Archive for August 2009
“The Delicious People of God,” Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost – August 7th 1994 – My First Sermon for First Lutheran Church in Oakland, California
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost – August 7th 1994 – a sermon for First Lutheran Church in Oakland, California
Exodus 16:2-15 – Psalm 78: 23-29 – Ephesians 4:17-24 – John 6:24-35
The Delicious People of God
Bread can be very tasty. Just take children into a restaurant in which bread is served before the meal. Sometimes it comes in a basket, the hot rolls inside covered by a red and white checkered cloth. The children open it up and with some butter, can make a whole meal of it, instead of waiting for the main course. The way the children mix up the bread served as entrée with the meal, the people that Jesus fed with the loaves and fishes, mixed up bread with the Word of God, the Gospel, the promises of God, and indeed Christ, who said, “I am the bread of life.” That’s as if to say, “Don’t be satisfied with ordinary bread that fills your stomach. But come to me, because I am the bread of God and when I feed you with my very self, you will never be hungry or thirsty again.” Christ alone fills the hunger of your heart, mind, and soul.
We do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Deut. 8:3). And now in our New Testament, Jesus the Christ is the Word of God given for us. And the Word became flesh and his flesh is food indeed. His body is the Wonder-bread sent from heaven to nourish you with abundant life and for the nourishment of the life of the world.
“I am the bread of life!”
And you and I, chiming into the great “I am!” also become transformed into words of love spoken by God and also become some personal bread given as food for others. When Jesus had his disciples collect the left over bread in the feeding of the masses, there were twelve baskets full, symbolizing the twelve tribes of Israel; and seven baskets full in the second feeding, symbolizing the seven nations of the Gentiles. Thus you and I are changed into bread, yes, food for our neighbors by the Bread of Life, Christ – with whom we commune, when we come to him, responding to his call.
Have you ever thought of yourself as food – food for others who also have hungry hearts? My family and I have been vacationing out in Lake Cochuma near Solvang and Santa Barbara. My eight year-old Joshua wanted badly to go fishing – something I’m not good at. No one ever taught me how to do it. Out on the pier fishing, I figured something out. If you can deceive the fish, it thinks it’s eating food, but in goes the hook, and that trout has become food for us. Now if you don’t deceive the fish, you just end up feeding the fish.
Now forgetting all that deception, I will tell you straight out – Christ will make you food for others. “When Christ calls us, he bids us come and die,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer said. The way is via the cross. We preach Christ and him crucified. His dying gives us life and our dying to ourselves and coming to life before God and coming alive for our neighbors in need, gives life to the world and ourselves. The children of God become wonder-bread, food for the world, delicious, persons delicious and wholesome to taste, as they offer themselves, their very selves for others.
Mostly we have Italian, French, Greek pita bread, Indian corn bread, short’nin bread, but that is ethnic, not personal bread. Are you bread? What does your self taste like when you offer yourself in relationships? Myself – I’m Peter-bread. My mother always baked bread. But what we are speaking about here is not baking bread, but oneself becoming bread, as a person become bread, the basic nourishment, the food for others.
This sermon is bread, food for your heart, mind, and soul, not merely food for thought, but for your new life, your righteousness in Christ.
That is the transformation that happens when you respond to the call of Christ- when you run to him, when he cries, “Come to me for the real, the true bread of life after which you will never again hunger and thirst.”
In the story you heard in the gospel lesson, Jesus had to keep correcting the people because they misunderstood him. They were not “rice Christians,” as missionaries have called some, who responded, but “bread Christians.” They followed Jesus because they wanted more bread, daily bread: prosperity and financial success.
Jesus says that it can only happen via the cross, via Christ and Christ crucified. So you seek me not because you are interested in my signs, but you loved the meal and you want another one. A sign here is more than a miracle. It is a miracle that leads into an understanding of the whole Gospel of Jesus Christ. Thus the feeding of the masses compares Moses praying for the bread from heaven, the manna from heaven for feeding the children of Israel in the wilderness; with Jesus in the Gospel, praying and giving thanks, so that all the nations of the world including Israel, would receive the bread of heaven, their Lord and King, who will lead his flock to their true daily bread.
That is the Gospel of the promises of God, the promises of bread for the whole world. But just feeding the world will not help. Coming to Christ is the way people become food and then all is overcome. When people become delicious bread, who feed each other on a daily basis, then the promise of abundant life becomes fulfilled.
Note that I had to bake up this sermon for you. I hope it is not half baked and it could be twice baked, Zwieback in German. It is food for your soul. To extend the metaphor, this sermon is a two or three course meal, serving you with the Word of God. And should I become your interim pastor, I shall have to become bread for you. I need to become God’s words of love, a Word of God for you – a Christ, the way you become words from God, bread of life for each other.
Turning this metaphor another way, this congregation, this body of Christ needs to turn into bread for others in the community, so that it becomes bread for this particular area in Oakland in which it does its mission.
Jesus had to correct his followers a second time. They believed that following Jesus would bring them bread and it does not work out that way. Their priorities have to remain straight. Christ comes first. Seek you first the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness and all these things will be added unto you. But when you take what is secondary and make it primary, then all these things become subtracted from you.
For example, when a church puts stewardship, in terms of its budget first and then orients its evangelism around it, then it is really putting its budget before the Gospel and the promises of God. Although mission understood as the witness to Christ could be first, in terms of mere service, not even it can be first. Christ has to come first and the proclamation of the Holy Gospel of all the promises of God; and budget, economics, daily bread has to be secondary.
You and I have come to Christ, because it is upon him that God the Father placed the divine seal and the seal is printed in blood, because it is not via Christ, but Christ crucified. And it is the cross and Christ dying upon the cross that is the seal that authenticates the Word of God.
Thus the poor fish have to flop about on the pier and die. Then their flesh becomes food indeed. And you and I have to die to our old selfish lives, which take, batter, and abuse others for our personal gain, and dying to that with Christ on the cross, we rise up to become alive to God and new life to our neighbor. We simply become delicious persons, people who satiate the hunger of people’s hearts and quench the thirst of their souls. Providing that meal envelopes us in love, peace, and joy. There is no peace in the old selfish life.
Let me end with a sweet desert. In Coney Island, where we did vacation day camp, we always took the kids to Great Adventure, an amusement park with a safari ride as part of it. When we drove our old 1966 GMC Church bus through all the sections of the safari, the last one was filled with monkeys, the children’s favorites. Some of the kids started feeding the monkeys Jewish rye, a loaf we had left over from lunch. All the monkeys climbed, swung, and scampered onto our old bus for some of it. What an excitement for the kids! When the bread ran out the monkeys got mad, pulled the reflectors off the bus, the overhead lights, even pulling at the wires. Then they started pelting our bus with parts that they had pulled off it. We had to get out of there fast. Becoming bread for others is no piece of cake. It is always via the cross.
