6th July

How Can I Blaspheme My King Who Saved Me?

They kept on stoning Stephen as he called out to the Lord ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’. Acts 7:59

Celtic Christians had heard of the beautiful martyr’s death of Polycarp, the disciple of the apostle John, who became a bishop in the east of the Roman Empire. Polycarp was led before the proconsul who urged him to change his mind saying ‘Have respect for your age. Swear by the genius of Caesar and say “Away with the atheists”.’ The proconsul thought of atheists as people who would not worship the Roman gods, including the Emperor. Then Polycarp looked sternly at the noisy mob in the stadium, and waving his hand at them said ‘Away with the atheists’. But the proconsul went on ‘Swear, and then I will release you; curse the Christ.’ Polycarp said ‘Eighty six years have I served him and he has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my king who saved me?’

Now it was the turn of Mungo’s generation to face persecution. Mungo had developed a close friendship with King Rhyderch of Strathclyde, but in the 540s Morcant, a pagan ruler, raided the farms of Christians in Rhyderch’s territory; then pagans threw out the Christian ruler and church leaders in the Carlisle area, and one disaster followed another. A violent mob swept through the town of Falkirk, and its Bishop, Nevydd, who may have ordained Mungo, died a martyr’s death, his place of worship being burnt over him. Mungo, deeply grieved, soon also suffered the death of his dear mother. Then he learned that the priceless library at Whithorn had gone up in flames, and the members of its Christian community had fled to Gaul. Worse, there was now no Christian bishop in the entire north, and no one to ordain new priests.

Rhyderch conferred with Mungo, and they agreed to ask an Irish bishop to come over and consecrate a bishop of the north. Then Rhyderch insisted that, although the minimum age for becoming a bishop was thirty, the twenty five year old Mungo was the man to be consecrated. This was not Mungo’s idea, but how could he, in this crisis, deny his King who saved him? ‘Be to the flock of Christ a shepherd. Hold up the weak, bind up the broken, bring again the outcast, seek the lost.’ was the charge to Mungo. With all his soul Mungo answered, ‘I will, with the help of God.’

Lord, do not lead me into a time of such trial
But in whatever trials I have to face
Help me to remain true to you,
My King who saves me.