Archive for November 2008
27th of April, 1976
I do not want to write a comprehensive report about my little trip around the world – through Israel, India, Southeast and Eastern Asia, but I merely want to pack some enrichments of my life in this greeting and forward them to you all. I am thankful for the many new friends that I could make in these countries. We live together in one world, and will stand up for each other in the future and have much joy in doing so.
I wanted to be a pilgrim on this journey but I was often only a tourist among the people. Tourists plastered with money from North America, West Germany, Japan, and Australia, from my viewpoint, undermine the cultural values and human dignity of these peoples. One’s pilgrim can overcome the tourist in oneself, especially when one’s money becomes scarce. When my money started running out, I could no longer isolate myself in my hotel room, but I had to count on the hospitality of families and live with them, which was far more wonderful. But in an environment of desperate human poverty and need, it is possible to use one’s money to avoid contact with such people. The euphoria of believing that everything can be purchased for money seems to be the expression of a tourist’s understanding of freedom.
How easy it is to purchase the beautiful wares of these countries and never to invest one’s money in these people themselves. How come it remains so difficult for us to give a poor person in need just a little money, although one has no trouble paying a high price for some expensive silk from Varanasi? This question gives me an uneasy conscience. This terrible corruption seems to develop from our overly stressed human dignity, where one, who knows and has experienced little need, has a lot of money, and one who has incredible needs, has little or no money at all, and therefore does not have the power to overcome his or her needs, and what’s more, can’t ameliorate the needs of their family and neighbors. That is my theory right now and nothing more. When dignity comes to light, then it comes by means of the poor.
Jerusalem is the religious capital of Moslems, Christians, and Jews. Every Christian tradition can not do without a church in this city. The cathedrals in the city to me seemed to be like church embassies, all of which wished to carry out religious diplomacy. They seem to be here less as congregations than as places-holders from strange lands and powers, who, all fervently wish to be represented in Jerusalem. In our Evangelical Lutheran congregation, for example, Propst Glatte, the pastor, reached me with a wonderful German service, which, however, could have taken place in Münich as well. These churches do not seem to have much to do with everyday-life in Jerusalem today. The golden domes seem to point to eternity, and are certainly not in the idea of Jesus, but seem to stand there in contradiction to his Good News. From my point of view, faith in Jesus Christ means a renewal of everyday life that introduces the dimension of the holy into the lives of the people. These shiny domes are oriented to the tourists, I believe, and not to pilgrims – but I was not there for and did not experience one of the Holy Festivals and I do not know if that would have made me change my mind about the ornate edifices; because you see, the difficult situation in which Israel found itself, weighed heavily on my heart. The idealistic youth of Action Reconciliation in the House of Peace, who showed me such cordial and generous hospitality, and who were trying so hard to learn Hebrew, really brought the love of Christ near to my heart.
When I lost my way near Bethlehem, I had a beautiful experience. I walked through the hills below the city in order to find the shepherd fields, but quite abruptly, it started getting dark. I met some goatherds who pointed out for me the way to get back to Bethlehem. As I climbed up the road, I suddenly saw Bethlehem, like an impressionist painting, situated up in the sky. The dark heavens with protruding clouds provided a picture frame around the city. There was the shining city of Bethlehem, set back and set up on a hill, in many different luminous colors – like a gift of God – yes, God’s living work of art before my eyes. I continued farther up the path entering the picture.
