarp was not creative:   he was faithful.  He was a faithful servant of Jesus.  Satis est.  That is enough and Christ will fill us by His grace for us sinners.

Let us pray:  O God, the maker of heaven and earth, who gave to Your venerable servant, the holy and gentle Polycarp, boldness to confess Jesus Christ as King and Savior, and steadfastness to die for the Faith, give us grace, following his example, to share the cup of Christ and rise to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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As Patrick was a missionary bishop to Irish people, sent from the Catholic Church in England by the Bishop of Rome (the pope), so was the English Boniface sent by the Bishop of Rome to the German peoples.  Boniface was martyred June 5th, Pentecost, anno Domini 754. He had returned to Frisia (present-day Holland), one of his previous mission fields.     At sunrise, while reading the Gospel to a group of the newly Baptized, a band of pagan Frisians attacked Boniface and the neophytes.  Boniface and the neophytes were massacred.  In Fulda, Germany, are the remains of Boniface along with the purported Gospel book he was holding with slash marks. Boniface died while catechizing.

Boniface, Missionary Bishop to the Germans and Martyr is one of my favorite saints.  I was initially dumbstruck by the phrase “missionary bishop” for the reason that I think of “bishop” only in terms of Roman hierarchical images, that is, crosiers, mitres, etc.,  as many of you probably do.  Then reading about Boniface (and Patrick) and reading in particular his letters I learned the way  Boniface and  the Church understood mission work:

  • I learned that this missionary bishop established churches, schools, liturgy, monasteries and the like.
  •  I learned that Boniface did not act as a lone pastoral agent out in the field, but he had with him many other priests.
  •  I learned that he consulted the Church:  three times he went to Rome for conversation about mission in the German lands and the Frankish Empire, with the Bishop of Rome and  considering the 8th Century, this was quite a trip!  Boniface surely needed “the mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren.”
  • I have read a volume of Boniface’s letters, letters he wrote and received, as he kept in contact with the Church for her mission work, for advice, correction, reproof so that the man of God be equipped for every good work.
  • I learned that the Bishop of Rome, Gregory II, did not want the Germans to be “Roman” but, as he wrote to Boniface: “You are to teach them the service of the kingdom ofGod by the persuasion of  the truth in the name of Christ, the Lord our God. You will pour into their untaught minds the preaching of the Old and New Testaments in the spirit of virtue and love and sobriety and with reasoning suited to their understanding.” The Church noted Boniface’s love of Scripture.
  •  I learned that in letter sent to Abbess  Eadburga in England,  “…I beg you further to add to what you have done already by making a copy written in gold of the Epistles of my master, St. Peter, the Apostle, to impress honor and reverence for the Sacred Scriptures visibly upon the carnally minded to whom I preach.  I desire to have ever present before me the words of him who is my guide upon this road…here your works may shine further in golden letters  for the glory of our heavenly Father.”  The Liturgy is for the Word as the Liturgy is the Scriptural Word.
  • I learned again that in the 8th century the Church was international: Rome, England, Germany, Frisia (Holland) were all part of the Boniface’s bio and mission.   The Word created the uncommon common culture of the Church.  The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord.  The Church edified in the Scriptures, the Word of God, preaching, teaching, sacraments, Holy Ministry.   “…..a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10and crying out with a loud voice, ”Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
  • I learned that the German speaking lands had been evangelized before Boniface but the clergy and people fell into moral and doctrinal laxity of an extreme nature.  This meant that the mission work took time and Boniface had his hands full in dealing with heretical clergy.  Pope Zacharias wrote to Boniface, dated  May 1, 748, that the “sacrilegious priests”,“…gather about them a like-minded following and carry on their false ministry, not in a catholic church, but in the open country in the huts of farm laborers, where their ignorance and stupid folly can be hidden from the bishops.  They neither preach the catholic faith to pagans, nor have they themselves the true faith.  They do not even know the sacred words which any catechumen old enough to use his reason can learn and understand, nor do they expect them to be uttered by those whom they are to baptize, as, for instance, the renunciation of Satan, and so forth.  Neither do they fortify them with the sign of the cross, which should precede baptism, nor do they teach belief in one God and the Holy Trinity;  nor do they require them to believe with the heart for righteousness or to make confession with the lips for salvation.  Wherever, beloved, you find these ministers, nor of Christ but of Satan, you will a meeting of the clergy of the province and utterly reject them.”
  • And so I learned that Bishop Boniface convened five councils of the Church in his German territories for the sake of reformation, especially for clergy who were justifying literally murder and adultery. Bp. Boniface to Bp. Daniel of Winchester, “…we have fightings within as well as fears, caused especially by false priests and hypocrites, enemies of God, ruining themselves, misleading the people with scandals and false doctrines, and crying to them, as the prophet says, “Peace! Peace! when there is no peace.”  They strive to cover and choke with weeds or to turn into poisonous grain the seed of the Word which we have received from the bosom of the Catholic and Apostolic Church and have tried to sow.  What we plant they do not water that it may increase but try to uproot that it may wither away, offering to the people and teaching them new divisions and errors of divers sorts…that murderers and adulterers who persist in their crimes may nevertheless be priests of God.”

