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Touched by Eternity: a Christmas Sermon translated from my German One, 2017

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Advent-Christmas Eve on the 3. Advent, December 17th 2017

Isaiah 9:2-7 Titus 2:11-14 Luke 2: 1-20

Touched by Eternity

We all know this dear old story and I know that I am not the only one who can recite it by heart. Traditionally, when we were children we had to memorize it and recite it. Is that true for you, too? To summarize the story, we hear how although Mary was pregnant, she and Joseph, had to make the trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the city of David, because Caesar Augustus wanted to make them pay taxes. In Bethlehem, there was no room in the inn and because of it the little Christ child was born in a stable and Mary had to lay him in a manger, out of which the dear animals fed. Then shepherds, who at the time had a bad reputation, were encountered by the Angel of the Lord and given the heavenly revelation about the little child. Then those devout shepherds gathered around the crib, worshiped the Christ-child, and proclaimed the good news that they had heard about the child from the angel.

     Our dear Father in Heaven sent his beloved Son from eternity to us and that is why we never tire of telling this story over and over every year. The story begins in a quite ordinary way, the way we would expect on earth. But when it comes to the shepherds, who are sinners like you and me, the heavens open and in the glow of eternity, they receive the revelation of the Christmas News. Eternity touched our time on that day and everything that it touched and entered became changed and holy.

As the heavens opened, out of eternity, God the everlasting Father sent us his beloved Son, giving the World a Savior.

Now eternity does not merely relate to the past, but also to the future, and to our present as well; and with that, in the here and now of our time, it also touches us. So tonight, allow the glow of eternity to enfold you and fill you with its blessings.  Christmas surrounds us with a heavenly glow. In a German Christmas sermon I read, “God’s moments of eternity sparkle within the limits of our time.”[1]

Mary’s son came to us from eternity, but people were caught up and imprisoned in their time, altogether in their own concerns, so they did not accept him. There was no room in the inn, not for the pregnant Mary, nor for the dear old Joseph. But the Son of God, the beloved Christ-child made Mary and Joseph into the Holy Family in spite of it, and even made Bethlehem holy, even though it had no room for him; but it was the city of David after all. God called precisely the shepherds, who had a bad reputation, to proclaim the Good News of the birth of Christ. In their time they were notorious, but now in a German carol we call them the “upright shepherds,” because they were marvelously changed by eternity. And today from our pulpits we, pastors, “pastors” means shepherds in Latin, preach the Gospel, in another marvelous change, in order to continue the proclamation those shepherds of Bethlehem began. At the end of our liturgy tonight we also exclaim: “Christ is born; now we are all shepherds!” Lutherans believe in the priesthood of all believers.

Mary was probably all alone during the birth and she had to bring the little child into this world in a stall and then place it into a crib, out of which the sheep, oxen and goats usually fed.

But in that Nativity, the stable became more holy than a church, if Christ is not really present and dwelling in that church. A palace cannot be compared with that stable, especially since they can be very unholy places. The crib or the manger, the food trough out of which the animals ate, was transformed into a holy cradle about which we now sing countless Christmas carols and lullabies.

 As we know, Jesus went from the cradle to the cross, and thus the cross, an instrument of torture and execution became the symbol of life and the greatest love the world has ever known. Can you imagine that? In this birth and life of the God Human, Jesus, everything can become marvelously changed, and that goes for us, you and me, as well. This sorry world can be changed into the Kingdom of Heaven as well.

But our world has not yet accepted him; that means, our world has not accepted God’s Christmas present. It has shut God’s greatest gift out of the world. But yet and still, the birth of our King Jesus brought the saving Kingdom of Heaven out of eternity to us on earth. In the glow of Christmas as we gather around the cradle and we feel the reality of the fact.

We are now in the longest and darkest days of our year and I believe also of our time, but because of the birth of the Christ-child we see the glow of a bright shining light. In these sacred nights (Weihnachten) we perceive the morning glow, dawning like the Son-rise of eternity – to allude to a German hymn, – light from uncreated light – like the light in which we see light, even in the darkest night. And the dawning day-breaks with the radiant beams of the baby’s glowing face and God’s might drives away our night: that is the Good News of the Gospel.

If in this world we are touched by eternity, then we will have to suffer like Jesus from the cradle to the cross. But yet and still, we will be marvelously changed, because the gift of the Christ-child changes us, like it did the stable, the crib, and the cross. They were all changed. And we too are changed into heavenly gifts spreading the riches of God’s grace.

Everything depends on God’s blessings. Through God’s grace, we overcome this tragic world, because we are filled with the blessings of the Christ-child.

In a German carol, we sing: two angels come into the Christmas room, coming out of eternity – they go to the Christmas table and pray and turning around, leave again. But not until they’ve blessed the father, the mother, and the child. And we all become holy families, like Mary, Joseph, and the Christ-child in their blessing. Just think! A blue spruce, an evergreen is transformed into a Christmas tree, “the most beautiful tree on earth,” in the words of another song.

Our hearts, you see, have to become the cradle, the inn, into which we invite the Christ-child, lying naked and vulnerable in the hay. He can be born in our hearts. Come, Lord Jesus, there is room in our hearts for you. Mary need not worry. She can lay the dear Christ-child into the cradle of our hearts, where it can sleep in heavenly peace. Sleeping like that, the child can grow and become strong, so that we too might one day become good shepherds, children of God, who can bring salvation and wholeness to this sorry world.

In the twinkling of an eye, we can also become different, we can also become transformed: our aches and pains will turn into pleasures, our sorrows into joy, our old bones into limber young limbs, and our death into a heavenly new birth in eternal life, so that we can join in when mustered into the multitude of heavenly hosts, ascending and descending through the open sky, so we too can shout our praises over the Bethlehem birth of God’s dear Son: “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, good will to all.” Not just some, but to all: God’s favor, God’s gift to all is the Christ-child, the Son of David, our Savior! Amen. Pastor Krey

______________________

[1] A Dialogue Sermon for Christmas Eve by Dr. Wiebke Altrogge und Pfarrerin Ulrike Bruinings (Ev.) 24.12.2008 Ev. Markus Church in Karlsruhe.

 

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Written by peterkrey

December 23, 2017 at 3:30 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Morgenglanz der Ewigkeit: eine Weihnachtspredigt Dezember, 2017

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Advent Christmas Eve at CLC, December 17th 2017

Isaiah 9:2-7 Titus 2:11-14 Luke 2: 1-20

Morgenglanz der Ewigkeit

Wir alle kennen diese liebe, alte Geschichte, und ich weiß, dass ich sie nicht allein auswendig erzählen kann. Als Kinder haben Viele von uns sie auswendig aufsagen müssen, nicht wahr? Im Ausschnitt hören wir: Obwohl Maria schwanger war, musste sie sich mit Joseph von Nazareth nach Bethlehem, der Stadt Davids, aufmachen; weil der Kaiser Augustus sie besteuern wollte. In Bethlehem gab es keinen Raum in der Herberge und deshalb wurde das Christkindlein in einem Stall geboren und Maria musste das Christkind in eine Krippe legen, woraus das liebe Vieh fraß, und den Hirten, die damals einen schlechten Ruf hatten, begegnete der Engel des Herrn und ihnen wurde die himmlische Botschaft über das Kindlein offenbart. Danach singen wir, die redliche Hirten haben das Kindlein froh betrachtet und danach die frohe Botschaft verkündigt, wie sie sie von des Herrn Engel gehört hatten.

