Archive for September 2006
West End, Berlin
Űber gefundenes Fressen
eine Milch-weise Möwe.
Und immer wieder
raste ein Auto
und dem Stückchen Brot,
dass so schmutzig war
dass es wie ein Fisch aussah.
Was hat eine Möwe
hier in der Großstadt
Hat sie die Autobahn
mit einem Fluss
11. November, 1974
By peter krey
Mastering the mountain
means learning and learning
until Chocorua is part of him.
But at the foot of the Liberty Trail
Chocorua was not even to be seen
because of the gigantic trees of the forest
to be entered, the vistas of the trail
to be followed, without any perspective
only some directions on signs covered
in the heavy pelt over the beginning.
Man, the climber was out of shape.
With the first steep grades
his perspiration streaming
and his huffing and puffing increasing,
he could be heard up and down the trail
extinguishing the thoughts of his mind
and forcing him into the full awareness of his body,
from where it had been eclipsed.
He confronted the limits he was compelled
to recognize by increasing his pace.
He hopes for the flabby body to fall
like a baggy pair of pants
leaving the naked will to climb on.
But the baggy body does not fall that easily,
so the mountain provides streams for him.
In a first exhaustion he hears a strange sound.
“Is it raining? No. Thunder?
What is so white rushing down those rocks?
Between those trees? Cascading brooks!
And the mountain refreshes the pilgrim,
who has honored it
in becoming a part of Chocorua.
Fear of the wild engulfs him.
It’s not too wise climbing alone.
There are plenty of bears.
What if he surprises one in a blueberry patch?
And it rears up – and he runs for his life –
whew – and run with those heavy army boots?
Or could a bear hear his heavy breathing,
with his heart throbbing in his throat,
recognize his weakness, and mercifully
put him out of his misery?
But, no. Here is too noisy a man
clattering and stomping up the trail….
The animals sense and fear
this baggy danger, this wild man
and recede at fire-arm’s length
into the recesses of the back country
insulating the contaminator
their hearts embedded gently in nature,
embedded in the angry storms
out-bursting in nature
embedded in the un-lost voices
which he begins to hear because of
a needed rest wherein he grows quiet
and the jardent noise of his existence
subsides and the voices of the wilderness set in –
the chatter of the chipmunks,
the two clear notes of the Phoebe,
the staccato of the Chickadee
and he vanishes silently
into the quiet that covers and sustains him.
The trees become dwarfs
and the candy scent of the pines
sweeten the air as he climbs, climbs
heading for the timberline.
And some rock like a man’s shoulder
sticks out at the side of the mountain –
and makes possible a wonderful view,
just above the involvement of the timber.
It seems the higher the altitude
the less detail, but the greater
the generalizing overview.
But the hills and rises play tricks on him.
Deceived in the bosom of a small hill
he thinks he is ascending the mountain itself.
From the Liberty Hut he is descending again.
What appeared to be the top of the mountain
was only another false Christ.
One peak after another was only
posing as Chocorua,
and Chocorua itself powerful
waited invisible and majestic for him.
First the true summit, suspect,
seemed a fraud – but he quickly overcame his doubt
as it served its cherished vantage-point
high over the thick forest festoons
of the valleys, the mirror lakes,
the rivers, the towns.
And he stood up there
in the outlined stature of himself,
and fell to his knees and prayed
to the name that is above every name,
who had dressed this mountain
in the maturity of all its learning,
and then made him a part of Chocorua
and Chocorua a part of him.
Pinkham’s Notch, New Hampshire, 2:00am. September 21-22, 1977.
Revised again August 1, 2004.
