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Our Troubled Times and the Ancestry of Fascism by Bertrand Russell

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Blogging my thoughts:    The Ancestry of Fascism                  28th February, 2017

I picked up Bertrand Russell’s book, In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays, in 1975 while traveling through India: (Bombay: George Allen & Unwin (India) Private Ltd., 1935, reprinted in 1972 and 1973). What finally prompted me to read it after all these years was his essay: “The Ancestry of Fascism,” because the recent election and developments have been deeply troubling for many of us.

Before presenting my notes from Bertrand Russell’s essay, let me preface them by several considerations. First, another approach to the German fascist model might be the racist model of the Restoration. In it White supremacy after the Civil War again reared up its ugly head. After all, after Lincoln freed the slaves, Southerners refused to be Republicans and after the Democratic Kennedy-Johnson Civil Rights legislation, the Dixiecrats became Republican. If that is questioned, then remember that while signing the legislation Lyndon Johnson stated, “We [Democrats] just lost the South for a generation.” But although the pathology of racism’s center of gravity shifted in that respect, it is certainly not isolated to that party.

Secondly, never could I fathom how anti-Semitism helped absolutize the power of Hitler. But the divisiveness that it brought to the grassroots of German society made power ascend to the top. People were turning each other in, even for a distant Jewish ancestor. The campaign against immigrants functions this way as well, just like racism. Where is the outrage that our Native American interests have been trampled over with the Dakota oil pipe-line once again? When no solidarity is possible among the people, the people lose all their power. It really amounts to a variation on the theme “divide and conquer.”

Thirdly, in a very divided country, with our government in gridlock, we were caught flat-footed by Putin. Do we know how Paul Manafort came to be the Republican campaign manager, when he was also that of Victor Yanukovych, the corrupt pro-Russian President of the Ukraine, who was run out of office in 2014 because he stood for Putin and Russia against Ukrainian interests? The outcome: a civil war. Just what Putin ordered.

Isn’t it strange how Putin tries to undermine western democracy and how the Republican candidate repeatedly claimed that our election was rigged? That did not make him reject his surprise victory. He even blatantly called for the hacking of Hillary’s 30,000 deleted emails, while ongoing Russian hacking was taking place! Also, acting as if the democracy of the United States was equally as corrupt as the Russian dictatorship plays right into Putin’s interest to destabilize the E.U. and its Western Democratic values.

Finally, look at the present attack on the critical press by calling it the enemy of the people! According to Nina Khrushcheva, the great granddaughter of Khrushchev, the language of “autocracy of state nationalism is always the same regardless of country…but the formulas of insult, humiliation, domination, branding, enemy-forming, and name calling are always the same.”[1] Everybody knows that the democratic candidate was less corrupt than the republican one, but the candidate’s branding, “crooked Hillary” stuck. Then consider all the fake news launched by the Russians.

Now consider, however, the nascent Fascist, German and Italian models that dissolved their democracies into virulent Fascist regimes for our present trouble. One cannot help think of Sinclair Lewis’ warning, It Can’t Happen Here, because some of the new developments make us think, “Maybe it can.”

Bertrand Russell finds the roots of Fascism in the German philosophy that emphasize the will. I always related Schopenhauer to it, but he accuses Fichte. In such a philosophy, whatever a person desires to be true is true. With that the notion of objective truth is precluded. Russell indicates that such people are irrational. Reason, we don’t often realize, is a form of non-violence, because persuasion replaces force.

In practice, according to Russell, reason can be defined by three characteristics: first, to reiterate, it relies on persuasion rather than force. Secondly, it seeks to persuade by arguments, which the person using them believes to be completely valid. And thirdly, in forming opinions, it uses observation and induction and intuition as little as possible.[2]

The first characteristic rules out inquisition; the second rules out propaganda [today this relates to fake news]. Hitler’s ideal was that propaganda, which “could sink a deep mental grip on the masses of people.” (p. 56) Russell illustrates what the third prevents by quoting President Andrew Jackson.[3] He would be prevented from saying, “The God of the universe intended the great [Mississippi] valley to belong to one nation” and Russell states, “which was self-evident to him and his hearers, but is not easily demonstrated to one who questions it.” (56)

A CEO of a business empire turned presidential candidate can say, “I alone can fix it” and must feel he is a very great man. Nietzsche championed exceptional individuals (supermen) over the masses suffering from slave mentalities. Heraclitus felt that all the adult men among the Ephesians should hang themselves and leave only the beardless youth, because they cast out Hermodorus, the best among them saying, “We will have none who are best among us; if there be any such, let him be so elsewhere among others.”[4] For Nietzsche humankind was a means to an end rather than its people being ends in themselves. Russell remarks that the cult of the great man always has the minor premise: “I am that great man.” (58)

Bertrand Russell lists the common characteristics of fascism as follows: it seeks the good in the will rather than in feeling or cognition, it values power more than happiness, force more than argument, war to peace, aristocracy to democracy, and propaganda to scientific inquiry. Nietzsche stepped out into these positions naked and unashamed. (58)

In another place, Russell describes fascists as modern irrationalists. To their proclivity to emphasize the will as opposed to thought and feeling, he adds, that they glorify power and denigrate observation and inductive testing, rather believing in their own “prepositions.” (63)

Groups, according to Russell, vulnerable to the fascist message, were those who had no raison d’être any longer, because they had scarcely any chance of fulfilling their hopes. Back in 1932 industrialists and militarists felt that their hopes might be realized by fascism and in hardly any other way: “The fact that their hopes can only be achieved by the ruin of civilization [today, let’s say democracy] does not make them irrational, but only Satanic.” (64-65) For today this brings to mind the Faustian bargain of the Republicans. There is a psychopathology in that party, witness their obstruction of the previous administration and President Obama’s candidate for the supreme court, but they do have conservative principles and cannot be compared to Nazis, about whom Russell is writing.