India was the most fascinating country for me by far. On the one hand it is utterly primitive, on the other hand one can visit the Taj Mahal, one of the highest perfections of culture. People starve and freeze to death in the streets, but there are also Indians called Rabindranath Tagore, Mahathmah Gandhi, and Sri Ramakrishna. In India one still eats with one’s fingers and very few people use toilettes. One can well imagine that pleasant and very unpleasant smells abound emanating from people, cows, donkeys, water-buffalos, goats, and pigs that eat up everything while their stomachs drag through the slime. The cows walk around as if they are conscious of themselves to be of a higher species than the humans, and they assert their rights in no uncertain terms. In Banares, which can also be called Varanasi, the ancient holy city of the Hindus, where Buddha first preached as well, one can still see every feature of the past together passing by in the street: old, old cars, a Mercedes-Benz, camels and elephants, donkeys, rickshaws, horse and wagon, and ever again the most surprising vehicle that exists. The extreme differences incorporated into India are incomprehensible. Singing, the Hindus carry the corpses of their dead through the narrow alleyways of the ancient city to the banks of the holy river and there they are cremated on funeral pyres made of wood. Now Brahman cows, priests, children, lepers, and small pox victims, who died, are not allowed to be burnt, because they are divine, and are thus sunk in the water of the Ganges with a millstone around their necks, where I imagine the fish eat them. Early in the morning, whether it is warm or cold, the Hindus go to the Ganges to bathe in its holy water, next to them the Dobies are pounding the clothes they are washing against the stones, next to them the water-buffalo, with their dumb expressions above their snouts, stand dreamy-eyed in the river, and next to them one enters the raunchy-sweet smell of burning cadavers. One has to have experienced the holy city of Varanasi!
I read a great deal about Hinduism and I talked a lot with Brahman students. But if I had stayed in the Hindu environment of Baranares over Christmas, I would not have noticed any signs of this Christian festival. Thus I decided to travel to Calcutta in order to celebrate Christmas with Mother Theresa. And it seemed like every possible obstacle dissolved along the way and I made it! At eight o’clock on Christmas morning, I arrived with my back-pack and baggage at the House of the Missionaries of Mercy just as she was coming down the stairs. She invited me to join her in carrying out her Christmas program. I discovered that this woman who brought so much hope to the poor and dying of Calcutta was a completely practical woman, who was not at all taken with her own importance. The Christmas mass was celebrated in the Home for the Dying and Destitute behind the Caligula Temple. Many had been gathered up from the sidewalks and the streets in order to die under a friendly face. Although those who are gathered are dying, more than half of them recover, because of the surprising love that they experience. In a Land-Rover we drove from one institution to another that Mother Theresa had founded. I cannot get the thrown-away children that she gathered up from the streets out of my mind. A little baby with skin like leather, looking out of an old face, so little that it seemed to be but two months old, but was really two years of age. A feeding of the masses took place at noon. Massive amounts of curry and rice in vats as large as huge garbage cans were emptied providing the hungry with a Christmas meal. I handed out the banana leaves that served as plates. When the food was gone, the gates had to be closed on the huge crowd still trying to get the meal. Thereafter thousands of school children received cookies and apples, which I had to put together and press into Mother Theresa’s hand as she pressed them into the children’s hands as they passed by in lines. We then gave sweets to the patients of a mental hospital. As we returned into Calcutta in the evening, the headlights of our Land-Rover looked on a river of people before us flowing through the streets, while loud prayers filled our automobile with new strength. A Lutheran and a son of a Lutheran pastor, I participated in praying the rosary with them.
I was able to make many friends in Calcutta and I was sorry that after getting very sick, I had to travel hurriedly to Thailand to recover. Getting a lot of rest and taking a three day “jungle tour” through the mountains of Chiang Mai, up by the borders of Burma and Laos, I finally was able to shake a cold that had weakened me and that I had not been able to overcome for three months. The tribal people up there in mountains, the Lihu, Lahu, and Lisu, among others, are very interesting. In Bangkok, a city with incredible traffic jams and with air that reeks of exhaust, I celebrated New Year and learned how to say, “Happy New Year” in Thai, “Chati Bi Mai!”
Bali was the most beautiful place of all. Even in the rainy season it is like Paradise, although it is already overrun by Australians in the south. Motorcycles sounding ear-shattering decibels thunder through the streets, where tropical calm and human peace had reigned and prevailed before. Indonesia has become mostly Moslem, but Bali remained Hindu. The Balinese are culturally very creative in the practical arts, that is, in dance, wood carving, painting, sculpture, etc., and are not at all philosophical and theoretical like the Hindus of India. The people of Bali try to maintain their cultural values, but the Island is changing anyway, which to me seems so sorry. My body yearned for this kind of a tropical climate and later the cold weather of Korea and Japan was very hard for me to take. There in Bali I recovered my health completely and I experienced a level of health I never knew before, never in my whole life. The many different kinds of tropical fruits provide such enjoyable nourishment. They were like heavenly gifts. It was dangerous, however, to go swimming at the beach, but glorious, nonetheless. The people of Bali are very proud and they were never subjugated in colonial times. The classical dances and the performances of the stories of the Ramayana in the little villages under the tropical sky, will never cease to provide me with wonderful memories. To entertain the kids, I can imitate the monkey chorus of the Kezack dance and not tire of telling the stories of the Ramayana.