Ah, our mission only adds to the music of our witness! Christ is the gateway into abundance, into abundant life. Christ is the bread of life for the whole world. Christ is really all we need, Christ alone. Amen.
Pentecost XII – August 23rd 2009
Joshua 24:1-2, 14-18 – Psalm 34: 14-22 – Ephesians 6:10-20 – John 5:56-69
God’s Delicious People
Like St. Paul I would like to have you pray for me, so that when I speak, a message might be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel. After you’ve done so, please say “Amen.” Thank you! Oh Lord, open thou my lips that my lips can proclaim thy praise! Amen.
Some people used to think that a mother pelican ripped out her flesh and fed it to her fledglings. There’s a statue on the Berkeley campus of a pelican because of it. It turned out not to be true, but in a sense it is true of Jesus, and offensive as it sounds, he has fed us with his flesh, with his body and blood. He died on the cross for us, and like every piece of meat that we eat, an animal had to die for us to become our food. A lot of chickens had to die for our barbeque sandwiches yesterday. We do not like to think about that.
Here’s another hard thing to think about. The early Christians, in the days of the great Roman persecutions were actually considered cat-food. That’s pretty ugly, right? By that I mean, for the so-called entertainment of the Roman public, they were thrown into the arena to be killed and eaten by hungry lions and other wild animals. Others were wrapped in oil skins and set on fire to light up these so called games, which were really atrocities.
One of Augustine’s friends refused to go to the coliseum. When his friends finally persuaded him to go, he said he would hold his hands over his eyes and not look. When the crowd roared, he found that it was impossible for him not to look at the lions killing and eating the victims! The Christians in the arena were not such great shakes themselves. They signed to the crowd: “Today, us; tomorrow, you!”
In this world Jesus had to go down and entrench himself in the deepest offense and conflict, in order to ready and prepare his disciples to proclaim the message of peace, the Gospel of peace. I heard a pastor once explain, for spiritual reasons, he had to become a complete realist.
Now in the middle of this world, which is raging against God and the Messiah, God’s Son, we need to wear the whole armor of God. Fasten a belt of truth around your waist, let integrity be your bullet-proof vest, put on fast running sneakers to proclaim the gospel of peace, let faith be your trusty shield, put on a helmet for your salvation, and carry the sword of the spirit, that means, the Word of God. The word of God is a sharp two-edged sword, as it says in Hebrews (4:12). Like people wrap themselves in a mantle of rage (Isaiah 59:17b), we have to wrap ourselves completely in the love of the gospel, because how else can we be protected from the evil of our days?
The attacks on Jesus come from the outside and the inside and they also hit us in the same way, from the outside and the inside. We don’t have the blatant persecution, the way the early Christians had in Roman times. You just had to figure with your getting killed because you followed Jesus. You had to figure with the cross. They would really make you food for the lions. It was hard to stand firm for Jesus in that kind of danger. In Communist East Germany, when I worked in Berlin, if you were a Christian, you were not allowed to go to college, because they did not want superstitious people in college. If you took your faith seriously, they called you superstitious. Would you go to church if you knew it would cost your kids their education?
In the Black experience, the cross is still pretty real in our churches, but maybe not so much because we are Christian, but because of our race. Back in Coney Island, our vacation church school and day camp became too big for our little church, so we started renting public schools over the summer. I met with the German custodian and his staff of one school. We spoke German together and they signed the contract for our program. They loved me! On opening day, they discovered that our school was Black and Puerto Rican. They were so furious with me that they could have lynched me. I felt like I was living the gospel. I walked in the Spirit like Jesus, before his time had come, right through their midst, and the Spirit did not allow them to touch me. It was like a shield, a protection against them.
Pastor Lucy in the Pastor’s Bible Study, mentioned how an enraged woman full of negativity, was starting all kinds of conflicts and divisions among her people. Like one of my sisters says, when she dies, all republicans will stand on the right side of her grave and the democrats will only be permitted on the left. She was joking, however. Well Pastor Lucy had a trainer come and she said that his whole manner disarmed that woman. He remained calm and peaceful and slowly her rage melted and their conversation moved toward sound reasoning.
Barny Frank made us laugh this week. Charged with supporting NAZI policy in health care, although he is gay and a Jew, he said, “On what planet have you been spending most of your time? It doesn’t make sense for me to be speaking to my dining room table!” That kind of an insult is not what St. Paul had in mind of course. There are some real issues that need to be understood and debated.
Standing firm against attacks from without is hard, but sometimes it is harder to stand firm against the attack from within. These are our temptations and they are often more difficult to deal with than outright persecution. Don’t forget that Jesus is the word become flesh and here he is speaking as Jesus, the spirit-filled Word of God become flesh, who wants to come into our mouth in communion, as food for our hunger and drink for our thirst and into our hearts through our ears, to help us stand firm against these temptations. Because the assault from our world and the society in which we live is so subtle, our stand starts eroding. We become weaker and weaker. We attend church less often. We stop coming. We start melting into the world and as people of God, we really start sharing the same values as those of the world. Suddenly we realize that we are Christians in name only and we too are merely the blind leading the blind and we all fall into the ditch.
In Communist East Germany, they would close churches and make them into museums. We have the freedom of religion as a first amendment right and thank God. More than that, our churches are tax exempt, giving us not a little support from our society. But many churches have been turned into condominiums, dance halls, and many others have been blown up or torn down to make way for some profitable business.
At least fifteen churches have closed in our East Bay and Oakland area. Others have certainly grown and opened.
But look at our church, Bethlehem itself. We are not getting any new members. We need a new roof and that could take us down to just several thousand dollars in the till. At that rate, if we depended on money and business, we would have to close in three months. Our temptations have melted away our Christian convictions. What happened to our reaching out in love, and winning this area, with the help of the other churches here, for the kingdom of heaven? How fervently have we been following this man, Jesus, who connected heaven and earth, by the blood of his sacrifice for us? Have our inner temptations made us come to almost nothing?
This is good news. Because it is out of nothing that our wonderful God creates something, and we have to become a nobody before God can make us somebody. Without our backs to the wall, we usually will not turn to God for the help we need. We would rather rely on money and our human effort.