Aus der Ewigkeit, hat unser Vater im Himmel seinen lieben Sohn zu uns geschickt und daher wiederholen wir diese Geschichte jedes Jahr. Erst scheint die Geschichte eine ganz und gar irdische Erzählung zu sein, aber dann für die Hirten, die so sind wie du und ich, die Sünder waren, hat sich der Himmel geöffnet und im Glanz der Ewigkeit, haben sie die Offenbarung von der frohen Botschaft bekommen. Dadurch hat die Ewigkeit unsere Zeit berührt und alles was sie damit berührt hat, verwandelt und heilig gemacht.

Als der Himmel sich geöffnet hat, hat Gott der liebe ewige Vater seinen Sohn, Jesus, zu uns aus die Ewigkeit geschickt und dadurch hat Gott die Welt einen Heiland gegeben.

Nun, die Ewigkeit betrifft nicht nur die Vergangenheit, sondern auch die Zukunft und unsere Gegenwart, und dadurch berührt sie auch uns, hier und jetzt in unserer Zeit. Auch heute Abend werden wir selbst vom Glanz der Ewigkeit umhüllt und mit Seligkeit erfüllt. Welch einen Weihnachtsglanz kann uns umleuchten, denn wie ich in einer deutschen Predigt gelesen habe, „In die Begrenztheit unserer Zeit funkelt ein Augenblick seiner Ewigkeit,“[1] Gottes Ewigkeit.

Doch weil der Mariensohn aus die Ewigkeit zu uns gekommen ist, haben die Menschen, die in der Zeit gefangen waren, ihn nicht aufgenommen. Es gab kein Raum in der Herberge für ihn, nicht für die schwangere Maria, noch für den lieben alten Joseph. Aber der Sohn Gottes, das Christkindlein, hat diese Familie heilig gemacht und auch Bethlehem, obwohl die Stadt keinen Raum für ihn hatte, weil sie Davids Stadt war. Gott hat die Hirten erwählt; Hirten, die keinen guten Ruf hatten, Gott hat ausgerechnet sie berufen, um die frohe Botschaft von dieser Geburt zu verkündigen. Damals hatten sie einen schlechten Ruf, jetzt singen wir von den „redlichen“ Hirten, nun von der Ewigkeit verwandelt. Und von unseren Kanzeln predigen Pastoren, lateinisch für „Hirten,“ in noch einer Verwandlung, um das Evangelium weiter zu verkündigen. Wir bezeugen auch in unserer Liturgie fröhlich: „Christus ist geboren; Hirten sind wir Alle!“

Maria war ganz wahrscheinlich allein bei der Geburt und sie musste in einem Stall das Kindlein in die Welt bringen, und dann das Kindlein in eine Krippe legen, woraus das liebe Vieh normalersweise sein Futter fraß.

Dadurch ist Bethlehems Stall heiliger geworden als eine Kirche, in der Christus nicht anwesend ist, und mit einem Palast nicht zu vergleichen, denn ein Palast kann sehr unheilig sein. Auch die Krippe, wovon wir jetzt unzählige Krippenlieder singen, obwohl sie ein Futtertrog für das liebe Vieh war, ist jetzt heilig geworden. Nun, Jesus ging von der Krippe zum Kreuz und dadurch ist das Kreuz, ein Folter Instrument, worauf Menschen hingerichtet wurden, ein Symbol des Lebens und der Liebe geworden. Kannst du dir das vorstellen? Durch die Geburt und das Leben des Gottes-Menschen Jesus kann alles anders werden, wir, zum Beispiel auch. Nun, unsere Welt kann auch Gottes Himmelreich werden.

Unsere Welt hat ihn aber auch noch nicht angenommen; das heißt, Gottes Weihnachtsgeschenk nicht angenommen. Sie hat versucht Gottes größte Gabe aus diese Welt zu schalten. Aber trotzdem hat die Geburt unseres Königs Jesus, das rettende Himmelreich von der Ewigkeit zu uns gebracht. Im Weihnachtsglanz um seine Krippe herum fühlen wir diese Tatsache.

Wir sind jetzt in den längsten und dunkelsten Nächte des Jahres und der Zeit, meines Erachtens nach, aber durch diese Geburt des Christkindes scheint alles um uns hell. In dieser „heiligen“ Nacht von Weihnachten haben wir den „Morgenglanz der Ewigkeit,“ wie wir singen: „Licht von unerschaffnem Lichte, [in tiefste Nacht] bringt uns diese Morgenzeit, seine Strahlen zu Gesichte und [das Christkind] vertreibt durch Gottesmacht unsere Nacht.“ Das ist die frohe Botschaft!

Berührt von der Ewigkeit, werden wir auch in dieser Welt leiden müssen, wie Jesus von der Krippe bis zum Kreuz. Trotzdem werden wir im Glanz der Ewigkeit verwandelt werden, weil das Christuskind uns geschenkt worden ist, und uns verwandelt, wie den Stall, die Krippe, und das Kreuz verwandelt worden sind. Wir werden in segensreiche Himmelsgeschenke verwandelt.

„An Gottes Segen ist alles gelegen.“ Durch Gottes große Gnade überwinden wir diese tragische Welt im Segen des hl. Christkindes.

Auch in unsere Weihnachtszimmer, aus der Ewigkeit, kommen „zwei Engel hereingetreten,“ jetzt haben unsere Augen sie kommen sehen. „Sie gehen zum Weihnachtstisch und beten,“ uns zu segnen; sie wenden sich wieder und gehen. Und dann ist’s nicht nur, Maria, Joseph, und das Christkind die hl. Familie: nein, wir singen: „Segnet den Vater, die Mutter, das Kind.“ Sie segnen den Vater, die Mutter, das Kind, auch für uns. Der Tannenbaum verwandelt sich in einen Christbaum, „den schönsten Baum den wir auf Erden kennen.“

Nun, unser Herz muss eine Krippe, eine Herberge werden, und den ewigen Sohn, jetzt noch das Christkindlein, nackt und bloß, in Heu und auf Stroh liegend, einladen. In unsere Herzen kann er geboren werden. Komm, lieber Herr Jesus, es gibt Raum für dich in der Herberge unseres Herzen. Maria kann das Christkind ruhig in die Krippe unseres Herzens legen, wo es schlafen kann in himmlischer Ruhe. So schlafend, kann Christus in uns wachsen und stark werden, das wir auch einmal gute Hirten werden, Kinder Gottes werden, um Gottes Heil in diese arme Welt zu bringen.

Im Augenblick der Ewigkeit, werden wir auch anders werden, wir werden auch verwandelt werden: Schmerzen werden in Freuden verwandelt, Leiden in Glück, alte Knochen in junge Beine, und Tod in eine neue himmlische Geburt und ewiges Leben, damit wir uns, unter der Menge der herauf- und herniedersteigenden himmlischen Heerscharen, melden können, damit wir auch über die Geburt des Gottessohnes vom offenen Himmel rufen können: „Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe, Friede auf Erden, und allen Menschen ein Wohlgefallen!“ Amen.