14. Sonntag nach Trinitatis – 17. September, 2006
Lutherische Kirche zu Alt Zion
Jesajah 50:4-9a Psalm 116:1-8 Jakobus 3:1-12 Mark 8:27-38
Das letzte Mal haben wir gehört, dass der Glaube vom Hören abhängt. Zwar scheint das Schwergewicht in der deutschen Übersetzung in dieser Hinsicht mehr auf der Predigt zu liegen. Da heisst es, “So kommt der Glaube aus der Predigt, das Predigen aber durch das Wort Christi” (Röm. 10:17). Direkt aber danach heisst es: “Haben sie es nicht gehört?” Wir wollen daher hier unser Hören unterstreichen. Und das Evangelium ist recht gepredigt, wenn Du Dein Gott zu Dir sprechen hörest!” wie Luther gesagt hat. Denn Gott ist kein Lehrling oder Jünger, sondern ein Meister sondergleichen, und daher, egal wie schwer unserer Sorgen sein mögen, kann Gottes Wort unsere Herzen erheben. Daher haben wir auch den Zuspruch in der Liturgie: “Die Herzen in die Höhe” und Ihr singt zur Antwort: “Wir erheben sie zum Herrn”. Das Wort Gottes erhebt unsere Herzen. Wenn wir unseren Herr-Gott zu uns sprechen hören, erhebt er unsere Herzen. Daher sind wir nicht mehr schwer von vielen Sorgen beladen samt all’ den Schwierigkeiten, die uns täglich belasten.
Unser Untergehen und wieder heraufkommen im Zuhören ist ein Tauf-geschehen und daher reden wir mit einer getauften Sprache und zwar, mit getauften Ohren können wir nun hören. Dadurch können wir auch andere trösten, denn auch unsere Worte werden diese Tragfähigkeit haben, wovon ich das letzte Mal gesprochen habe. Wenn wir vom Heiligen Geiste getragen werden, dann sprechen wir hilfreiche Worte, die die Sorgen und Schwierigkeiten des Lebens in unseren Nächsten verschmelzen. Dann können wir mit erleichterten Herzen gen Himmel schauen und Gott danken, loben, und preisen, denn er erhebt unsere Herzen.
Wir kommen in unseren heutigen Lesungen zur Frage der Nachfolge, und wir flehen um die Gnade Gottes, uns in die Nachfolge Christi zu verhelfen. Denn nicht nur das Zuhören, sondern auch die Nachfolge bringt uns wieder in ein beängstigendes Tauf-geschehen hinein. Denn direct unser menschliches Denken zuwieder, sagt Jesus, “Wer sein Leben erhalten will, der wird es verlieren, aber wer sein Leben verliert um Christus willen oder des Evangeliums willen, der wird es erhalten” (Mark 8:35). In der Nachfolge Christi tauchen wir wieder unter und wir kommen wieder hoch zum neuen Leben.
Mit Petrus bekennen wir “Du bist Christus der Herr” und wir sind deine Lehrlinge, deine Jünger O Jesu. Du bist unser Heiland und wir öffnen unsere Ohren samt unsere Herzen, damit Du in unsere Herzen hinein kommen kannst um uns zu regieren mit deinem allmächtigen Glauben, Hoffnung, und Liebe.
Mit der Nachfolge kommt aber auch das Leiden, aber ein Leiden, das uns in einer überraschenden Weise fröhlich macht. Denn wenn Jesus Christus in unserem Herzen voll Liebe herrscht, dann werfen wir alle unsere Sorgen auf Ihn, denn er sorgt für uns, er leidet für uns.
Die Qual und die Schmerzen, die man in der Folter erdulden muss, sind für mich undenkbar. Ein Freund von mir namens Tschenu Farfasani, ein Lutherischer Pastor, den ich während meiner Doktorarbeit kennengelernt habe, ist in Süd Afrika gefoltert worden und ich fragte ihn, wie er so etwas überhaupt aushalten und überleben konnte. Er antwortete, dass der Schmerz nur eine Weilchen dauerte und als er das Bewustsein verlor, sah er ganz konkret, wie Jesus zu ihm kam und die Schmerzen der Folter für ihn weiter übernahm und erduldete.