So let’s rejoice with our church in the welcome our church-wide assembly gave those who have been rejected because they are Gay and Lesbian. It’s a new day, because we are venturing in faith, where only the rejected have trod and the hard words of Christ will not make us turn back. We will accept the hard words of Christ and receive our brothers and sisters, whom our church rejected, back into our midst again. Together, we will come to communion and eat his body and drink his blood, because he has become food for us, and given us a new quality of life, and his life will come alive in us. What about getting Tamara and Pr. Megan to start a community garden and paint a mural on the Will Herzfeld Center that shows this community what we understand to be the meaning of life? Our Eightieth Anniversary should be a step forward, not a longing for the way we were in the past. Because the light of Christ has given us the light in which we can see the way, we can see the mission that Christ would have us do. What is this food that never makes us hungry again? Jesus said, it is to do the will of the Father and continue God’s work, God’s mission here on earth (John 4:34).
Do not wait for grants and the money and what not. We need to step out in faith, then Jesus will provide. Fill that community center with a new senior citizen center, celebrate the birthdays of the lonely and forgotten, share a meal together once a week, have nursing care, and go on trips. We have to die to our selves to let Christ come alive in us, and then we too will be food indeed and drink indeed for the starving, thirsty and parched human souls around our church. Let’s spend ourselves. Let’s pour ourselves out for the thirsty souls of our community. Let’s become living bread, like Jesus. Let’s become God’s delicious people. Amen.
The Funeral Words at the Graveside of Mrs. Frieda Frischbutter
Dear Mrs. Hahne,
(The funeral director asked me to accompany him to the grave. “A service is not necessary,” he said, “because no one knew her and no one is coming.” I called the women’s circle and Mrs. Hahne came along. She always helped me with worship in the senior citizen homes. For Frieda we did a full funeral service. In this service we experienced an incredibly powerful encounter with God.)
Together we now want to say goodbye to Mrs. Frieda Frischbutter, whom we have in our hearts, because we always visited her there in the senior citizen’s home at No. 8 Hammerstein Street, in order not to forsake and abandon this woman, not to leave her to herself. Now we are here to show our thankfulness for her life and her sorrows – under the sign of the cross – because no one else is here and we feel poor and forlorn, like forsaken creatures of God. How many die that forgotten, who have also even forgotten themselves – before they even died?
Let us take Romans 14. 7ff. for our text:
We do not live to ourselves and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living (7-9).
Before our eyes we see a human being very isolated and left to herself, although she could not bear herself, could not remember herself: she herself had even forgotten who she was. She was lonely and forsaken, without family or friends. Others were paid to take care of her or no one would have had anything to do with her.
But now this is not the case. We thank God that we are not completely lost. No one lives to herself when we accept the loving concern of the one to whom we belong, our Lord Jesus Christ, who has mercy and compassion for the forgotten of the earth.
That’s because it is precisely those whom the world forgets that God cannot forget. God has a big heart. To tell it like it is, God meets us and encounters us through the very least of these, his lost ones. That is how God worked it out so that no one is excluded and everybody experiences and gets a taste of God’s grace and compassion.
For us to get to know God, feel secure and protected, God enclosed the whole creation inside the law of love: and therefore God now encounters us in none other than dear Mrs. Frischbutter – and not through any one with more or some one who had a lot to give, who was together enough to be able to help herself and others.
Yet it is precisely this woman that was chosen by God to give us a taste of God’s love. We are now speaking of only the highest and greatest achievements of human life here on earth. Yes, through the life, suffering, and dying of this woman, and to her credit, we have now experienced something glorious!
If we grieve, we need to grieve for ourselves, we who fail to see God because God is hidden in love. Stuck in our old selves, we always want to live to and for ourselves, to live oriented to our own self, keeping an eye on our own interests and profit, because of which we fail to find and then forfeit the actual meaning of life, not purchasing the precious pearl of great price.
An abyss with an open mouth swallows human beings among us. People die so wretchedly and forsaken because we fail to see God’s plan and the meaning of our lives in the inhuman conditions that prevail in our society. No one wants to accept God’s call to live and die to the Lord, because we do precisely the opposite of what our Lord did; for to this end, our Lord Jesus Christ died and lived again – notice, it says, “he died” first – died to himself to live for others, in order to become the Lord of life and death, in order thus to be able to live out of God, rather than to live out of himself and to live his own life (apart from the concern for others).
(Here this little homily ends and I’m not sure if a few pages were lost or the words concluded orally. But for Mrs. Charlotte Peetz’ funeral that took place just three weeks later, I developed some of these thoughts further. The powerful encounter/ meeting/ rendez vous with God took place in the service at Frieda’s graveside, however.)
For Mrs. Charlotte Peetz, 29th of August, 1974.
Dear cousin and friends of the deceased,
For the last years of her life, Charlotte Peetz lived in the Red Cross Home and now she has passed away. I am so glad that you have come to participate in this funeral service, the celebration of her life, because often the forsaken of the earth are those who can do great things for us. We dare not forget the elderly languishing in our senior citizen homes and for that reason we gather together thankfully to think about this woman and show our gratitude for the God, who does not forget people, when we take up God’s assignment of love, and driven by God’s compassion, we search for, find, and visit the forgotten of the earth.
Our text comes from Romans 14:7-9. (See it above!)
In these homes the elderly folks live isolated and forsaken, left to languish by themselves, while we pay others to take care of them. But we thank, thee, O God, that you have sent us to show mercy and have compassion on the forgotten of the earth.
God has enclosed the creation inside the law of Love, so that no one is excluded, even the very least of these and most insignificant people of the earth. They, too are thereby included.
These are the ones, whom God has chosen, the ones who have nothing, who are broken and forsaken, who have been forgotten by their fellow neighbors for so long that they have even forgotten themselves, and it is precisely through them that God encounters us.
The very least and lost are chosen for this very high dignity. It is because of them that God moves among us today.
We have to grieve for ourselves. The abyss opens before us and how many people fall in! But we lift up our eyes to the hills, from where our help comes. It comes from God’s mountains of goodness, filling and overwhelming the evil abyss. Those who are not reached, slide into the abyss, but God’s good mountains comfort us while we continue to work in God’s assignment.
God is in us and with us, when God lives in us. The life of God in us is the veritable love and truth living in us. We cannot live out of ourselves.
Thus, in love God has decided, how we will meet and encounter him. Those who have been sent to carry out God’s assignments, God encounters in the following ways:
In the poor, we receive God’s riches
In the imprisoned, God’s freedom
In the confused, God’s clarity
From the lost, God shows us the way
From the mentally ill, the health of the Spirit
And from the dead, the fulfillment of life
These gifts come from the very least, whom God has thereby completely included in the plan for the creation.
The very least, which God enfolded into the divine plan of creation are probably not the poor or forgotten or the forsaken of the world, but the dead – but on the other hand, the dead can become very powerful. They can become so powerful that they can determine and decide everything among us “the living.”