 ____________________________

[1] Eine Dialogpredigt am Heiligabend von Dr. Wiebke Altrogge und Pfarrerin Ulrike Bruinings (ev.) 24.12.2008 Ev. Markuskirche Karlsruhe http://www.predigtpreis.de/predigtdatenbank/predigt/article/dialogpredigt-an-heiligabend.html

 

 

Written by peterkrey

December 23, 2017 at 3:07 pm

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Christ the King is our All in All: Epiphany Lutheran Church in San Leandro, CA, November 26th 2017

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Christ the King Sunday – November 26th 2017

Ezekiel 34:11-16,20-24 Psalm 95:1-7 Eph 1:15-23 Matthew 25:31-46

Epiphany Lutheran Church in San Leandro, CA

Christ the King is our All in All

Preaching allows a pastor to struggle with God’s Word once again and God’s Word is a life-giving word, because Jesus Christ is the Word of God and he came to bring life, and life more abundantly.

The prayer of the day underscores service and service leads us into the riches of God’s grace. Imagine your life getting filled to the brim with the riches of God’s grace! That means receiving life more abundantly.

To talk about the riches of grace: My son Mark and I just wrote and composed a Luther Musical and last weekend, we did three performances of it in the new location of the PLTS seminary in Berkeley. We had the best performance on 3:00 in the afternoon on Sunday. Mark played Luther and swept us all away in his poignant performance. His acting and singing had a huge impact on the audience. Many wanted to talk with him and congratulate him afterward, they were so moved.  Great art comes at a great cost and that has nothing to do with the price it is bartered for later. Poor Vincent van Gogh had to scrape and wonder where his daily bread was coming from and had to beg from his brother. Now his paintings are sold for millions of dollars. The twelve actors put their whole heart into the musical and the life of Luther was presented in a very special way to celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.

Let me share some of the impressions that came to me about today’s lessons. When I entered the seminary, we sang our Psalm for today each morning in matins. Coming from Northeastern University with 36,000 students and having that close fellowship with Christian professors and students at the seminary was like culture shock! The place I had come from was dog eat dog. The seminary was filled with mutual care and support.

Ezekiel writing about the mountains and the lush pastures in the mountains, sounds more like Switzerland than Israel. The passage made me think of the children’s book Heidi, where her little sick friend Peter comes to visit and is healed in the fresh mountain air and strengthened in those mountain passes and pastures of the Alps where they were herding the sheep and goats. Can’t you hear the lazy bell, ringing from the neck of a goat, with all the sleepy sheep resting all around in the sun?

Matthew is writing about the last judgment, of course, and I am always afraid of the last judgment. Are you too?  That’s because I know that I am a sinner and how could I stand? I tremble because I would not have a leg to stand on in that judgment.

I like to read the Gospel of John, where he says we are immediately judged by the word. Hearing the word, here and now, judges us according to the law, but not without the Word of God first providing us with the promises of the Gospel.

Next week we will already start with Advent and the time will fly to Christmas where we will note that there was no room in the inn and we will say, “Come into our hearts, Lord Jesus, there is room in our hearts for you!” When Christ comes into our hearts, we need not fear the judgment, because in our struggle with God’s Word we live in a continual process of judgment, which, because of the promises of God, helps us mature into the full stature of Christ, where Christ becomes our all in all.

In old Israel, the shepherds commonly had flocks having goats and sheep together. It was only at night when they separated them so that they slept in different stalls. Thus, the separation of the sheep and the goats was an everyday experience – just like we can go over our day before we go to sleep at night, thinking about what we did, where we were true sheep of the fold and where we were sinful. So, we try not to become old goats, but fresh young sheep, frolicking in the light of Christ, who is the Man, the Good Shepherd, the King, the very Lamb of God.

For me, David of old was a poet who wrote psalms, played the harp, and was a very human figure. He danced naked before the ark of the covenant, bringing it from Bethel to Jerusalem. “King David” sounds strange to me. Just like the Negro spiritual: “King Jesus” – sounds strange. But in our lesson, the Son of Man is shown to be the king, just a few lines further down. He is the King of our Hearts, the King of our Salvation, first of all and then of our judgment only later.

Having Christ in our hearts we have nothing to fear. But when Christ enters our hearts, with him come all the needy of the world, the very least of these. Since Charlie Rose took a nose dive because of the sexual harassment-outing that is now going on, a documentary about the poor homeless took the place of his show after the PBS News Hour which comes on at 3:00pm.  That documentary showing the life of the poor was very hard to watch: people living in the garbage that they had collected, shooting heroin up into their arms, pulling shopping carts with bags and bags of empty cans and bottles to recycling centers.

How can we get them into our hearts – so that the eyes of our hearts become enlightened? Epiphany Lutheran Church: our hearts set aglow with compassion would be an epiphany. Yes, the way is compassion and providing shelter for all. Wouldn’t you and I give up our housing equity, if affordable housing could be provided for all? The wretchedness of the homeless reduces the quality of all our lives, not just their deterioration. Luther said that when we are Christians then there should be no beggars amongst us. Our godless society has a beggar on almost every corner!

Therefore, it is not enough to be nominal Christians. In the tension between the abundant life we receive and the abject life in poverty in our midst that we observe, we need to grow into becoming Christs for the hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick, those jailed in prison. Let me add becoming Christs to the homeless, immigrants, the undocumented, the Dreamers, and untold masses of refugees. Becoming Christs for them we also see Christ in them. Christ is really present in our service to the least of these. Gathering them into our hearts filled with compassion, envelopes us in Christ.

In that way Christ, the King brings a unitive vision as we see Christ in each person who is in need and our being a Christ to them and our worship of Christ the King as we serve them. In that way Christ becomes all in all. Christ is really present in our liturgy after the liturgy, that is, our ministry and worship service to those in our streets, to the languishing masses trying to survive in refugee camps, to the recent homeless because of the fires, earthquakes, and hurricanes. In one of the recent heat waves, I took water bottles to some of the people living under the bridges and alongside the streets in Oakland, and their wretchedness shook me to the core!

Christ is the victim and Christ is the priest. His throne is the cross, because gazing upon the crucified Christ, draws all humanity together. When he is lifted up all human beings will be drawn to him. He laid down his life so that we might live and he says, “This is my body given for you, my life-blood shed for you.” He poured out his blood for us. His love and compassion for us led all the way to the cross.

Jesus is called the Son of David, who fulfills the prophesy of Ezekiel that God would set his shepherd over us, his servant David, and with that, the Lord will be our God. And Jesus will rule on the throne of David in the promises of God forever.

But Jesus, like David is hard to call a King, because he was so much the more a human being. In the words of Pontius Pilate, “Behold the Man!” We look upon him and he comes into our hearts and saves us. He saves our lives, because on that cross, he may have died, but God raised him from the dead, and the most wretched poverty will meet its match encountering the power of the resurrection. In Christ, the King we are more than victorious!

