Archive for November 2009
First Advent – November 29th 2009
Jer. 33:14-16 Psalm 25:1-10 1Thess 3: 9-13 Luke 21: 25-36
Hiding in Christ
Just a few weeks ago on November 9th we celebrated the falling down of the Berlin Wall. Now if you had experienced it in Berlin, you too may never have thought it possible. It was an atrocity. It went right between a nunnery and its cemetery, where the sisters were buried, so that the nuns could not visit the graves of their own departed. The wall went right through the front door of a church, sealing it off and making it appear as if it were gagged by the wall, to stop the proclamation of the Gospel. When I was ordained in Berlin some of my relatives were on one side of the wall and some on the other, not allowed to attend. What an atrocity! It could have stood there for another thousand years, with its no man’s land, land mines and tank-stoppers, police dogs on wires, watch towers and check points. Many were shot trying to cross it. But suddenly it came down.
We also have little hope that the Kingdom of God will come, just like it seemed impossible for the Berlin Wall to come down. But Jesus started his ministry proclaiming that the Kingdom was near, it was at hand and today on the First Advent, we consider the in-breaking of the Kingdom, the coming of the Son of Man, the Lord of Righteousness, Jesus Christ, to judge the living and the dead. If we keep thinking it impossible, then it will catch us like a trap – but if we check out the signs, we can avoid falling into a trap.
I remember as a boy, we would dig a hole in the yard, maybe a foot and a half deep. We would stick branches up near the top, put newspapers on top of them, and then cover it with an inch of dirt. You had to be careful that you left no sign of it. You had to spread the dirt on top so that t looked just like all the other dirt around it. Then you got your sister, who unsuspecting, walked on it, fell in, and you laughed and laughed.
That was child’s play, of course, but it is no child’s play when soldiers try to eagle-eye their road ahead and see a trip wire, the sure sign of an I.E.D., an improvised explosive device, that they have to defuse so that it does not blow them up.
The fig tree here in our lesson stands for Israel or other nations, such as our nation, and trying to see the signs of the times. Are we a tree planted by the rivers of water, do we bear our fruit in due season, and are our leaves green so that they do not wither? Are we a tree that bears good fruit or a tree that bears evil fruit – or a tree that disappoints Jesus by a lack of fruit?
Now in those days the nation and the person or individual were considered much the same. A goy or “guy,” a word possibly derived from this word, was a person and goyim were nations in Hebrew. A person was considered a representative of his or her nation. And the coming of the Son of Man meant Judgment Day, where the nations as well as individuals stand to be judged.
Now if judgment is coming, then what can we possibly hope for? But do you notice how it says, “lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” That does not sound like judgment and condemnation. That sounds like our salvation is drawing near.
The commentary was very helpful here.  When we are in Christ, then there is no judgment. We will sing, “He hideth my soul in the cleft of a rock and covers me there with his hand and covers me there with his hand!” So the judgment passes over us.
The commentary also helps interpret the words, “This generation will not pass until all these things have taken place.” This was written after many of Jesus’ followers had already passed away. So it must mean something different. It could be understood: “This generation as part of the world, will pass away [with sin, death, and the devil]. This generation as part of the Word, will not pass away, [because the Word of God remains and endures forever.]” So if we let the Word of God dwell in us richly, then with the Word of God we will endure forever.
Again when we hide in Jesus Christ our Lord, then there is no judgment. Our sins are already forgiven. We do not preach cheap grace, of course, but we preach a grace that is completely free. What that means, however, is that we already start living the Kingdom-life here and now.
The commentary says, “You will either pay now or pay later.” If you walk in the light of Christ, you will become very conscious of your sin as well as the sins that resulted from your sin. Sin is your separation from God, sin is when you have broken faith with God. Sin is when your relationship with God has evaporated into thin air, because you stopped worshiping, praying, stopped letting God’s Word dwell in you richly, stopped inviting Jesus Christ to live in your heart and rule you right now so that you live the Kingdom-life.