Mrs. Ebu Gedong Oka of Denppasar, Bali, was inspiring for me. (“Ebu” means mother.) She leads an Ashram and gives many who come to her a direction for their lives. They get up at 4:30 in the morning, which is not hard to do in Bali, and sing the Upanishads and thereafter Christian songs, to make me feel welcome, and then they do Yoga before the rising sun, after which we immediately become conscious of fresh strength. But Bali itself can give a person such new strength. Only the tourists with their shameless and crude ways made me unhappy there. Ebu Gedong gave me a great deal to take along for my life. In just a few days there I read five books. Our conversations were Hindu-Christian dialogue. She radiated dignity and she had a thirst for justice. She had just translated Gandhi’s Autobiography into Indonesian. She also gives room and board to students in her house. I could study and understand Hinduism far better after my staying in Bali. She tried to introduce the concept of a pet to the people there and bought a dog. Everyone who came up on her porch kicked it.
As the time came for me to travel on, it was very hard for me to leave Bali. But all the new impressions started to become somewhat much. Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul, Honolulu, and further over the Pacific Ocean back to the U.S.A.
In Hong Kong I started reading the history of China and was very inspired by the Long March of the Chinese communists, many of whom sacrificed themselves so that the main force could get away. I also noticed how the Chinese think in a much more practical and political way than the people of India, who hardly can deal with their state, community, and public problems, probably because priests and rulers have always been in different castes.
In Kowloon, which is on the continent across from the Island of Hong Kong, I came to know Pastor Ho from a congregation of refugees, named Nathan Road Lutheran Church. On Sunday morning a guest preacher from Taiwan spoke in Mandarin, Pastor Ho translated his words into Cantonese for the congregation, and a young woman beside me, translated the Cantonese into English for me. The sermon was powerful even after traveling through all these languages. Hong Kong is somewhat like West Berlin, because it borders on the People’s Republic of China, but it does not find itself boxed in and isolated like Berlin, because it is a world class harbor. When one takes the cable car up a steep mountain there, in what seems like a vertical climb, one can see Hong Kong and Kowloon lying below lit up with all their lights glowing like a Christmas tree.
I had a great deal of difficulty with the language in Japan. It took me two expensive and impersonal days in Tokyo, before I could find Pastor Tanaka, President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Japan. In Japanese it is pronounced the “Ruthelan” church. Family Tanaka put me up in such a friendly way and with that introduced me to a genuine menu of Japanese food: SUKI YAKI, NIGIRI, SUSHI, TEMPORA, etc., with which I had absolutely no trouble, not even using the chop sticks. The pastors there earn very little money, about 500 DM a month (That would be about $250 at the time.) which actually turns out to be even less, because Japan has been suffering from a high rate of inflation. The bullet train from Tokyo through Osaka to Hiroshima, etc. travels at 200 kilometers per hour, and because of that one sees very little of the aesthetically manicured landscapes and gardens of Japan through the window. Kyoto, the former capital of Japan, was a glorious city. In the industrial city of Osaka, I had the opportunity to have a long conversation with a German missionary, who was very critical of the church in Japan. Lutherans in Japan seem very conservative to me. But how can I allow myself such a judgment after only spending eleven days there?
All too quickly I arrived back in Springfield, Ohio, with a trip around the world and many an experience in West Berlin behind me. I’m still trying to land a position as a pastor here, in order to continue my pilgrimage through God’s kingdom of love, which I was able to view from so any different sides on this trip.