Jesus gibt uns die Einladung ihm zu folgen, d.h., Nachfolge zu leisten, auch unser Leidenskreuz auf uns zu nehmen und zu tragen. Das Kreuz war eine römische Folter, nicht wahr, die durch Christus Sterben und Auferstehung in ein Symbol der Liebe Gottes wunderlich verwandelt worden ist. In diesem Lichte hören wir die Worte Jesu: “Wer sein Leben erhalten will, der wird’s verlieren, aber wer sein Leben um Christus willen und um des Evangeliums willen verliert, der wird’s erhalten” (Wiederum Mark 8:35).
Warum? Weil Jesus Christus die Quelle des Lebens ist und wir alle von dieser Welt uns täuschen lassen, in dem wir meinen, dass diese Welt die Macht des Lebens in sich hat. Meistens müssen wir bekennen, dass wir viel mehr überzeugt von der Welt als von der göttlichen Botschaft Christi sind.
Wir brauchen Geld, Güter, politische Macht, Essen und Trinken, Kleidung, u.s.w., natürlich und ganz bestimmt brauchen wir all diese Sachen, aber sie geben uns keineswegs das Leben. Das Leben, die Heilung, und ein erleichtertes und fröhliches Herz erhalten wir vom lieben Gott im Himmel, der seinen Sohn Jesus Christus mit der Frohen Botschaft zu uns gesandt hat, damit wir in seinem Namen etwas vom himmlischen Leben, hier auf Erden mit anderen teilen können. Natürlich ist uns bewusst, dass nur ein Vorgeschmach, nur Augenblicke, nur, (wie bei der griechischen Frau vom vorigen Evengelium,) Brosamen von unter dem Tische zu bekommen sind. Das echte Brot am Tische sitzend erhalten wir dort im Himmel, wenn unser Glaube in Sicht verwandelt wird und wenn Jesus Christus zuletzt uns zum Tische zur himmlischen Mahlzeit einlädt, und zu uns ruft (wie wir gewöhnlich zu Hause den Ruf hörten):
Wir müssen unsere Kleingläubigkeit bekämpfen, denn wir dienen einem grossen Gott, der Himmel und Erden geschaffen hat! Daher lehrt uns der Herre Jesu so zu beten: Dein Wille geschehe wie im Himmel so auch auf Erden. Und daher können wir getrost glauben, dass etwas mehr Himmlisches hier auf Erden unter uns geschehen könnte, aber d.h., wenn wir Nachfolge leisten, wenn wir getrost und jetzt Christi vertraut, unser Kreuz auf unserer Schulter tragen, wenn wir wissen, dass es Christus ist, der es für uns trägt; dass es jetzt Christus ist, der unsere Krankheiten, unsere Sorgen, unser Altwerden, unsere Folter und unser Sterben auf sich nimmt und für uns stirbt, damit wir in einem göttlichen Tod-überwindenen Leben auferstehen in einer überraschenden Freude dazu, wovon wir Zeugnis unseren Nächsten ablegen. Damit das Reich unseres Gesalbten, unseres Herrn Christus auch weiter zu uns kommt durch einen reiferen Glauben, durch stärkere Hoffnung, und inbrünstigere Liebe, Gott und unsern Nächsten gegenüber, damit sein Reich zu uns komme, besonders unter uns in diesem von Gottes Wort geheiligtem Haus der Nachfolge, zu uns in die Lutherischen Alt Zions Kirchengemeinde zu Philadelphia. Amen.
Die Gnade unsers Herrn Jesus Christus und die Liebe Gottes und die Gemeinschft des heil’gen Geistes, sei mit Euch allen, mit Euch allen. Amen. (Dieser Segen wird auch gesungen.)
Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
First Sunday at Old Zion Lutheran in Philadelphia
September 3, 2006
Deut.4:1-2, 6-9 Ps.15 James 1:17-27 Mark 7:1-8,14-15, 21-23
Faith and Works
When we read the letter of James, we understand that he is grappling with St. Paul, who is often difficult to understand, according to Peter. (I seem to be dropping the names of the apostles.) Mostly James is having a debate with Paul about faith and works. We know how Paul says that the righteous live by faith (Romans 1:17) and that it is by grace that we are saved through faith and this is not our own doing, it is the gift of God, not the result of works lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:9). In the future lessons from James, he will say faith without works is dead (2:26). This statement seems to fly in the face of Paul and Luther, but we will see how both sides can be understood.