The cross is Jesus’ throne, because God raised him from the dead and he sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty and will come and judge the living and the dead.

Don’t forget that we are sinners and saints at one and the same time. We are the sheep and we are the goats. We are encountered by the hidden Messiah in the disguise of the least of these, the most needy people languishing among us. That is why both the sheep and the goats do not know if they are doing good or not. Like, if you are really good, you can’t know it. To know we’re good undermines our goodness.

Let me compare knowledge with goodness: Socrates of old would corner a person who thought he knew something and would throw questions at him, showing him that he did not really know what he said he knew. That is because the more you know the more you know that you don’t know and the less you know the more you think you know. That is called the paradox of knowledge. After receiving that treatment from Socrates, some of his contemporaries became furious with him, and as you know, made him drink the hemlock. But others took up his challenge and became the greatest of thinkers.

In a similar way, now concerning maturity, the more righteous you are, the more sinful you know yourself to be. Our country is “America, the Beautiful, shining from sea to sea,” but at the same time, we are still immature and we hide from ourselves how wicked and corrupt we can be. Our righteousness belongs to Christ and is not our own. When we are self-righteous in our pretensions, we are the worst sinners of all, because we usually become moralists, who drive and provoke others to sin. Our righteousness, our integrity belongs to Christ and it can’t be our own. In our Luther Musical we sing, “Christ is our righteousness, our gracious Lord and Savior!”

We have to confess that we are sinners; we are the goats, we are those who live out of the mercy and forgiveness of God and as sinful as we know ourselves to be, Christ will say to us, “Come you blessed of the Lord, and inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, which is filled with forgiveness. Now that is no license to sin, but our chance to go out to serve our neighbors, especially, the neediest among us. That is our chance to be Christs and the see Christ in all, making Christ all in all. In that way, we can worship in Spirit and Truth and feel God’s real presence, which sets our hearts singing and rejoicing! Amen.

 

 

 

 

Written by peterkrey

November 26, 2017 at 10:48 pm

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Blogging my thoughts: Guns are the Problem: Where is our Legislature? We are being Massacred with Impunity.

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Blogging my thoughts: the problem is all the guns. We have the right to bear arms, but the law that outlawed assault weapons was allowed to expire!

Peter D.S. Krey November 7th, 2017

The argument that everybody should be armed for protection is a weak argument and for the profits of the gun lobby, just what the NRA ordered!

From what I learned in graduate school for Early Modern History, the state monopolized the arms of the knights and the nobility in the 30 Years War (1618-1648). Before every knight or small-time nobleman could muster arms and fight another small-time knight in a country.

Our constitution provides the right to have militias, but doesn’t it assume they are under the authority of the 13 states, as loose as these authorities were in that day? We have thousands of militias organizing here. What happens if White tribalism under this administration gets a foothold and militias start fighting each other?

When criminals can also buy assault rifles, the police have to escalate and form SWAT teams and start their militarization against our own people. A de-escalation is in order and a disarmament of the people and the police, so that police have to go to their car to get their gun, as in a country I heard about recently.

The good fellow who had a rifle and shot the shooter, got one man. The bad fellow, the shooter, got 26 and wounded 20, children, even a pregnant woman, and a family of eight. What armed citizen could have done anything against the shooter from the hotel window, who killed 58 and wounded 500? Should all the second-graders of Sandy Hook Elementary school have had revolvers? He would have shot an armed guard right at the door. We can’t place our trust in weapons. The problem in our society is that we are willing to ratchet up coercion and violence, because we lack the will to repent, trust each other, that is, become vulnerable through increasing our trust and spiritual power.

The argument that the problem is not guns but mental illness does not hold. Only 4% of gun deaths can be attributed to mental illness,[1] while the number of mass shootings varies directly with the number of those who own guns. More people own guns in the United States than in any other country and therefore we have the most mass shootings. From this study it follows that the proposal of the gun lobby and the NRA that arming more people and providing an even great access to guns would mean not more protection, but that there will be more mass shootings, because the more people who own guns, the greater the number of mass shootings.

To quote the Professor of the University of Alabama who carried out the study: “Worldwide, Mr. Lankford found, a country’s rate of gun ownership correlated with the odds it would experience a mass shooting.”[2]

There is a kind of insanity involved, but it is the legislature that refuses to protect us from guns that target the institutions in which we should be the safest: churches, schools, theaters. Imagine the insanity involved in passing a law that allows expensive silencers to be sold by gun manufacturers, because the noise that guns shooting makes is disturbing. There is some insanity involved in being bothered by the noise the guns are making rather than the lives being massacred in our midst with impunity.

________________________

[1] “Only One Thing Explains Mass Shootings in the United States,” New York Times, November 8, 2017, page A 15. 

[2] Ibid.

Written by peterkrey

November 8, 2017 at 11:15 pm

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Zwei Deutungen von einem Gleichnis vom König der einem Hochzeitsfest für seinen Sohn Ausrichtete: Gepredigt in der St. Matthäusgemeinde in San Francisco, 10/15/2017

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Die Evangelisch-Lutherische St. Matthäusgemeinde,

San Francisco, am 18. Sonntag nach Trinitatis, 15. Oktober, 2017

Jesaja 25:1-9 Psalm 23 Philipper Brief 4:1-9 Matthäus 22:1-14

Zwei Deutungen von einem Gleichnis

Liebe Gemeinde,

es freut mich sehr, dass ich heute Morgen für Euch predigen darf, denn diese Gemeinde feiert noch Gottesdienst auf Deutsch, vielleicht als die einzige Gemeinde in San Francisco. Gibt es auch noch eine Katholische Kirche die Ihre Messe auf Deutsch feiert? [Die Gemeinde sagte nicht mehr. Daher ist die St. Matthäusgemeinde jetzt einzigartig]. Ich bin in Erfurt geboren und Deutsch ist meine Muttersprache, aber ich bin mit drei ein-halb Jahren herübergekommen und daher kann man bestimmt das englische in meinem Deutsch hören.

Spät am Dienstag ist unsere Familie eben aus Deutschland zurückgekommen, wo wir eine gute Reise durch die Lutherstädte gemacht haben. Wir waren fünf Tage in Wittenberg, besuchten die Stadt Kirche wo Luther gepredigt hat und die Schloss Kirche, wo er die 95 Thesen an der Tür genagelt hat. Die Kirchen waren so prächtig, dass wir über ihrer Schönheit nur staunen konnten. Sonntags waren die Kirchen auch voll, mit Kindern und junge Leuten, was wir nicht erwartet hatten. Wir haben eine Kirche nach der Anderen besichtigt und eine war weiß und hell, wie diese, aber die gewölbte Decke war viel höher, vielleicht zwei Mal so hoch. Es war die baroque St. Nikolaikirche in Leipzig. Wir waren im schwarzen Kloster wo Luther und Katharina von Bora wohnten; auch im Augustiner Kloster in Erfurt, auch in der Wartburg in der Nähe von Eisenach und so viel mehr.

