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Posts Tagged ‘Decius’

“And he asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven. And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

 

My father liked to tell a joke.  I wish I could remember his exact words, but it went something like this:

A man’s television stopped working, so he called the local repairman to fix it.  The repairman came over, examined the set, and tapped the console.  Then he turned the switch.

To the man’s amazement, the television came on and looked just fine.

“That’s incredible,” he said, smiling.  “You’ve tapped it once and it works.  Thanks!”

“That’s what I do,” said the repairman.  “That’ll be $50.”

The man’s smile vanished.  “How can you charge $50 for a tap?  I could have tapped it myself for free.”

The repairman said, “The tap was free.  The $50 is for knowing where to tap.”

 

You might have heard the aphorism:  “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.”

In St. Matthew 13.31-32, we read:  “The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:  Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.”

In God’s world, the smallest of things can lead to the mightiest of things.

 

In the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shabbat, page 21b, we read:

“What is the reason for Chanukah? For our Rabbis taught: On the 25th of Kislev begin the days of Chanukah, which are eight, during which lamentation for the dead and fasting are forbidden. For when the Greeks entered the Temple, they defiled all the oils in it, and when the Hasmonean dynasty prevailed against and defeated them, they [the Hasmoneans] searched and found only one cruse of oil which possessed the seal of the High Priest, but which contained sufficient oil for only one day’s lighting; yet a miracle occurred there and they lit [the lamp] for eight days. The following year these days were appointed a Festival with the recitation of Hallel and thanksgiving.”

With God’s grace, the things of God go a long way.

 

In Exodus 12.21-23, we read:  “Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover.  And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning.  For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the LORD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.”

Blood dabbed on the lintels of the doors of the enslaved Hebrews let the angel of death know to not stop at their door.  The little bit of blood on the outside of the door saved a whole lot of blood on the inside of the door.

 

Last month, I took a shell smaller than my hand, dipped it in water, and poured just a bit of water on a baby’s forehead three times.  Just a little bit of water can mystically clean a soul from all sin, actual and inherited, when done in the Ministration of Holy Baptism.  The hands aren’t wet, the belly isn’t wet, the knees aren’t wet, but the whole person is Baptized with the sacramental washing with water.

Likewise, in Confirmation and Ordination, the person receiving the sacrament receives all the goodness and virtue and heavenly grace upon the laying on of hands by the bishop upon the head.  Not only the head receives the benefit.  But the whole person – body and soul – receives the heavenly grace and Ghostly gifts according to the Sacrament.  The hands are placed upon the head, but the whole person receives the benefit.

In the Christian Religion, a small amount can signify the entire thing.

 

In A.D. 249, Decius won the throne of Rome.  He attempted to regain Rome’s Golden Age, and to do so wanted all Romans to return to traditional pagan piety.  Except for only the Jews, Decius required everybody in the Empire to offer a pinch of incense to a statue of the emperor in front of witnessing magistrates to prove their loyalty to Rome.

Decius did not require that anyone give up their own gods.  He meant for Christians as well as pagans to worship the embodied Roman state as well as their own God or gods.  But Christians can only worship the one true God.  Many Christians were executed or imprisoned unto death for their refusal to worship the image of the emperor, including the Bishops of Rome, Jerusalem, and Antioch – three of the five Patriarchs of the Church.

For Christians rather to die than to betray their Lord with small actions is both the logical result of belief in Christ and quite common in Church history.  From the pagan warlords of Japan to the atheist Communists of Russia, Christians have suffered martyrdom rather than concede that they have any Lord other than Christ.  Christians have died rather than to give an inch, to give a pinch of incense, to give any sign that they place their trust in anyone but Christ.

In the Religion of Christ, small actions can have eternal consequences.

 

In St. Matthew xxvi.26-28, we read:  “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.  And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”

A small thing signifying a much greater thing occurs often in Scripture.  God takes the simple bread and wine and turns them into the Body and Blood of Christ, given for us so that we might enjoy mystic sweet communion with Him.  It is amazing.  It is stupefying.  But there it is.

 

God takes a little bit and makes much of it.

He takes acorns and makes oak trees.  He takes enough oil for one night and lets it burn for eight.  He takes a little blood on the outside of a doorway and saves the family inside.  He takes a little water and saves a soul.  He takes bread and wine and gives us Christ’s Body and Blood.

What small thing are we to offer up to God for him to do great things with?  What is most precious to us?  What do we want to keep for ourselves?  Our pride?  Our financial security?  Our difficult but delightful ways?  Our lifestyle?  Our secret sin?

God wants it.  God wants to take what you hold back so he can do great things with it.  He wants your secret sin so that he can fill you with his grace and save your soul.  He wants your financial security so that you only have faith in Christ and bring others to believe in Him as well.  He wants your doggedly difficult ways so that you and your neighbors can love each other as yourselves and thus enjoy the peace which passeth all understanding.

Tithing, coming to church this morning, keeping the Ten Commandments – these are not the essence of the Christian Religion.  But giving our wills over to God is of the essence of the Religion of Christ.

Whether tomorrow morning or on Wednesday afternoon or when you wake up in the middle of the night, ask yourself:  What small thing am I holding back from God that he wants so that he can do a mighty thing with it?

 

“And he asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven. And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

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