Just think of alcoholics who have to do their twelve steps. They realize that the bottle has become a demon controlling their lives, that they are powerless of their own accord and they will fail if they rely on their own strength and effort against this demon, and they realize that they need to surrender to God as they understand God, and ask God – we would say, the Holy Spirit to overcome the demon of the bottle, ruling their life. Have you ever tried to take a bottle away from a baby? The bottle demon controls the alcohlic completely and the Holy Spirit alone can redeem them from this demonic force. Then they see all the rot that the bottle made them do – or the drugs, whatever the addiction, and they have to go to those that they hurt and ask for forgiveness. That’s what’s meant by paying now. When we confess our sins now and have to die the death of having scandalized our good name and what’s worse, have tarnished the holy name of God, then we are raised up by the forgiveness of out sins. Now when you have confessed your sins and have been forgiven for them by our gracious Lord and Savior, then you can’t have double jeopardy. You have already gone through the judgment and the Word of God has made you clean. If you have never changed your attitude, however, and have kept hitting and running over people in your relationships, if you steal the good name of other people with your gossip and rumors, if you are drunk with your own pride and self-interest, and trample a lot of poor souls under your feet – there will be judgment and it will catch you in a snare, in a trap, like a thief.
So our baptisms remain a fearful thing – but how could we have real communion without our baptisms? We have to drink our cup of repentance and call upon the name of the Lord in order to live the Kingdom-life – that loves justice and mercy and walks humbly before our God.
Think of a priest, unable to contain himself and with poor judgment impregnated a young woman in his parish. Well, imagine he was caught, his name was dragged through the mud and he had to live down his sin and make amends. Despite appearances to the contrary, that one is fortunate to be paying now and I believe God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love – as we sing in our liturgy. Now imagine a priest who was never caught, never confessed, and never made amends and remained self-righteous. That one will not be looking up and greeting Christ when he comes, because how will he stand in the judgment? That’s what’s meant by “paying for it later.”
Remember Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter? The Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale is the most respected man in the Puritan village, because he is their pastor, a man requiring complete respect and of the most high moral standing. And then there is Heather, an adulteress who has to wear a large red capital letter ‘A’ on her blouse. She is a sinner. She and her little daughter are shunned by everyone and she is put into prison, because she refuses to divulge the name of the man who made her pregnant. All along it was the “most reverend” Arthur Dimmesdale, who in a moment of weakness, had fallen into her arms and made love to her. Then he never related with her again and even shunned the little daughter, whom he had conceived. He was not willing to go through it all, the scandal, the descent into the depths of derision and own up to what he had done. He was going to have to pay later. Poor Heather paid for it every day of her life.
Often our sins can be so deep that only our own dying can make amends. That really goes for us all and not only for those who have killed someone or lived such a complete life of hypocrisy as Dimmesdale. But our Redeemer is gracious. Look what Luther says to explain the sacrament of baptism:
[Baptism, for our daily living] means that our sinful self with all its evil deeds and desires, should be drowned through daily repentance; and that day after day a new self should arise to live with God in righteousness and purity forever.
St. Paul writes in Romans 6: “We were buried therefore by baptism with him into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (The Small Catechism)
So in this dying to ourselves and coming alive to God, one of the most difficult of all things, we escape the judgment. When we die with Christ and are raised up with him, we escape from the last judgment, because we have been forgiven by the grace of God and we have been marvelously changed and have become righteous because of God’s grace.
So, on the other side of our baptisms and in communion, holy communion, that is, with the people of God, we can look up. When the Son of Man comes, when Christ our King comes again, we can look up, because on the last day we will be redeemed and not judged. Isn’t that good news? Don’t you see how the Gospel gives us a sweet heart for Christ, to us Luther’s words, and makes us fall in love with our Redeemer, our beautiful savior?
Now like the Berlin Wall, massive changes that we think impossible, can take place in the twinkling of an eye. Sometimes little portions of ice break away from the Arctic glaciers and sometimes a piece as large as a country breaks off, and now we fear that all the ice of the polar caps will melt.
The oceans are so mighty and cover such a large portion of the earth. Now we discover a place in the Pacific Ocean filled with plastic and garbage twice the size of Texas. There is a huge dead zone at the mouth of the Mississippi River in the Gulf. Could a whole ocean die? Those kinds of questions should lead us into a life of repentance and a change of ways or we could get caught in the trap of judgment.