When James says be doers of the word and not hearers only, lest you deceive yourself, he is actually quoting St. Paul(Romans 2:13). But Paul says be doers of the law, while James says be doers of the Word, because James has not yet made the law and gospel distinction of Paul and Luther.
But a careful reading of James will show that he also takes faith into account. He puts it this way: don’t be doubters – because doubters get nothing from God (1:-7). Now in today’s lesson when he says that every generous act, every perfect gift comes from above, he is speaking about faith. When he says that in the fulfillment of God’s own purpose, God gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we became the first fruit of God’s creatures, then he is speaking about our being changed by faith.
James does seem to be law-oriented, rather than oriented to the Gospel. But we do not have to understand him as commanding the new self. We can understand him as saying our new self is a gift, “a perfect gift from above, from the Father of lights,” fulfilling the promise of the Gospel for us.
Thus we can be described as those “who are quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger, because our anger does not often reflect God’s righteousness.” It is by God’s doing that we “rid ourselves of sordid and rank growth of wickedness, and humbly welcome the implanted word that has the power to save our souls.” From the point of view of the Gospel, it is not so much a prescription, but a description of our new selves.
So becoming doers of the word is also a gift of God’s grace. In Christ we attain self-knowledge and it is not like we forget who we are: we are old selves transformed into new selves of Christ: quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger, with a bridled tongue when it comes to gossip and with an unbridled tongue when we denounce injustice and evil, and an unbridled tongue once again when we glorify God. James wants us to bridle our tongues when it comes to gossip and other harmful speech.
So it is God’s gift of grace by which we can provide for the welfare of widows and orphans and by which we refuse to become corrupted by the immorality of the world.
James focuses on works putting them into the context of faith, while Paul concentrates on faith saying that it is active in love (Gal. 5:6). Faith is filled with good works. By God’s grace it is the source of good works. Luther says that faith is a busy, active, restless thing that can’t help doing good works. If you have an inert faith, that does nothing, Luther continues, then it would be better not to have it. (But once a woman with multiple sclerosis asked me from her wheel chair to tell everyone that she did have value, even though she could no longer be productive!)
Luther, therefore, comes to the concern of James by his dynamic understanding of faith. “Faith is the doer’” he says, “and love is the deed.” “Faith is active in love,” to repeat Paul’s statement. But you have to believe that the Word and this faith brings about your new birth, because it is implanted in your soul, because you were quick to listen to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Because of this hearing of the Gospel we become new selves, a new family, receive new time, become a new congregation filled with “generous acts of giving and with every perfect gift that comes from above, from the Father of Lights,” to use James’ words.
In short, faith is a new hearing that receives the Word of God and believes it thus giving us a new birth out of the love of God. Our new birth out of the love of God is something God does and not something we do. Thereafter we grow and mature in our Christ-like new selves.
Christ was not at all passive, but very active. Just look at how active Christ was and how marvelous were his many good works! In the Gospel of John, he starts by changing the water into wine and then a whole train of other miracles take place afterward, from healings to debates to cleansing the temple to raising the dead, feeding the masses, etc. When we become more mature in our new selves, we will not be able to stop ourselves from continuing in the marvelous love, sharing, and healing – binding evil and setting free the good in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Good News is that this new way of being is not commanded, but it is a description of you all. All the way from the West Coast we made it to Old Zion’s Church picnic despite the hurricane. We are so thankful for John and Marie Gentile for being such gracious hosts. And again just like the first Christians in the Book of Acts, we marveled at how the people of Old Zion loved one another!
Just before coming to Philadelphia, we attended church council dinner at a member’s house from Holy Trinity Lutheran in Fort Bragg, California. The very same description applied. My, how they loved one another! They also gave us an inside look at the heart of a small town now mostly involved with tourism. What seemed to sell the newspapers was the police blotter, by which everyone could be up on who had gotten into trouble and for what reason.
