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Archive for September 16th, 2017

A Meme

Matthew 18:  Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Luke 23:  And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Luke 23:  And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Hebrews 2:  For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, 12 saying,

“I will tell of your name to my brothers;
    in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”

13 And again,

“I will put my trust in him.”

And again,

“Behold, I and the children God has given me.”

14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 

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Cyprian (A.D. ca. 200–258), was acclaimed bishop of the north African city in Carthage around 248.During the persecution of the Roman Emperor Decius, Cyprian fled Carthage but returned two years later. He was then forced to deal with the problem of Christians who had lapsed from their faith under persecution and now wanted to return to the Church. It was decided that these lapsed Christians could be restored but that their restoration could take place only after a period of penance that demonstrated their faithfulness. During the persecution under Emperor Valerian, Cyprian at first went into hiding but later gave himself up to the authorities. He was beheaded for the faith in Carthage in the year 258. (From the LCMS website)Regarding his martyrdom, from The Penguin Dictionary of Saints:  “When persecution began again in 258, under Emperor Valerian, St Cyprian was one of the first victims. There is an account of what happened compiled directly from contemporary documents. Cyprian was first examined by the proconsul, and on affirming his adherence to the one true God, and refusing to divulge the names of his priests, he was exiled to Curubis. When a new proconsul came into office, Cyprian was brought up for trial in Carthage. He again refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods, and was sentenced to death. Accompanied by a tumultuous crowd, he was led to the field of Sextus; there he knelt in prayer. He gave a generous gift to the executioner, blindfolded himself, and his head was struck off.”

Reflection:  St. Cyprian lived before the Emperor Constantine’s Edict of Milan in 312 which made Christianity a legal religion of the Empire.  From the time of our Lord’s Ascension to that time the Church went through persecution from social ridicule to martyrdom.  In 250, under Emperor Decius, with the threat of death, many Christians denied the faith, gave-up fellow Christians to the authorities or when told to burn incense to Caesar bought letters called,  libelli, or certificates, that they had done so. Based upon 1 Timothy 2: 1-4, the Church prayed for Caesar, but did not pray to Caesar (see the 1st Commandment).  

When the persecution ended, many wanted to return to the Church. My speculation is those who denied the faith were regarded as traitors.   One party wanted them to be re-baptized or one Novatus said they committed apostasy and were not saved.  He denied absolution to the repentant.  Novatus’ heresy, Novationism, was also condemned in The Augsburg Confession because he denied absolution/forgiveness (1).   The Bishop of Rome , Pope Stephen I said that once baptized, still baptized and like Saul and Judas a Christian can be lost. The Church agreed Biblically that a time of penitence, that is, repentance would return one to the flock.  The Biblical understanding is absolution for the penitent restores one to the Church.   This crucial understanding of repentance and absolution is reflected in the true Reformation understanding: “Repentance, therefore, is nothing else than a return and approach to Baptism, that we repeat and practice what we began before, but abandoned.”(The Large Catechism).

Two of the lessons we can learn from St. Cyprian are:

  1. Cyprian and all the martyrs remind us that faith in Jesus Christ matters. Even in the midst of persecution, Cyprian and the Church debated right doctrine and the resulting right practice. They did not soften doctrine in order to be accepted by society and culture or by those who denied Christ and a lot was at stake: their lives but more: true doctrine which is eternal life. There were those who denied Christ and so ‘saved’ themselves, but those who sell out doctrine and faith and true worship are not saving  the Church, and removing themselves from the Savior.  
  2. Cyprian and the Church took seriously  the right Biblical way of ministering to those who denied Christ and they sought the true way:  repentance.  Cyprian was beheaded for the faith, for true worship, for right doctrine and practice.  

The beheading of Cyprian has a relevance in the news these past years of Islamists beheading  Christians. We are so readily led to  water down doctrine and the faith to “reach out” to the world which fits the devil’s game plan.  We need the courage of a Cyprian and the love poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit to minister in the Name of the Lord to our neighbors:

“…having received the Holy Spirit, we are living holy and spiritually; if we have raised our eyes from earth to heaven; if we have lifted our hearts, filled with God and Christ, to things above and divine, let us do nothing but what is worthy of God and Christ, even as the apostle arouses and exhorts us, saying: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” [Colossians 3:1-4]. Let us, then, who in Baptism have both died and been buried in respect to the carnal sins of the old man, who have risen again with Christ in the heavenly regeneration, both think upon and do the things that are Christ’s.”  –Cyprian of Carthage

Remove the pow’r of sin from me/And cleanse all my impurity/That I may have the strength and will/ Temptations of the flesh to still.—Renew Me, 0 Eternal Light (LSB 704:2)

Prayer of the Day:

Almighty God, You gave Your servant Cyprian boldness to confess the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, before the rulers of this world and courage to die for the faith he proclaimed. Give us strength always to be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever

(1) From The Augsburg Confession: Article  XII, Of Repentance  (emphasis added):  Our churches teach that for those who have fallen after Baptism there is remission of sins whenever they are converted and that the Church ought to impart absolution to those thus returning to repentance. Now, repentance consists properly of these two parts: One is contrition, that is, terrors smiting the conscience through the knowledge of sin; the other is faith, which is born of  the Gospel, or of absolution, and believes that for Christ’s sake, sins are forgiven, comforts the conscience, and delivers it from terrors. Then good works are bound to follow, which are the fruits of repentance.

They condemn the Anabaptists, who deny that those once justified can lose the Holy Ghost.

Also those who contend that some may attain to such  perfection in this life that they cannot sin.

The Novatians also are condemned, who would not absolve such as had fallen after Baptism, though they returned to repentance.

They also are rejected who do not teach that remission of sins comes through faith but command us to merit grace through satisfactions of our own. 

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