(Translated November 24-26, 2008 )
 Now I can see that these cathedrals do that, but I could not see it back then thirty-three years ago. I’m translating this report November 25, 2008.
 Ever since having that experience Bethlehem has felt special to me. It means “house of bread” because “Beth” is house and “lehem” is bread. There the bread of life was born in a food manger to provide daily bread for the world,( and the word by whom we live) because we do not live by bread alone. There is the city built on the hill, because you do not put a light under a bushel, but on a lamp-stand where it will give light to all in the house. And the light of the world was born in that city, so God made special light illuminate the city, David’s city, to light up the world forever. And now I am ministering in Bethlehem Lutheran Church!
OUR FINANCIAL AND ECONOMIC CRISIS
November 25th 2008
I wrote previously about Anghel Rugina’s critique about the irrational aspects of our economy. He criticized the currency, which had no standard to back it; monetized bank credit, in which banks made loans and charged interest for them (unethically, he maintained) without having the said capital; and the pure speculation of the financial system as opposed to actual investment in production.
Rugina argued that if all capital was invested in production, we would have full employment. Since a portion was used for pure speculation, full employment became impossible. Such irrational speculation also threatened destabilization (or dis-equilibrium) of the economy. In face of the irrational elements distorting an economy, which in and of itself is very complex, a rational monetary policy was impossible. One could not control or measure in any way, for example, the affect an interest rate cut by the Federal Reserve was having on the economy.
According to Rugina, full employment becomes impossible because of speculation. Rick Wolff, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, approaches our crisis from a very different angle. He argues that the indebtedness of the middle class passed the breaking point, because of wage stagnation and higher expectations. He listed the reasons why real worker wages tended to stagnate after 1974. This stagnation followed wages that rose steadily over the previous 150 years, continually increasing the level of consumption. The middle class interpreted its level of consumption as an increasing level of achievement. Four reasons for wage stagnation were outsourcing of labor, women entering the labor force, low level of wage expectations by immigrants, and highly productive technology that made the replacement of many workers possible. See “Against the Grain,” the National Public Radio program of October 20, 2008.
Along the lines of Rugina, Wolff argued that technology (just think of computers) exploded worker productivity, while employers let wages stagnate, allowing fantastic corporate profit. They placed this profit into the banks, which in turn gave workers easy credit. These borrowed heavily to keep pace with the former steady increase in standard of living and levels of consumption. But now this increase was not due to increased wages in terms of a living wage, but due to taking out loans and making use of credit cards. Somewhat like monetized credit, with banks lending money and charging interest on capital they did not have, corporations gave their profit to financial institutions, which loaned workers money with interest, loaning them money which they had rightfully earned but was withheld from their wages. When credit card loans went to the maximum, the people then took out further loans on the equity of their houses, which seemed unproblematic because of the housing bubble.
Fair wages are thus also crucial to the solution of our financial crisis. According to Wolff regulation and deregulation did not work, thus allow workers representation with voice and vote for the guidance of corporations, in order that they help to find an effective balance and standard of regulation.
Listening to one economist after another, I hear them state that the public sector is the only one functioning in the breakdown of the market system. On the Lehrer Report, NPR, November 24, 2008, one economist argued that tax-payer dollars could buy the whole corporation of Citicorp for the $20 billion of invested capital and the $300 billion insurance for liabilities at risk. Those incredible sums of money should give the tax-payer some say-so, some representation for our public and common interest in this bank, which has become too large to fail. The piece-meal bailouts, (for example, why didn’t they bailout Lehman Brothers?) bring about the moral hazard that other private banks will take advantage of the public sector and its billion dollar bailouts.
Meanwhile the huge discrepancy between the salaries of the financial sector and stagnant wages of regular employees remains. It was reported that Goldman Sachs will have to do without bonuses this year. They will have to make do with their meager $600,000 salaries a year! Working in the financial world is stressful and certainly the CEO’s who make $100 million a year are stressed out, but then what about all the employees whose wages have stagnated while those above have jettisoned into the stratosphere? What about the underemployed, the unemployed, the workers who have been marginalized and left out of the statistics because they have given up seeking employment?
