Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Sermon: St. Lawrence - 2016

10 August 2016

Text: Mark 8:34-38

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Like all days in which we celebrate the Divine Service, today is a day of remembrance. For our Lord said, “Do this in memory of Me.”  And so we do this in remembrance of Him.  On this day, we also remember the words of our Lord, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.”  Moreover, we don’t just remember these words, we hopefully live them out, and hopefully we call to mind and honor our faithful brothers and sisters who did just that: who took up their cross to follow our Lord, and who lost their lives in order to save them.

On this date, one thousand six hundred and fifty eight years ago, our dear brother in Christ, the Deacon Lawrence of Rome, lost his life in order to save his life; he took up His cross and followed our Lord to the grave and to heaven.

In times past, dear friends, we have had the luxury of viewing the Christian martyrs as interesting tidbits of history, safely removed from our lives as we sit on comfortable couches in air conditioned rooms with no thought that we ourselves might be called upon to offer our blood as martyrs.

But no more.

More Christians are being martyred today than in the days of the ancient Romans.  Islamist jihadists routinely slaughter Christian people in the Middle East, and now in Europe, and perhaps soon, in the United States.  We certainly hope and pray to be delivered from this scourge.  But, dear friends, we must understand what it means to bear the cross.

St. Lawrence was a beloved servant of the church, the head deacon in Rome.  And when the emperor began yet another systematic extermination of the Christians, and after the bishop of Rome had been killed, the government came after the head deacon.  Since deacons were responsible for overseeing the church’s charity, Lawrence was ordered to turn over the treasures of the church to the government.

After a short delay in which the deacon quickly gave everything to the poor, he was asked to produce the treasures of the church.  St. Lawrence brought in the poor of Rome, and told the government that this was the church’s treasure, the poor, the people in need, the people whom the Church had given the treasure of Jesus Christ and the Gospel.

For his insolence, Deacon Lawrence was tortured to death on a hot gridiron.  As the legend goes, he was defiant to the very end, even telling his tormenters that they could turn him over because this side was done.  It was remembered that St. Lawrence went to his death with joy, knowing that he did indeed lose his life for the sake of the Gospel, and thus saved his life for eternity, being a baptized and forgiven sinner made new by the blood of the Lord Jesus at the cross.

In his ministry, the deacon likely assisted the bishop at the altar, very likely bringing the chalice of the Lord’s blood to the lips of the parishioners, these very treasures of the church, with the words: “The blood of Christ.”

And so we remember the blood of Christ, the blood of St. Lawrence, and the blood of Christian martyrs ancient and modern, even as we receive the same blood of Christ and hear the same Word of God, the same teaching of Jesus, the same Gospel on this day of remembrance.

And we not only remember St. Lawrence, but we treasure his example of service, his courage, his mercy, and his witness of the faith.

In a day and age in which boys want to emulate LeBron and girls look up to Beyonce as a role model, we do well to remember and teach about brothers like Lawrence instead, and sisters like Perpetua – heroic men and women whose blood testifies to the blood of Christ, whose crosses are mirrors directing all of us to the very cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.

For when it comes to remembrance of Christian saints, we not only remember them in the way of history, but knowing that we will meet them in eternity.  We will see them face to face.  We will talk to them.  We will join with them, side by side, in worship of Him who lost His life in order to save our lives.

For our lives have been saved through Christ’s cross and blood, even as St. Lawrence has been given the crown of everlasting life by grace and through faith.  And even as we look to the past to the heavenly birthday of Lawrence on this date, and even as we look toward eternity future to our joyful reunion with St. Lawrence and all the saints, we are present here, in this holy place, taking up our cross and confessing the Lord’s cross, perhaps one day to shed our blood, but certainly to receive the Lord’s blood.

We may never be put to death for the sake of the Lord, but certainly the Lord was put to death for the sake of us men and our salvation.  And in life or death, in good times and in bad, in joy and in sorrow, we, like St. Lawrence, are witnesses, martures in the Greek, we whose lives are testimonies to our Lord and His Gospel.

We thank our Lord not only for the blessings of St. Lawrence, the courageous martyr, but we also thank Him that we are indeed the treasury of the Church, so beloved of the Lord that He would deny Himself, take up His cross, shed His blood, and lose His life for our sakes, and for our everlasting life.

For faithful deacon Lawrence,
We praise Your name, O Lord.
Upon the poor and suff’ring
The Savior’s love he poured.
When ordered to surrender
The Church’s earthly wealth,
He claimed the martyr’s laurel
By sacrificing self. (hymn stanza © 2014 Walter P. Snyder)


In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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