The seminary that I attended underwent a very great change. We had four new young professors and a dynamic new president and they decided to introduce a new curriculum. Those of my class who stuck with the old curriculum, received bachelors of divinity, while those of us who stepped into the new, received masters of divinity degrees. The new curriculum was designed not only to teach us theology, but also to help us mature in Christ. Wednesday mornings, the whole seminary formed into groups like families, eight to ten of us would meet with two professors and we would work on our self-knowledge and get to the growing edge of our maturity. I called it the work of the soul. Now I was elected the chair of the whole community council and I stepped boldly into the new curriculum, but I did not realize how immature I was. I was very book smart, but I could not tell my butt from my elbow, as the saying goes. Wow, what a harrowing experience I had to go through. But you know, the only way through it is through it. I was hiding in Christ and I did not realize that one professor was out to get me. As immature as I was, he said that I could never be a pastor. He said that I would just line everyone up in my hang-ups and call that ministry. I had to take the ministry exam, over which he was in charge, with all its seven parts, three times and he failed me every time – in all seven parts. I had to learn how to do politics and divide and conquer. I got his arch enemy on the faculty to take four parts of the exam and he only had three, and I finally passed. That delayed my ordination until four years after my leaving the seminary.
What my opposing professor did not understand is that he saw me as a ruin coming down, but Christ saw me a new construction going up. You, too might see your life full of sin. You too might be torn and split so that fear and despair often floods your heart. Hide inside Christ. Christ is our sweet Lord, and in the twinkling of an eye, you will no longer be a ruin coming down, you will be a brand new construction going up. Both are a mess, of course, and it is hard to tell one from another. We are sinner and saints at one and the same time, but Christ makes all the difference. If you hide in Christ, as sinful as you are, Christ will raise you up a new construction – and facing the music with him, he gives us the victory. Picking up our cross and following him, raises us up like him, raises up a whole new house of the Lord, O Bethlehem, in the strength that comes down from heaven above. The cross means constantly humbling ourselves with him and confessing our sins one to another. Christ has this gentle way of passing us through the judgment, letting judgment Passover us, so that we live the Kingdom-life of mercy and justice already and we can look up on that great last day and greet our Redeemer our beautiful Savior, joyfully when he comes. Amen.
Communion Blessing: Christ hides my soul in the cleft of a rock and covers me there with his hand, so that the judgment passes over us.
 The dictionary says that the word “guy” came from the name Guy Fawkes. But where does the first name Guy come from?
The commentary referred to here and in the following cases is online: Brian P. Stoffregen, CrossMarks Exegetical Notes , http://www.crossmarks.com/brian/luke21x25.htm.
All day yesterday a line of poetry that occurred in a dream stayed with me. Ordinarily I don’t remember word for word what is said in a dream. I don’t remember the dream at all. I wonder if you would like to interpret it?
on the court house tree
What do you make of it?
Words at the Memorial Celebration for Karl Barth on December 14th 1968 in the “Münster” in Basel
by Helmut Gollwitzer
“I’m for you, I am your friend” – that’s how he summed it all up one time, that’s how he heard the voice coming out of eternity, from out of a place in time, from the human being Jesus, from out of the “ineffable reality of Jesus Christ,” as he once wrote. That’s what he heard the living Jesus saying and in him the living God, and so he passed it on, saying it to others. It gave him material to think about, as soon as he understood the opposition that the friendship of God for human beings ran against the voices of the abyss, of death, loneliness; and against the voices of wrath, of conscience, of guilt. It threw a light of great compassion and mercy into the darkest places of the earth, gave the impulse for friendship and friendliness [needed] for living in unfriendly times; and gave material for thick books, countless essays, booklets, and sermons, inexhaustibly until the last evening of his life, for this bottomless, not to be thought out Immanuel: “I’m for you, I am your friend,” whom he has now finally reached.
“Where are we going?” is the way he persistently questioned visitors in his last years, in order to receive help from them for better understanding of the hope grounded for us in Immanuel and he himself answered from what he had heard out of the gospel: in the understanding of Immanuel, who in a moment quiets and fulfills everything, quiets the burning hunger for immortality and reconciles us fully with the limit, with the finitude of this, but once happening life, and fulfills the promises that have become ours, through the revelation of the one, who indeed had thought everything out well: the cross of his Son as well as the sufferings of Job, the loneliness experienced by an old Theology professor, like the dancing of each mosquito in the sunlight. There are no Auschwitz and no Vietnam, without what was suffered through and fought out on Golgotha in advance. What are we heading for? We are headed toward the revelation of the one, who in advance has made right what could never be undone and what could never be made right again: the children’s shoes of Auschwitz and the burned skin of the children of Vietnam and skeleton of the child from Biafra – which only through God and God’s own suffering could be made right again. From this already-in-advance, he was walking with Jesus Christ toward the day of revelation, and all his teaching in the Church was a teaching of the praxis of constantly beginning again on the way of this forward looking being on the way.
