“Let your loving kindness be upon us, as we place our hope in you.” Psalm 33:22
It is August. It is hot. We are entering the Dog Days of Summer, which since we have had a brutal July; I don’t really want to think about. In fact, I really don’t want to think. So, for this blurb, I have decided to some of your favorites, namely, special Church days during the month. That doesn’t require thinking, just a bit of research.
August 10th, is the day on which St. Lawrence was executed in the year 258. Lawrence was one of seven deacons of the congregation at Rome and, like the deacons appointed in Acts, was responsible for financial matters in the church and for the care of the poor. Lawrence lived during a time of persecution under the emperor Valerian. The emperor demanded that Lawrence surrender the treasures of the church. Lawrence gathered lepers, orphans, the blind and lame. He brought them to the emperor and said, “Here is the treasure of the church” (one of my favorite Early Church stories, and I have used it in a sermon before). The emperor was not amused. In fact he was so enraged that Valerian sentenced Lawrence to death. Lawrence’s martyrdom was one of the first to be observed by the Church.
August 14th, we commemorate Kaj (pronounced “Kye”) Munk, a Danish Lutheran pastor and playwright. He was an outspoken critic of the Nazis, who occupied Denmark during WWII. His plays frequently highlighted the eventual victory of the Christian faith despite the Church’s weak and ineffective witness. The Nazis feared Munk because his sermons and articles helped to strengthen the Danish resistance movement. He was executed by the Gestapo in 1944. We often remember Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and his work against the Nazis, and his martyr death at their hands. Bonhoeffer was not the only Lutheran pastor who resisted them.
On August 20th, we remember St. Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux, who died in 1153. Bernard was a Cistercian monk who became an abbot of great spiritual depth. He was a mystical writer deeply devoted to the humanity of Christ, who emphasized the inner human experience of prayer and contemplation. He was critical of one of the foremost theologians of the day, Peter Abelard, because he believed Abelard’s approach to faith was too rational and did not provide sufficient room for mystery. Bernard’s devotional writings are still read today. His sermon on the Song of Solomon treats that book as an allegory of Christ’s love for humanity. He wrote several hymns that are still sung today in translation, including “Jesus, the Very Thought of You.” And of course, there is a large breed of dog named after him.
Remember, during these Dog Days of Summer, as the weather alone can be oppressive, that these are but a couple of the “great cloud of witnesses” who share our faith and devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ, examples of Christian faith to inform us.