He notes that Hitler accepted and rejected doctrines completely on political grounds without even bringing in the notions of truth or falsehood. The conception of objective truth was abandoned. (66) Thus, these governments debauch the mental life of their subjects. (67-68)

Russell adds that the fever of nationalism…is [also] one form of the cult of unreason. (68) I would like to quote the last sentences of his essay in full:

Reason being impersonal makes universal co-operation possible. Unreason since it represents private passions, makes strife inevitable.  It is for this reason that rationality, in the sense of an appeal to a universal and impersonal standard of truth, is of extreme importance to the well-being of the human species, not only in the ages in which it easily prevails, but also, and even more, in those less fortunate times in which it is despised and rejected as a vain dream of those who lack the virility to kill where they cannot agree. (68)

Again, Bertrand Russell underscores how reasoning is a method of non-violence, which makes the debates in our legislature and in executive consultations very important. Hopefully our democratic traditions in America are very strong. Those of the Weimar Republic in Germany were fragile and weak, so these notes from Bertrand Russell’s essay on the “Ancestry of Fascism” are warnings. But danger signals are a propagandist in the meeting of the principals, where the truth for analyzing situation of crisis and development of policies is paramount.[5] The fact that the president wants his name everywhere on his towers makes one feel he wants a cult about his personality. Calling the press an enemy of the people, is not a statement that meets argumentation with counter-arguments, but some kind of coercion. His language is not conducive to partners in adversity persuading each other about the truth. When observation makes clear that the first weeks of his administration were chaotic and disruptive, his description that they ran like a fine-tuned machine show that what he wants to be true is true. In the words of Groucho Marx: what are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?

The question becomes, can this administration reset and self-correct or will we face “What Can’t Happen Here.”

Peter D. S. Krey

____________________________

[1] New York Times, 02/27/2017, page A13.

[2] In Praise of Idleness, page 56. I will place the page numbers in parentheses henceforth, because these are notes mostly in his words from Bertrand Russell’s book, and more easily referenced in that way.

[3] He is responsible for the 1830’s Native American Trail of Tears, where 125,000 Indians were rounded up and evicted from the southern states and in what amounted to a death march to the West. A similarity seems to exist between the “Indian Problem” of the day and the “immigrant problem” today. Our present president resembles Jackson by calling to start “throwing them the hell out of our country” now referring to millions of immigrants.

[4] Ibid., 107-108. Sadly, Martin Luther also believed in the great man theory.

[5] He has recently been displaced from that meeting by McMasters, but he still has the president’s ear in too many places.

Written by peterkrey

April 6, 2017 at 8:22 pm

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Zombies Raised Back to Life: Lent V April 2, 2017 Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Oakland, CA

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Lent V April 2, 2017 Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Oakland, CA

Ezekiel 37:1-14 Psalm 130 Romans 8:6-11 John 11:1-45

Zombies Raised Back to Life

What a wonderful sermon the Reverend the pastor preached for Bobby McClain funeral on Friday. Her preaching brought the living word of God into our lives. There are words and there are living words. God comes into our hearts in such living words and raises our dead old selves into the newness of our lives in Christ.

Did you notice in our gospel lesson how many misunderstandings took place between the disciples and Jesus? They say that Lazarus is ill. Jesus says that his illness will demonstrate the glory of God. Jesus says that Lazarus is sleeping, meaning that he died. They say, it is good that he is sleeping because that means he’s all right. He has to tell them straight out that Lazarus is dead. When Jesus is speaking about daylight, he is talking about a different light from the light that merely comes from the sun, because we can walk in that light and have eyes that do not see, ears that do not hear, and a heart that does not understand. We have to walk in the light of Christ with Christ shining in our hearts.

When the light of Christ is not in us we can confuse death and life. That makes it important for us to think about sickness, death, and resurrection in the midst of our lives and not only when we hear God’s Words confronting death in a funeral. Even right here and now we can be a patch of dried up bones that need the living words of a prophet to raise us up.

Let the breath, the Spirit of God, come into our old dried up bones, O Lord, connect up our bones and let sinews, muscles, and skin cover us, and raise us up to be your people with eyes that see, ears that hear and a heart that understands what you would have us do, good Lord. Amen

Lazarus was dead and Jesus raised him back to life. A minister who was a friend of mine considered Lazarus Jesus beloved disciple. Jesus truly loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, who was probably their bread winner and Mary and Martha were probably dependent on him. Mary and Martha prepared the food for the house-church that Lazarus supported, like you all supporting this house of God, Bethlehem, and all you dear Mary and Martha’s who continually prepare the food, like for Friday’s reception. You have to realize for Jesus, you are beloved disciples. Still I think “the” beloved disciple was John. That is why this is the most intimate and heart-felt spiritual Gospel out of the four.

Jesus waits two days and then goes to Bethany, which is a suburb of Jerusalem. At that time, they thought the soul still hovered over the body three days and on the fourth day it already went to heaven. This was, therefore, a very great miracle. And then going to Jerusalem meant that their lives were in danger. They were putting their lives on the line to bring life. That is the irony God’s servants face in this lost and sinful world, which takes lives, but does not know how to give them and raise up those who are sick or have died. Jesus the King of Heaven has to forgive us. Notice that it is Thomas, doubting Thomas, who says to all the other disciples, “Let us go and die with him.”

There is physical health and there is spiritual health. We can be sick and still have spiritual health and we can be healthy and be very sick or have destructive spirits. It would be good for a serial killer to get sick and die. It would be better for that killer to be converted. We prayed for the healing of a person in a Brooklyn congregation of mine, and he was as horrible a person after he recovered as he had been before. The son of my medical doctor there, a body-builder, a perfect specimen of health, killed himself. We need the spirit of Christ in us and we need to walk in the light of Christ to receive life and life more abundantly.