“The Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend” (Exodus 33:11). That the Eternal Truth freely determines and openly declares itself to be the friend of human beings, that it does not want to be against human beings, but be unconditionally for them, – hardly one of the Christian theologians has dared to proclaim that in such an unqualified way, the Α and Ω, the atonement of all, so that all ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ of which the other theologians felt they had to remind before all, now only appeared in brackets before this unconditional: “Jesus lives – and with him also I”, [and] this world of humanity also with him.
Looking forward fifty years ago, who would have ever dared to say, that this one who from standing against any friendly attempt of making the cross of Christ inoffensive, proclaimed eternity to be the crisis of time, as the wrathful, vertical in-breaking of the cross from above, crossing up our possibilities; would become the great preacher of unconditional and insuppressible grace? Looking back, it now no longer appears like a break: in his early expressions, we already notice the Mozart-tones of thankfulness for the resurrection’s song of praise, and only where the contradiction of the ‘no’ was experienced, the deep ‘yes’ [planted] under the ‘no’ becomes the discovery that releases awe, which for him became the life-long ground, from which his theology emerged.
To hear the Gospel as the voice of the living God, as a friend’s voice, makes [a person] into a friend of people. The word “friend,” like hardly another, characterizes him, from whom we now take our leave “for a little while” (John 16:16). Standing under the friendship of God, he was allowed to experience a great deal of friendship in his life and turned to many with friendship. “Bergli” as a true place of friendship remains bound up with his name. We Germans were privileged to have experienced the friendship of his that had sprung out of the philanthropy of God; privileged, because he worked for 14 years with us as a professor in Göttingen, Münster, and Bonn, and that in his characteristic openness and resolve, immediately made our problems his own. He certainly could not count on being thanked from all sides in the face of the broad mentality in our country at that time, but now many in our country are with us in their thoughts with great thanks, for the one from whom we have gathered to take our leave. What he tried to introduce as Swiss experience, was often enough used as evidence to rid and reject his Swiss “inability to understand.” Finally through Schub he was ushered out, and even the Confessing Church, which was unthinkable without him, did not fight enough to keep him working with us. But where have we Germans, who like so much to circle around our own problems and illuminate the whole world with them, had a place in Switzerland or anywhere else in the world, like here in this book-filled room – first in Albanring, then in Pilgrim Street, and at last in Bruderholz – a place, in which we were so welcome, in which we were listened to so carefully, where our questions and concerns were so attentively [heard and] thought about with us?
He places the word with which I began, as a very peculiar and valid summation of the Gospel, beyond the scope of that time, into the mouth of Jesus Christ, as a gospel for the Germans. At that time, in that lecture, “The Germans and Us,” in January 1945, the first one that we Germans could read, there he was and he himself came again, ready to sacrifice and do without, bringing us material and spiritual gifts, giving the best proof of his friendship. The call of Jesus Christ: “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden!” he translated at the time for us: “Get over here you unsympathetic, you evil Hitler-rogues and Hitler-girls, you brutal SS-soldiers, you evil Gestapo scoundrels, you sad compromisers and collaborators, you people of the herd, you who so long and so patiently and stupidly ran behind your so-called ‘Führer.’ Get over here you guilty and you accomplices of the guilty, who now experience and have to experience what your deeds are worth! Get over here, I know you well, but I do not ask who you are and what you did. I only see that you are at your end and for good or evil, you have to start from the beginning all over again. I will revive you. Precisely with you, will I myself again, from your zero point, with you begin a-new. I am for you. I am your friend” (“For the Recovery of German Essence,” Stuttgart, 1945, p. 35 f.).