No one lives to him or herself and no one dies to him or herself: that means firstly, we need each other. To become isolated and forgotten brings us into conditions of degradation, unworthy of human beings.
Secondly, God’s plan is to include all human beings in God’s love. No one is to be forgotten. The very least, the very poorest, those who have lost everything and are forgotten by everyone, are chosen by God for the gift of the divine encounter. Therefore, although these can have nothing to give us, we can receive the most important, the gift of the highest value on earth through them, namely, the encounter with the living God, the wonderful taste of God’s presence.
Thirdly, we are sent to reach people in the holiness of that encounter of the living God. The abyss is of two kinds: first, the mountains of the goodness and grace of God; and second, our evil abyss, which can in no way swallow up God’s good one. To God belongs the victory.
Farther Development of these Thoughts for the Funeral of Mrs. Emma Doede on October 15th 1974
I would like to read a word from the fourteenth Letter to the Romans for this occasion:
For no one lives to him or herself and no one dies to him or herself, (14. 7-9). (See full text above.)
We say goodbye to Mrs. Emma Doede today, confessing that we do not know much about her life. It was only a few times that we saw her in the senior citizen’s home, where she was always very sad. Then I was with her when she died. I put flowers beside her, but whether or not she saw them I do not know.
But we still want to hear God’s word thankfully, because it remains meaningful to speak at this time. We do not have to remain in silent grief.
Although people are so isolated here and seemingly suffer so much, for in our social conditions we are forced to live to ourselves, our visits and our concern for them remains meaningful. Because God is merciful and full of compassion, we are sent to the people who are the least important on earth, the forgotten, the isolated, those who live in utter misery.
God has chosen these people, through whom we receive the gift of meeting and encountering God. We can have a rendez vous with God through these, the forgotten and the least important people of the earth. It is in this way that God constituted the law of love so that all people would become included in God’s love. It is not from those that have the most that we receive the greatest and most precious gift possible here on earth. That possibility of receiving it comes only from the least of the earth. Indeed, it is only from the forgotten of the earth that it is possible to receive the good of the greatest value on earth. That gift is to feel and experience the very presence of God, in which the life of God is given us, and with the life of God in us, the veritable love of God dwelling in us.
It is interesting to think through in what ways the forgotten of the earth bring us presents:
From the poor, we receive God’s riches, etc.
(See the list above.)
In that kind of a surprise, I see what a wonderful God we have! How merciful and compassionate God is and how precious for us to treasure! Who would not lay down his or her life to serve our God? Who wouldn’t take up God’s call and assignment in order to get a taste of God’s presence? It is like seeing God in the faces of the needy as they wait for the one God sent to them with help.
The way Emma Doede came to belong completely to God, we want to as well. Amen.
Let us pray
For this human being, Emma Doede, we give you thanks and praise! That you have included us all in your love, we give you thanks. That you chose the least of these on earth to enfold us with your presence, we give you thanks and praise, because it shows how wonderful, Oh God, you are!
Increase and strengthen our faith, that in the assignment of your call of love, we can visit the least of the earth and become capable of sharing in their fate. Through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, we pray. May you guard, protect, and shelter our souls and that of the deceased. Amen.
Prayer at the grave
We thank you, Oh Lord our God, that you have overcome all the messengers of death and death itself through the love of your dear Son, Jesus Christ. Through him you redeemed and freed us from the powers of death, so that worry-free and without the dread of fear, our faith can become active in the love we share one with another. Receive the soul of Emma Doede. Lift her spirit up into your joy. Through the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ we pray.
Ansprache für die Bestattung von Frau Elsa Haack am 2. September, 1974, die Sanct Annen Kirche zu Dahlem
Liebe Verwandte und Freunde der Verstorbene,
Wir versammeln uns Heute morgen weil Frau Elsa Haack von hinnen gegangen ist in die Ewigkeit. Wir wollen uns zusammen setzten hier öffentlich, um uns mit ihren Tod selbst zurecht zu finden. So gesagt ist unser Ziel zu hoch gesteckt, aber wir möchten doch von ihr Abschied nehmen, wissend dass für uns sterblichen Menschen es ein endgültiger Abschied sein muss. Wir hoffen auf Gott, der Diesseits und Jenseits der harten Todes Grenze waltet, und wollen ihn auch in dieser Stunde danken für seine Gnade, denn unser Leben bekommen wir aus seiner Hand, und ihm sind wir gehörig, und auch nach dem Tode nicht verloren. Daher wollen wir auch ein Wort betrachten, ein Gottes Wort.
Aus Römer 14 7 ff. lautet unser Text :
Denn unser keiner lebt sich selber,
und keiner stirbt sich selber.
Leben wir so leben wir dem Herrn;
sterben wir so sterben wir dem Herrn.
Darum wir leben oder sterben,
so sind wir des Herrn.
Denn dazu ist Christus gestorben
und wieder lebendig geworden,
dass er über Tote und Lebendige Herr sei. (14.7-9)
Was sagt dieser Text? Obwohl wir uns das Gegenteil hier auf Erden vortäuschen, keiner lebt sich selber und keiner stirbt sich selber. Aus der Liebe Gottes leben wir. Unser Leben und Dasein sind in sein ewiges Dasein gepflanzt. Und darin können wir Trost finden. Denn im Sterben sehen wir wie wir selbst verfallen und vergessen oft dass unser Leben eigentlich nicht aus uns selbst kommt, sondern aus Gott.
Wir leben und sterben auf dem Herrn hinzu. Er ist unser Ziel. Er ist Endpunkt, aber darin auch unser Anfang: unser A und O, und von ihn wissen wir, dass Er ein grosser Erlöser und Befreier ist.
Der Tod kann diese Glaubens-Tatsache nicht verändern. der Tod als letzter Feind ist besiegt und gefangen genommen worden und muss jetzt den Fürst des Lebens dienen. Wenn wir manchmal sagen, ihr Tod hat für sie eine Erlösung bedeutet, dann meinen wir dass ihr Herrn Jesus Christus sie erlöst hat. Der Tod von selbst ist ein Greuel und kann uns nicht erlösen. Denn wir wissen dass wir die Ewigkeit gehören und der Tod wiederspricht diese Glaubens-Tatsache – in solch einer lauten Stimme hier auf Erden, dass wir Angst haben es zu glauben. Darum wir leben oder wir sterben gehören wir dem Herrn der Ewigkeit, Diesseits und Jenseits dieser harten Grenze.
