Treasures of the Early Church

My Morning’s Musings

A few centuries ago folks built those huge old cathedrals with ornate domed ceilings and stained glass windows. They were often replete with tapestries, skillful sculptures and ecclesiastical vestments aplenty. In our day we’re seeing multimillion dollar churches with elaborate architecture, theater seats, terrific sound systems, a variety of instruments, etc.

Maybe we who name the name of Christ need to rethink some things? Back when the Christian faith was young and congregations were struggling to survive in an environment of persecution, they held to a different value system, one we could learn from. Pomp and circumstance was out of their orbit.

This value system was exemplified in an account I read lately where the Emperor Decius dispatched a messenger to the congregation at Rome demanding all their treasures. These all must be forfeited to the State because of their treasonous heresies, the messenger told them.

The Church’s deacon invited the messenger to come and examine the church’s treasures.  He then took him to a hospice where a crowd of destitute, maimed, blind and sick folks were housed. “These”, he informed the messenger, “are the treasures of the church.”

According to one writer, the early Christians never amassed much in the way of worldly goods because they used their resources to feed their impoverished neighbors. When plagues ravaged the Mediterranean cities, Christians were the ones who risked their own health to care for the dying.

When Jesus was on earth He didn’t go around leading marches for social justice or handing out cash to the needy. He didn’t establish His Church as a charitable organization working to improve the lot of the poor. Yet the Gospel should do its softening work in our hearts so we will reach out to help others.

Do we today like to leave that all charity work to the government and miscellaneous organizations while we go about collecting stuff — and building bigger plusher churches?

I look over my own life and have to confess: “Guilty as charged, Your Honor.” I read Matthew 25:31-46 lately and it spoke to me more clearly and urgently than ever before.

“Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matthew 25:40b


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