Rugina would agree that free market capitalism spells freedom and a government controlled economy spells a controlled society as well. But why can’t a social economics be devised, where legal institutions and public representation enforces enlightened regulation that safe guards public interests as well as private ones. There should not be a collectivization of costs and a privatization of profits, nor conversely, a collectivization profits and a privatization of costs. Legal institutions and boards safe-guarding public interests should have real representation with voice and vote over the corporations in order to maintain such a balance or equilibrium (to use Rugina’s word). Wolff calls for radically reconstituted boards of directors of corporations in this way. Also see Rugina’s table of mixed economic models from pure private competition to a government controlled economy. I feel that Rugina would argue that we have to be more nuanced in terms of regulation, deregulation, and re-regulation in terms of an institutional and legal framework appropriate to our model of capitalism.
I have not yet integrated into my thoughts above the sociological field theory of Pierre Bourdieu, with its structure, forces, positions, dispositions, and specialized capital. The research of his sociology would investigate many different fields of our economy, providing a more nuanced and closer assessment of economic realities than merely thinking on the level of systems.
One more thought: if proper regulation of business and fair taxation was integral to our branches of government, then such economic boards for safe-guarding the public interest would not be necessary. The government would be doing so. But I sense a conflict of interest when the government should stand for the common interests of the public, but represents financial and corporate interests almost exclusively. A philosophy of government that denigrates its necessary functions of checking injustices, preventing the destruction of the environment, and correcting ethical lapses gets sucked into the very problem it should oppose. To consciously place those with known conflicts of interest at the head of regulating agencies is, of course, to hire the fox to guard the chicken coop. I suppose when government governs well, then self-government develops, so that the government can govern less. Then that government is best which governs least. When the financial institutions and corporations are out of control and even the people themselves, then government must step in again.
Some kind of balance seems to have been lost. Perhaps Rugina’s principle of equilibrium is like that of sustainability. Why did all the investment houses collapse the way they did?
 Blogging some Thoughts on Anghel Rugina and our Financial Crisis, October 11, 2008 under the category of economics in peterkrey.wordpress.com.
See “On the Indentification of De Facto Currency Pegs,” by Agnès Bénassy Quéré and Benoît Qœuré, February 2003, http://www.cepii.fr/anglaisgraph/pagepers/Webabq/Papers/Identification.pdf
 That may be another way to refer to leveraging.
 I wonder if the corporations put the people into the bubble or the people put the corporations into the bubble or the speculative bug in our system infected both? For the Dot.Com Bubble, I believe the invention of the internet was infected by the Wall Street bubble that then quickly infected Main Street as well. An ever larger percentage of Main Street is in Wall Street.
 Anghel N. Rugina: International Journal of Social Economics, Vol 26 No. 10/11, 1999, (pages 1227-1248), page 1244.
“Goats Can Be Sheepish” Christ the King, Last Sunday after Pentecost, Nov. 23, 2008 preached at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Oakland, California
Christ the King, Last Sunday after Pentecost, Nov. 23, 2008
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24 Psalm 95: 1-7a Ephesians 1:15-23 Matthew 25:31-46
Goats Can Be Sheepish
(Putting in a good word for the goats)
Here we are at the end of another church year, which separates us somewhat from those who only celebrate the end of the secular year on New Year’s Eve, December 31st. Calendars in ancient times began with the beginning of the reign of a new king. So our Advent Sundays will precede Christmas, when Jesus is born, who is the king of kings and lord of lords. The calendar starts with his birth, goes backward from it (B.C.) and forward to us (A.D.) to our time. That’s because Jesus is the one who reigns over us on David’s royal throne forever. Now we can also say that next year will be the first year in the administration of President Obama, who will be inaugurated on January 20th and we hope that whatever has been nailed down will not come loose before that time.
But Christ is our real king and kings for the children of Israel were always referred to as shepherds. “David was a shepherd boy, killed a lion and shouted for joy!” Christ is our good shepherd and thank God, he will be our judge on the last day. And with the Holy Spirit as our Counselor, we have nothing to fear. Coming to the end of time, our faith teaches us that we merely come to a new beginning.
