Archive for July 2008
It would be interesting to compare this sermon with the one preached for Zion of Baltimore, October 1, 2006 and posted two days later, 10/03/2006. It presents some interesting ideas. To the right are two pictures of the interior of St. Phillip’s, die Phillipusgemeinde in German. Hopefully I will get a chance to translate this sermon at some point.
This response developed from comments to my blog and e-mail correspondence:
1. Hi, Dr. Krey, My Research Report's theoretical approach to the study of mobile media will be informed by Habermas's notion of communicative action. Any thoughts/corrections you may have will be appreciated! Cheers 2. Dear Responder, I don't know what mobile media are and I might be able to plug in Habermas if I did. Do you have some writing that you want me to read and respond to? I'm not sure I can correct it. If you check out my website, you'll see that I'm a generalist, but I just read half of Habermas' Vol. II and just finished reading Pierre Bordieu's field theory for a reflexive sociology. Right now, among others, I am writing a book about performative language called "Creation via Language." Habermas spent time with John Searle and studied his philosophy of language in order to theorize his communicative action. I could give you some suggestions, if I had an inkling about what ball
park you are thinking in. 3. Hi Dr Krey Mobile media are web capable cellphones. One can send e-mail and visit sites with such devices. The question for me is: what type of interaction are they fostering? Any thoughts?? Regards Teilhard, Habermas, and Searle and electronic speech acts 07/28/08
Isn’t it exciting to think that we are communicating with electronic messages between California and South Africa? I’m happy I’ve put some of my lectures into my blog! The sociologist Robert Bellah introduced me to Habermas and John Searle introduced me to the Philosophy of Language and performatives. But way back in my seminary days I was introduced to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.
I think that Teilhard’s prediction that we would be crossing the collective threshold of thought is coming true. He envisioned an atmosphere of thought or mind, which he called the noosphere, encircling the earth. (“Nous” is the Greek word for mind.) Our brain sends signals inside itself, the comprehensible parts of which we call our thoughts and in and with our thoughts we can access scenarios in our memory: our e-mail messages are like that in our collective thought and the sites (that our mobile devises visit) are like that in our collective memory, in a noosphere, that has been electronically expanded by the Internet. Going from large frame computers to desktops to laptops, to cellphones and blackberries is en route to further spontaneity of collective thought.
But the collective, I believe, makes an internal-external crossing necessary, so that an electronic speech act results. A spoken sentence goes into sound wave frequencies that then get picked up from one person’s lips to another person’s ears. (And to one’s own ears, which is very important for the reflexivity involved in all language.) That constitutes a speech act. Writing and print also constitute speech acts, except that they make possible the “translation” of sound into sight and sight into sound, which represents the incredible breakthrough involved with the invention of writing. Writing now sometimes becomes more basic than oral language, superseding it, although, of course, it was derived from oral sounds. Now writing and oral sounds can become electronic speech acts, which can take place in and through the collective threshold of thought, but also supersede writing and speaking and produce collective thoughts comparable to a collective mind, again I’m thinking of Teilhard’s noosphere.
The cellphones and blackberries and blue tooth technologies seem to give the individual increasing access to the collective mind and its electronic speech acts. Who can imagine what the future molecular computers will do? They might integrate electronic thought and the Internet directly with our individual brains. Down the line a quantitative change becomes a qualitative one. That means stepping into the unknown.
If these electronic speech acts are out in the political and economic systems, then they participate in the instrumental rationality theorized by Habermas. If they are communications for their own sake, they are part of the life-world, (a concept that Habermas gets from Husserl, I believe.) The systems exist for the sake of the life-world and not vice versa. Language itself is the currency of the life-world, as power and money are for the systems. The German sociological words are “Gemeinschaft” and “Gesellschaft.” “Gemeinschaft” means relating together for the joy of each other’s company. Persons are ends-in-themselves, according to Kant, so in the life-world relationships are for their own sake. For the life-world, I could add the German word Gemütlichkeit. “Gesellschaft” or “working relationships” – is the sociological word for the relationships of persons in the systems. I add that control is predominant for the systems, trust, however, for the life-world.
Would you use the term “transcendental rationality” for the life-world? I have heard it called “moral rationality.” I’m not sure what Habermas called it. Anyway such rationality could enhance us personally and culturally; sociologically, too, I guess. I wonder if society would be slightly more relegated to the instrumental rationality of the systems, because of the rules and norms it entails?
