Archive for the ‘St. Laurence of Rome’ Tag

Godly Inclusion and Social Justice   1 comment

St. Lawrence of Rome

Above:  St. Laurence of Rome

Image in the Public Domain


The Collect:

Compassionate God, you gather the whole universe into your radiant presence

and continually reveal your Son as our Savior.

Bring wholeness to all that is broken and speak truth to us in our confusion,

that all creation will see and know your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23


The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 22:1-21 (Monday)

Numbers 22:22-28 (Tuesday)

Psalm 35:1-10 (Both Days)

Acts 21:17-26 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 7:32-40 (Tuesday)


My very bones will say, “Lord, who is like you?

You deliver the poor from those who are too strong for them,

the poor and needy from those who rob them.”

–Psalm 35:10, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


Thus he who marries his betrothed does well,

and he who does not marry does better.

–1 Corinthians 7:38, The Revised English Bible (1989)


St. Paul the Apostle thought that the Second Coming of Jesus might occur within his lifetime, so he argued that changing one’s social or marital status ought not to constitute major priorities.  Most important, he contended, was living faithfully to God.  Thus avoiding distractions to a proper spiritual life was crucial, he wrote.  The Apostle was correct in his case that certain relationships do function as such distractions on some occasions.  He also argued correctly that God should come first in our lives.  Nevertheless, he was wrong about the timing of the Second Coming and the low priority of working for social justice.

A recurring theme in recent devotions in this series has been the sovereignty of God.  I have written that to use that eternal truth as cover for hatred and related violence is sinful.  Now I expand that statement to argue that using the sovereignty of God as cover for erecting and defending barriers between people and God is also sinful.  Yahweh is the universal deity, not a tribal god.  Divine power extends to Gentiles, from Balaam (in Numbers 22) to people in New Testament times to populations today.

I understand why people erect and defend spiritual barriers to God.  Doing so establishes boundaries which comfort and include those who define or defend them.  Fortunately, God’s circles are larger than ours.  Thus our Lord and Savior ate with notorious sinners, conversed at length with women, and committed many more scandalous deeds.  As the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta tells me, we should draw the circle wider.

Drawing the circle wider can threaten an identity founded on a small circle of the pure, but is doing that really such a bad thing?  No!  We ought to think less about our alleged purity and the supposed impurity of those different from us and focus instead on the vital work of ministry.  That work entails both evangelism and social justice efforts, for both aspects are consistent with the Old and New Testaments.  If I, for example, have the opportunity to help someone who is hungry eat proper food and choose not to do so, I do not feed Jesus.  If I say “be filled” to that person, I do him or her no good.  I have not loved my neighbor as myself.  And, if I affirm the unjust socio-economic system which keeps many people hungry, I am complicit in a societal evil.

The sovereignty of God is far more than a theological abstraction.  May it be a great force for loving others as our neighbors in God and therefore for improving society.  May grace, working through us, heal divisions, draw circles wider, and engage in radical hospitality.  May we witness what the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., called a moral revolution of values in 1967; may we (as a society) value people more than things and wealth.  As St. Laurence of Rome understood well long ago, when he gave his life for his faith in 258, the poor are the treasures of the Church.








Adapted from this post:


The Divine Preference for the Poor, Part I   1 comment

Above:  A Girl Begging in India

Image Source = Steve Evans


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Romans 11:29-36 (Revised English Bible):

The gracious gifts of God and his calling are irrevocable.  Just as formerly you were disobedient to God, but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so now, because of the mercy  shown to you, they have proved disobedient, but only in order that they too may receive mercy.  For in shutting all mankind in the prison of disobedience, God’s purpose was to show mercy to all mankind.

How deep are the wealth

and the wisdom and the knowledge of God!

How inscrutable his judgements,

how unsearchable his ways!

Who knows the mind of the Lord?

Who has been his counsellor?

Who has made a gift to him first,

and earned a gift in return?

From him and through him and for him all things exist–

to him be glory for ever! Amen.