Bethlehem has come to the end of the time of three pastors, Little, Quanbeck, and Clay. The title “Pastor” also means shepherd in Latin. Now you have two new pastors, Rubio-Bowley and Krey. But no matter the pastors, whether you live out of the gospel in spite of them or because of them, Jesus is your real pastor, your Good Shepherd, and mine too. I would not presume to preach up here, if we were not in his real presence, if he was not in my heart and yours, if he were not my real pastor and yours.
Especially at this time when floods and fires are raging, when we see the financial system collapsing around us, the economy sputtering, people losing their houses and their jobs and sometimes both. But be assured, despite the false shepherds, the Good Shepherd is ruling over us, and the more difficult our lives become, the more helpful our faith is. We have a blessed assurance, even when everything begins to waver under our feet, even if life should suddenly come to an end as we know it, we lean on the everlasting arms.
Luther was asked, “What would you do if you knew the world was coming to an end and today was the very last day?”
“I’d plant an apple tree.” He answered. That’s because we know that King Jesus rules over us. Jesus is speaking through the prophet Ezekiel, “I will save my flock. They shall no longer be ravaged. I will judge between sheep and sheep” (in the Gospel of Matthew, it’s between the sheep and goats). Jesus says, “I will feed them and be their shepherd. I, the Lord, will be their God and my servant David shall be a prince among them. I, the Lord, have spoken.” That’s from Ezekiel.
I would like to say that for the followers of Jesus there is no judgment. You and I have a hiding place in Jesus Christ. We are covered there by his hand in the cleft of our Rock! But we have to be accountable. To deny the judgment is not biblical. St. Paul does not say “for us there is no judgment” but “for us there is no condemnation” (Romans 8:1). We have sinned, but Jesus has taken our sins upon himself and by his stripes we are healed. Luther tells us not to see Jesus as an angry judge. Jesus is our redeemer. He has purchased us from the bonds of slavery and now we belong to him and he loves us and his Holy Spirit is our Counselor, who, let me tell you, leaves even Johnny Cochran in the dust. So we pray for the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us in all that we do.
I’ve been working in my garage and I took a box inside and looked through some old papers. I read a poem that I wrote more than forty years ago. Wow, was I ashamed. I was full of prejudice and bigotry against men who showed feelings, against Gays, against everyone who threatened my little world and my little mind. So even now, I know enough to say I’m not one of the sheep. I’m mostly still a goat and an old goat at that. But my relationship with Christ makes all the difference. Christ calls me one of his sheep and then by grace, even though I do not deserve it, changes me into a sheep of his fold, a lamb of his flock.
The reason we fear no condemnation on Judgment Day is that Jesus has already cleansed us with his word (John 15:3). Jesus already put the pruning shears to my bad branches that bear no fruit, or bear evil fruit, and cut them off. That’s why we say, “The only trouble with heaven is that you have to go through hell to get there.” We don’t have to. I found out I could not catch very much hell and still make it. Jesus has gone through hell for us too.
But when Jesus confronts us with the truth about ourselves, we go through a harrowing experience. We realize that we are goats and to think of ourselves as sheep, to identify with everything good, is self-deception. It makes us as phony as a three dollar bill. When we identify that way with the sheep, then we see others as goats. What does Luther say? “We are sheep and goats at one and the same time.” Those are just other words for saying, “We are sinners and saints at one and the same time.”
We dare not be self-righteous. Christ is our righteousness, we are his sin. But God forgives us completely, because all God can see is Christ in us. Because of Christ, God looks at us through rose-colored glasses and says, “You are the apple of my eye! You are my son, you are my daughter.” Thus because we take responsibility for the old goat in us or a frisky, troubled young goat, for that matter, we have a chance at being sheep or at least sheepish.
The last judgment is also depicted in the Midrash, which is a Jewish commentary, and in the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Jesus changed those versions of the story quite a lot. They boasted about all the good deeds they had done and kept score so the scales would weigh in their favor and get them into heaven. They wanted to earn their way in; Jesus said, you only get there by way of my inheritance. They considered themselves to be sheep. Surprise! They found out they were goats. (“Nothing wrong with goats, mind you,” to quote Seinfeld.)