I have not yet read Volume I of Habermas’ Theory of Communicative Action. I’m pretty sure that he gets the concept of the life-world from Edmund Husserl, the father of phenomenology. If you look at my lecture on “The Life World and the Two Systems theorized by Habermas” in my Blog, then I think the collective threshold of thought can be related to the situations and horizons that are grounded in the life-world. Now communicative actors can move within electronically enhanced horizons of their life world. The “reservoir of meaning patterns” that Habermas speaks of, can also be enhanced by electronic speech acts. Thus the life-world’s horizons have been immeasurably expanded because of the e-thoughts of the e-life-world!
It has been such fun responding here. You can see how it could go into a rapture of thought!
But really, it would take much more work to integrate those two pages on Habermas and the use of his linguistic-sociological model to prevent the Internet’s being used in order to further colonize the life-world for the sake of its political and economic systems of control.
Pentecost XI July 27th 2008
1 Kings 3:5-12 Psalm 119: 129-136 Romans 8: 26-39 Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
Jesus Priceless Treasure
Today our lesson in Matthew contains five mini-parables that Jesus told to help us further understand the Kingdom of Heaven. Like Solomon of old, we need to pray to God to give us a discerning mind to understand them. In Hebrew it really says: “give me a listening heart” and we translate it “a discerning mind.” So let us remember that we have to listen to each other intensely, so that we see each other with the eyes of our hearts. As strange as it may seem, by hearing each other, we begin to see each other as we are. This skill is called active listening. We think that we are active when we speak and passive when we listen. No, listening requires active work. Listening to each other with empathy requires the work of the soul, so that we begin to show far more understanding and love for each other and continue attending and supporting each other in the many trials we go through.
Because, what good is Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and the parables, which are a description of it, way back then, if we do not get to experience some of it right here and now in this congregation? We need a foretaste of it, an appetizer before the great feast. We can’t get the feature presentation, certainly, but we can pray to experience the previews of the Kingdom’s coming attractions.
So Jesus speaks of the tiny mustard seed that grows into a bush, even into a tree, where the birds can come and sit in its branches. You start with something really small and then you cannot believe what becomes of it. You have a vacation bible school for a week and the next thing you know, you run a vacation church school and day camp. Then after several years, a leadership training laboratory develops in order to train sixteen staff members, teachers, aids, and helpers. Then you’re running three buses to take the children on their outings and you have three directors. Next you rent a whole school building for the summer, where the kids also receive vacation church school lessons and hot lunches. You’ve started small and before you know it you have a whole Year Round Children’s Educational Development Program because of your opening an after school center during the rest of the year. This really happened in Coney Island and I know that here in Immanuel, you also experience how your ministries grow from tiny beginnings into developments that you could never have imagined. I think of the Fourth of July Parade and your float, the church band, the food donations, the “all you can eat chicken dinner,” and the monthly festivals. How can a tiny mustard seed grow into such a tree?
Now that is on the congregational level, but Christ is also opposed to Caesar or the emperor of any given empire. Usually a lofty cedar tree symbolized the reign of an emperor, but Jesus speaks of a humble bush. The birds of the air symbolize the nations that find refuge in its branches. The point of the mustard shrub or bush is that it is not a proud cedar, whose topmost branches reach into heaven. Our King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus, is more humble than that. In those days, nations and individuals were thought to be interchangeable. The nation was just an individual on a larger scale and the individual was a nation on a smaller scale. In Hebrew the goyim were the nations, but goy could mean a person from a nation. Perhaps our word “guy” comes from the Hebrew word goy. Thus the birds that find refuge in the branches can be individual people or nations.
It’s the same with the net. In the Prophet Habakkuk, the nets catch people and they catch nations. We usually think of Jesus’ miraculous fish catch, when the disciples threw their nets on the other side of the boat, according to the Word of the Lord. It says the Kingdom of Heaven throws out its nets and captures all sorts of people. The word “synagogue” or congregation is used here for a diverse gathering, all sorts of birds. The evangelism nets capture people, fish of all kinds of varieties, for the freedom of the Gospel. Otherwise the prophet says, “You have made people like fish of the sea, like crawling things that have no ruler” (Habakkuk 1:14). Because we have not thrown out the Gospel nets for Christ, Habakkuk says, “the enemy brings up the fish with a hook, drags them out [of the sea] with his net… and plunders and destroys the nations without mercy” (1:17).
Now, the nets stand for the Gospel, the Good News. Those that get caught in the nets of this congregation find that they do not get eaten and destroyed. In Vacation Day Camp, the kids would search under rocks in the creeks and catch crawdads. Then with the little ones, we would sing:
Hey, big, bad crawdad,
why you look so sad?