Wenn wir versuchen diese ewige Seite in uns zu leugnen, dann versuchen wir nur Teilweise zu sein wer wir sind. Realistisch wird man. Es gibt eine infantile Art wo wir nicht unser eigenem Sterben und daher begrenzte Existenz akzeptieren können. Es gibt auch eine primitive Art wo wir unsere Veränderung und die Veränderung unsere Verhältnisse in den Jenseits hineinschieben, ohne unser Diesseits ernst zu nehmen. Aber so realistisch wie man sein kann, beseht unserer Verwandsschaft mit dem ewigen Gott, der Vater unsers Herrn Jesus Christus.
Wir können getrost in diesem Rahmen die sterbliche Elsa Haack gedenken….Und jetzt hat der dunkele Engel nicht seine Vorzeichen geschickt, sondern er selbst ist gekommen und hat sie von den Menschenkindern weggerissen.
Aber dazu ist Christus gestorben und wieder lebendig geworden um Herr über die Toten und die Lebendigen zu sein. Vor seiner gewaltigen Liebe, uns am Kreuz bewiesen, kann der grausamer Tod nicht Stand halten. Er kann uns nur unsere Grenzen mitteilen um uns realistisch zu machen und dadurch fähiger machen aus Gott zu leben, und nicht aus uns selbst. Daher können wir getrost sein und auf die Lebensfülle bei unseren Herrn hoffen. Nicht nur für Elsa Haack, dessen Sarg Heute vor uns steht, sondern auch für uns selbst, die wir solch Liebe brauchen um die schmerzhafte Grenzen, die wir ausgesetzt sind, akzeptieren zu können.
 Manchmal möchte man am Ostern sagen, ihr kommt zur Kirche um vom ewigen Leben zu hören, wie eine gewisse religiöse Lebensversicherung. Das ist nicht hier zu bekommen. Leute die ihr eigenes Leben und Sterben nicht ernst nehmen und Gott auch nicht, wollen infantil glauben, dass sie immer und ewig leben werden. Doch werden wir all sterben. Wir haben Tage, Stunden, Wochen, Manate, Jahren. Die die das nicht wahr haben wollen, wollen eigentlich Gott sein. Sie wollen nicht Gott gegenüber stehen in der schmerzhaften Unterschied zwischen sich selbst und Gott, zwischen Menschen und Gott, der Unsterbliche. Sie wollen eigentlich aus sich selbst leben.
Ansprache für die Bestattung von Frau Frieda Frischbutter am 8.8.1974 die Sanct Annen Kirche zu Dahlem
Ansprache für die Bestattung von
Frau Frieda Frischbutter am 8.8.1974 in Wilmersdorf
Liebe Frau Hahne!
Wir wollen jetzt gemeinsam unseren Abschied von Frau Friede Frischbutter nehmen, die wir am Herzen haben weil wir immer dort in der Hammersteinstrasse No. 8 Besuche gemacht haben um diese Frau nicht zu verlassen, nicht sich selbst zu überlassen. Jetzt sind wir hier um auch unsere Dankbarkeit für ihr Leben und Leiden zu erweisen – unter dem Zeichen des Kreuzes – weil keine Andere hier sind und wir fühlen uns wie armselige, verlassene Geschöpfe des Herrn. Wie viele sterben so vergessen, sich selbst schon vergessen habend bevor man schon gestorben ist! Daher ist unser Text Römer 147ff.
Denn unser keiner lebt sich selber,
und keiner stirbt sich selber.
Leben wir so leben wir dem Herrn;
sterben wir so sterben wir dem Herrn.
Darum wir leben oder sterben,
so sind wir des Herrn.
Denn dazu ist Christus gestorben
und wieder lebendig geworden,
dass er über Tote und Lebendige Herr sei. (14.7-9)
Vor unseren Augen sehen wir ein Menschenkind sehr isoliert und auf sich selbst verlassen, obwohl sie sich selbst nicht tragen konnte und obwohl sie sich selbst vergessen hatte. Sie war einsam und verlasssen von den Mitmenschen. Andere worden bezahlt um sie zu betreuen, sonst hätte Keiner mehr etwas mit ihr zu tun gehabt.
Aber es ist nicht so. Wir danken Gott, dass wir nicht ganz und gar verlorren sind. Keiner lebt sich selber wenn wir das Anliegen von Jesus Christus selbst aufnehmen und Barmherzigkeit an seine Vergessene der Erde nehmen.
Denn besonders die, die die Welt vergisst, kann Gott nicht vergessen. Sein Herz wird gross. Es ist nur Mal so, dass Gott unser Herr uns durch diese seine Geringsten und diese seine Verlorenen uns begegnet. So hat Er es sich ausgedacht, dass alle seine Gnade und Barmherzigkeit spüren und erleben.
Dass wir die Geborgenheit in ihm erkennen und erleben, hat Er seine Schöpfung unter dem Gesetz der Liebe beschlossen – dass Er uns in der liebe Frau Frischbutter begegnet – und aus keine mehr habende, keine die viel zu geben hat, und die in der Stellung wär sich selbst helfen und andere helfen zu können.
Doch ist diese Frau von Gott erwählt worden uns seine Liebe spüren zu lassen. Hier sind nur von der grössten Erreichnissen des Menschlichen Lebens die Sprache und durch das Leben, Leiden, und Sterben dieser Frau, als ihrer Verdienst, sind wir solch herrliches Teilhaftig geworden.
Trauern können wir für uns selbst, die wir Gott nicht sehen weil Er in der Liebe verborgen ist, und wir so sehr an unseren alten Menschen gehaftet sind, der aus sich selbst leben will, und seine eigene Interressen und Gewinn im Auge behält, und dadurch sein eigentliches Sinn des Lebens verfehlt, die aller kostbarste Perle nicht findet.
Unter uns Menschen gibt es auch den Abgrund. Dass Menschen so elend und verlassen sterben, dass wir nicht Sinn und Plan Gottes in vielen menschlichen Verhältnissen spüren, denn keine haben die Aufgabe aufgenommen dem Herrn zu leben und zu sterben in dem wir das genau umgekehrt machen, wie es sagt von unseren Herrn – denn dazu ist Christus gestorben und wieder lebendig geworden – erst gestorben – erst sich selbst gestorben um Herrn über Leben und Tod zu werden, aus Gott dann leben zu können anstatt aus sich selbst oder sich selbst leben zu wollen….
Hier brechen die Worte ab. Es kann sein dass ich Paar Blätter verloren habe. Das Folgende ist eine spätere Entwicklung dieser Gedanken bei der Bestattung von Charlotte Martha Peetz 29.8.1974.
