Sermon: Alfred the Great

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“Live your life in such a manner that the priest won’t have to lie at your funeral.” Ever wonder what someone might write or say about your life once you are gone? If it would be something your proud of or something that would cause you to bury your head deeper than six feet down? Perhaps a more comforting way to think about it is to ask: what would you like for them to say or write? When we’ve entered the Heavenly Kingdom, I don’t know that we’ll really care what people say or think, but it would be nice to know that you would be remembered fondly.

I ask, because our saint for today, Alfred the Great, was hoping to have good things said about him: “I desire to leave to the men that come after me a remembrance of me in good works.” He accomplished that goal. For example, in the 13th century, Florence of Worcester wrote: “Alfred the King of the Anglo-Saxons, the son of the most pious King Ethelwulf, the famous, the warlike, the victorious, the careful provider for the widow, the helpless, the orphan and the poor, the most skilled of Saxon poets, most dear to his own nation, courteous to all, most liberal, endowed with prudence, fortitude, justice and temperance; most patient in the infirmity from which he continually suffered; the most discerning investigator in executing justice, most watchful and devout in the service of God.”

I suspect, somewhere in his life, Alfred did a few things not quite so “saintly” as all that; however, for Alfred, such memories are not all based in a mythology that was built up around him, because through his deeds and his own words we can see someone who built their life upon the surest foundation: Jesus Christ.

And even though it would be nice to have folks say similar things about us when we’re gone, what matters most is that foundation. I see within each of you the same sure foundation of Jesus that Alfred built upon, but we should always be on the lookout for any storm damage. There’s not much we can do if you have a loose screw or two, but are there any loose shingles that should be repaired? Squeaky doors? Areas that need shoring up against the storms of the world? The memories others have us may never be as “saintly” as Alfred’s, but through perseverance and vigilance, and most importantly, the grace of God, the houses we build of our own lives can be solid, the construction of which does not begin with our own works, but with God. And even though I’ve shared this prayer with you before, it is an excellent place to begin in seeking God’s help. It was written by Alfred.

Let us pray. Lord God Almighty, maker and ruler of all creatures, I beseech you on behalf of your mighty mercy and through the sign of the Holy Cross, and through St. Mary’s maidenhood, and through St. Michael’s obedience, and through the love and merits of all your saints, that you guide me better than I have done towards you; and direct me according to your will and my soul’s need better than I myself am able; and strengthen my mind to your will and to my soul’s need, and confirm me against the devil’s temptations; and keep far from me foul lust and all iniquity; and protect me from my enemies visible and invisible; and teach me to perform your will, that I may inwardly love you before all things with pure thought and clean body, for you are my Creator and my Redeemer, my sustenance, my consolation, my trust and my hope. Praise and Glory be to you now and forever, world without end. Amen.

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