At the time he often spoke to us about the great opportunity the Germans now had because of the fact that they had failed so completely taking an evil way and now new possibilities stood open before us. What did we make of the offer given us? How seldom countries perceive God’s offer of grace in the hour of trial! That at least the Church would recognize, perceive, and accept the offer [of grace], for that he fought. But he himself was an offer [of grace] for the Church, this valiant man, and none of us know another to match him, this thorough going and complete Christian and theologian. They are not all theologians, to use a favorite expression of his, in a night in which all the cats are gray. There are chosen instruments among them, for whom the issue is not theological systems, directions, and differences of opinion, but who represent [another] chance for the Church, that can be grasped or failed, through whom a whole period of the way of the Church becomes decided. With the Barmen Declaration, written by him completely awake, while others slept, we have a formulation of such a decision, but it has to be carried out on a daily basis. We now cry after him like the forsaken Elisha: “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” “And he saw him no more”, it says there (2 Kings 2:12). We would have had more need of his counsel, his reproof, his criticism, his instruction, his encouragement, his heart-felt nature. He, however, our friend, thank God! with his Christomonist, Christological theology, in advance, had already pointed away from himself to the Resurrected One, who goes forward from victory to victory through the dark places of also this century and says to us: “I’m for you, I am your friend.”
(A Separate Printing from “Karl Barth, 1886-1968”, Zürich: EVZ-Verlag)
Pentecost XXIV – November 15th 2009
Daniel 12: 1-3 Psalm 16 Hebrews 10: 11-25 Mark 13: 1-8
2012 and the Apocalypse
Sometimes the thirteenth chapter of the Gospel of Mark is known as the “Little Apocalypse.” “Apocalypse” as a word, derives from the Greek and means uncovering, revealing, or revelation. Thus the last book of the Bible, “Revelations” is sometimes called the “Apocalypse.” Luther complained, however, that Revelations concealed more than it revealed; but it is typical apocalyptic literature.
In a time of untold suffering and crisis, apocalyptic writers want to assure us that the Kingdom of Heaven will come and God’s will, will be done through Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. All the signs in the heavens, the disturbances in our climate, our failing environment, not- with-standing; the collapse of our economy, earthquakes, wind, and fire; or the fact that someone can stand up in a heavily guarded military fort and shoot our soldiers down, or that suicide bombers kill below while drones fire missiles and kill from above, that wars go on like quagmires and threaten to sink us; yet and still, God is in heaven and the Kingdom of Heaven will come, in God’s dear Son, Jesus Christ, who on the cross died for us.
Even if we should see the same turmoil in heaven as we see on earth, it will not be the end of the world, but the birth-pangs, the contractions for the birth of salvation, as our prayer said. And the Prayer of the Day is oicking up the words of Jesus.
I have a critical mind and I’m sure that you do too. Some arguments are convincing and some are not. A friend of mine is convinced that because of prophesies from the Mayan Calendar, the world will end in 2012. Now I really don’t place any stock in the Mayan Calendar; you can’t buy one in Office Depot – and I put less stock in astrology, your star signs and such. I do want to be a bright and shining star of heaven that Daniel writes about, but I don’t feel that the stars determine the course of my life. Even Shakespeare said, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in the stars but in ourselves that we are underlings” (That’s from Julius Caesar).
Now a churchman told me that all the planets were going to form a straight line before the sun and all the gravity from the planets could affect the sun and pull the earth off course or tip our axis, meaning the end for us.
I confess: that worried me. I became frightened, because that was not astrology but astronomy and gravity is very real. So what do we do now-a-days? We go to the Google search engine. There they have an encyclopedia called Wikipedia and that sent me to a site where you can enter a date and it will position the planets around the sun. As one scientist said, this February past, the planets were more aligned with the sun than they will be on December 21st 2012. And when they were aligned that way, nothing happened! I didn’t notice that the axis of the earth tipped or that our planet went flying off into space. Did you?
So it is good to have a critical mind and I don’t know how some people can think we will be invaded by aliens from space or that the sun, moon, and earth will drop into a black hole. I looked that up too and found that that’s also impossible. Our Milky Way, like all galaxies, does swirl around a black hole, but our solar system never gets near it. We are out on the edge of our galaxy, light years away from the black hole.
When people tell you about 2012 and how the world will end, especially after seeing the movie 2012 that will come out, then remember that Jesus did not even know when the world would end. He said that only his Father in heaven knew that time.
But like the times of the apocalyptic writers, our times could also become very hard. Those are still two very nasty wars we have on our hands and we are up against the violence of evil spirits, where suicidal believers, sacrificing their own lives, slip in and keep taking a toll. More and more serial killers do that too. They factor their own death into the equation of their crime. How is capital punishment a deterrent? They believe in it and inflict it on themselves by exploding with their bombs or they count on being killed while they are shooting others. The most recent fellow was wounded before he could do himself in and now he probably wishes he were dead. But now he has to face his life after the murderous crime he has committed. I like the way President Obama said, “He will face judgment in this world and the next.”
