Alphege (1012) - A Faithful Overseer
The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.
John 10:12-15 (NRSV)
Alphege, Archbishop of Canterbury when the Vikings arrived in Britain in 1010, was a courageous defender of those under his care during the invaders’ merciless regime of plunder and violence. On one occasion Alphege went to the Vikings and bought the freedom of several friends whom they had captured. He also sent food to others who were seized, and saw some of the attackers convert to Christianity.
This angered the invaders, who sought revenge. They attacked Alphege, and although many fled, the archbishop remained, since he would not abandon the people under his care. When the Vikings attacked the church, Alphege begged that the congregation might be spared and that they should kill only him. His plea was refused, and he was taken captive and forced to watch as his church burnt.
Alphege was then taken before a Danish chieftain in Greenwich for a hearing but, since he stood firm in his faith, was tortured. A Viking soldier, to whom Alphege had shown kindness, saw that he was suffering a lot of pain and was near to death, so mercifully killed him.
I am passing through the furnace, but blessed be my heavenly Shepherd, He is with me, and I shall not want. He has kept me in perfect peace and my soul rests and waits only upon Him. All I pray is that I may patiently await His good pleasure, whether it be for life or for death; that whether I live or die, it may be for His glory.
Allen Gardiner (1794-1851)
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo is the International Director of Barnabas Fund and the Executive Director of the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life
Originally appeared on Isaac Publishing
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