Liebe Cousine, liebe Freunde der Verstorbene,
Diese letzte Jahre hat Charlotte Peetz im Roten Kreuz Heim gelebt und jetzt ist sie verstorben.
Es freut mich dass sie gekommen sind um in ihrer Trauerfeier Anteil zu nehmen. Denn oft sind die verlassen auf Erden, diejenigen die grosses an uns tun können. Die alte Menschen in dem Heim dürfen wir nicht vergessen und daher mit Dankbarkeit sammeln wir uns hier um an dieser Frau zu denken und unsere Dankbarkeit zu erweisen, dass Gott Menschen nicht vergisst, wenn Menschen seinen Auftrag annehmen und von seiner Liebe her getrieben die Vergessene der Erde aufsuchen, finden, und besuchen.
Unser Text lautet: Römer 14 7 ff. (Siehe oben!)
In den Heimen leben die Menschen isoliert und auf sich selbst verlassen, wie andere bezahlt werden diese zu betreuen. Aber Dir, O Gott, danken wir, dass wir gesandt sind Barmherzigkeit für die Vergessene der Erden zu erweisen.
Gott hat seine Schöpfung unter dem Gesetz der Liebe beschlossen, dass alle, auch die Geringsten der Erde eingeschlossen werden.
Diese hat Gott auserwählt, die die Nichts haben, die kaput und verlassen sind, die so lange von den Mitmenschen vergessen sind, bis sie sich selbst vergessen, durch diese begegnet uns Gott selbst.
Die Geringsten, die Verlorenen sind auserwählt für diese hohe Würde. Es ist deren Verdienst, wenn Gott auch Heute sich unter uns Menschen bewegt.
Für uns sollen wir trauern. Der Abgrund steht vor uns und wie viele Menschen rutschen herein! Wir heben aber unsere Augen auf zu den Bergen, woher unsere Hilfe kommt: seine Berge der Güte, seine gute Abgründe.
Die die nicht erreicht worden sind, rutschen den Abgrund herein; aber Gottes Berge der Güte trösten uns während wir weiter in seinem Auftrag arbeiten werden.
Gott ist in uns und bei uns, wenn Er in uns lebt. Das Leben Gottes in uns ist die ungefärbte Liebe und Wahrheit in uns: wir können nicht aus uns selbst leben.
Daher in der Liebe hat Gott beschlossen, wie wir ihn begegnen: im Gottes Auftrag gesanten begegnet Gott folgender Massen:
In den Armen, sein Reichtum
in den Gefangenen, seine Freiheit
in den Verworrenen, seine Besinnung
in den Geisteskranken, seinen hl. Geist
in den Toten, seine Lebensfülle.
Die Geringsten, die Er in seiner Liebe eingeschlossen hat, sind wahrscheinlich nicht die Armen oder Vergessenen oder Verlassenen der Erde, sondern die Toten – aber anderseits können die Toten so gewaltig sein, dass sie Mächte werden die alles unter uns „Lebenden“ bestimmen können.
Keiner lebt sich selber und keiner stirbt sich selber, das heist, erstens: wir brauchen einander. Isoliert und vergessen zu werden bringt uns in menschen-unwürdigen Verhältnisse hinein.
Zweitens: Gottes Plan will alle Menschen in seiner Liebe einschliessen. Keiner soll vergessen werden. Die Geringsten, die aller ärmsten, die die alles verloren haben und von den Mitmenschen vergessen sind, erwählt daher Gott um durch sie uns zu begegnen. Daher obwohl diese uns nichts zu geben haben, können wir die aller wichtigste, der aller höchsten Wert der Erde bekommen – nämlich Gott zu begegnen – zu spüren.
Drittens: Wir sind gesandt um Menschen zu erreichen in der Huld der Gottesbegegnung. Es gibt zwei Abgründe: erstens, die Berge der Güte und Gnade Gottes, und zweitens, unsere bösen Abgründe, die keineswegs die Guten verschlingen können. Gott behält den Sieg.
Weitere Entwickelung dieser Gedanken für die Bestattung von Frau Emma Doede am 15. Oktober, 1974
Ein Wort vom Römer Brief möchte ich bei dieser Gelegenheit lesen:
Denn unser keiner lebt sich selber,
und keiner stirbt sich selber (Römer 14 7).
Wir nehmen Abschied von der Frau Emma Doede und wissen nicht viel von ihr Leben. Wir haben ihr nur im Heim ein Paar Mal gesehen. Sie war immer sehr traurig und dann hab ich sie im Sterben gesehen. Ich hab Blumen für sie hingestellt, ob sie es sah, weiss ich nicht.
Doch wollen wir mit Dankbarkeit wieder Gottes Wort hören, denn es hat ein Sinn hier zu sprechen. Wir brauchen nicht zu schweigen.
Obwohl Menschen so isoliert bei uns sind und scheinbar so leiden, weil sie in unseren Verhältnissen gezwungen sind sich selber zu leben, haben unsere Besuche und unsere Mühe für diese Menschen einen Sinn. Weil Gott barmherzig ist, sind wir geschickt zu diesen Menschen, die geringsten der Erde, die vergessenen, die isolierten, die so arm dran sind.
Gott hat diese auserwählt um durch sie uns mit seiner Begegnung zu beschenken. Durch die Vergessene und die Geringsten der Erde, begegnet er uns. So hat es Gott geregelt in seinem Gesetz der Liebe um alle in seiner Liebe einzuschliessen. Nicht von den viel habenden können wir das grösste Geschenk möglichst bekommen – nur von diesen Geringsten der Erde ist das möglich. Ja, das grösste Gut auf Erden ist nur möglich von diesen Vergessenen der Erde zu erhalten – dass wir Gott spüren und erleben, dass das Leben Gottes uns gegeben wird, das Leben Gottes in uns wohnt und Gottes ungefärbte Liebe in uns bleibt.
Es ist interessant zu denken wie wir beschenkt werden von den Vergessenen der Erde. Um eine Liste zu machen, meine ich:
von dem Armen, erhalten wir sein Reichtum
von den Gefangenen, seine Freiheit
von den Irrenden, seine Richtlinien
von den Verworrenen, seine Besinnung
von den Trauernden, seine Freude
von den Kranken, seine Gesundheit
von den Toten, seine Lebensfülle, usw.
Darin sehe ich solch ein grossartiger Gott, so barmherzig, so zu schätzen! Wer würde nicht sein Leben geben um ihn zu dienen? Wer würde nicht seinen Auftrag annehmen um ihn zu spüren, um ihn einmal in den Gesichtern der Menschen, wie sie auf seinen Beauftragten, von der Liebe bewegt und gesandt, warten?