In our pastors’ bible study someone said that we could not understand apocalyptic times. But I think that our situation is beginning to resemble those kinds of times, just a little, because, believe me, times can be far worse. If you had been in Hamburg when it was bombed, then just imagine coming out of your door, seeing fires everywhere, and the city of Oakland nothing but a pile of rubble. Times can be worse.
We have 10.2% unemployment and far more when the long term unemployed are counted. That problem threatens another huge wave of foreclosures, so that millions of Americans again stand to lose their houses. The whole city of New Orleans went under with Katrina. We saw the Twin Towers, the highest buildings in America crumble, collapse, and fall, over three thousand people were killed and over 4,500 soldiers have been killed in the wars that have been the aftermath. We never talk about how many Iraqis were killed. We also do not fathom the tens of thousands of soldiers who are wounded and sometimes worse, the psychological casualties that sometimes take a life time to heal or never do.
When the former Soviet Union was mired in its war in Afghanistan, we helped train Osama Bin Laden and what Pres. Reagan at the time called the “Freedom Fighters” to fight the Russians, hoping that the war would become the Soviet Union’s Vietnam. And lo and behold, the Soviet Union did collapse. And here we are seven years later, mired and stuck in Afghanistan in a war where even Obama can’t find a hopeful way to proceed.
But enough about wars and rumors of wars; enough about our earthly powers and principalities: it’s the Kingdom of Heaven that we are all about and it will come. The Daniel text is usually used for St. Michael’s Day, September 29th, where the archangel, the great prince of heaven guards and protects God’s people, even through times of anguish, the likes of which we have not seen before.
Ah, but Jesus says that these times are the beginning of our birth pangs. And the people of God will be delivered, like a baby delivered from the birth trauma, through the squeeze and the pushes and pulls, the life and death contractions, when a mother is giving birth to her child. Ah, but thereafter, as tired as if she had just climbed a mountain, she can hold the baby to her breast and feel the elation, that she has brought a new child into the world! So through untold anguish and suffering, the new kingdom will come, because the old creation, which God has made, is pregnant with the new one, but we have to continue to fix our faith on God, trusting that God will deliver us through these times.
A commentary said that Jesus was wrong about the destruction of the temple: that it was burned by the Roman armies and the stones were not thrown down. We can know a little. We have to know a lot. A geography professor in Jerusalem, that we visited on our Israel travels, explained how a whole series of Jesus’ prophesies came true. When the temple burned, all the gold melted and went in between the rocks, and the soldiers and the people quarried and mined for gold in between the rocks, not leaving one stone on top of the other.
Now we have a temple not made with human hands. The Babylonians destroyed the first temple and the Romans destroyed the second, Herod’s temple; but now the body of Christ is the third temple, and all who worship in Christ worship in spirit and in truth. One rabbi said that when the temple was destroyed, the glory of God moved from the Temple Mount to the Mount of Olives, and that glory is now resting in Jesus. (Here in our lesson, Jesus is teaching his disciples on the Mount of Olives.) As Jesus said, “Destroy this temple and I will raise it back up in three days!” He was talking about his own body. He was talking about us, we who are in the body of Christ. And Jesus is raising us up!
Next Sunday is Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the Pentecost Season and then we’ll enter Advent and the new church year.
Ah, Christ our King – but what happens to our king? The head with the wisdom of God gets a crown of thorns. The Christ, the Anointed One, becomes anointed because of the love and devotion of one woman, the woman with that alabaster jar full of perfumed ointment, while the disciples try to prevent her from anointing him. That’s the Christ, the Messiah, whose titles mean the anointed one!
He had no great ceremony to anoint him like for a king or queen or the Archbishop of Canterbury, for example.
Christ our king is a friend of the common people. So even in the worst crises, we hear the Gospel; we hear the friendly voice of the living God, who was right there in the human being Jesus, suffering before us so that God continues to be with us. God is with us, no matter the severity of the crisis we go through. He went through it all before us. But Christ is King, no matter that he will be betrayed by one of his own, arrested by religious leaders, brought before alien governors, scourged and crucified for you and me. God vindicated him, you see, and raised him from the dead, and we can pray to God that we too might become bright and shining stars. Christ, however, shines brighter than the sun in the sky, because he is the real Son of Heaven.