Für meinen Sohn Mark und mich war diese Reise echt angebracht, weil wir ein Luther Musical geschrieben und komponiert haben. Jetzt schwimmen wir in seine Geschichte. Wir haben über zwei Tausend Bilder geknipst und werden viele in unserer Vorführung benutzen. Die Vorführung von unserem Luther Musical wird im neuen Lokal von unseren Prediger Seminar, d. h., PLTS in Berkeley stattfinden, am 18 und 19 November. Die Hering Fässer woraus die Nonnen am Ende springen werden um zu heiraten sind schon bereit, denn wir werden vieles zu lachen haben, sowohl als auch das Evangelium in Luthers eigenen Worten in allem Ernst verkündigen. Sie sind herzlichst eingeladen. Ich habe es noch nicht auf Deutsch übersetzt. Na, ich hoffe, das kommt noch.

Nun, genug damit und jetzt zum Text. Das heutige Gleichnis von Jesus ist etwas schwer zu deuten. Es gibt eine klassische Deutung und eine ganz andere, die ich neulich von einem Freund bekommen habe. In der ersteren Deutung steht der König allegorisch für Gott und das Hochzeit Mahl für seinen Sohn, obwohl nichts weiter über ihn gesagt wird. In dieser Deutung ist das Fest die wunderbare, endzeitliche Mahlzeit, die Jesaja vorausgesagt hat und die ersten Gäste die nicht kommen wollten, sind die Pharisäer und Schriftgelehrten, d. h., die Juden die Jesus nicht akzeptieren wollten, obwohl sie die Auserwählten Gottes waren.

Der wütende König bringt sie um und setzt ihre Stadt im Flammen – das soll allegorisch für den Fall Jerusalems im Jahre 70 stehen, wo Titus den Tempel vernichtet hat. Danach gebot der König, dass die Sklaven Alle in den Straßen einladen sollten, die guten und die bösen. Bald darauf kommt der König und besichtigt seine Gäste und erwischt einen der kein Hochzeitsgewand anhatte. Er lässt seine Hände und Füße binden und ihn in die Finsternis werfen, wo es Heulen und Zähneklappern gibt. Am Ende, „Viele werden berufen aber wenige sind auserwählt.“ Diese Worte sind offensichtlich nicht leicht zu verstehen.

Viele wurden berufen oder eingeladen aber sind nicht gekommen. Danach haben die Sklaven viele versammelt: Gute und Böse. Warum steht da, wenige werden auserwählt und was bedeutet es dass einer kein Hochzeitsgewand anhatte und warum hat der König ihm das so übelgenommen?

Kommentare meinen, dass er schmutzige Arbeitskleidung anhatte und gewöhnlich hat ein König Hochzeitsgewände ausgegeben, oder jemand konnte solche weiße Kleidung von anderen leihen. Es ist aber schwer zu erklären warum ein Mensch von der Straße der eben eingeladen worden war und kein Hochzeitskleid anhatte, warum er stumm blieb, und warum der wütende König solchen Anstoß genommen und ihn so sehr gestraft hat.

Man könnten sagen, dass Jesus‘ Beschreibung realistisch für die Könige seiner Zeit war. Wir haben natürlich auch solche Tyrannen zu unserer Zeit: Dauerte, Erdogan, Putin, Assad, um nur einige zu nennen. Damals war es Herodes, der all die Kinder Bethlehems ermordet hat um das Christkind zu töten. Als er im Sterben lag, wusste er das keiner um ihn trauern würde. Da hat er befohlen einige beliebte Älteste von Jerusalem zu töten, damit alle Leute trotzdem trauern sollten. Was für ein Tyrann!

Ist Gott wirklich so wie dieser König im diesen Gleichnis von Jesus? Würde Gott die Leute die nicht zu ihm kommen, umbringen und ihre Stadt verbrennen? Dieser Gott ist nicht der liebe Herr-Gott den wir durch Jesus Christus kennen. Ist nicht unser Gott ein Gott der unbedingten Liebe, der uns durch seinen lieben Sohn sieht, der sein Sohn in uns sieht, und aus (ungefärbte) Liebe, nichts was wir sündiger-weise tun überhaupt anschaut? Der, wie das Herz Jesus, seine Feinde liebt und unsere Sünden gegen ihn nicht sieben Mal, sondern siebzig Mal sieben Mal vergibt? Und uns treu bleibt obwohl wir Ihn oft leugnen, wie Peter es drei Mal tat, und wie wir auch manchmal untreu Gott gegenüber sind.

(Wir sollten keinen Taschenrechner haben. Sieben Mal siebzig gibt 490. Neulich hab ich meine Frau ermahnt dass es das 489ste Mal war. Ein Witz, nicht wahr? Die Liebe Gottes währet ewiglich, wie es im Psalm heißt. Welche Sünde war schwerer als dass wir Gottes Sohn mit Nageln am Kreuz geschlagen haben und Jesus sagte: „Vater, vergib ihnen. Sie wissen nicht was sie tun.“ Solche Liebe und solche Vergebung kann unsere Herzen zutiefst berühren.

In unserem deutschen Text hat man so übersetzt: „Das Himmelreich gleicht einem König der ein Hochzeitsfest für seinen Sohn feiern wollte.“ Das griechische Wort HOMOIOΩ kann man auch als „vergleichen“ übersetzen, wie es im englischen Text auch getan wird. Wir sollen daher diesen brutalen König und sein Königreich mit Gottes Himmelreich „vergleichen.“ Dann sehen wir, dass dieser König ein brutaler Tyrann ist der nicht mit Gott dem Vater unseres Herrn Jesus Christus zu vergleichen ist, sondern das ganze Gegenteil vom Himmelreich Gottes darstellt. Das Herz unseres Gottes ist voller Liebe und Gnade. Seine Vergebung und Gnade ist höher als die Berge und seine Liebe ist tiefer als das Meer. Seine Liebe und Gnade sind ungreifbar und daher können wir mit dem heiligen Paulus singen: „Freut Euch in dem Herrn allewege, und abermals sage ich: Freuet Euch!“

In dieser Deutung des Gleichnisses hat derjenige der kein Hochzeitsgewand trug, gegen diesen brutalen Tyrannen Widerstand geleistet, denn ein Tyrann liebt sein Volk nicht, ist kein guter Hirte, sondern bringt seine eigenen Leute um. Er ist wie ein Erdogan, Duarte, Putin, ein Assad, der lieber sein ganzes Land vernichtet und jeden Gegner im Volk umbringt als dass er seine Macht aufgibt.

Wer ist denn dieser der vor dem König stumm bleibt? Der kein Hochzeitsgewand für einen brutalen Tyrannen tragen will? Eigentlich haben wir hier ein Zweites Gleichnis, denn dieser ist Jesus selbst, der Widerstand leistet, der gegen solch Tyrannei protestiert und zu diesem König sagt: „Du bist nicht Gott und dein Königreich ist keineswegs gleich mit Gottes Himmelreich, sondern das direkte Gegenteil. So viele werden berufen aber wenige, hier nur einer als ein Auserwählter leistet Widerstand.

Zum Beispiel, es gab viele Deutsche die Christen waren aber wenige die gegen Hitler Widerstand geleistet haben.

