Sun Shines on All
Thursday after Holy Trinity
15 June 2017
In A.D. 410 the Goths under King Alaric sacked the city of Rome. Although Rome had suffered investment and attack at the hands of her own power-hungry sons at various times in her history, this was the first time in her history that she was taken by foreigners. The shock and alarm that rippled out from this event have had a long life, even down to the present day. Much was made of the religious significance of this catastrophe. Opponents of the Christian religion immediately blamed Christianity; for these things had never happened while the pagan gods had been in charge. As often happens in times of such deep calamity, rationality was trashed while the blame game was being played, much as is happening following the attacks of 9-11. Many Americans wondered why some New Yorkers died and others were spared. Indeed, in a shockingly vicious statement radical leftist, Ward Churchill, claimed that those who died when the twin towers fell died because they represented rapacious and unfeeling capitalism. They were "little Eichmanns." They deserved it. Churchill's value judgment about this slaughter is a pitiful echo of the pagan criticism of Christianity after the fall of Rome.
When Alaric attacked the city many people, both Christians and pagans alike retreated to the churches of the city hoping that there they might gain sanctuary from the devouring sword. Instead of attacking these sacred places, the unbelieving soldiers of Alaric respected the sanctuary of the church, and howl threats though they might, they never crossed into the precincts of holiness. What a godsend this was for those who fearfully crammed into the Roman churches. Remarkably, in the aftermath of finger pointing, the pagans pointed out that both Christians and pagans alike were spared in the churches and that there was no benefit in being a Christian at all, if all alike were to be spared or slaughtered without discrimination.
Augustine, the bishop of Hippo, responded in his magisterial The City of God, in which he gave a religious interpretation of the fall of Rome, and indeed to history itself. At the beginning of his book, he responded to the irrational complaint that pagans were spared as well as Christians in the churches of the city. It is a strange complaint indeed to blame the church for providing shelter to those who were not Christians. Yet this shows that an equal gift of temporal safety stirred up praise of God in those who knew God in Christ and in those who knew Him not it stirred up complaints and envy. So it is today. 

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo
"Some say, 'Why, then, was this divine compassion extended even to the ungodly and ungrateful?' Why, but because it was the mercy of Him who daily ' makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust'  (Mt 5:45). For though some of these men, taking thought of this, repent of their wickedness and reform, some, as the apostle says, ' because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. He will render to each one according to his works ' (Rm 2:5-6). Nevertheless the patience of God still invites the wicked to repentance, even as the scourge of God educates the good to patience. So, too, the mercy of God embraces the good that it may cherish them, as the severity of God arrests the wicked to punish them. To the divine providence it has seemed good to prepare in the world to come for the righteous good things, which the unrighteous shall not enjoy; and for the wicked evil things, by which the good shall not be tormented. But as for the good things of this life, and its ills, God has willed that these should be common to both; that we might not too eagerly covet the things which wicked men are seen equally to enjoy, nor shrink with an unseemly fear from the ills which even good men often suffer.
"There is, too, a very great difference in the purpose served both by those events that we call adverse and those we call prosperous. For the good man is neither uplifted with the good things of time, nor broken by its ills; but the wicked man, because he is corrupted by this world's happiness, feels himself punished by its unhappiness. Yet often, even in the present distribution of temporal things, God plainly shows His own interference. For if every sin were now visited with manifest punishment, nothing would seem to be reserved for the final judgment. On the other hand, if no sin received now a plainly divine punishment, it would be concluded that there is no divine providence at all. And so of the good things of this life. If God did not by a very visible liberality confer these on some of those persons who ask for them, we should say that these good things were not at His disposal. And if He gave them to all who sought them, we should suppose that such were the only rewards of His service. Such a service would make us not godly, but greedy rather, and covetous.
"Therefore, though good and bad men suffer alike, we must not suppose that there is no difference between the men themselves, because there is no difference in what they both suffer. For even in the likeness of the sufferings, there remains an unlikeness in the sufferers; and though exposed to the same anguish, virtue and vice are not the same thing. For as the same fire causes gold to glow brightly, and chaff to smoke; and under the same flail the straw is beaten small, while the grain is cleansed; and as the sediments are not mixed with the oil, though squeezed out of the vat by the same pressure, so the same violence of affliction proves, purges, clarifies the good, but damns, ruins, exterminates the wicked. And thus it is that in the same affliction the wicked detest God and blaspheme, while the good pray and praise. So it makes a material difference, not what ills are suffered, but what kind of man suffers them. For, stirred up with the same movement, mud exhales a horrible stench, and ointment emits a fragrant odor." 

Augustine, The City of God, 1.8

"Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the rules that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son's son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.
"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
"And when the LORD your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you-with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant-and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you, for the LORD your God in your midst is a jealous God, lest the anger of the LORD your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth." (ESV)
O Lord, in our sufferings let us emit the odor of a fragrant ointment by faith instead of the stench of complaint. Help us see our suffering as a gift from You who sends rain and sun to both the wicked and the righteous. We thank Your for Your providential care of all persons, among whom we count ourselves. Amen.
For all those who are nominated for the positions to be elected at the upcoming district conventions of the LCMS, that they might account for the hope that is in them with gentleness and respect
For Vicar Matthew Bless, that the Lord Jesus would continue to bring him gifts as he completes the last months of his vicarage, so that he would be prepared to take up the office of the holy ministry
For all those who travel during this time of recreation and reflection, that they might be kept safe by the holy angels who watch over them
Art: Albrecht DURER,   The Adoration of the Trinity (1511 )
Memorial Lutheran Church
©  Scott Murray 2017