Faith is thus the power of God at work in us and through us. Faith gives us our Christ-like natures and that is what God has done! In truth, says the psalmist, all our works are thy doing, O Lord!
Such gracious works are different from those of a do-gooder. What does it help if we run around doing good, but our hearts are ugly inside of us? We have to be wary because sometimes, good works can hide an evil heart. A pastor might make many visits to the elderly and shut-ins and the congregation might say, “See how much he loves them” only to discover that he is after their wills, their money, and property. In a recent case a priest established an orphanage for boys in New York gaining a wonderful reputation for rescuing so many of the throw away youth of the city. It later turned out that he was a pedophile and this was his way to gain access to the boys. He had not had a change of heart by grace through faith. He was covering up an ugly sinful old self with good works.
A shower might make a person feel good, but it is merely physical washing, it does not change an ugly sinful heart. Washing your hands over and over again will not make you do what is right if what you have is a dirty heart. The Word of God has to scrub our hearts clean. Our baptisms do not merely require water, but the Word of God with the water, “so that our old sinful self is drowned by daily repentance and day after day a new self arises to live in God’s righteousness and purity forever,” to use the words from Luther’s Small Catechism.
In our Gospel lesson Jesus was showing that the Kosher laws did not make the Jews clean – except physically, outwardly. They had to have a change of heart inwardly, spiritually, so that they would become loving and genuine, full of grace and truth.
We can take a shower every day and still have ugly and dirty hearts or like some of the punk folk, we can take a shower once a month, whether we need it or not, and still have a pure heart full of grace and truth. I opened myself to some of the youth in that culture and I found that out.
Once we understand the distinction between ethics and hygiene that Jesus is making, then we can also take responsibility for washing our hands outwardly when having dirty hands would be harmful to others. Restaurant workers have to wash their hands or they will make their customers sick. That is now a moral issue and not merely an outward thing. Doctors back a century ago did not wash their hands, and sometimes, have to be monitored by the head nurse to do so even today. They worked on cadavers and then delivered babies! Many women died because the doctors infected them with deadly bacteria.
Once we know that, then we understand that in some cases washing hands is a matter of life and death. It is an ethical issue and not merely a matter of confusing morality with hygiene. Moreover, now we know that second-hand smoke is very harmful to others. In the past smoking was not an ethical problem, but it has become one.
When we look to ourselves we can despair when we discover that we have to give up smoking or driving huge gas-guzzling SUV’s or being shopaholics or whatever it is about us that we have to change.
How are we “blessed in the doing” of God’s will, to use the words of James? It certainly cannot be accomplished by our own effort. When our hearts, however, are changed by grace through faith in Christ, we find that we can’t help making these changes. Left on our own, we are completely inadequate, especially when we contemplate our addictions, but when God starts to work on us through faith, we cannot help becoming more than victorious. On my own I can offer only my limited and weak human effort, but by grace through faith in Christ, the mighty acts of God take place. They happen amongst us again. What God is doing is changing our hearts – in the twinkling of an eye and we become Christs to one another, joyfully planting our cross squarely between our shoulder blades, rejoicing in our suffering, because gracious acts and perfect gifts will not only be in heaven but they will be happening here among us again. Amen.
Pastor Peter Krey, PhD. Preached on September 3rd 2006 at Old Zion Lutheran Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost – Texts: Isaiah 35:4-7a Psalm 146 James 2:1-17 Mark 7: 24-37
In last Sunday’s lesson, James said that we had to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger (1:19). This time our lessons are filled with miracles and in one of them Jesus heals a deaf and mute man in the Decapolis – one of the ten cities that were non-Jewish, and thus filled by Roman and Greek culture, which presented a real temptation to the Jews, because in them you could see gladiatorial combat in the Panem et Circuses, that is, Bread and Circuses, for the entertainment of the people, as well as Greek theater, and other very antithetical diversions from the moral and righteous faith of Judaism.
