St Augustine on the Nature of the Two Cities, the Earthly and the Heavenly

St Augustine burning heart.jpg

In The City of God, St. Augustine offers a wide-ranging exploration of the two cities, the heavenly city and the earthly city. This is not merely the difference between heaven and earth, or the church and the wider world, but something more. As I read this the other day, what caught my attention most, perhaps because of the preaching I am doing in “Hungry for God,” is the first phrase of this excerpt: “two cities have been formed by two loves.” The development of these counter realities cascades not merely from different thinking, but different loving.

Accordingly, two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self.  The former, in a word, glories in itself, the latter in the Lord.  For the one seeks glory from men; but the greatest glory of the other is God, the witness of conscience.  The one lifts up its head in its own glory; the other says to its God, “Thou art my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.” In the one, the princes and the nations it subdues are ruled by the love of ruling; in the other, the princes and the subjects serve one another in love, the latter obeying, while the former take thought for all.  The one delights in its own strength, represented in the persons of its rulers; the other says to its God, “I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength.”  And therefore the wise men of the one city, living according to man, have sought for profit to their own bodies or souls, or both, and those who have known God “glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened; professing themselves to be wise,”—that is, glorying in their own wisdom, and being possessed by pride,—“they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.”  For they were either leaders or followers of the people in adoring images, “and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever.”  But in the other city there is no human wisdom, but only godliness, which offers due worship to the true God, and looks for its reward in the society of the saints, of holy angels as well as holy men, “that God may be all in all.”

From St. AugustineThe City of God, Book XIV, Chapter 28.

The Hunger for Love [Hungry for God]

St. Augustine of Hippo famously wrote near the beginning of Confessions: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

This past weekend at Eastbrook Church, we began a series that explores how our hungers lead us to God to find true rest for our souls. The series, “Hungry for God,” parallels the season of Lent, and has a companion daily devotional that you can access here.

This weekend I explored the hunger for love by walking through the story found in John 4 of Jesus’ conversation with a woman at Jacob’s well in Samaria.

You can view the message video and sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

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Hungry for God

This week at Eastbrook Church we begin a new series entitled “Hungry for God.” Every human being has deep longings and hungers that propel us forward in life. We are hungry for love, hungry for belonging, hungry to leave a lasting legacy, and so much more. Where do those hungers come from and how can we fill them?

St. Augustine of Hippo famously wrote of God: “Our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in You.” In this series during Lent, we will explore the hungers of our souls, how God fills those deep hungers through Christ, and the ways in which we can lean into our hungers to experience life with God more fully and with greater satisfaction. Each week, there will be suggestions of specific spiritual practices of taking off certain things (fasting) and putting certain other things (replacing).

Along with the weekend messages, I want to invite you to join a 40-day devotional journey with us at Eastbrook. You can find out more about how to access that devotional in print or electronically here.

March 6 – “Hungry for God” [Journey to the Cross]

March 9/10 – “The Hunger for Love”

March 16/17 “The Hunger for Greatness”

March 23/24 – “The Hunger for Joy”

March 30/31 – “The Hunger to Know”

April 6/7- “The Hunger for Peace”

April 13/14 – “The Hunger to Leave a Legacy” [Palm Sunday]

A Prayer by St. Augustine

Saint_Augustine_PortraitAs I was reading St. Augustine’s Confessions this morning, I stumbled into this prayer at the end of Book 4, Part 16. The words were striking, powerful, and tender, so I thought I’d share them :

O Lord our God, let the shelter of your wings give us hope. Protect us and uphold us. You will be the Support that upholds us from childhood till the hair on our heads is grey. When you are our strength we are strong, but when our strength is our own we are weak. In you our good abides for ever, and when we turn away from it we turn to evil. Let us come home at last to you, O Lord, for fear that we be lost. For in you our good abides and it has no blemish since it is yourself. Nor do we fear that there is no home to which we can return. We fell from it; but our home is your eternity and it does not fall because we are away.

St. Augustine reflects on God’s nature

Saint_Augustine_PortraitReading St. Augustine’s Confessions recently, I was moved by a number of passages. Here is one from early on (Book 1, Part 4) that had never really stood out to me as it did during this reading:

What, then, is the God I worship? He can be none but the Lord God himself, for who but the Lord is God? What other refuge can there be, except our God? You, my God, are supreme, utmost in goodness, mightiest and all-powerful, most merciful and most just. You are the most hidden from us and yet the most present amongst us, the most beautiful and yet the most strong, ever enduring and yet we cannot comprehend you. You are unchangeable and yet you change all things. You are never new, never old, and yet all things have new life from you. You are the unseen power that brings decline upon the proud. You are ever active, yet always at rest. You gather all things to yourself, though you suffer no need. You support, you fill, and you protect all things. You create them, nourish them, and bring them to perfection. You seek to make them your own, though you lack for nothing. You love your creatures, but with a gentle love. You treasure them, but without apprehension. You grieve for wrong, but suffer no pain. You can be angry and yet serene. Your works are varied, but your purpose is one and the same. You welcome alll who come to you, though you never lost them. You are never in need yet are glad to gain, never covetous yet you exact a return for your gifts. We give abundantly to you so that we may deserve a reward; yet which of us has anything that does not come from you? You repay us what we deserve, and yet you owe nothing to any. You release us from our debts, but you lose nothing thereby. You are my God, my Life, my holy Delight, but is this enough to say of you? Can any man say enough when he speaks of you? Yet woe betide those who are silent about you! For even those who are most gifted with speech cannot find words to describe you.