The Church established churches for the evangelization of the neo-pagan, the fallen Baptized, and the pagan a Church culture, complete with catechesis, preaching, teaching and the Divine Liturgy.  This runs contrary to all what goes for mission in the latter half of the debauched 20thCentury and the beginning of the 21st Century.  This was no 8th century “program” or “process” with “guaranteed results”, denying the essential evangelical and catholic essence of the Word of God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But it did work!  Those Christians built from the perspective of the eternity which the Lord put into us, not from the zeitgeist.  And here we are evangelical, catholic and orthodox Christians in the Lutheran Church, in the LCMS, with many German surnames and give thanks to the Lord for the Englishman Boniface.

The greatest, most noted and spectacular event in Boniface’s mission work occurred in 723, when he returned to the mission fields in Hesse, “…was to fell the sacred oak tree of Thor (a Norse god), at Geisman in the region of Hesse.  When Boniface was not struck down by the ‘god’, many people were converted and Boniface built a chapel in honor of St. Peter with wood from the tree.” (Festivals and Commemorations by Rev. Phillip Pfatteicher)

  • What would a Liberal Protestant have done at the ‘sacred’ tree?  Certainly not cut it down!  Instead, begin an inter-faith dialogue to understand other religions as being essentially the same as the Christian religion, incorporating their ‘liturgy’ into the Church’s, reconciled diversity, “Christians for Thor”.
  • What would a mission-minded LCMS Lutheran do with the ‘sacred’ tree?  Yes, cut it down, build the chapel…but after 60 or so years, tear it down and use the wood to construct an ox-drawn large wagon to go from hut to hut to build “relationships” with the villagers with a rocking Norse band, singing NoWo (Norse worship).

Boniface built a Chapel, complete with Altar, Pulpit and Nave for the preaching and teaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  There has been a reluctance to get to involved in building churches.  The move in the ’60s in urban areas was to use limited financial resources for “ministry” and let the church building fall apart, until some folks realized that in quickly changing neighborhoods, the church was the only constant.  Indeed!   All of what Boniface, et. al. did in building was based upon the Bible:

  • At least a quarter of the 40 chapters of Exodus deals with one specific project, The Building of the Tabernacle, and the Tabernacle was certainly no wooden cart complete with “Smile!  Yahweh Loves You” bumper stickers.  The Tabernacle had a destination.
  • One of the most joyous events in the life of King David was when he finally was able to bring the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem.
  • One of the greatest events of the United Kingdom was Solomon building the Temple as the Lord said that His Name would dwell on earth.
  • Jesus and His apostle Paul went to synagogues, places of the Word, to preach the Word, the Gospel of the Kingdom.

