Archive for October 2007
German-American Day Celebration October 7th 2007
Hab 1:1-4, 2:1-4 Psalm 37:1-9 2 Tim 1:1-14 Luke 17: 5-10
Living out of Good Faith
A hearty welcome to all of you who came to this church, who dared enter its old walls, and had the faith to believe that you could get something out of it. And believe you me, you can – because something new is afoot and we are beginning to notice it. Just look at the new spirit of pride that came over the Germans in the WELT-MEISTERSCHAFT, the World Cup in soccer. And Germans have now taken a greater stand for peace and are beginning to be lovers of peace.
We Germans look over at the Irish and St. Patrick’s Day and we look over to the incredible spirit of God coming out of Negro Spirituals and the gospel songs of Americans of African Descent – and say, what is it with Americans of German descent? How is it that they usually celebrate their day by themselves, while everybody wants to be Irish on St. Patty’s Day and the power of the spirituals quench the thirst of everybody’s soul?
We have the verse of power right in our first lesson in the Prophet Habakkuk: “Look at the proud – their spirit is not right within them, but the righteous will live through faith.”
As the disciples asked Jesus, “Please increase our faith,” we too, as Americans of German descent, if we are going to make Philadelphia a German town for a day – need to ask Jesus to increase our faith.
Because, you see, faith is the love of God working through us. As Luther says – “It is God’s gift of grace, which Christ achieved for us. And that is why it is a mighty, active, restless, and busy thing, which renews a person at once, gives the person a new bearing, and directs the person in a completely new way and nature, so that it becomes impossible that such a person could stop doing good.” You see, Christ filled Luther with that kind of faith. Christ filled Henry Melchior Muhlenberg with that kind of a faith. He died on this day, October 7th 1787. On his grave-stone is inscribed in Latin: “Who and what he was, future ages will know without a stone.” He died when the German Society of Pennsylvania was only 23 years old.
Now the way St. Paul celebrates the faith of Timothy, saying it is the same faith of his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice, and now that faith resides and makes the good flourish through him. We can speak of the faith of Martin Luther and how it passed on to Henry Melchior Muhlenberg and now it becomes unstoppable as this faith lives on in us. What a heritage!
Muhlenberg was a Pietist. I wonder if he ever drank beer? At home we were Pietistic too. We never had alcohol in the house except one bottle of port wine from Christian Brothers, which was used for Holy Communion. We know Luther would put out tables in the campus of Wittenberg at 4:00pm and they would enjoy beer together. And dare I say it, they also would play cards! I never played cards in my life, so you see the kind of pietistic home I came from. But you see, it was a strong faith that was in Luther. He did not get the spirit from that beer; he had a spirit that the beer could not quench!
Christ says, if you have but a tiny portion of this faith, so small as a mustard seed and so small are they that thousands can fit on a teaspoon, then you’ll say to a sychemine tree, that is a mulberry tree, “Uproot yourself and be tossed into the sea, and lo and behold, it is done. Now the mulberry tree has a root system, which goes deep into the ground. I don’t know if you ever had to dig a tree stump out of the ground, like the pioneers did, when the root system goes down and just won’t stop.
Well, faith is this can-do attitude, this mighty, active, restless, busy thing – and your shovel is flying and the dirt is digging itself, and those that see you start helping you – and one fellow comes over and chains the stump to the back of his four-wheeler and the stump with all its roots is out in no time and you throw it into a river.
That is the same kind of faith that is at work in the German Society of Pennsylvania. What a flurry of activities are going on there: Uwe Kind’s concerts for High School German students, lectures, five kilometer walks, ballet, beer tasting, cabaret, Beck’s brass band this afternoon, the St. Martin’s Day Parade on November 11th, which is Luther’s baptism day, the day after Luther’s birthday. His parents baptized him on St. Martin’s Day, naming him after St. Martin. And all the children will form a parade and sing,
Laterne, Laterne, Sonne, Mond, und Sterne,
Gehe aus mein Licht, Gehe aus mein Licht,
Aber nur meine liebe Laterne nicht!
