The biblical texts in the lectionary for today have to do with riches and poverty:
Amos 6:1a, 4-7
1 Timothy 6:6-19
Our rector, Stephen Holmgren, told this story that resonates with the trajectory of these passages:
At the center of the ancient Forum in Rome are the remains of a large Roman Temple with an inscription to the Emperor Antonius Pius. The Temple is preserved because it was incorporated into a Christian Church. The name of this church derives from events following a persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperor Valerian, beginning in the year 257. It targeted the clergy and lay leaders of the Christian community. Christians were rounded up, their property was taken, and gatherings for worship and fellowship were banned. Though some details are disputed, in August of 258, Bishop Sixtus II and some of his deacons were found meeting for worship in the catacombs, and were arrested. They may have been executed immediately, following the imperial edict. But they may also have been brought to the Forum, and commanded to offer pagan sacrifice at the temple. Either way, their insistence on remaining faithful to Jesus led to their execution. All except for one, a deacon named Laurence.
The Roman prefect overseeing the matter knew that Laurence was in charge of the church’s money and valuables. So he promised to spare Laurence if he would surrender the church’s treasures. Laurence said he would, but that he needed three days to gather them. After entrusting the money to dependable stewards, Laurence set to work assembling the poor and the sick, and the widows and orphans, from the church in Rome. On the third day, he brought them to the temple, and presented them to the prefect. He said, simply, “Here are the treasures of the Church!” Feeling betrayed by Laurence’s deceit, the prefect ordered him to be executed in the most painful way—roasted alive over hot coals, chained to a gridiron. It may be legendary, but Church tradition remembers Laurence’s calm and faithful endurance, as well as a cheeky comment he made to one of his executioners: “You may turn me over; I am done on this side.”