Archive for the ‘St. Laurence of Rome’ Tag

Week of Proper 2: Wednesday, Year 2   2 comments

Above:  The Doctor (1901), by Samuel Luke Fildes

Lasting Treasure

MAY 23, 2018


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


James 4:13-17 (Revised English Bible):

Now a word with all who say,

Today or the next day we will go off to such and such a town and spend a year there trading and making money.

Yet you have no idea what tomorrow will bring.  What is your life after all?  You are no more than a mist, seen for a little while  and then disappearing.  What you ought to say is:

If it be the Lord’s will, we shall live to do so and so.

But instead, you boast and brag, and all such boasting is wrong.  What it comes to is that anyone who knows the right thing to do and does not do it is a sinner.

Psalm 49:1-9, 16-20 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hear this, all you peoples;

hearken, all you who dwell in the world,

you of high degree and low, rich and poor together.

2 My mouth shall speak of wisdom,

and my heart shall meditate on understanding.

I will incline my ear to a proverb

and set forth my riddle upon the harp.

Why should I be afraid in evil days,

when the wickedness of those at my heels surrounds me,

5 The wickedness of those who put their trust in their goods,

and boast of their great riches?

6 We can never ransom ourselves,

or deliver to God the price of our life;

7 For the ransom of our life is so great,

that we should never have enough to pay it,

8 In order to live for ever and ever,

and never to see the grave.

9 For we see that the wise die also;

like the dull and the stupid they perish

and leave their wealth to those who come after them.

16  Do not be envious when some become rich,

or when the grandeur of their house increases;

17  For they will carry nothing away at their death,

nor will their grandeur follow them.

18  Though they thought highly of themselves while they lived,

and were praised for their success,

19  They shall join the company of their forebears,

who will never see the light again.

20  Those who are honored, but have no understanding,

are like the beasts that perish.

Mark 9:38-41 (Revised English Bible):

John said to him,

Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and as he was not one of us, we tried to stop him.

Jesus said,

Do not stop him, for no one who performs a miracle in my name will be able the next moment to speak evil of me.  He is not against us is on our side.  Truly I tell you:  whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you are followers of the Messiah will certainly not go unrewarded.


The Collect:

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 2:  Wednesday, Year 1:

Week of 7 Epiphany:  Wednesday, Year 1:

Week of 7 Epiphany:  Wednesday, Year 2:

Luke 9 (Parallel to Mark 9):


Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

–Matthew 6:19-21, Revised Standard Version

Once, in Alapaha, Georgia, there lived a kindly elderly woman named Emily.  Her house was an unofficial museum of local history.  There one could find old maps and photographs, an antique telephone, et cetera.  Most impressive of all was her memory of the local past, though.  One day she told me a story about a doctor, a general practitioner who made house calls.  He kept track of who owed him how much.  The doctor died with people still owing him money, but they never had pay up because he destroyed those records.  His wife, he knew, would try to collect the money, and the patients probably could not pay.  The man had a good heart, and he acted accordingly.

He knew, as did St. Laurence of Rome, that people matter more than money.  The doctor also knew that, as Psalm 49 reminds us in eloquent words, we cannot take our earthly wealth with us when we die.

The biblical ethic concerning money is not anti-wealth.  It is, rather, opposed to the arrogance and presumption many wealthy people have.  We all depend on God for everything, but some people do not realize this because of their attitude toward their money and possessions.  Some people have dealt with this spiritual matter by shedding their wealth.  This an appropriate corrective action for many people.  Yet others can remain wealthy and have a proper attitude, with their philanthropy demonstrating their sincerity.  Proper attitude is essential in this spiritual matter, regardless of the action God calls one to take.

That proper attitude is recognition and acceptance of one’s total dependence on God for everything.  May this guide our actions toward ourselves, each other, and God.


Published originally in a nearly identical form as Week of 7 Epiphany:  Wednesday, Year 2, at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on July 2, 2011

Week of Proper 26: Monday, Year 1   15 comments

Above:  A Girl Begging in India

Image Source = Steve Evans

The Divine Preference for the Poor

NOVEMBER 1, 2021


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Romans 11:29-36 (Revised English Bible):

The gracious gifts of God and his calling are irrevocable.  Just as formerly you were disobedient to God, but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so now, because of the mercy  shown to you, they have proved disobedient, but only in order that they too may receive mercy.  For in shutting all mankind in the prison of disobedience, God’s purpose was to show mercy to all mankind.

How deep are the wealth

and the wisdom and the knowledge of God!

How inscrutable his judgements,

how unsearchable his ways!

Who knows the mind of the Lord?