Thomas said, “Let us go die with him.” Among the German NAZI’s Bonhoeffer said, “When Christ calls us, he bids us come and die.” Martin Luther King said, “If you’ve got nothing worth dying for, then you’ve got nothing worth living for.” Putting our lives in danger like that follows Jesus words: those who save their lives will lose them and those who deny themselves and die for Christ and righteousness sake will save them. But we have trouble believing Jesus. Fake news and the deception of the devil, God’s adversary, makes us cling to our lives for the sake of a mirage in the desert; while clinging to God’s Word and God’s Christ brings us into a genuine oasis. We can chase a delusion and find that it is a mirage and lose the oasis that we have if we deny ourselves and remain faithful. In his writing, The Freedom of a Christian, Luther speaks of a greedy dog with a bone in its mouth looking into a stream and seeing his own reflection: a dog with a bone in its mouth. Greedily the dog tries to snatch away the bone from the image in the water and loses both his own bone and the image.[1]

Like how many of us men fall in love with a movie star and disregard the real woman in our life, while that of the movie star is only an image and the real person behind the image is a sinner and saint just like every other woman, like every other man.

     So Jesus’ raising up Lazarus from the dead is not only a physical thing, but also a spiritual, a symbolic thing. Raising a disciple like Lazarus from sickness and death is good, but not someone like a Herod, “a troglodyte willing to kill toddlers” in order to kill the Christ child, as Nadia Bolz-Weber said in her book Accidental Saints.[2]

     Do you know the story in the Book of Kings?[3] Isaiah told King Hezekiah back in old Judea that he should get ready to die of his sickness. The King turned his eyes to the wall and cried bitterly. God relented and sent Isaiah back to cure him and tell him that God would give him another 15 years of life. Babylonian envoys, like Russians, came to celebrate his recovery with him and he showed them all the treasures in the temple. A few kings later, the Babylonians came with an army, stole all the temple treasure, burned down the temple and took all of Judea into the Babylonian Captivity. Thus just a short time later Hezekiah’s life spelled the death of Judea and its Babylonian Captivity. Hezekiah was happy. He did not care if it was not going to happen in his reign.

     Note how Jesus did not hurry down to Bethany to prevent Lazarus from dying, although Martha, Mary, and the crowds reproached him for it. “Couldn’t this man who opened the eyes of a blind man have kept this man from dying?”

     Real death is our disconnection from God. Jesus does not prevent our sickness, suffering, and death; but pulls us through to a new life on the other side. We should have prayed for the spiritual healing of that horrible man in Brooklyn, so that he would have become a person filled with the light of Christ. Then his physical healing would have been good. Even in dying, Christ remained the life of Lazarus. And although Lazarus came back to life, he would die again. Actually, because so many people believed and came to Jesus because of Lazarus, the authorities killed him. And of course, after Jesus raised him, the authorities fearful of the Romans said, we had better kill Jesus, too, “because it is better that one man die for the people rather than the whole nation perish.”[4]

     Thus, the life of God was extinguished on the cross by the religious leaders who feared death and sided with those who take away lives rather than those who bring life and healing. Of course, what they thought would save them did just the opposite. The Romans legions came, destroyed Jerusalem, and burnt down the temple and the Jews had to wait almost 2,000 years before they could return to Israel. Had they denied themselves and said, let us die with Jesus, then God could have saved them.

     We are in the midst of events today that we can be sure has Jesus weeping. The number of refugees in our time has surpassed the number after World War II. The Middle East is in turmoil. The masses are starving in the Sudan. And here in the U.S.A. we keep on being divided. We need to call upon Jesus to raise us up, because we know how much he loves us. Like the Prophet Ezekiel, Jesus our Lord will look at our field of dry bones and raise us up, the living people of God, who have something to live for, which we are dying to share with this sorry world. Jesus our Lord wants to be our friend and change us all from life-takers into life-givers, who spend our lives and are dying to bring the Holy Spirit of life, joy, hope, faith, and peace.

     Just recently there were so many movies about zombies, the living dead, unstoppable, coming to kill and swallow all the living with death. Lazarus must have looked like a zombie coming out of his tomb. But many among us with completely healthy bodies have spirits and souls that are dead within us. Deeply disturbed, Christ has to call you and me by name: come out of your graves, let yourselves be unwrapped from your grave-clothes by the forgiveness of your sins and enter the new life that follows in Jesus’ way, the truth and not fake-news, and the life; indeed, the very source of life, Jesus our Lord.

     May the dear Lord Christ breathe the Holy Spirit over us and into us, make our old dry bones rattle back together, bring back our bodies, and make us come alive once more, with eyes that see, ears that hear, and hearts throbbing with compassion for all the walking dead, who refuse to lie down and need the new life and the Holy Spirit that will save us and them.

In his Letter to the Romans, St. Paul states, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through the Spirit that dwells in you.”[5]

Amen.

______________________

[1] Luther has meat in the dog’s mouth, but to make the point, I said and translated “a bone.” See Philip and Peter Krey, Editors, Luther’s Spirituality, (New York: Paulist Press, 2007), p. 79.

[2] Sorry, I borrowed the book, so I can’t reference the page.

[3] 2 Kings, chapter 20.

[4] John 11:50.

[5] Romans 8: 11.

Written by peterkrey

April 6, 2017 at 7:54 pm

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The Son of God, Homily at Bethlehem Midweek Lenten Service in Oakland, CA

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Bethlehem Midweek Lenten Service Psalm 8 on March 8th 2017

by Pastor Peter Krey

The Son of God

“When we consider the heavens made by your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have made, what are we human beings that you are mindful of us?” (Verse 4)

When we look up at the night sky, it is with awe, because they become for us a window, as it were, through which we see the overwhelming infinities of the universe bringing the Psalmist to proclaim: “Oh, sovereign Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” By the eyes of our God-given minds, we can perceive and be overcome by the awe of taking in this universe of swirling galaxies, supernovae, black holes, and solar systems with exoplanets orbiting around them. Imagine the gift of being able to comprehend just a little of God’s creation! Imagine how in a newer conception of the music of the spheres, the heavenly galaxies like angels sing to each other in antiphonal anthems of praise to the Creator![1]

The second verse of Psalm 8 has always been puzzling: “Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark to defy your adversities, to still the enemy and the avenger.”[2] Through the faith of little children God is keeping faith alive, so that their faith always remains as a defense against those who have lost their faith: agnostics and atheists, who do not discern the Creator with awe up in heaven through faith’s transparent physical sky. But this verse also refers to the violent and those who bring about the destruction of God’s creation with vengeance, hatred, and wars. Even in Syria, with all the buildings lying in rubble, with bombs falling, the children still play and have hope and the faith in God for a tomorrow when adults have lost it.