Psalm 16:5-11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

5  O LORD, you are my portion and my cup;

it is you who uphold my lot.

6  My boundaries enclose a pleasant land;

indeed, I have a goodly heritage.

7  I will bless the LORD who gives me counsel;

my heart teaches me, night after night.

8  I have set the LORD always before me;

because he is at my right hand I shall not fall.

9  My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices;

my body also shall rest in hope.

10  For you will not abandon me to the grave,

nor let your holy one see the Pit.

11  You will show me the path of life;

in your presence there is fullness of joy,

and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

Luke 14:12-14 (Revised English Bible):

Then he [Jesus] said to his host,

When you are having guests for lunch or supper, do not invite your friends, your brothers or other relations, or your rich neighbours; they will only ask you back again and so you will be repaid.  But when you give a party, ask the poor, the cripples, the lame, and the blind.  That is the way to find happiness, because they have no means of repaying you.  You will be repaid on the day when the righteous rise from the dead.


The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


A Related Post:

Romans 11:


The brief reading from Luke occurs within the setting a dinner party at the home of a leading Pharisee.  This party occurs on the sabbath, a day on which scandalizes his host by healing a man with dropsy.  Then our Lord cautions against seeking the place of honor.  Now, in verses 12-14, Jesus says that the party guests ought to be the kind of people most of us might prefer to ignore–the poor, marginal, and vulnerable members of society.

In other words, check for the absence of pedigree, not the presence of it, when compiling a guest list.

This is radical material, by the standards of most human societies, yet not in relation to the rest of the Bible.  More than one Hebrew prophet condemned kings and societies for the sin of gross economic inequality and exploitation.  Some of those prophets were also marginal people who acted strangely; Jeremiah comes to mind immediately.  I think also of the story of the rich man and Lazarus, as well as of the first verses of James 2.  (Read them for yourself; you will see what I mean.)  I could continue, but I have made my point sufficiently.

St. Laurence of Rome (died 258 C.E.) understood the meaning of Jesus’ teaching from Luke 14:12-14 well.  Emperor Valerian had ordered the execution of Pope Sixtus II and seven deacons on August 4.   St. Laurence met his own martyrdom four days later.  Laurence, in charge of the church’s relief funds, had given them away to the poor.  When the prefect demanded that St. Laurence demanded information about the church’s treasures, the soon-to-be-martyr pointed to the poor and said (in Latin, of course), “These are the treasures of the Church.”  I will spare you, O reader, the gory details of how the saint died.

Paul wrote of the inscrutable, unsearchable, and deep wisdom and mercy of God.  This mercy applies to all, rich and poor alike.  Perhaps the Bible speaks of showing mercy to the poor so much because they have received so little of it from their fellow human beings.  They make the rest of us uncomfortable because they remind us of how vulnerable we really are.  Sometimes we justify not helping poor people when we can; that bum is undeserving, we tell ourselves.  ”Bum” is a word many people use far too often.  Yet God’s economics are not ours, and Jesus’ vision of the ideal dinner party is far removed from any most of us have attended.  God’s thoughts indeed are not ours.

Jesus, by his words and deeds, points out to me where I keep falling short of his standards.  This day’s reading from Luke 14 fits into this category.  If Luke 14:12-14 makes you uncomfortable, O reader, do not flee from the discomfort; embrace it.

In the name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.








Adapted from this post:


Awe of God   1 comment

Above:  “He clothes the hills with grass.” (Psalm 147:8, REB)


Isaiah 30:19-26 (Revised English Bible):

People of Zion, dwellers in Jerusalem, you will weep no more.  The LORD will show you favour and answer you when he hears your cry for help.  The Lord may give you bread of adversity and water of affliction, but he who teaches  you will no longer keep himself out of sight, but with your own eyes you will see him.  If you stray from the path, whether to the right or to the left, you will hear a voice from behind you sounding in your ears saying,

This is the way; follow it.

You will treat as things unclean in silver-plated idols; you will loathe them like a foul discharge and call them filth.