In der letzten Woche als wir Weimar besichtigt haben, hat unser Reise Führer uns durch Buchenwalds Konzentrationslager geführt. Im schönen Buchenwald bei Weimar mussten die Gefangenen selbst das Lager bauen, d.h., im Wald vor Weimar, die Stadt von Goethe und Schiller, Hauptstadt der deutschen Kultur. In Weimar hat man auch zuerst die Todesanzeigen vom Lager eintragen müssen bis die S.S. es selbst in Buchenwald übernommen haben. Haben die Christen in Weimar Widerstand geleistet? Als der Rauch vom Krematorium die Stadt bedeckte, genauso wie der Rauch von den Flammen des Feuers jetzt in Petaluma, Napa, und Santa Rosa uns hier bedeckt – O Herr-Gott, hilf uns und allen die Feuersnot leiden – aber zurück zu Weimar: haben die Leute von Weimar protestiert? Sie haben nur protestiert, dass sie nichts vom Lager wussten. Klar, aus Angst haben sie alles verneint, verleugnet. Es ist gefährlich in einer Tyrannei zu viel zu wissen. Und die wenigen Auserwählten die Widerstand geleistet haben, haben die Nazis in die tiefste Finsternis geworfen, wo Heulen und Zähneklappern die Tagesordnung war.

Der lutherische Pfarrer Paul Schneider war einer der wenigen Auserwählten. Bei der Beerdigung eines Hitlerjungen, hat ein Nazi Beamter gesagt dass der Junge jetzt im himmlischen Sturm des Horst Wessel eingetroffen war. Pr. Schneider widersprach ihn: „Ob es ein himmlischer Sturm von Horst Wessel gibt, wisse er nicht, aber der liebe Gott habe ihn gesegnet und in seinem Himmelreich empfangen.“ Bald danach wurde Pr. Schneider verhaftet. In Buchenwald hat er aus dem Fenster seiner Zelle gepredigt „Nach Folter und Tod gibt es die Auferstehung!“ um den Gefangenen Mut zu geben predigte er weiter bis sie ihn ermordet haben.

In diesem Gleichnis von Jesus bleiben wir etwas hängen, denn die Auferstehung von Jesus wird nicht erwähnt. Jesus ist in die Finsternis geworfen worden – wie es ein Tyrann verstehen würde – aber dann kam er zu uns als Licht der Welt. Und er scheint in unserer Finsternis, und die Finsternis kann sein Licht nicht löschen, noch seine Freude in unserem traurigen Jammertal überwältigen. Man hat auch Jesus ein ungenähtes, von oben bis unten gewobenes Gewand ausgezogen, wie einen Hochzeitsgewand, nicht wahr? Und er blieb stumm, wie ein Lamm, das zum Schlachtbank geführt wird. Und so ist er das einmaligen Opfer für die Sünden der Welt geworden um uns zu vergeben. Aber dann hat ihn Gott auferweckt und was noch nicht in diesem Gleichnis gesagt wird, er wird Auferstehen von den Toten am dritten Tag.

Daher ist das Hochzeitsfest in diesem Gleichnis noch nicht das Endzeitliche Mahl des Himmelreichs selbst. Denn Jesus führte keine militärischen Feldzüge, sondern heilende Feldzüge um guten Willen und Lebensfülle zu bringen. Sein Leib ist unsere Nahrung für das ewige Leben; sein Blut ist voller Liebe für uns vergossen. Sein lieber Gott Vater wird, im großen und herrlichen Hochzeits Mahl, die Hülle von allen Völker abnehmen, wie eine Decke, und den Tod wird er auf ewig verschlingen. Dann wird es keine Tränen und kein Sterben mehr geben, denn sein sanftes und gnadenvolles Reich wird kommen und sein Wille wird hier auf Erden geschehen wie im Himmel. Amen.

 

 

Written by peterkrey

October 15, 2017 at 10:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Two Interpretations of the Parable of the King Throwing a Wedding Feast for his Son, preached at St. Mathews in San Francisco 10/15/2017

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The 18th Sunday after Trinity –  October 15th 2017

Isaiah 25:1-9 Psalm 23 Philippians 4:1-9 Matthew 22:1-14

Two Interpretations of this Parable

Greetings to you dear people of St. Matthew’s. I love this church, because it has preserved the German language, perhaps as the only church in San Francisco to still do so. Is there a Catholic church that celebrates its mass in German as well? I’m not sure. [People said no, so now St. Matthews is unique.]

My family just returned from a trip through the Luther cities of Germany and we were so much impressed by the beauty of the churches. Their architecture, paintings, and statues are majestic and on Sundays some were filled with young adults and children, which I did not expect. One baroque church, St Nicholai in Leipzig, was all white and brightly shining and reminded me of this church. Like this one it shines so brightly that you do not even have to light the candles! In St. Nicholai the ceilings were very much higher and it had many more beautiful white columns.

One city after another had prominent statues of Luther and we visited the town church where Luther preached and the castle church where he nailed the 95 these to the doors. We spent five days in Wittenberg and visited the Black cloister where he lived with Katie von Bora, the monastery he entered in Erfurt. What a learning experience!

It really helped us, because my son Mark and I have written and composed a Luther Musical and we took over 2,000 pictures to help us design the sets. The fish-wagon and the herring barrels out of which the escaping nuns will jump have already been made by an artist that we hired. I inspected them yesterday. Nuns jumping out of herring barrels! So, there should be some laughs. We’ve now also put in a court jester. But the musical uses Luther’s own words as well to proclaim the Gospel. Our Musical will be performed at the new location of the seminary, 2,000 Center Street in Berkeley on November 18th and 19th. Those who have seen the previews, say that it is a must see! Do plan to come!

Now to our difficult parable for this morning. It has a classical interpretation and another one that I just recently learned from a pastor-friend. In the classical interpretation, allegorically, the king stands for God and the king is celebrating a wedding feast for his son, who is not further mentioned. The wedding feast stands for the great and wonderful banquet foretold by Isaiah. The people who do not come after they are invited are the scribes and Pharisees, and the Jews who do not accept Jesus, even though they are the chosen people. The burning of their cities and the killing of the people stand for the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, when Titus burned and destroyed the temple. The next people, the good and bad, gathered from the streets to fill the places at the tables are the Gentiles, who now attend the great banquet. Then the king comes to inspect the guests and spies one without a wedding garment and he has him bound hand and foot and thrown out into the outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. It ends: “Many are called but few are chosen.”

All that is not very easy to understand. In both cases, many were called, who rejected and then accepted the king’s invitation. Those gathered from the streets were both good and bad. Who are the few that were chosen and why did the fellow without a wedding robe so greatly offend the king?

The commentaries say that he was in his dirty work-clothes and usually white wedding garments were handed out or one borrowed a white robe from a neighbor, like today renting a tuxedo, to attend the wedding feast. In this interpretation, that did not ring true to me and I found myself unable to explain what was meant by the fellow without the wedding robe and why he was speechless, and why this king, who was so enraged, pounced on him.