Think about the sun. It is 92 million miles away and our precious planet orbits around it. God placed us at just the right orbital distance, our Goldilocks zone, because if we were too close we would burn up and if we were too far away, we would all freeze. Astronomers are looking for other stars with other planets, which are also circulating around their stars with just the right warmth to welcome life and have it flourish.

But our physical sun burning up in the sky is not enough. We need to see through it to another “sun” that is the source of faith, hope, righteousness, love, forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace.[3] Look at the wars raging in the world. Look at racism, hate speech, people being abused and destroyed; walls built to divide people. Has the sun that creates God’s imagination of paradise and brings about that creation gone out? Or have we strayed from its Goldilocks zone, from the sun shining with the light in which we see light (Psalm 36:9).

We need to orient ourselves toward the Son of God and that Sun is that source of life, faith, love, forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace. In that orbit our planet spins in the Goldilocks zone of the peace that passes understanding. That Son is the Face of God. In our lives before the Face of God, we flourish. When God’s face turns away from us we perish. That is the basis for my song, “I am Calling, Jesus Savior.”

I am calling, Jesus Savior/ won’t you hear me, O, o Savior / and send your favor/ today.

We languish without you/ and flourish about you/ please be gracious O, o Savior/ we pray.

What you’ve done amazes / your love just dazes / O my soul sings praises / all day.[4]

 

This song tries to echo the Aronitic Blessing:

The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace. Amen.

In this blessing, it is quite easy to compare the Face of God shining on us with the physical sun.  All our material and physical life here on earth flourishes because of the sun, which is shining in the sky; while God’s creation continues to flourish and the evil of its destruction is overcome in what the scripture calls the shining Sun of Righteousness.

When we are mindful of the God revealed in Jesus Christ and live before the Face of God in Christ, we remain in the “Goldilocks zone.” But if we try to approach the hidden God, the source of all – creation – of the physical and material world as well as life, thought, and love – approach the hidden God – apart from Christ, we would not only become overwhelmed, but we would die, because no one can see the Face of God and live. Approaching God outside of Jesus Christ would reduce us to ashes.  

But thank God, we worship a God who became a human being, a God who “survived” being a human being and now remains our loving and forgiving God. because God came to be with us in Jesus Christ, God knows what we go through and is filled with love and forgiveness for us.

     So Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Face of God, is the one we orient our lives around, our created planet orbits around. But for the most part, humanity has strayed from the orbit of God’s Goldilocks zone. Far away from God our angry hearts grow cold and become filled with hate, revenge, violence, and war. When we remain in the true orbit, in the right relationship with God, loving God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind and our neighbor as ourselves – then we remain in the Goldilocks zone of God’s good Creation here on earth, which Jesus called the Kingdom of Heaven and Martin Luther King, Jr. called the beloved community.

     The way God became a human being in Jesus Christ, we grow and mature as human beings in Christ. The more richly Christ lives in us, the more we know ourselves, receive an existentially enriched sentience, receive the capacity to multiply our relationships and increase their quality, receive the mind of Christ and receive Christ’s heart throbbing with love and compassion in our breast.

     In our orbit around the Son of God, Jesus Christ, the human Face of God, we flourish like plants, flowers, and trees blossoming in the sun. Thus, we have to repent, become heliotropic and turn our faces toward the Son of God. Why should we go astray and swerve out of orbit into empty space? Let us repent and become created by the light of God, who became a human being, creating our feet to walk in God’s ways; our hands, to do God’s will; our mouths, to speak God’s words, our ears to hear God’s voice, our hearts beating like his for the sake of forgiveness, love, and compassion.

After members of the congregation shared stories and comments, the homily concluded in the description and explanation of Luther’s four forums of our relationships: before God, before others, before ourselves, and the image we project into the world: coram Deo, coram hominibus, coram meipso, and coram mundo in Latin. When we live our lives before God, God defines us and creates us. We see God’s eyes and bask in God’s approval or see God’s eyes turn down in disapproval. Then we have to deal with our conscience. Those who do not believe in God shut out this whole transcendent existence, live only in the eyes of their neighbors, (coram hominibus) and from a theological point of view, have short-changed themselves. They may have to keep up with the Jones. The eyes of others can define their existence and lock them into a completely secular existence.

Living our life in our own eyes, (coram meipso) we might think that we know ourselves better than anyone. But that is not true. God sees our naked self and knows us and we only get to know ourselves through God’s knowledge of us. “For now we see through a mirror darkly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know even as also I am known.”[5] The image many project into the world (coram mundo) can be very different from who they really are. But people can be on several of these forums at the same time. Sometimes we have to turn our back on others (coram hominibus) to turn to God (coram Deo). We need not fear, before the Face of God, we do not lose face. And I always pray: “Dear God, give me grace, so I do not fall on my face.”

“Return to Lord your God, for he is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love!”  Amen.

_________________

[1] Check out Walter Murch on Michael Krasny’s NPR’s Forum speaking about the “music of the spheres” in terms of taking frequencies from vibrations of heavenly bodies in the universe and sonifying them into our auditory range so they produce musical notes. The cosmic sound of a Bb supposedly comes from the universe and the four planets around Jupiter make a combination of notes (Ab, E, C, and Bb) that sound pleasant to the ear. Thus, I stretch Walter Murch’s insights to say that the galaxies sing to each other. 

[2] I took the wording of this verse from the translation of Artur Weiser, The Psalms, (Philadelphia: the Westminster Press, 1962), page 139. I changed the “thee” and “thou’s” to “you” and “your’s.”

[3] Plato contemplated an invisible, intellectual “Sun,” as the form of forms of beauty, goodness, and truth. He would call it the “Good,” and it could be considered a philosophical conception of God. Here I am interpreting it to be the Son of God, the Face of God, that source of light in which we see light.