Our Lord said to the Samaritan woman at the well, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4)  The Lord disestablished Jerusalem, there would be no ‘Mecca’ for the Church spread throughout time and space.  Instead, wherever and whenever His people,  called and sanctified by the Word, that place and time is Jerusalem, because His Body is there.  “…the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.” (Galatians 4: 26).  We wait for that city to descend, “…the Bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Revelation 21: 9) Even the new heavens and the new earth will be a place.

It is so clear from the Bible, Church history, as in Boniface, the mission work of our forebears to this land who built churches, hospitals, orphanages, schools, colleges, seminaries, that this is the clear work of His Church:  to build, to edify in both mortals and mortar.

In conclusion, Dr. Luther taught of the 3rd Commandment, can be applied to church buildings, replacing the word “time”, and time-related words  with “place” or sanctuary:

“… most especially, that on such day of rest (since we can get no other opportunity) freedom and time be taken to attend divine service, so that we come together to hear and treat of God’s Word, and then to praise God, to sing and pray.

However, this, I say, is not so restricted to any time, as with the Jews, that it must be just on this or that day; for in itself no one day is better than another; but this should indeed be done daily; however, since the masses cannot give such attendance, there must be at least one day in the week set apart. But since from of old Sunday [the Lord’s Day] has been appointed for this purpose, we also should continue the same, in order that everything be done in harmonious order, and no one create disorder by unnecessary innovation.”

Almighty God, who called Your faithful servant Boniface to be a witness and martyr in the lands of Germany and Friesland, and by his labor and suffering raised up a people for Your own possession, pour forth Your Holy Spirit upon your Church in every land, that by the service and sacrifice of many Your holy Name may be glorified and Your kingdom enlarged; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

 (Source of Boniface quotes:  The Letters of St. Boniface, translated by Ephraim Emerton)

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Almighty God, You called Boniface to be a witness and martyr in Germany, and by his labor and suffering You raised up a people for Your own possession. Pour out Your Holy  Spirit upon Your Church in every land, that by the service and sacrifice of many Your holy name may be glorified and Your kingdom enlarged; through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

 Scripture Readings

Psalm 115:1-8 or 31:1-5
Acts 20:17-28
Luke 24:44-53

Introduction: As Patrick was a missionary bishop to Irish people, sent from the Catholic Church in England by the Bishop of Rome (the pope), so was Boniface sent from the same by the Bishop of Rome to the German peoples.  Boniface was martyred on this date in the Year of our Lord, 754. He had returned to Frisia (present-day Holland).   June 5th of 754 was Pentecost.  At sunrise, reading the Gospel to a group of the newly Baptized, Boniface and the neophytes were attacked by a band of pagan Frisians.  All were massacred.  InFulda,Germany, are the remains of Boniface along with the purported Gospel book he was holding with slash marks.  It is becoming increasingly clear that the Church is under such attacks again in our day, for instance see this article.

Boniface has been called “The Apostle to the Germans” but it is historically inaccurate to call him the apostle to Germany

Historical Backdrop: 

  • European Nation states did not come into existence until the 17th century and after (If memory serves).  There were lands, countries and tribes:  see map
  • The Schism between the Eastern and Western halves of the Catholic Church into the Roman Catholic Church and theEasternOrthodoxChurchesoccurred in 1054. 
  • The Reformation began with the posting of the 95 Theses on October 31, 1517.  Boniface lived and ministered the Gospel and Sacraments in the 8th century!

 I recounted to a colleague that my understanding from seminary of early Church history is basically, our Lord ascended into heaven in A.D. 33, the Church became all fouled up and Luther straightened it out in the 16th Century and here we are.  My colleague responded, “Yeah, that’s about right”.  The point is that a lot went on in between those dates!.  If it had not been for the work of the Holy Spirit through the preaching, teaching and administration of the Word of God by Boniface and the catholic Church, there would have been no Christians in the German lands.

