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1009 A.D. - Bruno of Querfurt Has The Best Valentine Day

Bruno was born to a noble family in a town called Quefourt Saxony. He is believed to have been a relative of Otto III because 15 year old Otto made Bruno a member of his court, as if he was a friend. It was a time of great change in Europe. People were still very warlike and tribal in Eastern Europe, and it was no settled question yet as to whether the people that would form the Russians or the Turkish tribes might either one end up moving westward and taking over this country of Europe.

But being a member of Otto's court allowed Bruno to meet many influential people, and one such person he met was a man named Adalbert, called the first Prussian Apostle. Bruno was vey impressed by the stories he heard of the exciting and dangerous work of spreading God's word. It sounds a little as if Bruno had met a hero in Adelbert. And just in time, because Adalbert was killed only about a year later by Prussian pagans.

Prussians held the oak trees to be sacred there in their land, and gaurded by fearsome spirits. Christian missionaries often chopped these trees down to show Jesus' superiority over the local demons and false gods. It was for doing this - intending to harm the oak trees of some grove that the Prussians held sacred - that Adalbert met his death. A spear to the back and a chop to the neck, according to a certain church door picture still in existence, but maybe that was artistic license. In any case Adelbert was killed and was then considered a martyr, and his body was purchased back from the Prussians by Boleslaus the Brave - who was then the Duke and later would become the King of Poland. They paid his weight in gold for his weight in the flesh.

But for Bruno, meeting Adalbert crystallized his vision for himself:  he decided to become a missionary for Jesus, and so he began his preparations. He first entered a monastery founded by his friend Otto III, and studied under a monk named Romuald. Though Otto wished to have his friend found a monastery between the Elbe and Oder Rivers to present Christ to the peoples there once he was trained, that plan met delays. So the Pope assigned Bruno elsewhere.  

He was sent to parts of what is today Hungary to try to establish knowledge of Jesus among the pagans there. But Hungary is a collage of peoples for a good reason - even today. They have very strong opinions there. One day these peoples would become some of the most staunch and fearless of Christians, but it wasn't quite time. Bruno met much resistance to the gospel and little interest in it, so then he was sent to another location - to Kiev in the land that today is the Ukraine.

Kiev was then ruled by a Grand Duke Vladimir. Vladimir had a pretty wild bunch of territory to govern, and some of the land he felt belonged with his kingdom was peopled by a fierce group of semi-nomadic archers named the Pechenegs. They spoke a Turkish dialect, and they were tough as they come. The Magyars would become the chief people of Hungary in a couple of centuries, and they are famous warriors, but it was in fleeing these Pechenegs that the Magyars would be forced to relocate to Hungary. Pechenegs were tough customers. They lived in the land between the Danube and the Don rivers just then.

But, as you read stories of the early missionaries, you come to see that sometimes it's the unlikely seeming peoples that embrace Jesus. Bruno had his first bit of success with these people. He had persuaded about 30 of them to become Christian within the first 5 months he was among them. He also gained their trust, and helped broker a peace between these Pechenegs and Duke Vladimir. He was also able to consecrate the first Pecheneg bishop, and oddly enough, the first Swedish bishop was consecrated by Bruno.

***** Today's Pechenegs are dispersed, but some remain with their identity more or less intact in the section of Hungary called Tolna.*****

Bruno was able to leave that area with a small but growing church. He then, in 1008 A.D., was assigned with 18 Christian companions to start a mission among the Prussians. Certainly an extremely proud people, the Prussians were not interested, and in fact wanted them gone. So they moved towards Lithuania. Near the border of Kievan Rus and Lithuania they encountered the people called the Yutvingians. They spoke a Prussian related language, and would eventually be assimilated into Lithuania or otherwise disappear, and they had already had their troubles with stronger tribes. But a Yutvingian leader named Netimeras was willing to listen to Bruno's group, and having heard them out he then considered this Jesus in his mind, and decided to become a Christian.

Though this was a success for Bruno and his companions, it did not sit so well with others of the Yutvingian peoples, and they rose up against this assault on their old 'gods'. Today we celebrate Valentines Day on February 14th, and it was on February 14th in the year of our Lord 1009 that Bruno and his companions were captured by this discontented faction of the Yutvingians and beheaded. Only one person in their group was left alive to be a witness and warning to other possible Christian missionaries.  And so, for Bruno and his friends, their 'Valentine's Day' gift to the Lord Jesus was their lives.

This is a typical story of the missionaries of that time in Europe. Death at the hands of those you meant to speak the Word to was not especially rare, and in some senses thought of as an honor, of course; it was an honor to meet a fate similar to that of our Lord, Jesus, who also was killed for speaking the only words that can offer eternal life.

 

Soon enough, some year or another, the times spoken of in The Book of Revelation will come, when it will again become tantamount to a criminal act to be Christian. We are warned that many will die then, and that it is better to die holding on to the good word of the Lord than to take the 'mark' that will allow you to buy and sell and be accepted in that day. And besides that, people are dying or being imprisoned in several parts of the world right now where the teaching of Christianity is forbidden. There are people dying for the word on our planet right now.

Perhaps some people are not meant to be missionaries, but no generation of Christian is assured that persecution will not come to its door step. You can expect that you will be portrayed as a criminal, and will actually be criminalized by someone's 'God opposing' laws if it happens in your lifetime - that's most often the case. But it is Jesus's world - God gave Him sovereignty over it. So, though Christian's should obey their rulers, we must not obey them with respect to dropping our open acknowledgement of Jesus as the Son of God, our Lord, and the only path to salvation. If it comes down to that - then it is time to obey the Lord before the government. If it comes to be like that, it will be frightening....maybe terrifying at times. But, like other generations before us that had no intention to be caught up in persecution, if it happens it happens. So if we find ourself in such a situation, we must be as strong as we can, together, and keep faith with our worthy Lord. He must be our first love - our True Valentine.

©2017 Daniel Curry & 'Deeds of God' Website