In the service Mary spoke about entering Light in the story of her dying mother. Often people who have died and return speak of ascending toward and up into “Light.”While Mary’s mother was dying, she always kept coming back from the light she was approaching, because she told her Mary that she forgot one of her shoes. Mary explained to her that she did not need shoes in Heaven. Together they sang the children’s song, “I’m a little light-beam” which her mother always sang to her as a child and her mother died peacefully. After the funeral, Mary took picture of the Gazebo in which her mother’s urn was interred to remember the beautiful flowers. She did not see it when she took the picture, but when she saw the picture, there was a light beam entering right into the Gazebo. Mary states that it touches her heart and deepens her faith every time she looks at the picture:

Mom's sunbeam

[4] In Soundcloud, I call it the Phoebe Song, because the notes were taken from the call of a phoebe bird. Should you want to hear it: 

[5] 1 Corinthians 13:12.

 

Written by peterkrey

March 15, 2017 at 1:34 pm

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On the Transfiguration at Bethlehem February 26, 2017

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Transfiguration of our Lord – 26th of February, 2017 at Bethlehem

Exodus 24:12-18 / Psalm 2 / 2 Peter 1:16-21 / Matthew 17:1-9

The Transfiguration

You may have heard about the far-away solar system that one of our telescopes out in space determined had seven planets revolving around their sun, which is so far away that it looks like a star to us. That sun is more dim than our sun and smaller. If our sun was the size of a basketball, it would be the size of a golf ball.[1] But the planets, called exoplanets, because they are not planets in our solar system, are about the size of our earth and astronomers are testing to see if water is on their surface – and if so, there could be life out there. But the star, called Trappist-1, is almost 40 light years away and that means trillions of miles away, so let us try to stay on earth and talk about earthly stars – and one of those stars is Jesus Christ our Lord, indeed, the sun “involving” our faith.

Yes, his face up there on Transfiguration mountain shone like the sun and his clothes dazzled the disciples with their brilliance. St. Paul says that we can ascend from glory to glory, from splendor to splendor. Apply that to stars, we speak about their magnitudes. Stars at the sixth magnitude are visible to the naked eye, if you have good eye-sight. In the little dipper, there are second and third magnitude stars and in the big dipper there are even stars of the first magnitude, very bright stars.

But Paul is referring to people filled with the grace of God. some of us hardly shine and some of us by increasing in faith, by trusting more and more in the promises of God, grow brighter from one glory to the next, from splendor to splendor. (As scripture says, the friends of God are like the sun when it rises in all its splendor [2] – Judges 5:31.) In this ascent, we can receive more and more angel-power, as I like to call it.

Peter, James, and John climbing up that mountain with Jesus, suddenly saw the heavenly Jesus. They saw God shining through the Christ who walked with them and with him, they saw Moses and Elijah conversing with him. Moses and Elijah were speaking with Jesus about the coming valley of Lent, his Passion, and the cruel suffering on the cross that he was now about to undergo. But the Transfiguration, the real Epiphany of this whole season of Light, strengthened him in order to bear the cross and through it, get to the glorious resurrection from the dead. God repeated his baptism affirmation: “This is my Son, the Beloved; with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

Moses appearing beside Christ stood for the law and Elijah for the prophets, while Jesus as the whole Word of God, glowed, radiated the light of the Gospel. We thank God for our Bibles, but the living Word of God, the shining Son of God, radiating all of God’s promises, shone up there on that mountain for Jesus’ inner circle Peter, James, and John.

The Old Testament, the law and the prophets are a testament, a testimony to Jesus and the whole New Testament was written only in order to be a testimony to him, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Behold, the human being! – created by God, but in his divinity, begotten of the Father, God’s very Son. Just think, if Jesus had not been born, the New Testament would not even have been written!

One of my commentaries talked about how the tyrant, King Herod wanted to appear as a god and be worshipped. He had a shimmering silver gown made for him, assembled all in an arena for a sunrise and when the sun arose, the light hit his silver gown, bursting into brilliant streams of light and he wanted to be worshipped by those present as a god. The story goes that worms then ate him up and he died a miserable death.[3] That was a phony transfiguration. The enlightenment of Buddha under a Bodhi tree was authentic. He was really trying to provide a way to deal with human suffering. But imagine trying to insist that your glorious clothes made you mature in that kind of a glory? I know that the movie stars on their red carpet can deceive us in this way.

You know that I studied Martin Luther of old. In his pamphlet, “The Freedom of a Christian,” (1520) he talks of angels ascending and descending upon those who have Christ within them. He taught that we grow by the tension of opposites. Thus he opposed faith and love. Because of faith we are completely free and sovereign, subject to no one, not a president, not a pope, nor a boss. We are subject to no one. That’s how high God lifts us up through faith, making us God’s children. That also goes for the government in a democracy. The president is not over us, because we are all citizens. The president serves citizens.

But we fall in love. Love makes us descend and makes us slaves, so that we even have to stoop down to serve and help children, the homeless, and the very least in our society.

Thus, we are slaves by love and completely free by faith. Up there by faith we are strengthened for the love required down here. Yes, we are slaves by love and completely free by faith; we are sinners and saints and this tension makes us grow. Luther calls this growing and maturing rapture.[4] So in Christ we get high, but by maturing and growing.

First Luther says, no matter our birth order (I’m the eleventh in my family) we become first-born for Christ, and Christ promises us the inheritance. Then we grow up further receiving the nobility of the spirit and the nobility of the blood can’t hold a candle to the nobility of the spirit. So square your shoulders, stand up straight and lift up your self-esteem, because you are royalty, kings and queens before God. Here we would have to say, presidents, senators, and governors. Now some people cannot even take care of themselves, but when God promotes you to a higher level by a strong share of divine grace, you can take care of a family, a city, a state, a country. But what is higher than that, Luther says, is becoming a priest, because a priest prays for others and intercedes before God for them, and what’s more, God listens to them. Above that we are raised up by the grace of God to become Christs for others and from Christs we are raised up into God.

That is where Christ arose in the transfiguration, but only to receive the strength from the mountain-top of faith to become more than victorious in the valley of his suffering and dying on the cross because of his love for us.