Such diversions aside, how do we become good listeners? It really takes the strengthening from above and it is all involved in going under in our baptisms and being raised back up as new selves, as the new born children of God.
Back in our intensive summer programming in St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Coney Island, we used to train those members who worked with us in active listening. For the purpose we used passages from Isaiah:
The Lord has given me the tongue of a teacher,
That I may know how to sustain the weary with a word.
Morning by morning, God awakens, wakens my ear
To listen as those who are taught (50:4).
Now sometimes, from the Hebrew, “teacher” is translated as “disciple” or “apprentice“. The latter word helps because it implies that active listening is a skill to be learned and mastered. We had a full week of training with all those who worked in our programs doing a whole number of exercises to help us learn better listening skills and a new way of speaking.
To mention just one of many points we discovered: often when we speak we think we are being active, and when we listen we think we are being passive. Be that as it may, we really need to be active when we listen too, because when we listen we are doing the work of the soul, as I used to say. Actually while we listen God is at work in our soul, fashioning us in the form of Christ. The kind of intense listening I am talking about makes us go under in our baptisms and by the power of the resurrection, we are raised back up, with the ability to say a word that lifts up the weary. Said in another way, we can say a word that lifts up the heart of someone cast down, someone down hearted; let’s also mention what we call it in the world, someone who is depressed.
That way of speaking is what Isaiah means by saying that we know how to sustain the weary with a word. If you continue reading this passage in the 50th chapter of Isaiah you will see how dire suffering results from these God-given skills and it is in this suffering of others and our own inability to endure it that we go under. Suffering is a kind of baptism. Jesus tells the brothers James and John, “Are you able to drink the cup which I drink or be baptized with the baptism by which I am baptized?” (Mark 10:38). Jesus is speaking about the baptism of suffering.
When we go down under it all, because we listen, then we can become God’s favorite underdog, even the way Rocky Balboa has become Philadelphia’s favorite. We do not have to run up and down the museum steps, however, to fight the good fight. What we have to do is cast ourselves upon Christ and cling to him, trusting on the way down that he will raise us back up.
For the last six years I was teaching in the community colleges of the East Bay, California. When the students, who were often from the downtrodden classes, told me their troubles, I realized that often they were heavy enough to sink a battleship! I would encourage them by saying, “You can’t keep a good woman down” or “You can’t keep a good man down!” There in that public forum, I could not witness to Christ. But thank God, here from the pulpit, I can preach the good news: if you cling to Christ , exercising your trust and having it grow, then you will experience how you go down way over your head and then Christ raises you up more mature in the grace and truth of the stature of Christ. There is a way of listening the Gospel of Jesus Christ as much as there is a way of preaching the Gospel. Hearing someone preach it or having someone witness to these miracles of Christ comes first. (In good theology, the external word comes first.) But what good is preaching the Gospel if we cannot hear it? And according to St. Paul, faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17).
Thus we need Jesus to come to us, especially to someone like me, who loves to talk so much, to touch my ears and say, “Ephatha!” Be opened! And then Jesus will unbind my tongue only after he has unstopped my ears. And thereafter I will preach the Word of God that sustains all those who are burdened, because they have not cast all their burdens nor themselves trustingly upon the Lord. The good news is that that is precisely what Christ invites you to do! (Psalm 55:22)
When you have experienced this baptism event, when Christ has opened your ears and loosed your tongue, then you start proclaiming the Gospel, the good news, just like the healed man in the story in our lesson for today. The more Christ forbids him, the more zealously he proclaimed the Word of God. Yes, “lift up your hearts!” The word of God knows how to lift up your hearts as heavy as they may be!
“What is the word of God?” Luther asks in the “Freedom of a Christian Person.” He answers: “It is nothing else than when the Gospel is preached to you in such a way that you hear your God speaking to you!”