The Lord will give rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and as you sow in the ground, and as the produce of your soil he will give you heavy crops.  When that day comes your cattle will graze in broad pastures; the oxen and donkeys that plough the land will be fed with well-seasoned fodder, winnowed with shovel and fork.  On every high mountain and lofty hill streams of water will flow, on the day of massacre when fortresses fall.  The moon will shine as brightly as the sun, and the sun with seven times its wonted brightness, like seven days’ light in one, on the day when the LORD binds up the broken limbs of his people and heals the wounds inflicted on them.

Psalm 147:1-11 (Revised English Bible):

Praise the LORD.

How good it is to sing psalms to our God!

How pleasant and right to praise him!

The LORD rebuilds Jerusalem;

he gathers in the scattered Israelites.

It is he who heals the broken in spirit

and binds up their wounds,

who numbers the stars one by one

and calls each by name.

Mighty is our LORD and great his power;

his wisdom is beyond all telling.

The LORD gives support to the humble

and brings evildoers to the ground.

Sing to the LORD a song of thanksgiving,

sing psalms to the lyre in honour of our God.

He veils the sky in clouds

and provides rain for the earth;

he clothes the hills with grass.

He gives food to the cattle

and to the ravens when they cry.

The LORD does not delight in the strength of a horse

and takes no pleasure in a runner’s fleetness;

his pleasure is in those who fear him,

who wait for his steadfast love.

Matthew 9:35-10:8 (Revised English Bible):

So Jesus went round all the towns and villages teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, curing every kind of illness and infirmity.  The sight of the crowds moved him to pity; they were like sheep without a shepherd, harassed and helpless.  Then he said to his disciples,

The crop is heavy, but the labourers too few; you must ask the owner to send labourers to bring in the harvest.

Then he called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out unclean spirits and to cure every kind of illness and infirmity.

These are the names of the twelve apostles:  first Simon, also called Peter, and his brother, Andrew; James, son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax-collector, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions:

Do not take the road to gentile lands, and do not enter any Samaritan town; but go rather to the lost sheep  of the house of Israel.  And as you proclaim the message:  ‘The kingdom of heaven is upon you.’  Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons.  You received without out cost; give without charge.

The Collect:

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


The word “fear” in relation to God appears often in English translations of the Bible.  This is an unfortunate fact, for the better word is “awe.”  Fear, as most of understand that concept, is not what the Biblical writers meant when writing in the original languages.  I worship God, who, as the author of Psalm 147 wrote poetically, clothes the hills with grass.  My relationship with God is personal.  Often I make short comments to God.  These vary from dark and anguished expressions of frustration to short comments about how lovely a cloud formation is or pleasant a breeze is.  All these statements are honest and rooted in the belief that I can say anything to God.

So I have no difficulty becoming awestruck by God, and therefore extending due respect to the deity.  From this spiritual state flows an understanding of certain obligations.  What ought I to do with this?  I am, as Jesus said, to give without charge, for I have received without cost.  Each of us has received generously from the hand of God; we need to share with others that which we have to contribute.  I think of the model from the Acts of the Apostles:  we Christians should live in community, give as we are able, and receive as we have need, so that nobody will lack anything he or she needs.  And, as the example of St. Laurence of Rome reminds me, the poor are the real treasures of the church.

This is a matter of priorities.





Adapted from this post:


Posted November 12, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Isaiah 30, Matthew 9, Psalm 147

Tagged with ,

Greed and the Golden Rule   1 comment

Above:  U.S. $10,000 Bill, 1934

(Note:  $10,000 in 1934 = $163,000 in 2010.)

Images of U.S. currency, especially old banknotes, are in the public domain.


1 Timothy 6:1-12 (The Jerusalem Bible):

All slaves “under the yoke” must have unqualified respect for their masters, so that the name of God and our teaching are not brought into disrepute.  Slaves whose masters are believers are not to think any less of them because they are brothers; on the contrary, they should serve them all the better, since those who have the benefit of their services are believers and dear to God.