They’ve got me in a cup
and I’m afraid they’re
going to eat me up!
The Lord of Life says, “Here is my body given for you. Here is my blood shed for you.” And those who are drawn in, get a taste of heaven. Not without our baptisms, to be sure, wherein we need to die to ourselves in order to be raised up into the abundant life received from Christ. The Kingdom of Heaven is not based upon death and inflicting the fear of death, but on life, forgiveness, love, and compassion. Could there be any such country? Yes, indeed, it’s called the Kingdom of Heaven. So we sing the praises of the one who has called us out of darkness into God’s marvelous light.
So the mustard bush also stands for the shelter this congregation can give people from the cruel and heartless world. Here in the branches that shelter us, we are drawn together by the nets of the gospel, and we become sheep of Christ’s hand, people of his pasture. But Jesus shouts, “Those who have ears to hear, let them hear!” Thus we have to learn to see and hear with the eyes and ears of our hearts, because otherwise we hurt each other again and again, even in the congregation, and Jesus cries out, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do!”
When we have the wonderful shelter of Christ and the tree of life, and when we fling out our Gospel nets to capture people for the Kingdom of Heaven, then it is like a woman mixing three measures of flour, about 50 lbs. of it, enough to make 100 loaves of bread – are you thinking of Brian’s “All You Can Eat Chicken and Margarita Feast”? – and then into all that flour, she poured a few little packets of yeast, which then leavened the whole lump of dough for the bread.
My mother always baked home-made bread and was it ever delicious! Twice a week when the bread was in the oven, she would make rolls, too. We would all descend into the kitchen from upstairs at about 9:00pm and there was no need to call us. The aroma of the baking bread spread through the whole house. She would take one pan of hot buns after another out of the oven. We would spread butter, that melted right on them – and what a feast! Later for many years after I had left home, I would get depressed about that time of the evening, till I figured out it was the happiness of eating those hot and fresh rolls together with all my sisters and brothers that I was missing.
Well, Mom had to knead the dough in a huge aluminum pan. She had to bake bread for sixteen children, don’t you see? She used only King Arthur flour. The packets of yeast she put in the dough would make it rise. Unleavened bread has no yeast, so it does not grow and rise. With the yeast, when she kneaded the dough, it would rise so much and so fast that she had to punch it down, to make it collapse back into the pan. Then she would cut small portions of dough and put them into the bread pans on the radiators. In no time the dough would rise and fill the pan. The dough would keep growing and rising before she could get it into the oven and we would have to punch it down again so that it would not overflow and spill all over the floor.
Jesus is talking about our growth and the way the leavening of the Gospel makes us rise and grow as it restores our souls. We grow and are raised by a lavish measure that is overflowing and unstoppable, when the Gospel of the glorious resurrection goes all the way through our hearts, making us grow so that the members spill out into the streets and have to be pushed back into the church, like Japanese subway pushers, pushing people into packed subway cars. How else could I describe having to punch down the dough so that the people in this congregation do not overflow all into the street?
And you and I know that when we dig down deeply enough into the field of the Gospel, then our spades are suddenly going to strike something made of hard metal, a treasure chest! Just let your imagination go! Think of an adventure story like that of Captain Flint, Long John Silver, and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. A treasure far greater and richer than your wildest imagination! You open it and the priceless treasure is Jesus Christ himself. Yes,
Jesus, priceless treasure,
Source of purest pleasure,
More than life to me!
I’ll let nothing hide thee,
I’ll ask for nothing besides thee!
Jesus, priceless treasure!
Ah, in Jesus we have the pearl of great price, the costliest and most precious pearl, that some divine diver must have come up with from the inner most depths of our souls, from out of the fathoms of the deep. It is worth selling everything we have and counting it refuse, in order to purchase the pearl of great price, because it is the one thing needful! Jesus is all we need! This pearl will change us all from grains of sand that are a standing irritation for everybody and for God to boot, yes, changing us into wondrous, precious pearls, that no one could possibly afford, except that like Christ we give ourselves away freely, as gifts of the Gospel of Christ.
Jesus Christ is the pearl of great price, that priceless treasure, our shelter in time of trouble, we find refuge in his branches; it is the gospel net that draws us close to his heart, which is so full of forgiveness and compassion.
Therefore we have to look at all these old parables in the light of our new experiences here in Immanuel, Alameda, and research and develop our new lives here, in the light of these old parables. And then we will sing and shout.
Ah Jesus priceless treasure, source of purest pleasure, let thy heavenly Kingdom come and thy will be done, here on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.