But even though God speaks to us in such a quiet and gentle way, we usually do not hear him. That is, not until Christ comes to us and says, “Ephatha! Be opened!” Now if we do not hear God speaking to us, then how do we know what Christ is calling us to do? What is the mission upon which we are being sent? Why do we close ourselves to what God is saying to us? Like Elijah sulking and being afraid for his life under that broom tree (1Kings 19:4,12), we need to respond in the quiet and hear the directions that God is giving us. We need to comprehend our mission. We can hear a still, small voice coming through to us in, with, and under our newly baptized speaking and hearing in conversations with those God has given us.
Perhaps I do not have the diversions of the Decapolis: watching gladiators fight to the death, attending Greek theater, and other such entertainment, but I know that I clutter my life with so many distractions that I do not hear what my God is saying to me. Don’t you find yourself continually distracted, too? I am so busy with so many things in my life situation that I do not do the one thing needful.
When I was translating Luther’s “A Simple Way to Pray – Instructions for a Good Friend, Master Peter, the Barber,” (while giving Luther a haircut, Master Peter must have asked him how to pray and Luther writes this pamphlet for him), Luther tells him, be sure you pray as a first thing in the morning. If you say, “I’ll just make coffee first” or I’ll first just take care of this letter, next I go to the post office, etc., then you will find that you will go from one thing to another and you will never get to your morning prayer.
But then, how are you going to hear your God speaking to you? How can Christ touch your ears and open them, how can Christ unbind your tongue to speak the powerful Gospel to the weary world? How can you know what Christ is sending you to do for the day?
Say you realize that you need some exercise, because without it you will not stay healthy. Well, do it first thing in the morning. Work it out with a friend to meet you at the door, because that will get you out of bed, even when you don’t want to get up. Then work up a sweat running or perhaps you can only walk a little. If we put it off we will not do it. There are far too many distractions.
Or consider the way we go about making our offering to the church: we have to make it first. If we say, “I’ll pay this bill first,” then we pay the next, and then the next, and before you know it, there is no money left for your offering, let alone your tithe, your ten percent, that brings such blessings on all your money, on all that you have.
Or if you are considering going to the church, that has to be first and come first. If you put it off and put it off and allow for all of life’s distractions, you will never do the one thing needful – you will never hear your God speaking to you. You will be as deaf as a doornail and as mute as a mime. In addition, your gestures will not even say anything, while those of a mime will. I once invited a silly person to the church, one who was not very interested, but acted as if he was. As I was leaving, he called, “I’ll see you Sunday, unless anything else comes up!” Anything else! Going to church was the very last thing on his list and he did not even realize he was giving himself away.
What is it that Christ wants you to do; what does he want me to do? What does Christ want Old Zion Church to do? What is our very own mission? We have to be open to it. We have to receive baptized ears that hear, eyes that see, and a new way of speaking. Indeed, because we hear our God speaking to us, our tongues are set on fire so we can tell others the good news about the miracles that Jesus does in his real presence amongst us. Then we can listen to each other out of a whole heart of love in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. By prayer, Bible reading, devotions, by coming to the church, we can hear the word that sustains us in our weariness, in our weakness; the word that lifts up our hearts! “We lift them up to the Lord!” And no matter how heavy our heart, Christ knows how to lift them, because in his word, we hear our God speaking to us.
It is a baptism, in which like Rocky, we run up and down those steps. We run up in faith and we run down in love. We can go down way over our head, but we cling to Christ as we die to our old selves and are raised back up in our new selves, sent to be open and open others to God, and participate in the miracles that Christ is doing amongst us. Amen.
Pastor Peter Krey, PhD. is preaching at Old Zion Lutheran Church in Philadelphia, PA. This sermon was preached in German and English on September 10, 2006.
Faith and Prayer
Faith is life-help. It is the making-easier of life. [It helps life. It makes life easier.] In this sense, doing without faith is heroic, because wanting to have an easier life presupposes that the human being is weak. But we have to face the difficulties of life making our lives become harder and as Isaiah says, The Lord captures the strong to make them his own. /1
The cross is the attack of the old life on the new. Some why questions are not really necessary for life and life does not depend on answering them. But the question, for what am I called? is not of that sort of question, nor questions about suffering. The Greek word peristasi refers to apostolic suffering in II Cor. 6: We are continually suffering, but behold we live; filled with anxiety, but behold we live. The latter way of putting it is psychological. But it is our calling to be set aside to undertake the harder life, the life fraught with difficulty.