Let me witness about my own life: once I remember being in an anti-racism training back in the nineteen sixties. It was awful. The trainers wanted White people to feel what it was like to be discriminated against, rejected and abused. It felt like being put through a meat grinder and in the worship service that was to end the long event, a cloud of depression came over all the participants. Suddenly I couldn’t help it. I started singing “We Shall Overcome” disrupting the whole service. The people next to me tried to stop me and keep me quiet, but they couldn’t. I couldn’t stop myself. I was somehow singing and it was not my voice, but the voice of the Holy Spirit. Then everybody joined in, everybody held hands around the church and they danced out of the church, turning depression into celebration.

Afterward, the synod, angry because we protested the firing of our first Black professor, decertified me so that I could not become ordained. My seminary failed me in my  examinations, also for political reasons. The president of the seminary told me I should go to Germany until people cooled down. It took me four years after seminary to become ordained and that by the German Bishop of Berlin-Brandenburg, (by Bp. Kurt Scharf in 1975) but through all that time I knew that I had been affirmed by the Holy Spirit by what happened back on that day. It gave me the strength to get through those four years. I had problems. I was immature. But where they claimed I was a building in ruins coming down, the Holy Spirit assured me that I was a new construction going up.

     Now I will not go into the booths or tents or dwellings that Peter talked about in this story. This is Jesus’ mountain-top experience, but we too; it goes for us too. You can’t hold onto a mountain-top experience like that. You just know that you have had a glimpse of the person you will become in Christ, and then you just put the cross between your shoulder-blades and soldier on, because your faith becomes active in love and love seeks justice, the merciful kind.

     So you are the stars St. Paul talks about. It is for you to increase in faith and in the angel-power of love. Riding on grace, you will shine brighter from one glory to the next, from one splendor to the next. Hollywood stars are phony for the most part. In Universal Studios in LA, the first thing they do to you is throw a brick at you. You duck. Then you realize that it is a foam-rubber brick. Hollywood stars can be deceptive like that. They seem to know all about love, and then you find that they were married six times.

     You are the real stars. When your little light starts shining, when you pray – and sometimes we prayed all Saturday night until beginning the Sunday morning service here in Bethlehem – you will increase in faith from glory to glory. So steep yourselves into the Word of God. Pray without ceasing, and let God’s Epiphany light, the light of the Gospel get brighter and brighter shining in this place. Amen.

____________________

[1] Kenneth Chang, “Seven Earth Sized Planets Orbit Dwarf Star, NASA and Astronomers Say,” NYT, February 22, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/22/science/trappist-1-exoplanets-nasa.html?_r=0.

[2]  Judges 5:31.

[3] This comes from Flavius Josephus, (Antiquities 19.8.2) but it is also referred to in Acts 12:19-23. Frederick Houk Borsch, Proclamation 4: Aids for interpreting the lessons of the Church Year: Epiphany Series A (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1989), page 61.  Historical Evidence for Herod Agrippa http://www.biblehistory.net/newsletter/herod_agrippa.htm.

[4] I like to call it the existential rapture.

Written by peterkrey

February 26, 2017 at 11:07 pm

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The Double Victory, Feb. 19, 2017 at Bethlehem, West 12th Street, Okland

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7th Sunday of Epiphany Bethlehem Lutheran Church February 19th 2017

Lev 19:1-2,9-18 Psalm 119: 33-40 I Cor 3:10-11, 16-23 Matt 5:38-48

The Double Victory

Paulo Freire wrote a book called Pedagogy of the Oppressed[1] and in it he explained that those who revolt against their oppressors usually just bring about a reversal: they get into power only to become the new oppressors. He asks the question: how can oppression in itself be overcome in a society? Freire asked a question that is in the spirit of Jesus and that is why we had to read the book way back in the seminary. The idea is that the oppressed had to realize that their struggle was not only for themselves, but also for their oppressors. That requires Jesus’ love of our enemies and praying for those who persecute and abuse us.

     While studying out in my driveway a woman walking her dog stopped and talked with me. She had just come out of jail and she had held a deep grudge and could not forgive someone who had hurt her. In jail, she came to the end of her own strategies and strength and got down on her knees in her prison cell and surrendered herself to God. She compared her newly won forgiveness with changing a baby’s diapers. But we soil ourselves also as grownups sometimes: “You might be comfortable in your own soiled pants for a while,” she said, “but then you are going to stink. With forgiveness, you change and get into a clean and fresh pair of pants. That’s what forgiveness does for you.” She used much more colorful language, of course.

     In the German of 1939 a fellow worker turned in a Jew to the Nazis and all through his years in the concentration camp he plotted and nursed the revenge he was going to take. When the war ended and he was released, he was walking down a street in Austria and he saw his fellow worker walking toward him. Murderous feelings welled up in him, but suddenly he said to himself, “This has to stop somewhere!” and he just passed him and walked on by.

     Martin Luther King, Jr. said that we are going to match your ability to inflict suffering with our ability to endure it. “One day we will win freedom, but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process and our victory will be a double victory.”[2]

     The Gospel of Jesus Christ makes us more than victorious. The victory is not only ours but also for the enemy.[3]

     Jesus refers to the law of Moses, the Law of Equity, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Moses was putting the limit on blood feud and the law of revenge. The law of revenge is also called the law of retaliation (lex taliones). It can be found in Genesis: And Lamech said, “I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. If Cain is avenged seven-fold, truly Lamech will be avenged seventy times seven-fold.”[4]

     Moses reformed this law of revenge: if a person knocks out your tooth, only a tooth is allowed in return. So, the punishment has to be equal and proportionate to the harm suffered.

     But our Savior Jesus proclaims the law of love. “It has been said of old, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, but I say unto you, do not resist the evil-doer.” Love your enemies. If someone asks you for forgiveness, seven times is not the limit, but seventy times seven times. On the other side of the law of equity he replaces the law of revenge with the law of love.

