A Tale of Two Cities
Wednesday of Pentecost 2
21 June 2017
The church had become a legal institution in Rome less than one hundred years before Rome was sacked (A.D. 410). The intermittent persecution that plagued the church until the time of Constantine, meant that converts were always quite serious about their conversion. This confession that Christ is God and Lord placed the convert at odds with the government that took this confession to be a rejection of the emperor and Rome. Conversion was fundamentally a crime punishable by death, as it is today in many parts of the Islamic world. No feeble conversions to Christ ever took place in the first three centuries of Christian mission work. When Christ was confessed, He was to be confessed unto death.
 
By the time Rome was sacked, Christianity was completely identified with the imperial court in Milan and Ravenna. The government was thought to be Christian. Those who sought imperial favor had to do so as members of the church. It was understood that all the best people were in the church or headed in that direction. Those who entered the church no longer so carefully weighed the cost of conversion, because confession to death seemed a remote possibility, and entirely to the contrary, it appeared that confessing Christ might be quite lucrative. The result was that people converted in appearance, but in their hearts were still pagans.
 
Augustine's view of the two cities, of God and of the world, presumed that those two cities were intertwined and overlapping. He was aware that there were converts who simply took Christianity as a temporal advantage. He was willing to accept this ambiguity because such persons would ever remain the target of the Word of God. Christian preaching truly converts seeming converts, as much as public pagans. The two cities remain together until the day of judgment. We Christians still face this entanglement. Our goal is no different today than it was to Augustine. The church still has a divine mission to bring the unconverted, who identify themselves with the church, into the bosom of Christ. Judgment we can leave to God. Our weapon in this struggle to win souls for Christ is nothing other than the Word of God. And thus faithful preaching of the biblical gospel is essential to this war for souls. The war will go on until the end, when God will lead His city to ultimate triumph.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo
 
"Let the pilgrim city of King Christ bear in mind, that among her enemies lie hidden those who are destined to be fellow citizens, that she may not think it a fruitless labor to bear what they inflict as enemies until they become confessors of the faith. So, too, as long as she is a stranger in the world, the city of God has in her communion, and bound to her by the sacraments, some who shall not eternally dwell in the lot of the saints. Of these, some are not now recognized; others declare themselves, and do not hesitate to make common cause with our enemies in murmuring against God, whose sacramental badge they wear. These men you may today see thronging the churches with us, tomorrow crowding the theaters with the godless. But we have the less reason to despair of the reclamation even of such persons, if among our most declared enemies there are now some, unknown to themselves, who are destined to become our friends. In truth, these two cities are entangled together in this world, and intermixed until the last judgment effects their separation (Mt 13:24-30). I now proceed to speak, as God shall help me, of the rise, progress, and end of these two cities. And I write what I write for the glory of the city of God, that, being placed in comparison with the other, it may shine with a brighter luster." 

Augustine, 
The City of God, 1.35

Matthew 13:24-30

He put another parable before them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, 'Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?' He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' So the servants said to him, 'Then do you want us to go and gather them?' But he said, 'No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'"   (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Christ, You rule and reign over the City of God by Your Word. Grant that Word the power of Your promises that those who are not her citizens might be converted to You and become heirs of her ultimate triumph. Amen.
 
For those who will find the cost of attendance upon the Word and Sacraments too great a burden, that they might be lifted from their lethargy and rejoice in the rich blessings of God this Sunday
 
For the success of Pr. Charles Wokoma as he raises funds to continue serving the mission of Christ in Nigeria
 
For Peggy Oesch, that God the Lord would bless her with joy and peace in Christ as she mourns her losses
Art: Albrecht DURER,   The Adoration of the Trinity (1511 )
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
©  Scott Murray 2017