Biographical Timeline: 

  • ca. 675.  Born in Crediton, Wessex, England. His name was originally Wynfrid.   Note: that at the time of his martyrdom, Boniface was in about 79 years old. 
  • His father took ill and he was sent to the Benedictine school atExeterand then to the Benedictine Monastery in Nursling.  The monastery was noted for it’s learning and it’s concern for missionary activity and there he was ordained at the age of 30.
  • ca. 715: Wynfrid was given permission from his Abbot for missionary work in Frisia (Holland) Wynfrid was about 40 years old.  Missionary work had been done by (St.) Willibrord  (+11 November 739). After a year, Wyndrid realized the time was not ripe for mission work.
  • 717:  Wynfrid’s Abbot died and Wynfrid was elected his successor.
  • 718: Wynfrid resigned as Abbot and a trip toRome (Note: the distance between Holland and Rome; he probably walked) for a missionary assignment.
  • 719:  Pope Gregory II gave Wynfrid a broad missionary assignment in the German lands.  In a Letter to Wynfrid, Gregory II called Wynfrid, “Boniface”, “one who does good” and it may have been nickname or a term of endearment. Boniface went to Thuringia to reform the partly pagan clergy.  Boniface was not the first missionary to the German lands for there was an immoral and hertical clergy ‘ministering’ to the people.  Boniface returned to Frisia to learn Willibrord’s missionary methods.
  • 721:  Boniface went back to the German lands toHesse and established a monastery there
  • 722: Boniface baptized thousands, on Pentecost, according to his biographer, Willibald.  The Pope heard of the success, and so Boniface made a 2nd trip to Rome. On November 30th, the Pope ordained Boniface a Bishop with no fixed diocese in the German lands.
  • 723:   He returned to the mission fields to Hesseand one of the most spectacular events in his mission work occurred when Boniface, “…was to fell the sacred oak tree of Thor (a Norse god), at Geisman in the region of Hesse.  When Boniface was not struck down by the ‘god’, many people were converted and Boniface built a chapel in honor of St. Peter with wood from the tree.” (Festivals and Commemorations by Rev. Phillip Pfatteicher)
  • 725-735: After he stayed for two years in Hesse,  Bishop (Bp.) Boniface spent a decade inThuringia where Frankish and Irish missionaries  had made a start. Bp. Boniface had a fruitful mission despite struggles with the pagan corruption of the clergy.
  • 731:  Pope Gregory II died
  • 732: Pope Gregory III made Boniface an archbishop in order to consecrate missionary bishops.
  • 737:  Boniface made his third and final journey to Rome, spent a year.  The Pope made him his legate to organize the Church.
  • 738: Boniface returned to the German lands, toBavaria,  establishing new bishoprics and abbeys. 
  • 741:   Pope Gregory III died, the new pope is Zachary (741-752)
  • 742-747:  Boniface reformed the Frankish Church
  • 744:  He established his most noted monastery in Fulda which became the center of spiritual and intellectual life in the German lands.
  • 1 April, 742:  Bp. Boniface convenes a church council
  • 1 March, 734: A second church council
  • 2 March, 744:  A third church council and again councils in 745 and 747
  • 745: Pope Zachary assigned Boniface the see (bishopric) of Colgne
  • 751:  Boniface is assigned the see ofMainz
  • 751: Pippin was consecrated King of the Frankish Empire. His son was none other than Charlemagne.  Pippin supported Boniface.  

Boniface wanted to return to active missionary work and it was on this date, as reported above, on a missionary tour of Frisia he became a martyr.

(Sources:  The Letters of St. Boniface, translated by Ephraim Emerton and Festivals and Commemoration by Philip Pfaitteicher)

 

Almighty God, who called Your faithful servant Boniface to be a witness and martyr in the lands of Germany and Friesland, and by his labor and suffering raised up a people for Your own possession, pour forth Your Holy Spirit upon your Church in every land, that by the service and sacrifice of many Your holy Name may be glorified and Your kingdom enlarged; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

 

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