No, whenever our faith goes out, the powerful love of God lights our lives up again. “God’s Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path!” (Psalm 117:105)
And look at the duty of the slave! It is like that of a woman who has worked the live-long day and comes home with her husband sitting there saying, “What are you going to cook for me?” Hey, with the power of God’s love driving the pistons of our engines, we can do all that that woman does and more through faith in God.
Especially when our Lord uses that spirit within us, then when he sees us waiting upon him, Amen, Amen, he will put on an apron, and bid you be seated at the table, and will wait upon you, will serve you. As high as he is, he stoops down to serve us. As low as we are, he will lift us up in that spirit of selfless service, just like the heroes and heroines usually say, “We were just doing our job.”
To balance this work ethic somewhat, let me quote from Luther in German and then I will translate it for you: “Man kann Gott nicht allein mit Arbeit, sondern auch mit Feiern und Ruhen dienen, darum hat er das dritte Gebot gegeben und den Sabbat geboten.”
„It’s not only with work [and I add, doing our duty], that we can serve God, but by celebrating and resting we can also serve him. That is why he gave us the third commandment and bid us rest on the Sabbath.”
(I continued in German, but here is the translation.)
I will continue in German since we have done that here since before 1742 and and we were doing it through some of the times when over 45% of Philadelphia was German speaking. I’m saying a word about the work of the soul, Seelenarbeit auf Deutsch.
We Germans have to learn how high we really are, when we are children of God and at the same time, how humble this love of God makes us, so that our hearts become intertwined with one another – with our neighbors, whether they are Irish, Italian, English, Black people, Puerto Ricans, so that we in no way shrink or shut down our souls, but become known for our generosity and our great hearts, always standing ready to be helpful: for God so loved the world and all the people in it, that he shed his blood for us. Now we are all connected and related to one another, not by Vienna blood, but by the blood of Christ. So that is reason to celebrate. Party on… in good faith! Amen.
Auf Deutsch: Wir Deutschen müssen lernen wie hoch wir wirklich sind, wenn wir Gottes Kinder sind, und wie demütig diese Liebe Gottes uns macht – so dass wir Herz mit Herz verbunden werden mit unseren nächsten Mitmenschen – Irländer, Italiener, Engländer, Schwarze, Puerto Rikaner – dass wir keines-wegs unsere Seelen einschränken, sondern grosszügig und gross-herzig eine ständige Hilfe sein wollen. Denn Gott hat die Welt, alle Menschen, so sehr geliebt, dass er sein Blut für sie vergossen hat. Daher sind wir jetzt verbunden, nicht mit Wiener Blut, sondern Christi Blut. So party on, you all, in good faith. Amen.
Prayer of the Church:
O Lord our God, who hast warned us that arrogance places a wrong spirit within us and that the righteous live through faith, please increase our faith that the spirit of your love might help us despite all our differences to become one heart and soul together. Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
We thank you, dear God, for all the visitors who have come into Thy House of Prayer. Bless them O Lord. We pray that you especially bless the German Society of Pennsylvania and help Americans of German descent increase in good faith and in fervent love of all people. Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
Remember in the multitude of thy mercies thy whole catholic church. Fill it with truth and peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where anything is amiss, reform it; where it is right, strengthen and confirm it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided and rent asunder, heal it. Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
Oh Lord God, we thank you for lifting us up out of the abyss of sorrow and shame into the joy of our finest hours! Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
Pour out upon us all, dear Lord God, the riches of thy mercy and redeem us in body and soul. Be with those who are dying, our shut ins, the sick, the poor, our veterans, whose limbs the war has torn from their bodies, be with all the casualties of our wars and we pray that this blood-shed might cease, because you have shed your blood for us and made us all precious in your sight, and you are the Prince of Peace, the Bringer of abundant life and not death. Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
We pray for this fair City of Philadelphia in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and beg that Christians of German descent might with a steadfast faith live lives that glorify your precious Name. Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
And all the prayers we have in our hearts, we pray in the one you taught us:
Our Father, etc.