Tomorrow (August 10) marks the Commemoration of Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr (225-258). In 257, when Sixtus II (?-258) became Pope, he installed Lawrence into the office of Deacon, and made him Archdeacon of Rome (i.e. first among the seven Deacons of the city). His responsibilities included oversight of the treasury of the Church, and the care of the poor. Shortly thereafter, Emperor Valerian (200-260) began his persecution of the Church. Ambrose of Milan (340-397) later reported that when the persecutors demanded the treasures of the Church from Lawrence, he promised that he would show them. Lawrence then distributed the funds among the poor. The following day, he brought the poor together and when asked by the authorities where the treasures were, he pointed to them saying, “These are the treasures of the Church.”1 The authorities were infuriated, and put Lawrence to death on August 10, 258, by roasting him on a gridiron.
Lawrence was a baptized child of God, regularly heard His Word and received His Supper. He thus knew that he was free in Christ to cooperate in His work of mercy among the poor. In The One True Faith, Lawrence was able to see these downtrodden as ones for whom Christ died, rose, and ascended and on whom He had bestowed His Holy Spirit. Although beaten down, these poor had the treasure of, “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” in their “jars of clay” (2 Corinthians 4:6-7). In the depth of their need, they clearly saw their total dependence on God, and could truly be called the “treasures of the Church.”
With today’s Divine Service, we transition into the portion of the Trinity season known as Lawrencetide, so named from tomorrow’s Commemoration. Following on what God did through the life of Lawrence, the emphases of this 7.5-week period are sanctification, love of Church and good works. For this year’s Lawrencetide seasonal hymn, we selected LSB 649, Blest Be the Tie That Binds, which beautifully reflects on these points. We are bound together through our Baptism and regular receipt of our Lord’s gifts of His Word and Supper. We are free in Christ to lift each other up in prayer, and make each other’s burdens our own. When one of our fellowship goes to be with the Lord, we mourn our temporary loss, but remain confident in the certain hope that we will meet again. Our love for others here and now is but a mere shadow of that which shall be into eternity, when we will no longer be able to sin!
We are thankful for the example of Lawrence, whose life and death point squarely to the crucified, risen and ascended Jesus, sustainer of body and soul. We are thankful that God has made you to be treasures of His Church here in Catalina. We are thankful that through the years, and especially during this time of pandemic, He has enlivened your hearts to make the woes and burdens of others your own. We are thankful that you regularly share His blessed gifts with those in need, through your donations to the mercy arm of this congregation, including the Diaconate, Operation Barnabas, Lutherans for Life (Family First), and the LWML. We are thankful for your presence today, and pray God’s blessings on you as you receive His gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation, strengthening you in faith toward Him and in fervent love toward one another.
- Ambrose, On the Duties of the Clergy, Book II, Chapter XVIII (paragraphs 140, 141) at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf210.html (accessed 31 July 2020)