This [the contents of 1 Timothy prior to this paragraph] is what you are teach them to believe and persuade them to do.  Anyone who teaches anything different, and does not keep to the sound teaching, which is that of our Lord Jesus Christ, the doctrine which is in accordance with true religion, is simply ignorant and must be full of self-conceit–with a craze for questioning everything and arguing about words.  All that can come of this is jealousy, contention, abuse, and wicked mistrust of each other; and unending disputes by people who are neither rational nor informed and imagine that religion is a way of making a prophet.  Religion, of course, does not bring large profits, but only to those who are content with what they have.  We brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it; but as long as we have food and clothing, let us be content with that.  People who long to be rich are a prey to temptation; they get trapped into all sorts of foolish and dangerous ambitions which eventually plunge them into ruin and destruction.  The love of money is the root of all evils and there are some who, pursuing it, have wandered away from the faith, and so given their souls any number of fatal wounds.

But, as a man dedicated to God, you must avoid all that.  You must aim to be saintly and religious, filled with faith and love, patient and gentle.  Fight the good faith of the faith and win for yourself the eternal life to which you were called when you made your profession and spoke up for the truth in front of many witnesses.


“If you want to make a little money, write a book.  If you want to make a lot of money, create a religion.”

–L. Ron Hubbard, Founder of the Church of Scientology

Wealth and money, in and of themselves, are neither good nor bad.  The good and the bad originate from one’s motivations for seeking to acquire them and how one uses them when one has them.  Wealthy women financed the work of our Lord.  That was a good use of wealth, certainly.  Likewise, philanthropy is always a worthy cause.  But basing one’s identity on socio-economic status is foolish, for our identity ought to be in God alone.  And he who dies with the most toys does not win.  The haunting final scene of Citizen Kane returns to my memory at this time.  Charles Foster Kane had many possessions and a mansion, but nothing could make up for his lost childhood.  And his things, for lack of a better word, were useless to those cleaning up after him.

There is part of 1 Timothy 6 which I must address before moving forward.  The chapter opens with two verses concerning slavery but not condemning it.  Many Christians of the First Century C.E. expected Jesus to return any day, week, month, or year, so social reform took a back seat to personal holiness in the name of preparing for our Lord’s parousia.  Of course, he did not keep their schedule.  Another issue informing this chapter and much of the rest of the New Testament is how to be a good Christian and a good Roman.  Rocking the socio-economic boat by trying to abolish slavery, on which the Roman economy depended, was not on the agenda.

Here I must argue with more than one author of a New Testament text and side with Jesus.  Slavery is incompatible with following the Golden Rule.  I approach this issue from the perspective of a history buff.  For many centuries in Europe secular leaders oppressed the peasant majority of people while church leaders told the peasants that God had made them peasants.  So resisting the social order was allegedly a sin.  And, in the U.S. South, preachers used to quote the Old and New Testaments chapter and verse to defend racial slavery.  They said that those who used the Bible to condemn slavery were heretics.  Illustrative sermons are available at, among other places.  There are also excellent books, such as In His Image, But…, by H. Shelton Smith, on the subject.  And the 1865 Journal of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States reflects honest confusion about how the Confederacy could have lost the Civil War, for many white Southern Christians believed that God condoned slavery, and perhaps even commanded it.

But the Golden Rule is concise and unambiguous.  And this slavery served to benefit the masters, not the slaves.

Saint Laurence of Rome (died 258) was a deacon who became a martyr during the Valerian persecution.  The Empire tried to confiscate the wealth of the Church.  So Laurence, the treasurer, distributed the funds to the poor.  When captured and questioned, he said that the poor were the wealth of the Church.  He was correct, not that this fact spared him from a gruesome death.

He understood the true value of wealth, which is that its best use is meeting the needs of people.  We came into the world with nothing, which is how much we will take with us when we die.  How we care for each other with the time and other resources we have matters far more than how much money or many “toys” we have.  Following the Golden Rule is far more valuable than any amount of gold.


MARCH 29, 2011






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