Who has been his counsellor?

Who has made a gift to him first,

and earned a gift in return?

From him and through him and for him all things exist–

to him be glory for ever! Amen.

Psalm 16:5-11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

5  O LORD, you are my portion and my cup;

it is you who uphold my lot.

6  My boundaries enclose a pleasant land;

indeed, I have a goodly heritage.

7  I will bless the LORD who gives me counsel;

my heart teaches me, night after night.

8  I have set the LORD always before me;

because he is at my right hand I shall not fall.

9  My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices;

my body also shall rest in hope.

10  For you will not abandon me to the grave,

nor let your holy one see the Pit.

11  You will show me the path of life;

in your presence there is fullness of joy,

and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

Luke 14:12-14 (Revised English Bible):

Then he [Jesus] said to his host,

When you are having guests for lunch or supper, do not invite your friends, your brothers or other relations, or your rich neighbours; they will only ask you back again and so you will be repaid.  But when you give a party, ask the poor, the cripples, the lame, and the blind.  That is the way to find happiness, because they have no means of repaying you.  You will be repaid on the day when the righteous rise from the dead.


The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


The brief reading from Luke occurs within the setting a dinner party at the home of a leading Pharisee.  This party occurs on the sabbath, a day on which scandalizes his host by healing a man with dropsy.  Then our Lord cautions against seeking the place of honor.  Now, in verses 12-14, Jesus says that the party guests ought to be the kind of people most of us might prefer to ignore–the poor, marginal, and vulnerable members of society.

In other words, check for the absence of pedigree, not the presence of it, when compiling a guest list.

This is radical material, by the standards of most human societies, yet not in relation to the rest of the Bible.  More than one Hebrew prophet condemned kings and societies for the sin of gross economic inequality and exploitation.  Some of those prophets were also marginal people who acted strangely; Jeremiah comes to mind immediately.  I think also of the story of the rich man and Lazarus, as well as of the first verses of James 2.  (Read them for yourself; you will see what I mean.)  I could continue, but I have made my point sufficiently.

St. Laurence of Rome (died 258 C.E.) understood the meaning of Jesus’ teaching from Luke 14:12-14 well.  Emperor Valerian had ordered the execution of Pope Sixtus II and seven deacons on August 4.   St. Laurence met his own martyrdom four days later.  Laurence, in charge of the church’s relief funds, had given them away to the poor.  When the prefect demanded that St. Laurence demanded information about the church’s treasures, the soon-to-be-martyr pointed to the poor and said (in Latin, of course), “These are the treasures of the Church.”  I will spare you, O reader, the gory details of how the saint died.

Paul wrote of the inscrutable, unsearchable, and deep wisdom and mercy of God.  This mercy applies to all, rich and poor alike.  Perhaps the Bible speaks of showing mercy to the poor so much because they have received so little of it from their fellow human beings.  They make the rest of us uncomfortable because they remind us of how vulnerable we really are.  Sometimes we justify not helping poor people when we can; that bum is undeserving, we tell ourselves.  “Bum” is a word many people use far too often.  Yet God’s economics are not ours, and Jesus’ vision of the ideal dinner party is far removed from any most of us have attended.  God’s thoughts indeed are not ours.

Jesus, by his words and deeds, points out to me where I keep falling short of his standards.  This day’s reading from Luke 14 fits into this category.  If Luke 14:12-14 makes you uncomfortable, O reader, do not flee from the discomfort; embrace it.

In the name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.


Week of Proper 6: Friday, Year 1   6 comments

Above:  Paul Writing His Epistles (A 16th-Century Painting)

Our Lives Belong to God

JUNE 18, 2021


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


2 Corinthians 11:18, 21b-30 (An American Translation):

Since many are so human as to boast, I will do it also….But whatever anyone else dares to boast of–I am playing the part of a fool–I will dare to boast of too.  If they are Hebrews, so am I!  If they are Israelites, so am I!  If they are descended from Abraham, so am I!  If they are Christian workers–I am talking like a madman!–I am a better one! with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, vastly worse beatings, and in frequent danger of death.  Five times I have been given one less than forty lashes, by the Jews.  I have been beaten three times by the Romans, I have been stoned once, I have been shipwrecked three times, a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; with my frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from the heathen, danger in the city, danger in the desert, danger at sea, danger from false brothers, through toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, through hunger and thirst, often without out food, and exposed to cold.  And besides everything else, the thing that burdens me every day is my anxiety about all the churches.  Who is weak without being weak?  Whose conscience is hurt without my being fired with indignation?  If there must be boasting, I will boast of the things that show my weakness!