I just revised what I thought was a contradiction between Luther’s concept of the whole person versus his threefold depiction of the self in the Magnificat. In reading Ernest S. Wolf, Treating the Self: Elements of Clinical Self Psychology, (New York: The Guilford Press, 1988), p. 47; Ernest Wolf and Heinz Kohut make a sharp distinction between the interpersonal and the intra-psychic self. Because Luther’s theology is concretely expansive, these kinds of nuances have to be taken into account. His threefold partition of the self, using the metaphor of the temple, belongs to his depiction of the deep self (Robert Bellah’s term), the intra-psychic self; whereas in speaking about the whole self, referring to St. Paul’s concepts of the flesh and spirit, he is describing the interpersonal or extensive self (again Bellah’s term). I believe the latter can also be referred to as the relational self, but that would not be the same as a group self, which would refer to some collectivity having some identity.
Thus I rewrote the last paragraphs of Blogging about the Soul from last month (June 25th, 2008).
I just noticed that I’ve gotten more than 20,000 hits. That beats leaving all my writings in my files to have everything die there. I have so much more that I want to put in. Several items are book length and my performative piece, “Creation via Language” has also become like a book.
I started thinking that my website is far too wordy and who has the time to read pages and pages? Thus I started putting in pictures to make it a more pleasant experience.
I have mp3’s of Mark singing my songs, but wordpress does not let them in. Perhaps I need an upgrade.
I’ve been going through my old boxes of sermons and such and thus I put in my words for my father’s funeral. I notice that the words for my mother’s funeral are read more than any other item. Then everyone seems to hit the German love poems. Some time, I’ll work on a real translation of my mother’s favorite song.
I’ve put in a Hamma sermon, my words of Goodbye for St. Ann’s in Berlin-Dahlem, Germany, and various other sermons. I have a stack left to go, but they take up so much time.
I usually wanted to take another more courageous step into the truth in each sermon I preached. I’ll try to comment on each one at some point to indicate what I think that was.
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, July 20th 2008
Isaiah 44:6-7 Psalm 86: 11-17 Romans 8: 12-25 Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43
This morning we have another parable about the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus came to us to bring. Now a parable is somewhat like a trap, and in that trap we encounter a dose of the truth, which like most medicines, is hard to swallow. You know how the Prophet Nathan told King David the parable of the rich man and the poor man, who had only one ewe-lamb that he loved, that the rich man slaughtered. David flies into a rage against the injustice and cruelty of the rich man.
Then Nathan says, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7) You took Bathsheba from her husband Uriah the Hittite!
David fell right into the trap, and the righteous and wonderful façade, the darling image of a shepherd boy, who played the harp and composed songs, had to deal with his ugly side, where he had allowed his lust to get out of hand, seduced another man’s wife, had her husband get put into a battle, with orders that he be killed, with friendly fire, if need be, as we would say today, and then David thought he had clean gotten away with it.
Ah, he played the innocent child!
One of the traps in this parable of the wheat and the weeds is that we want to tear the weeds out. Stepping back a moment, the old word for weeds was “tares”, the parable of the “Wheat and the Tares” – I like to think weeds were called “tares” because you had to tear them out! (But I couldn’t find the real derivation of that old word.)– Still that is the trap, – we can’t weed out the sinners amongst us, because then our church would be empty…and by the way, I couldn’t be preaching, because I’m a sinner too.
We love to identify with the wheat and see other people as sinners. “Thank God, I’m not an undocumented alien like that sinner!” or “Thank God, I’ve never mugged anyone!” Meanwhile there are some congregations that mug you and leave you bleeding at the side of the road until some compassionate Samaritan comes along and pours oil and wine into your wounds, bandages you up, and pays the cost of your recovery. This congregation excluded, of course. (With that I’m joking,) – but we have to make our congregation safe places for sinners. All of us saints are recovering sinners.
What does that mean? Say that you are very angry. That’s all right. There is a lot to be angry about. Jesus was pretty angry when he knocked over the tables of the money changers in the temple. Just be responsible with your anger. A teacher can get angry in her class, but she can’t throw a pair of scissors at a student. You can beat the dickens out of your pillow. But don’t beat up someone who is vulnerable, because you know that you can get away with it. I’m not talking about actually punching another person out. We’re usually above that. Well, then again, in Brooklyn I was the first Vice President of the Community Precinct Council of the Police. The chief called the chair of the council a schmuck. That fellow was so furious that he threw a chair at the chief and in the process had a heart attack and died in the hospital a short while later. Now if you know the language a “schmuck” is a penis in Yiddish. You may not know that if you are using the word. By the way, “squaw” means vagina in a Native American language and we wonder why they might cringe to our common use of the word in names.
