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Archive for June 1st, 2017

Biography:  born at the beginning of the second century, Justin was raised in a pagan family. He was a student of philosophy who converted to the Christian faith and became a teacher in Ephesus and Rome. After refusing to make pagan sacrifices, he was arrested, tried and executed, along with six other believers. They were beheaded.  The official Roman court proceedings of his trial before Rusticius, a Roman prelate, document his confession of faith. The account of his martyrdom became a source of great encouragement to the early Christian community. Much of what we know of early liturgical practice comes from Justin.

It seems that Sunday as the “Little Easter”, the day the Lord rose again from the dead, has been the day of worship from the beginning for the Church and it was not convenient.  As described by Justin Martyr:

On the day called Sunday there is a gathering together in the same place of all who live in a given city or rural district. The memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits. Then when the reader ceases, the president in a discourse admonishes and urges the imitation of these good things. Next we all rise together and send up prayers.

In an excellent article by Pastor Mark Surburg, They worshipped when?!?, he quotes the Roman, and pagan, historian Pliny, who lived 50 years before Justin the Martyr, the following about Christians:

They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when   called upon to do so.

Pastor Surburg commented that the early Church met “before dawn” and Justin says they met, “…as long as time permits” because Sunday was not a day off!  They seem to have lived in a 24/7 world. Our brothers and sisters in the Lord back 1,900 years ago woke up really early for the Divine Service on Sunday before they would go off to work.  As our culture and society becomes increasingly antagonistic to the Church, it will take faithfulness to receive His Word and Sacraments. Pr. Surburg:

As the era of the post-Christian world continues to advance in our culture, we are encountering more and more situations that reflect the experience of our early Christian forefathers.  Sporting events, school activities and a growing list of other endeavors are scheduled for Sunday morning.  The faithful practice of the Christian faith will require an ever greater commitment.  It will require sacrifice in order put Jesus Christ first as the Lord of our life.  The saints who have gone before provide both a model and an encouragement.  They show us what Christians have done in order to be faithful, and they demonstrate how by his grace God enabled them to do this.

Justin Martyr and our brothers and sisters back then give us encouragement for here and now. No wonder that the “memoirs of the Apostles” that were read would have included this Scripture from the Apostle Peter, 1 Peter 2:  11-12:

“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” 

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