Wie Emma Doede ihm ganz gehörig worden ist, wollen wir auch sein. Amen.
Lasst uns beten: Für dieses Menschenkind, Emma Doede, geben wir Dir Dank und Lob. Dass Du uns alle in deiner Liebe eingeschlossen hast, dafür wollen wir danken. Dass Du die Geringsten der Erde auserwählt hast, um duch sie uns zu begegnen, dafür wollen wir Dich loben und preisen, denn es ziegt, lieber Gott, wie grossartig Du bist!
Stärke unseren Glauben, dass wir in deiner Liebe beauftragt, die Geringsten der Erde zu besuchen und an deren Schicksal Anteil zu nehmen fähig sind. Durch deinen Sohn Jesus Christus, unseren Herrn; der behüte unsere Seelen und dessen der Verstorbene. Amen.
Gebet am Grab: Wir danken Dir, O Herr Gott, dass Du alle die Boten des Todes und den Tod selbst überwunden hast durch die Liebe deines Sohnes Jesus Christus. Du hast uns dadurch von den Todes Mächten erlöst und befreit, um frei von Angst und Sorge unter den Menschen in der Liebe tätig zu werden. Nimm auf die Seele von Emma Doede, dass sie in deine Freude aufgehen kann. Durch das Kreuz unsers Herrn Jesus Christus beten wir. Amen.
Living the Gospel Story – Easter VII – May 27th 2001
Acts 16:16-34 – Psalm 97 – Revelations 22: 12-14, 16-17,20-21 – John 17: 20-26
Today we heard another gospel story from the Acts of the Apostles, written by St. Luke. Do you remember last week how I said that when we are doing the mission of Jesus Christ our Lord, then the same stories fill our lives the way they filled the life of Christ: Jesus is betrayed by a kiss. He has his feet washed by a woman, who dried them with her hair, and anointed him the Christ. Sometimes we are so familiar with these stories, we don’t realize how powerful they are.
The story about Paul and Silas is also a gospel story and we can see what magical music it adds to their witness. Paul is annoyed by a slave girl, whose spiritual powers are being used by her owners to make money. We should never use our spiritual gifts for that purpose. Paul drives the devil out of her. The owners take it hard and throw Paul and Silas in jail, after beating them with rods. Talk about suffering for the gospel! “They are given a severe flogging,” it says, and then with their feet locked into stocks, they are clapped in jail.
Did Paul and Silas moan? No, they felt like it for sure, because they must have been sore all over. But they started praying and singing hymns, to which the other prisoners were all listening.
Do you see the power of the Spirit? Do you see how they used rejoicing as an antidote to their suffering?
And when the earthquake struck, you would have thought they would flee. It was now easy to break out of the prison. No, in the spirit they even saved the life of the warden, who had helped to torture them.
This gospel story comes right out of the Spirit of God busy with changing the hearts of people. when Paul and Silas started singing in that hell-hole of a prison, it changed into a place of wonder through which people could enter the gates of heaven.
The warden recognized the promises of God, the life of promise Paul and Silas represented and he wanted to be saved. There is the warden and his family eating with the prisoners and washing and treating their wounds! Each are filled by a love from on high that was ready to lay down his or her life for the other. St. Thomas tells of transubstantiation. Could this be called trans-institutionalization? In any case their hearts made that prison melt into a church.
This love is at one with Jesus, the Son, who laid down his life for us; and the Father and Holy Spirit, who are inside each other, bound each to each in a heavenly circle of love capable of changing all our hearts and filling them with the same love.
Let us pray that the whole house of St. John’s Lutheran Church become such believers and such lovers of God! Amen.
A woman called on the telephone this week and asked, “Can we buy your church?”
“No,” I asid, “we worship in it.”
“Really?” she said. “The way it looks, nobody is there.” That was a blow. Do we look that way to the people who come by? I started asking questions about who they are and their ministry. They are only seven weeks old as a church. They meet in a park on 78th Street, going where the spirit leads them, witnessing in the street. They target the fellows selling drugs for conversion and their young men keep witnessing to them until they join their fellowship. She said that they had grown to be 150 believers in seven weeks!
Wow! You see how God’s arm has not grown too short to reach into our world, into the streets of Oakland.
I said, “we have a somewhat poor and depressed neighborhood and we have only gotten a few members over the years.”
“Poor and depressed?” she responded. “I’ve been doing evangelism in Haiti and you do not know what poverty is!”
I hope we send a delegation to them from our church and let their fire catch hold of our hearts and make them burn for the gospel of Jesus Christ for the sake of saving the lost. Let us start the gospel story of St. John’s. Let us start living it. We have to work in the day, because the night can come in which no one can work.
Prayer will get us there! Trinity Lutheran Church has done the healing service, starting it with prayer-warriors. They had 135 attend their anniversary service.
We have to get ready for Pastor Otto Bremer’s memorial service and we want to stand there and witness to Jesus Christ and the justice and peace he stood for.
Prayer will get us there! Christ will reveal our mission and the power of prayer will put us all into a living story of the gospel. Will it ever be exciting! Like the story of Jesus, like the story of Paul, like the stories of all the saints, who witnessed for Jesus Christ before us. Believe the gospel for us! Believe the promises of God! Prayer will get us there!
This summer our neighborhood is going to know that St. John’s is here. We want to have this place humming with vacation church school and day camp: humming, singing, and most of all living the new story of the Gospel, which is really the old story we have loved so well.
I wish I was a prophet, who could already tell you the story. But I can’t, because we have not yet lived it and witnessed it. But I can tell you how it will start: “One time there was a church, called St. John’s on 55th Avenue in Oakland….”
“Exchanging our Clunker for a New Self,” Tenth Sunday of Pentecost, August 9th 2009 at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Oakland, CA
Tenth Sunday of Pentecost, August 9th 2009
at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Oakland, CA
1 Kings 19:4-8 Psalm 34: 1-8 Ephesians 4:25-5:2 John 6: 35, 41-51
Exchanging our Clunker for a New Self
The Ephesians lesson gives us wonderful instructions for how to live our new life in Christ; but the change that has to overcome us, to make such a life possible requires the Bread from Heaven, requires Christ living in our hearts.
Look at the wonderful passages in this letter: put away falsehood; be truth-tellers, for we are not by ourselves, but members one of another. That means we are not completely on our own, but you are inside me and I am inside you through Christ our Lord.
Be angry or mad, but do not sin. A teacher in school became so angry at a child she threw a scissor at it. It is all right to be angry, but you still have to be responsible. Our losing our temper is no excuse. Shouting something does not make it right and sometimes people get real angry to generate heat, because they do not want the light. Be wary of conscious misinformation for the sake of special interests. We don’t need a culture of anger. Look at the troubles road rage caused. We thought at first it was harmless. No, we read, don’t let the sun go down on your anger: that means make up before you go to bed.