Now to support the classical interpretation, we could argue that Jesus was being realistic about the kings of his day. Not that we do not know tyrants today: Duarte, Erdogan, Putin, Assad: the latter would rather destroy his whole country and kill all who oppose him rather than give up power. But in Jesus’ day, there was Herod, who murdered all the children in Bethlehem in order to kill the Christ-child. When he was dying he knew that no one would grieve for him, so he had several of the most beloved elders of Jerusalem killed, so that they would have to grieve. What a tyrant!

But is God really like this king, who takes revenge on the people who reject his invitation even though killed his slaves who were inviting them? Would God then send troops to kill them and burn their cities? The God whom we know through Jesus Christ, his dear Son, is a God of unconditional love. He sees us through his Son and because of his love for us, he cannot see anything we do wrong. And like the great heart and soul of Jesus, he loves his enemies, he forgives us sinners 70 times 7 times and keeps on being faithful to us as faithless as we often are. Pocket calculators are bad. I multiplied 7 times 70 and came up with 490 and recently told my wife, “That makes the 489th time!” I am just making a joke, of course, because God does not count our sins. God’s love is unconditional. “His steadfast love [and forgiveness] endures forever,” as Psalm 117 says.

What greater sin was there than when we nailed God’s only Son to the cross and Jesus said, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do”? That kind of forgiveness can touch our hearts and transform us.

So, Jesus does not say that the Kingdom of Heaven is like the king throwing a wedding feast for his son in this parable, but compare the Kingdom of Heaven to that of this ruthless king. The meaning of the Greek word HOMOIOO also means compare, so it can here mean a contrast. The king of the parable is ruthless. We use the word ruthless, but seldom “ruthful” which means taking pity and having compassion. Our God is a God of “ruth” or ruthfulness. His grace and forgiveness are higher than the mountains and his love for us is deeper than the sea, unfathomable, like the ocean.

That is why we can rejoice in the Lord always and again we say rejoice! To sing the words of St. Paul.

In this new interpretation, the fellow not wearing the wedding robes is resisting his vote for a ruthless king, because he is a tyrant full of rage; a tyrant who does not love his people; he is not their good shepherd, but one who kills and harms his own people. Like Duarte in the Philippines, who relishes killing the poor people addicted to drugs.

So, who is this speechless fellow thrown out of the wedding feast of this brutal king. It is Jesus. He is the resister, the protestor, saying: “You are not God.” The kingdom of this enraged king stands in contrast to the kingdom of heaven and is its opposite. And many, many have been called, but just this one protestor is chosen. That now seems to make sense to me.

How many Christian were in Germany and how very few resisted Hitler! We went through the Buchenwald concentration camp on our trip. The prisoners had to build it themselves right in the beautiful forest around Weimar, the capital of Germany’s intellect and culture, the city of Goethe and Schiller. At first, they documented the deaths taking place in the camp in the archives of Weimar itself; later the S.S. continued filling out and keeping the death certificates in the camp itself. Did the people of Weimar resist? The smoke from the crematorium must have smothered the city, like the smoke from our fires racing through Petaluma, Santa Rosa, and Napa – dear Lord save us, and help the fire fighters and those who have lost everything. Amen.

Back to Weimar. Did they protest? They protested that they knew nothing about what was happening in the camp. Where ignorance is bliss, it’s a folly to be wise. Denial is not just a river in Egypt. Fear was the issue, of course. All who resisted, the Nazi regimes threw out into the utter darkness, where weeping and gnashing of teeth became the order of the day.

One Lutheran Pastor, Paul Schneider, refused to do the salute “Heil Hitler.” He said heil or salvation could not come from a human being, but only from God. His cell in Buchenwald had flowers and candles burning for him in it. He kept preaching out of his cell window to encourage the prisoners saying, “They might torture and kill us, but afterward comes the resurrection!” He preached from his cell until they murdered him. What courage! God have mercy on us who are called, but do not yet have the grace to be chosen!

Jesus’ parable leaves us hanging a little. Jesus was thrown out into the utter darkness, – as far as the brutal tyrant was concerned; but he came into our darkness to be with us, to bring light to us, to be the light that no darkness could overcome – in our dark and sorry world, our vale of tears. They did strip off his seamless robe, which was much like a wedding garment. And he was speechless; he did not say a mumbling word, like a lamb led to slaughter. In that way Jesus became the once and for all sacrifice, the Lamb of God who became sin, to take away the sin of the world, to forgive you and me. But then, this is what our parable leaves out, – in order to be raised up from the dead on the third day in the glorious resurrection.

So, the end-time wedding feast has to be the one in heaven and it is not quite the one in this parable with the enraged king. Jesus did not do military campaigns but sent his disciples out on healing campaigns to brings good will and abundant new life to his people. He is the Good shepherd who restores our souls and with a joyful economy, as Luther says, leading us into lush green pastures with still waters. He comes with healing in his wings and nourishes us with his body and pours out his blood for the love of us, which is the only medicine that can cure us from death. In the great wedding feast the heavenly banquet to come, Jesus will pull the shroud of death from the nations of the world and base them on resurrected life. And there will be no weeping and dying anymore, because the kingdom of heaven has come and God’s will will be done on earth as in heaven. Amen.

 

Written by peterkrey

October 15, 2017 at 9:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The Invisible Disaster: Bethlehem, September 3rd 2017

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The Time after Pentecost

September 3rd 2017

Jeremiah 15:15-21 Psalm 26:1-8 Romans 12:9-21 Matthew 16:21-28

The Invisible Disaster

 

If we have eyes that see, ears that hear, and a heart full of love and compassion, then we will see a disaster far worse that the one in Texas. I will explore this topic at the end of this sermon. (I later discovered this was my last sermon. I thought I was preaching two more.)

Last time we heard that Christ was the Rock, the Rock of our Salvation and we repeated the words from the well-known hymn: “On Christ the solid Rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.”

Now today you can see that Peter is not the rock, even though Christ renamed him Peter or Rock or perhaps Rocky and even though it is written inside the dome of St. Peter’s in Rome: “You are Peter and upon this Rock I will build my church.” The popes sit in the chair of St. Peter. But Christ is the Rock, not Peter. In today’s lesson Peter turns into a stumbling block for Christ.

In all humility, we have to identify with Peter and realize that sometimes we witness to Christ with our words and our lives and sometimes we deny Christ with our words and our lives. We are sinners and saints. But like alcoholics, we hope to be recovering and not falling back for the bottle again and again, like a baby who never gives up the bottle. We have to be recovering sinners and become those who really follow Jesus, not only with our words, but also with our lives; not only with lip-talk, but also with soul-talk; not only superficially, but with all our hearts, with our whole lives.

To be honest, I have to confess that I am not there yet. Don’t you have to confess that as well? If we say we haven’t sinned, then we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us, in the words of John. Those words are in our liturgical confession of sin.

So, it’s dishonest to be self-righteous, to identify completely with our sun-shiny side, because we then see our sins in other people. It’s also a problem when we allow others to define us by our sinful side and we give in and see ourselves that way too. You all know better than I do, that is one of the features of bigotry, prejudice, and racism. Like Jennifer was telling us, the little Indian kids identified with the cowboys and killed the Indians! Even the Indian children had been convinced that the cowboys were the good guys and the Indians the bad guys! We are all good and bad and we have to take responsibility for our bad side and not project it onto others. (This psychological interpretation of prejudice needs to be complemented, however, by the systemic one. When government G.I. policies exclude Black people from home ownership, while granting it to their White counterparts, the policy itself furthers racism and in a much more drastic materialistic way.)

