Benefits of Citizenship
Wednesday of Pentecost 4
5 July 2017
Augustine of Hippo does not distinguish the heavenly and earthly cities in an absolute dichotomy. They are not mere mirror images of each other. The city of God and the city of man are both upon earth; and although the city of God would also be in heaven, of course, the city of men has no heavenly goal. There are many significant contrasts between the two cities but they do share an earthly battleground. The city of man seeks only earthly and impermanent glory. The city of God is receiving the permanent glory that is Christ's gift to His church.
The city of man is ruled by equity, that is, that all have equal opportunity to succeed and receive the world's accolades and rewards. One is bound to get his just reward. That city is also God's creation. It is not just left to the devices of perverse humans, but it is the place of the divine rule according to the moral law, in which rewards and punishments are meted out.
The relationship of the citizens with the city of God is different from the citizens of the city of men. Citizenship in the city of God is by naturalization, never by birth. Baptism brings a new citizenship to those who undergo the adoption by rebirth. One is not born a Christian, but reborn into the city of God. Those who are in the city of God labor not for sustenance, sustained as they are on the truth of the Word of God. The citizens of that city have a home that has no end. No urban renewal will destroy the suburb where they shall dwell with God. There is no need of walls, for none who are citizens need be kept out and Christ Himself is her full protector. Labor for food has no place there. The Lord Himself feeds His children on body and blood served at the altar of His city. The city of God is not ruled by equity, for all those who are in that kingdom do not deserve the benefits of its citizenship. Its gifts come by grace, not by works. While in this life the two cities are always entangled, they are distinguishable because one is ruled by law, the other by the gospel.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo

"It was not God's purpose to grant these [virtuous Roman] men eternal life in His celestial city. Only true piety leads to membership in that society, piety which did not render to the one true God the service of religion that the Greeks call latreia. If He were not to grant them even this earthly glory of pre-eminent rule, He would not be granting the proper reward for their good arts, that is, the virtues by which they pursued the hard road that brought them to such glory. For as to those who seem to do some good that they may receive glory from men, the Lord also says, 'Truly I say to you, they have received their reward' (Mt 6:2). So also these despised their own private affairs for the sake of the republic, and for its treasury resisted avarice, consulted for the good of their country with a spirit of freedom, became addicted neither to what their laws pronounced to be crime nor to lust. By all these acts, as by the true way, they pressed forward to honors, power, and glory. They were honored among almost all nations. They imposed the laws of their empire upon many nations. To this day, both in literature and history, they are glorious among almost all nations. There is no reason why they should complain against the justice of the supreme and true God: 'They have received their reward.'
"But the reward of the saints is far different, who even here endured reproaches for that city of God which is hateful to the lovers of this world. That city is eternal. In that city none are born, for none die. There is true and full blessedness, not a goddess, but a gift of God. From there we receive the pledge of faith while we sigh for its beauty on our pilgrimage. There rises not the sun on the good and the evil, but the Sun of Righteousness protects the good alone. There no great industry shall be expended to enrich the public treasury by suffering deprivations at home, for there is the common treasury of truth. Therefore, it was not only to reward the citizens of Rome that her empire and glory had been expanded, but also so that the citizens of that eternal city, during their pilgrimage here, might diligently and soberly contemplate these examples, and see what a love they owe to the heavenly country on account of life eternal, if the terrestrial country was so much beloved by its citizens on account of human glory."

Augustine, The City of God, 5.15-16
Malachi 4:1-6

"For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts.
"Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.
"Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction."(ESV)
Lord Christ, when we count the sacrifice offered by the citizens of the city of men we find our sacrifice for the eternal city small by comparison. Rouse us to faithful and sacrificial service to Your city, that Your gospel might be glorified. Amen.
For judges and all officers of the court, that supporting the system of justice with which this nation has been endowed, equal justice under the law might be assured to all persons
For all police and public safety personnel, that God the Lord would keep them safe and make them upright in their service of the citizenry
For all those who suffer because of inclement weather, that their losses might not lead them to despair of God's grace
Art: Albrecht DURER,  The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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