Rev'd Charles - September 2018

posted 14 Oct 2018, 02:30 by Richard Jones

View From the Vicarage

Looking for a Hero?

That was the title of a hit single some years ago by Bonnie Tyler and heroes come in all shapes and sizes. For some it may be parents, for others a teacher, or a film star, a politician or even a football player. Whoever it is, there is usually something special about that person which arouses our interest or encourages our respect.

And in the church’s calendar there are a number of heroes remembered each month and one, on September 15th is Cyprian. So what is distinctive or special about him?

Cyprian was born around the year 200 in North Africa. Of his earlier life, before he became a Christian, very little is known except that he was an orator, a barrister and a notable figure, both politically and socially. However, around 245/6 he was converted to Christ, ordained a priest and in 248 became Bishop of Carthage (the original fast track appointment!)

But only a year later a fierce persecution broke out under the Emperor Decius (c.200 – 251) and Cyprian was forced into hiding. Criticised by some for appearing to run away he nevertheless continued to support those who were being persecuted with his letters and his prayers. Sadly, in the preceding years of peace and tolerance the Christian community had grown slack and lost its distinctive Christian witness.  The church had become indistinguishable from the world around it, and because of that, there were those who were tempted to compromise their faith when persecution came, because they were afraid of what others might do or say.

When the persecution diminished Cyprian returned and found that many were being welcomed back into the church without a proper repentance and change of life style. They simply repeated the words they were expected to say but showed little remorse for their actions or confidence in their Christian beliefs (Matthew 15: 6 -9, 7:21). For Cyprian this was unacceptable and brought shame on the Church of Christ.

In 257 a second persecution broke out instigated by the Emperors Valerian (c.193 -260) and Gallienus (c. 218 -268). This time Cyprian was banished and then in 258 an edict ordered the execution of all bishops, priest and deacons. Cyprian made no attempt to escape. He was arrested and taken to Carthage and there he was beheaded.

So what lessons could we learn from this particular ‘hero’? Well for Cyprian controversy and leadership were often intertwined but what lay behind his actions was a passionate desire to promote the cause of Christ, seen in his faithfulness to the Scriptures, respect for church order and a willingness, if need be, to suffer and even die for Christ. His was no ‘soft christianity’ nor one which blew hot or cold depending on the opinions of others (Ephesians 4:14). Instead, out of love for others, already seen in his practical help during a time of famine, he believed that what people most needed to hear was that real forgiveness is always available when we come in genuine repentance to Christ.  But with that forgiveness comes the call to follow in the footsteps of Christ (Matthew 16:24 -25, 24: 1 -14) the crucified Saviour – a call which in turn might well lead to trials and temptations because said Jesus ‘if they persecuted me they will persecute you’ (John 15:20) but ‘whoever endures to the end will be saved’ (Matthew 10:5 -22).

So, is Cyprian a Christian worth remembering? For his courage and his conviction the answer must surely be ‘yes’, which is why the Collect for All Saints Day is a prayer we could make our own.

‘God of holiness, your glory is proclaimed in every age: as we rejoice in the faith of your saints, inspire us to follow their example with boldness and with joy: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.