Thus important provisos are needed in our vocation. Amen, for example, does not mean, “I believe that… , but it means entrusting oneself to a person or relying on a promise. Faith draws a person into an assignment, a task, a mission, and questions have to be asked:
A. Does the cause have some hope of success?
B. Am I left to my own resources? Does it all depend on me?
C. How will I change in the course of doing it?
Will I also accomplish the goal of my life in the course of it?
D. What will happen to me if I make mistakes or if I fail?
E. What will happen to me and to this good cause if the Sender remains hidden?
Answer: You are not alone, along with this call you will achieve the goal of your life, your failure is forgiven, and God will be present with all the promises. God is going with you. So consider his word far more true and more trustworthy than all your inner experience, [all your internal misgivings and trepidations].
A. Faith is different from having faith (Gläubigkeit).
Faith is always a new act; one cannot have faith.
B. Faith is not a Weltanschauung, not a way to view the world
and does not stand in competition to ideologies and life systems.
Faith is not holding something to be true, i.e., believing statements to be true.
C. Faith cannot be achieved by means of inner speculation. It is looking up to another. I do not know if I believe, but I know in whom I believe.
On this issue,
1. Paul Althaus held that we cannot believe in our faith, [or believe in our belief. ]
2. Karl Barth held, however, that we can only believe in our belief.
D. Faith itself is an act or deed and not a psychological disposition. It is a good work in which the other good works are grounded – it is mighty in itself, and emancipated. It is all involved in and all about the sending. (See N.B. in the footnotes.)
E. Faith is not acting by oneself or doing something by oneself, nor is it a belief that is then externalized, so that faith stands chronologically or psychologically before the act. It is there together with all the other acts; in, with, and under the act there is faith. It does not come first before the act, but our faith inheres in our doing. Faith does not precede works.
CALLING – PARTICIPATION – FAITH
– WORKS –
It is not upon our works that we depend, but we depend completely upon him. Luther said, faith is the doer, love is the deed. For your sending remember that God’s name means “I will be with you.” The I am will be with you and has sent you. Here the one who sends you promises to be with you in the future.
Faith is the hope of love. Faith makes life harder, more difficult, through the sending. And there is always an attack on the new life by the old and sharing oneself is very difficult.
In the identity of prayer and faith, four questions are directed at the Sender. I grasp the answers for them from the one who promises. These are questions of faith with hefty complaints directed to God. Struggling and arguing with God can be a form of trust that is acceptable to God./2
Concerning bidding prayer: we have discovered that the events of nature occur by means of specific laws. It is not true that wonders violate these laws. The word used for miracles in Greek is dynamis and it means “signs of strength” or “astonishing signs” or “things that astonish us.” Prayers often step aside into praise and thanksgiving and these terms cannot be understood apart from one another. There are two ways of questioning God, one that is metaphysical and the other that poses questions from personal experience. God is a limit-concept, which is completely irreplaceable. Prayer is conversation with the Sender.
Some Notes on Helmut Gollwitzer’s Last Lecture in Berlin
(taken by Peter Krey, as an Interim Pastor of St. Ann’s Church in Dahlem-Berlin at the time)
1 Die Starcken soll der Herr zum Raube haben, which in German means that the strong are the ones whom God takes as spoils (Isaiah 53:12). In English it is translated, “and he shall divide the spoil with the strong.”
2 This is a very difficult German sentence: Vertrauen kann die Gestalt des Hadern mit Gotte Annehmen.
N.B. In my Luther reading, I found his taking one further step, which Gollwitzer leaves implicit: “Faith is a good work in which the other good works are grounded – it is mighty in itself, and emancipated,” i.e., It is a good work that God does in us and therefore it is mighty in itself, grounds all our good works, and is emancipated.