     Now individually enduring a great deal of suffering we can live out the Gospel like that. It makes us authentic, genuine, mature, holy, set apart for the perfection given us from on high. With plenteous redemption and abundant grace, we grow into the full stature of Christ. But there is a book by Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society,[5] our countries still operate under the law of revenge and often it is not even proportional to the harm that we have received. We had about 3,000 casualties in 9/11 and how many Iraqis and Afghans have died? How many more casualties did we sustain exacting our revenge?

     Jesus is giving us a strategy to overcome evil with good. Continuing an eye for an eye, most of us end up blind; a tooth for a tooth, we’d all end up with partials. Evil has to be overcome by good. Only light can overcome darkness. But on the other hand, we are not allowed to keep on taking abuse from a husband or wife or a bully or boss. We can take on the abject cowardice of a victim and in that way, and with that we become an accomplice to the crime being committed against us.

     Jesus is full of courage and is speaking about becoming more than victorious and gaining the double victory that Martin Luther King refers to.

     The Old Testament lesson is full of good ways to be merciful and law-abiding. Psalm one says, “Blessed is the one who mediates on God’s law, day and night” and then Psalm 119 is all about the law and a psalmist taking day and night meditating upon it. It is the longest psalm and it takes you day and night to read it. It has 176 verses. In verse 105 it says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” And then St. Paul says, don’t you know that you are God’s temple and God’s spirit dwells within you?

     We are usually kind and loving to each other during the church service. Beggars used to sit right outside the church doors when people were coming out of worship to get a hand-out before the good and warm feelings of the people wore off. But Saint Paul reminds us that we are the church, a sanctuary, a temple. When we are the church then the real presence of Christ is within us. The Holy Spirit is within us. When the Samaritan woman asked Jesus if the temple in Jerusalem or in Bethel was the one, in which to worship, he said that we ourselves were the church; the spirit was in us even outside this beautiful sanctuary, this church. Thus, we worship God in spirit and truth. And God’s Spirit remains in us when we are the church living our everyday lives. Our bodies are a sanctuary, a church. Everywhere we go we are still church and a sanctuary for those in need. And the purpose of the preaching is not emotionality but morality, according to Martin Luther King.

     But remember the Gospel. When our lives are shattered and we ask God, “Where are all your promises, where are all the promises you made to me?” We cannot achieve the promised good and moral life by our own strength and effort. When we surrender to God, the way that woman did in her jail cell and say, “O God I’ve come to the end of my strength. I can’t go on. Now let me live out of your strength. Here I am. My life is yours. Live my life.” At this point you and I no longer live, but Christ lives in us. And then you will see a train of miracles, just like those Christ worked here on earth. You will open the eyes of the blind, cause the deaf to hear and cry like Jesus: “Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.”

     Our prayer for the day said,

Holy God of compassion, you invite us into your way of forgiveness and peace. Lead us to love our enemies and transform our words and deeds to be like his, through whom we pray, Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord.

This prayer mentions our words and deeds, but we ourselves need to be transformed. Martin Luther King again, “Only through inner spiritual transformation do we gain the strength to fight vigorously the evils of the world in a humble and loving way.”[6] So we ourselves have to become transformed and grow and mature into the full stature of Christ and then our words will be the words that Christ speaks and our deeds will be his miracles, because even now we do the impossible and those miracles that are around the corner just take a little longer. Indeed, all things are possible to those who believe. Amen.

______________________

[1] Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, (Herder and Herder, 1970). I attended Hamma School of Theology in Wittenberg University, Springfield, Ohio 1967-1971.

[2] Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, (New York: Harper & Rowe, Publishers, 1963), p. 40. In the Philadelphia: 1981 Fortress Press edition, pp. 54-55.

[3] Ibid., 1963 edition, page 39: when Abraham Lincoln was asked by a shocked woman how he could say kind words about the South when times were the most bitter, he answered, “Madam, do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

[4] Genesis 4:23-24.

[5] Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1932).

[6] Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength To Love, (1963), p. 13.

Written by peterkrey

February 20, 2017 at 6:09 pm

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Under the Influence of the Holy Spirit and the Law versus the Gospel 2/12/17 Sermon at Bethlehem Church in Oakland

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Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 6th Sunday of Epiphany, February 12th 2017

 Deuteronomy 30: 15-20 Psalm 119: 1-8 I Cor 3:1-9 Matthew 5:21-37

Under the Influence of the Holy Spirit

Preface: I first called this sermon The Law versus the Gospel because the Gospel lesson that I read to you from the Sermon on the Mount is really law and can come across in a very judgmental way. We have to make a distinction between the gospel as a genre, which in this case contains the law, and the Gospel as all the promises of God: abundant life, forgiveness of sins, salvation, and even life everlasting. The Gospel is absolute, while the law is relative to a time and place, except for the natural law of preserving life, nourishing life, educating the young, and improving life. The Gospel gives the wherewithal to fulfill the law; indeed, to do more than the law requires. Now to my sermon.

I thank God that you called me to preach and preside for you this morning. What an honor it is to be able to preach the Word of God for you for three Sundays! I remember, back about fifteen years ago, when Pr. Julius Carroll asked me to step in for him during his sabbatical after my four years at St. John’s Lutheran Church in East Oakland. I spent two years with you at that time and then how Pr. Richard Rubio Bowley called me after I returned from Philadelphia in 2008 for another two years with you. We even stepped back in for six weeks when Pr. Clay had to be treated for cancer – so our relationship goes back a long way.

     What is important, however, is your strengthening up by increasing your faith and your numbers. The prayer for today provides what you and I need to hear and take to heart for this strengthening.

O God, you are the strength of all of us who hope in you, because we are weak mortals and we cannot accomplish anything good without you.

That means we cannot increase our faith and our numbers here at Bethlehem without the help of God, without the real presence of Christ. Without that we are helpless. The prayer continues:

Help us understand the things we ought to do and give us the grace and the power to do them, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

And God will answer this prayer for you. I can witness to you from experience that God answers prayer. “God turns, turns, turns those around who turn away from you.”[1] That comes from Psalm 126. To put your address on its words: When God restored the fortunes of Bethlehem, then we thought we were dreaming and our overflowing pews were filled with laughter…Those who plant their seeds with tears will come back carrying the sheathes, rejoicing – their harvest, that means, bringing in all the new members into Bethlehem, rejoicing! “Bringing in the sheathes, bringing in the sheathes, we shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheathes!” That’s a song for Bethlehem Missionary Lutheran Church!