So, when we are self-righteous or even self-rejecting we forget that we become righteous by God’s grace. Our righteousness, our integrity is not our own, but we borrow it from Jesus Christ our Lord and as sinful as we are, God looks at us through rose colored glasses and loves us until we become lovable; accepts us, as unacceptable as we are, and makes us acceptable. God loves us so much, God finds out where we are hiding, where we have gotten lost, comes to us and makes us glow with the radiant beauty of Christ; yes, who comes and lives in our hearts, showing us the way.

Now in our lesson, Peter loved Jesus and naturally did not want him to come to harm; just like we don’t want the ones that we love to come to harm. Listen how a novelist tells this story:

He [Jesus] said, “Things are going to change now.” He [Jesus] heaved a sigh. We [disciples] all were moving with him now toward the little spring of water. He said, “I have to go to Jerusalem. When I get there, I will suffer many things form the elders and the chief priests and the scribes. I’m telling you now so that you need not be surprised when it happens. It will happen.”

Jesus knelt down by the spring, cold from the earth. He made a cup of his hands and scooped water. Just before he started to drink, he said, “I will be killed in Jerusalem, and on the third day be raised –“

I spoke again. [Peter is speaking.] I said the most natural thing there was to say.

Well, my feelings were so hurt by Jesus’ words. Be killed? Was this the gloomy thing he’d been thinking about all the time?

I grabbed his wrist and shouted, “No!” The water splashed from his hands. “No, God won’t allow it!” I cried.

On account of my feelings, I was gripping him with all my strength. But he started to pry my fingers from his wrist. He had terrible power in his hands.

I blustered on. Surely he knew that I was arguing out of love for him! “O Lord,” I said, “this can never happen to you!”

[After Jesus says to Peter, get thee behind me Satan! The author] emphasizes these thoughts in Peter:

“No, but I do care for the things of God! And I love you, Lord Jesus! This is so confusing. One minute I’m Peter; the next minute I’m Satan, but I didn’t change! How can plain love cause such outrage in the Lord?”[1]

Wasn’t that the most natural thing for Peter to do, because he loved Jesus? Wouldn’t we all try to preserve those we love from harm?

     But listen to the martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “When God calls you, God bids you come and die!” We love to sing “I will make you fishers of men!” – I changed it slightly to: “I will make you fishers again of women and men, and also children!” But when you have a fish on the line, it fights you for its life, because when you pull it in and take it out of the water, it dies and becomes your food. Like Jesus, we become the food of life, the food for abundant, everlasting life.

     Jesus says, “If you want to become my followers, deny yourselves, take up your cross, and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will gain it.”

     There’s a strong death wish in each of us. Is Jesus saying that we mistake death for life? I think this call is first of all a spiritual thing. “What does it profit you if you gain the whole world and lose your life.” Or what is more precious than your life? I like to translate it: “What does it profit you if you gain the whole world and lose yourself.” Or what is more precious than yourself?

     The commentary points out that this was usually said to soldiers before a battle: they will gain their lives by losing them. And also in loyalty to friends and in love: by losing your life you will gain it.

     Sometimes it is not only spiritual, but also real and physical, for example in Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. But when we are baptized, we lose our old Adam and Eve selves. They die and we are raised up in our new Christ selves. Talking about love, when we lose our self in our marriage, we get a new self, lifted up in the love of our partner and we even get a collective marriage self as well as a family self when the children come. Each of these new selves require self-denial and the reward is a larger self, a more glorious self.

     Jesus was setting his face to Jerusalem to die there: to suffer, to be crucified, and to die; descend into Hell and then in his resurrection to open up the way to everlasting life in heaven for you and me. How could Peter have known that?

     When we can give up ourselves in our baptisms or give up our egos, give ourselves away, a foretaste of being the children of heaven to come, can already be experienced.

     Like the first one to make the way was Jesus Christ our Lord, and now all the martyrs, like Martin Luther King and Dietrich Bonhoeffer are already experiencing the feature presentation of the kingdom of Heaven. They are the church triumphant, we feebly struggle, they in glory shine. God allows us, however, to have previews of the coming attractions.

     The Holy Spirit brings this about among us. In our natural state, we are like a herd of cats that the Good Shepherd is trying to herd. You can’t herd cats. They just go off into all kinds of different directions. Just like, you can’t herd chickens. We have to be more like ducks and geese, because they stay together in their flock. If only we were more like them.

     Let me try to get at something that will bring hope to the poor people around Corpus Christi and Houston, Texas. They are together experiencing a great disaster. I was once driving home from Boston, north to where we lived in Haverhill, when it started snowing. It turned into an incredible snow storm which dumped snow on us. It snowed so hard our cars were getting buried in snow and we just had to leave our cars on the highway and go into stores to keep warm. The stores remained open for us and helped us. Suddenly everyone became one. We talked with complete strangers like we had known each other all our lives. The crisis we faced in the cold and needing to abandon our cars in the snow made us all one and we all helped each other in whatever way we could.

     Before the storm there was the usual road rage, people overtaking each other, and cutting others off for their own advantage. That great Northeaster, as those snow storms are called in New England, changed us all making us have one heart and soul together.

     That is what is happening in Texas right now. The people are coming together with those who help them too, as one heart and soul. It does not matter if you voted for Trump or Hillary, you’re rich or poor, or native or an immigrant wearing an ankle bracelet in the water. If you are in danger of drowning, people will try to rescue you. People place their own lives at risk to save the lives of complete strangers.

Jesus did that for all of us by going to the cross and the Holy Spirit can change us into those kinds of people with hearts and souls together. We have to save people from an invisible disaster far greater than the flooding in Texas. We don’t have the eyes to see, the ears to hear, or the hearts to perceive the disaster among us. We can only see the physical, natural disasters.

That is what I said we had to ponder last time. Why are our churches closing? We have to become one heart and soul together to save people from the human disaster in slow motion among us, which is worse than what is happening in Texas, kills many more people, (Just think of all the overdoses just in Ohio.) and destroys many more households than a natural disaster could do.

     But our churches refuse to be awakened and activated. Christ tries to lead us like a flock and we’re making like cats running off in all our own directions. Let’s pray for the Holy Spirit to light up our hearts and minds with the love and compassion for the lost among us. Feeding the homeless is a good first step.

So often here in Bethlehem the 99 sheep are looking for the lost shepherd. But Jesus Christ comes to us through the Holy Spirit – so Bethlehem can become a center for the lost and found, where many can come and find their souls by losing them here – losing them lost in wonder, love, and praise. Amen.

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[1] Walter Wangerin, The Book of God. He is the Novelist quoted in Brian Stoffregen’s CrossMarks: http://www.crossmarks.com/brian/matt16x21.htm

Written by peterkrey

September 5, 2017 at 9:13 am

Posted in Uncategorized