So as we continue our life’s journey, let us have our eyes fixed on his coming kingdom, knowing that God is with us even now and continues to keep the promises he has made to our hearts, fulfilling them even in the here-and-now, despite appearances to the contrary.
Like the great theologian Karl Barth said, “Jesus lives and with him, so will I, and the whole world of humanity with him. And there are no ifs or buts about it.”
I don’t know of another theologian who has had a transit system named after him: the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). Think of the great Swiss theologian Karl Barth, when you ride the BART. He said that eternity could be described as the crisis of time, breaking in when all our time is engulfed in crisis. The cross should not be seen as a decoration; it’s not a harmless cross. From heaven it descends like the wrath of God, crossing up all our human purposes. But Christ remains our friend and Christ routes for you and me, to cross the finish line of the race that represents the righteous life lived by grace, the grace of God. It’s the race that makes us the shining stars of righteousness. Be assured though, Karl Barth says, that we live in God’s unconditional love and with access to God’s divine and boundless grace. Under the assault of all the “no’s” that life hands us, God plants a deep “yes,” affirming us through it all with an acceptance that overcomes the world’s rejections. And all of that boundless love of God is ours, because we have come to believe in God’s Word and trust God to keep his promises.
So like Hebrews says, let’s provoke one another, not to anger, but to good works. Let’s provoke one another to random acts of kindness and senseless acts of love. “Senseless acts of beauty” is how the saying goes, and they are all right too, but I like to say, senseless acts of love.
Let us enter the sanctuary of Christ with confidence and make the true confession, encouraging one another again and again through these hard times. Amen.
Communion Blessing: “Through it all, through it all, I‘ve learned to depend upon God’s Word. Through it all, I’ve come to know that I’m God’s child” (From the song).
 Almighty God, your sovereign purpose brings salvation to birth. Give us faith to remain steadfast amid the tumults of this world trusting that your kingdom will come and your will be done through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, whom with you and the Holy Spirit we worship and praise, one God, now and forever. Amen.
 From Helmut Gollwitzer, “Words at the Memorial Ceebration for Karl Barth on December 14th 1968 at Basel,” (A Separate Printing from “Karl Barth, 1886-1968,” EVZ-Verlag Zürich), page 2. I put “Wenn and aber,” that is, ifs and buts, after, while it comes before the passage. I’m working to translate this speech by Gollwitzer and to get it into this website.
 Ibid. These passages in my sermon are inspired by Gollwitzer’s words.
Suggestions that I hope are helpful:
For the wars:
1. Could dogs be trained for protecting soldiers and civilians from suicide bombers? I think they are already used; but could the usefulness of trained dogs become expanded?
For the economy:
2. Could Pres. Obama have economic revival conferences in strategic places throughout the country, the way Bill Clinton and Al Gore did beginning their administration? Or conferences with strategic CEO’s and business leaders? For an agenda look at the 6/25/09 Charlie Rose interview of the CEO of GE, Jeffry Immelt. Just an elite, intellectual group of economic advisers, should not replace a grassroots and corporate economic revival for the sake of job creation.
3. I loved the idea that representatives from all the Indian nations in our country met with Pres. Obama and his cabinet. Can I get more information about the meeting? Reconciliation with Native Americans alone would make Pres. Obama deserve the Nobel Peace Prize, let alone many of his other “firsts.”
I’m a Dr., i.e., not an MD but a PhD, and also a pastor praying that Pres. Obama win out on his wholesome agenda. Lack of health insurance kills 45,000 a year. That’s an angel of death more fierce than the terrorists. See Nicholas Kristof’s Op Ed article in the NYTimes today 11/12/09.
Aren’t Walmart, Target, and all the other retailers, 99% of whose merchandise is made in China, Chinese Trojan horses?
When I equipped my apartment in Philadelphia a few years ago, virtually everything I purchased was made in China, except the china, which was made in USA.
Check out Deuteronomy 28: 12-13: You will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow. The Lord will make you the head and not the tail: you shall be only at the top and not the bottom. (This same idea comes up in 28: 44 again.) So the creditor nation (China) becomes the head of the dog and the debtor (The U.S.A.) becomes the tail, meaning that the dog is going to wag the tail and the the tail is not going to wag the dog.
This post is about becoming indebted to China, but the same holds true for the debtor class in America. Going into debt makes us the tail of our society, while the creditors become the head of the dog. The tail can’t wag the dog.