It’s striking to me the way the women here at Bethlehem have called themselves the “Hagar Circle.” She was Abraham’s wife by default, an Egyptian maid of Sarah’s and “Sarah,” of course, meant princess. Sarah rejected Hagar soundly and Abraham listened to her and sent her off with their son into the wilderness to die. You tell me if Abraham and Sarah were sheep or goats? Hagar put Ishmael, her little son, beside a bush and went off a small way, so that she did not have to see him die. But an angel of the Lord came and rescued her and her son.
Now Sarah finally did have Isaac, whose name means “laughter.” God was laughing, because Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac were sure they were sheep and Hagar and Ishmael were goats to them. But God laughs and says, “Surprise!” Hagar and Ishmael are my sheep too, and even though Sarah, and, you, too, Abraham, acted like old goats, I’ll just have to forgive you and save you by grace.” We are all sinners, who have fallen short of the glory of God, as the Scriptures say (Romans 3:23), and they continue, Abraham had faith, he trusted God, and God reckoned that to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6 and Romans 4:22). But he was an old sinner, the same way Sarah was, and Hagar too. She did not have to say to Sarah, “Ha, ha. I’ve got a baby and not you!” Long and short of it: we are all sinners and that means you and me too.
Thank God, Jesus is our judge and he has already washed and cleansed us with the baptism of his word. We might have the short end of the stick, but we get to inherit the kingdom. And so if you are good and you know it, you can’t possibly be good. But that does not make us bad. Jesus lifts us up in his surprising goodness. By the power of his love operating in out hearts, we can’t help responding to those who are in need, who are depicted here: the hungry, thirsty, the stranger, (let’s say it), the immigrant, the naked, jailed, homeless, what have you. The Christ in our hearts is full of forgiveness, empathy, understanding, and compassion.
The “least of these” at the time were also the martyred Christians, spreading the Gospel of Christ and being hunted down. To give them a glass of water made you complicit with them and put you into a sure and certain danger. The early Christians put themselves on the line, against the world, because they belonged to the coming kingdom, and they were getting crucified. Spreading the gospel of life and love and hope, they were reviled. Christians in those days were called atheists, because they denied all the many gods of that day, and they were called cannibals, because rumor had it that they ate babies at communion. I kid you not. The Philosopher Celsus wrote that, calling his book the “True Word about the Christians.” He wrote at the end of the second century helping to instigate the great persecutions. Origin, the theologian, had to refute him. So always take those kinds of charges with a grain of salt, when they are used to hunt down and kill people.
So let us continue to recruit people to continue the love affair of God for this world, especially recruiting them into the reign of Christ the King, so they can be saved from condemnation, redeemed from their sin, so that we are all marvelously changed from goats into sheep by the blood of the cross.
I came in the other night and our cat Figaro was sleeping on my open laptop computer! I think he likes it because it is warm and we have not yet been putting on the heat. Now the “f” does not work. Then I hit the “L” key and it does not work. Then the “e” and after that the “a” and last of all the “s”. I think it’s time he gets a treatment.
Really the “m” and the “t” are giving me trouble.
Dear Lord, forgive me for having tried to use you.
Here I am. Take me and use me.
I rubbed my old lamp,
my cold, dead lamp,
and thought you would jump
like a Jinni
and build my fairy castles.
Forgive me Lord. Help me repent. Yes, use me up. Wear me out.
Rub me against the polish of thy work
So that shiny as a pearl,
I take on a new luster, in which
Everyone can find his own reflection,
Everyone can find her own reflection,
in the jewelry
of thy new Jerusalem.
Nov. 29, 1967
I thought that I also wrote this report of my travels around the world after leaving Berlin in English. But I have found it only in German. The typewriter needed a new ribbon. But it is legible.
These are just some pictures I took along the way. But I recorded all my dreams in a Jungian fashion in order to have the internal pictures that a camera is incapable of snapping, unless the photographer is an artist.