Do not make room for the devil. Luther said, “You can’t stop ideas from going through your mind, just like you can’t stop a flock of birds from flying over your head; but you can sure stop a bird from making a nest in your hair!” Before a killing that took place in rage, somebody bought a gun, somebody loaded it, somebody went and got it, pointed it and shot it. At everyone of those points, you were letting a vulture, let alone a bird make a nest in your hair.
We used to say, “That person is a walking time-bomb” and it was a metaphor. Now people actually strap bombs on themselves and blow themselves and the people they hate into smithereens. Hate is anger that has grown cold and hard within us. We nurse those bad feelings many a night. So don’t let the sun go down on your anger. If you have too much give it a safety valve and blow off a little steam at a time.
Thieves stop stealing. Produce something yourself, so you can share what you have with others. Don’t let evil talk, like gossip come out of your mouth – but only say words that build up. Like your mom said, “If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all.” Now often the truth will hurt, but we can bear it, when we speak the truth with love.
Your words have to give strength to people, like the food that the angels fed Elijah. That food sustained him for forty days and forty nights, when he was so low, so dejected, feeling like such a failure, he did not think he could live another day. “Like a depressed woman said, “Do you mean I have to live the rest of the days of my life?” We usually hear people say, “This is the first day of the rest of your life!” Look at what she said! But when we journey through our days, we do not head for a sunset, but a sunrise. God is our destiny. But the dejected Elijah called upon God to let him die.
The conversation of some people leaves you drained and empty. The words of other people can fill you with strength for a whole week. Those are words that give grace. The words of Jesus are full of grace and truth. Like Emmadell said in our Bible study, “Look Jesus’ words say just what we mean!” And one point after another in chapter 23 of St. Matthew hit the nail on the head. The words of Jesus Christ give us grace and truth and eternal life. The words of Jesus have been doing that for countless generations and that is why this church was built over them, so they resound within these walls, among these waxed and polished pews, there to get into your hearts and feed you with the bread of heaven.
Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit: that means you have to put away bitterness, wrath, anger, slander, quarreling, and malice. All those things grieve the Holy Spirit. As Abe Lincoln said, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on….”
Ah, and the next lines of the letter have moved us to song:
“Be kind to one another, be tender-hearted too, forgiving one another, as God’s forgiven you. These words are very precious, they’re also very true. They are found in the Bible, Ephesians 4:32.”
So be imitators of God. We have come to know God, you see, through Christ and him crucified. Baptized into the death of God’s Son, we become raised up by God; we get the up-bringing of God’s very own children. Thus we live in love as Christ loved us, whose sacrifice on the cross was so sweet and fragrant to God that our sacrifices have become filled with rejoicing in our suffering.
Those are the descriptions of the new persons, the new selves we have become by our baptisms into Christ Jesus. But when we really honestly and truthfully examine ourselves, we fall very short. We are like those people who love to watch cooking shows on TV, but have empty refrigerators, buy fast food and junk food and never cook a meal. Like them, we fall short of the glory of God and wonder if God can still keep the redemption seal of the Holy Spirit upon us.
Martin Luther of old says that the climax of the whole Bible comes in Romans 3:21 to 26, when St. Paul says that we are all sinners, [Are there any who are righteous? No, not one], we are all sinners who have fallen short of the glory of God. And that means that we all stand in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness.
That does not only go for you and me as individuals, but for our church as well. Bethlehem has also fallen short of the glory of God and as a congregation, we too are sinful and thus, our church can only count on God’s grace.
If we examine ourselves honestly, truthfully, we have to confess that we have not put away bitterness and anger. We do quarrel and we do bear malice to those who do us wrong and we fail to recognize that we need more forgiveness than they do.
Yes, let me take the speck out of your eye. You know how: I roll up your eyelid with a match stick and poke around your nose with my handkerchief. Always toward the nose! Suddenly you look up and notice that I have a log in my own eye and I can’t even see your nose in your face, let alone the speck in your eye.
When we examine ourselves honestly, then we come to the same conclusion that Elijah did, “It’s enough, take away my life. I’m no better than my ancestors.”
We are all flawed. We are all embarrassed by our weaknesses and take pride in our strengths, which then separate us from God.
But here is the good news! “God loves sinners. That’s why he made so many of us.” And God made us inadequate in and of ourselves so that we have to turn to God for help. When we turn over our hearts to Christ, who is the Man from Heaven, then our incompleteness and inadequacy become marvelously fulfilled. Not only do we become healed, become whole and mature in the stature of Christ and we no longer fall short, but we far exceed the mark that our own efforts could have brought for us.
We walk through the wreckage of our lives and Christ gives us new fenders, tires, a hood, trunk, front end and back, if we need it. For our clunker, Christ makes us into a brand new car! Christ starts working through us and then the saying comes true: “God writes straight on crooked lines.” By the grace of God through faith, we become straight arrows, who can say the words full of grace that strengthen those who always get walked on like rugs, people whom others wipe their feet on.
Ah, if we are left on our own, where would we be? But with the Bread of Life, with the living bread come down from heaven, we too can say “I am. I am somebody. I am a star of heaven. I am a child of God. I am filled with the wonder bread that has made me whole, made me unstoppable, made me more than victorious over the world and my old self in it.
Christ told us to love our enemies. I’ve often thought of saying that to married couples. If you don’t love your enemies how will you love your husband, or vice versa, how will you love your wife? But we have to go a step further. We find that we ourselves are our own worst enemies. So if you don’t love your enemy, how can you love yourself? My father would say, “The battle you fight with yourself is the hardest battle you’ll ever fight and it is the sweetest victory you’ll ever win!”
Christ gives us that victory. Christ who comes into our hearts from heaven, who leads us to the loving Father, the Father who accepts us and loves us as unacceptable and unloving as we are, and graciously makes us acceptable and lovable; yes makes us more than victorious – because the One is us is greater than the one in the world.
And he feeds us with manna from above, the very bread of heaven that gives us eternal life, and raises us to be his body here on earth.
Left on our own we are hopelessly lost. But with Christ in our hearts, we can’t help:
“Be[ing] kind to one another, tender-hearted too, forgiving one another, as God’s forgiven you. These words are very precious, they’re also very true. They are found in the Bible, Ephesians 4:32.” Amen.
Communion Blessing: “Left on our own we cannot love and we cannot forgive, but with Christ in our hearts, with the Holy Spirit, we can’t help loving, we can’t help forgiving others.