In any case, I’m talking about beating on people with words, because they can hit so much harder than physical punches and they are invisible in our society. Who believes in the soul now-a-days and that an injury to the soul can knock us out in a way that a physical punch could not have done? Luther said that some injuries to the soul are merely like scratches, others are more like broken bones that will take a while to heal, and others were like a broken back, from which you could not recover.
So look at Jesus’ disciples! Instead of realizing that they had to go through that fearful and harrowing experience of dying to themselves and changing from destructive and toxic weeds into trusting, nourishing, and fruit-bearing wheat, they say, “Jesus, shall we go in there and tear those weeds out?”
Jesus says, “No, let them grow until harvest time.” And don’t you presume to be the judge. Ultimately the Son of Man, Christ has to be the judge, because so many people keep on sinning because the self-righteous people make them so furious. Of course, that’s no excuse for them either.
But every time the so-called true believers and self-righteous people have purged others, it turns out that they are the mother of all weeds. Thus Jesus says, “How can you take the speck out of somebody else’s eye, if you have a log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7: 3-5) Jesus was being funny, don’t you see? But we are the blind leading the blind and what’s more, we have ears that can’t hear either.
There would be a great deal to say about increasing our listening skills, because “faith comes by hearing,” but just let me say that we have to learn to see by hearing our way into other peoples’ hearts and we have to learn to see people through the eyes of our hearts to understand the Good News that Jesus is bringing us. Those who have ears to hear, let them hear!
It is “by grace for Christ’s sake, through faith” (Augsburg Confession, Article IV) that God changes us from weeds into wheat – and for poor sinners like me it is a life-long struggle. You’ll allow me to include you in that life-long struggle as well, if you understand what we are up against. As Luther says, in his Small Catechism, “Our sinful selves with all their evil deeds and desires should be drowned through daily repentance and day after day a new self should arise to live with God in righteousness and purity forever.” So think of your baptism every day. It’s a daily washing of repentance and a daily rising up in the newness of life in Christ.
You see, the good plants that you nourish with the words of heaven and water with the tears of your repentance, which I like to call the “baptism of your tears,” will out-grow the weeds. Nourishing the wheat, the planting of the Lord that way, will make those plants grow tall and glorious, while the weeds will languish and become stunted in growth. Then the Lord of the Harvest takes the wonderful mature, fruit-bearing plants and the weeds get left behind.
Now all this talk about a fiery furnace, weeping and gnashing of teeth, is another trap. I do not believe that God runs a concentration camp that we call hell and is burning people down there with hell-fire. No way!
It’s our life without God that raises hell. It comes into being by the Kingdoms of Weeds that we allow to flourish again and again and our turning away from God and love of neighbor that brings a living hell amongst us. Also those who overcome their fear of death via hatred and revenge fill the hell of our making with the demonic as well. A demon does not fear death, because s/he already died, so to speak. What good is it to threaten a suicide bomber with the death penalty? They have already factored their death into the equation of their crime.
Now those who overcome their fear of death via love, who have died to themselves and already been raised from the dead by God are the angels, who bring life and healing. It is these angels that Jesus sends into the harvest of the wonderful fields of wheat. Jesus proclaims the Kingdom of Heaven and awaits the birth-pangs of the Children of God, who will inherit and fill the Kingdom of Heaven to come.
That is Jesus’ last will and testament, which we call the new testament – that the Kingdom of Heaven will change all our hearts – and even the whole creation, which is groaning in labor, having contractions in the course of its new birth by grace. So if you see the fires, the floods, the earthquakes, the tornadoes, the hurricanes, the Tsunamis or tidal waves, then realize that God is bringing forth the Kingdom of Heaven by his dear Son, so that a new sustainable and refreshed heaven and earth come into existence, where the ice caps won’t melt, because – how long do you think polar bears can tread water?
Don’t forget. The Kingdom of heaven is not only about our changing from weeds into wheat, but the whole creation is waiting with eager longing for the heavenly adaptation of our bodies for the glorious freedom of the children of God and along with that, to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, also the earth is groaning for its rebirth. Amen.
 The new testament as opposed to the New Testament, the 27 books in the Bible.
 I never realized before that the redemption of our sins against nature, the problem of climate change, the crises of our forests, freshwater systems, coastal/marine habitats, grasslands, and agricultural lands are part of Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven, because it includes the redemption of the earth.