Psalm 34:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 I will bless the LORD at all times;

his praise shall ever be in my mouth.

2 I will glory in the LORD;

let the humble hear and rejoice.

3 Proclaim with me the greatness of the LORD;

let us exalt his Name together.

4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me

and delivered me out of all my terror.

5 Look upon him and be radiant,

and let not your faces be ashamed.

6 I called in my affliction and the LORD heard me

and saved me from all my troubles.

Matthew 6:19-23 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,] “Do not store up your riches on earth, where moths and rust destroy them, and where thieves break in and steal them, but store up your riches in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy them, and where thieves cannot break in and steal them.  But wherever your treasure is, your heart will be also.  The eye is the lamp of the body.  So if your eye is sound, your whole body will be light, but if your eye is unsound, your whole body will be dark.  If, therefore, your very light is darkness, how deep the darkness will be!”


The Collect:

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.


Almost never do I watch television, as I have chosen to live without cable TV service.  If I do not pay for that utility, I do not receive it.  And I live better without it, doing more reading and writing than I would otherwise.  Also, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio offers much wonderful cultural and news programming.  Giving up cable television has not been a real sacrifice for me; I have traded up.

Yet I do sit a house sit from time to time, and I find cable TV there.  Once, during such a job, I found a Hoarders marathon on A&E.  Each hour follows an intervention in the life of a person with the mental illness called hoarding.  These individuals live in needlessly dirty and cluttered homes, which have health risks (such as mold) frequently.  Yet these hoarders cling emotionally and psychologically to their possessions, most of which they have no way of accessing due to the clutter.  They become anxious when someone throws away a three-year-old jar of a condiment, for example.

Hoarding, being a mental illness, is treatable.  So I leave it, an extreme version of materialism, in the realm of professionals.  Run-of-the mill materialism, however, falls into the category of sin.  I read a few years ago about the increasing popularity of three-car garages in the United States.  The extra space is for storage, not a third vehicle.  I write these words early in the Christmas shopping season of 2010.  Very little is more materialistic than the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day in the United States.

I am not cranky about this, for crankiness does not become me.  No, it is possible to stand firmly for one’s principles without resorting to a bad attitude and becoming unpleasant company.  Without trying to seem self-righteous, I state simply that I do all or most of my Christmas shopping (what little I do) at thrift stores, and hope that people perceive that statement with the matter-of-fact way I intend it.

As I write these words, I am in my sixth year in Athens, Georgia, and the fourth year in the same apartment.  This is the longest period of time I have spent in one town.  I was mobile as a youth, given the frequent moves I made with my family, due to my father’s transfers from one United Methodist parsonage to another.  I learned along the way that moving many possessions is no fun.  So, to this day, I ask myself one question before buying something durable:  “Do I want to move with this?”  I maintain a large private library, which I use, and resign myself to the occasional pain of packing, moving, unpacking, and reshelving it according to the organizational plan only I understand.  But, like Thomas Jefferson, I cannot live without books.

But, as Jesus says in Luke 12:15 (New Revised Standard Version):

Take care!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”

Edgar J. Goodspeed’s An American Translation gets to the point with slightly different wording:

Take care! You must be on your guard against every form of greed, for a man’s life does not belong to him, no matter how rich he is.

Goodspeed’s translation, by eschewing the traditional language, cuts to the chase and bares the point of the teaching.  Materialism is an attempt to control one’s life, but all life is from God in the presence of God, so nobody’s life is his or her own.  Any idea to the contrary is mistaken.  Paul of Tarsus understood that his life was in God, and, after listing his hardships, he boasted only in God.  In God he found peace, frequently in a prison cell and occasionally in a wrecked hull.  Despite it all, he was able, in the words of the psalm, to look upon God and be radiant.

How many material possessions does one really need?  There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question.  I enjoy and use my library, which feeds the life of my mind.  Anyone who tells me that I do not need books does not understand me properly.  But I know that my life is not my own, and that it does not consist of my library holdings.  The problem with the rich man who came to Jesus in Mark 10:17-22 was that he clung to his wealth, not that he had it.  His money and possessions constituted his security blanket, if you will permit me to use a Peanuts allusion.  We are supposed to have only one security blanket:  God.

All else decays in time.  And what does not decay before our demise we cannot take with us anyway.  May we cling to God alone, placing all else in this context, the only proper one.  St. Laurence of Rome (died in 258) understood that the poor were the treasures of the Church.  And St. Giuseppe Moscati used his wealth to enable himself to serve the poor.  The service of others and the glory of God are the proper uses of all forms of wealth.