     Our Old Testament lesson tells us to choose life! The death wish is very strong, but the power of the Holy Spirit is stronger. Christ came to bring life, abundant life! St. Paul in First Corinthians reminds us not to have divisions, but to be one in Christ like the family you’ve become; and the Gospel takes each commandment and increases it to the Nth degree. Thou shalt not kill: don’t even insult anyone or call them names! Thou shalt not commit adultery: don’t even allow lust to take hold of you. If what you are looking at makes you stumble: cut it out. If what your hand is doing, those things you do that make you stumble: cut it out. Old primitive punishments like plucking our eyes and cutting off hands were crimes in and of themselves. The Gospel has lifted us up so we don’t take those words literally. But if you are a doctor and someone has gangrene in his or her leg, you have to cut it off to save the person’s life. The medical sense would make it different.

     But think of a poor addict: we can feel powerless and like St. Paul says, the good that we would do, we don’t do; and the wrong that we don’t want to do, that’s what we do. “Who can save us from this body of death. Thanks, be to God,” St. Paul exclaims, “Jesus Christ!” The Holy Spirit gives us the grace and the strength to overcome the treachery in our cheating hearts. I usually pray: “Dear God, give me grace, so I don’t fall on my face.”

     Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, there’s no obligation: we can’t help choosing life, can’t help walking the straight and narrow, can’t help loving one another, can’t help bringing ourselves and others together, strengthening our congregation. And of course, one member that you really need is a pastor. But don’t forget: Christ, the Good Shepherd is really present among you and you are also the priesthood of believers – meaning that you are all ministers.

You are all ministers. Now that is a big thing that makes us little. We can seat our pastor at a head table and that love and respect is good; or as some congregations do, buy him a Rolls Royce. But look at the word “minister” carefully. Do you hear “mini” in it? “Mini” means little. St. Paul was called Saul after the King who was six inches taller than anyone in Israel. (He would have been a good basketball player.) When Christ stopped him in his tracks, he called him Paul from the Latin Paulus-a-um, meaning little, little one. So being ministers means making ourselves little and doing little acts of kindness and sharing blessed assurances of love.

     And those little things mean a lot. (You may know the song.) And the little things, like feeding the hungry, which is not so little here, come from Bethlehem’s big heart. I know because I have experienced it. And when that kind of love, service, and respect well up in a congregation, even spring up like a fountain, then people will come to quench the thirst of their souls and the fill the hunger of their hearts. When people experience it, they get out of their death wish to which they are addicted and choose the abundant life in Christ. They yearn for oneness, where people are one heart and soul together – by the grace of Christ. And we will not kill, we will not hurt, we will not insult one another. We will not let lust give us an impure heart. We will not swear and our word yes will be yes and our no will be no.

     In the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew intensifies each commandment. Martin Luther of old redirected the commandments to their positive side. Thou shalt not kill means that we should love our neighbor as ourselves through the grace and strength that God gives us. Thou shalt not commit adultery: husbands love and respect your wives and wives love and respect your husbands, mutually. You can mutually say to one another: Be my Valentine? When we dally outside of faith and allow our faith to decrease, we can easily become tempted away by the world. We have to take time to pray, read our bibles, come to church, and encourage one another.

     We can say: “What’s the use? We have had one pastor after another and look where we are today?” Now I don’t know whether for the Super Bowl you were a Falcon or a Patriot’s fan, but what if Tom Brady had said “What’s the use?” 25 points behind? They said it could not be done! They said nobody could do it! But when you realize Christ is really present with you, making you one heart and soul together, you have a quarterback greater than Tom Brady. It does not matter how far behind you’ve come. The Holy Spirit puts you out front again. The Holy Spirit makes it so that we get back into the game, “the wonderful game called love.” In the Holy Spirit, we can’t help doing little random acts of kindness and senseless acts of love. When we no longer live, but Christ lives in us, then we too can sing the song, “I can’t help loving you. I’ve made up my mind.” Because that is the mind of Christ, which we share. The mind of Christ, mind you, makes us one heart and soul in Christ, with a power far greater than any addiction.

     The Gospel is that God writes straight on crooked lines.[2] Hey, we’re sinners, but God must have loved sinners, because he made so many of us. But when Christ lives in our hearts and lives our lives, then we become saints, the saints of God. So, let’s pray that Bethlehem catches a new pastor, a pastor who is a mini-ster not a magi-ster. And that the Holy Spirit give Bethlehem’s members the grace, resources, and power to call that pastor – so that by God’s grace Bethlehem increases in strength and numbers. Because Bethlehem needs to have that powerful life-giving and loving impact on this neighborhood, on Oakland, and the others places that you come from.

You are named after the tiny city of Bethlehem in Judea and look at the impact it had on the whole world. That’s because Christ was born in that Bethlehem of old and imagine the impact of this congregation because Christ gets born in your hearts here in Bethlehem on West 12th Street in Oakland? And then Christ will come again and say, “Well done, you good and faithful servants. Amen.

___________________

[1] From my song: “Turn, Turn, Turn Them around Who are Turning Away.” (Psalm 126)

[2] An old Portuguese saying.

Written by peterkrey

February 14, 2017 at 10:20 pm

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Auf unseren Glauben, darauf kommt’s An! An Advents Heiligabend Gottesdienst in Manteca and El Cerrito, CA 11/17 and 12/18/2016

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Advents Heiligabend Gottesdienst in EL CERRITO, CA

November 27th 2016

Auf unseren Glauben, darauf kommt’s An!

Für diese Weihnachtsgeschichte, die uns so bekannt ist, kommt’s darauf an, dass wir glauben. Die Hauptsache dabei ist unser Glaube – dass wir glauben, dass Gott zu uns gekommen ist in dieser Geschichte vom Christkind, Joseph, Maria, die Engel und Hirten und alle nach Bethlehem.

Vor vielen Jahren bin ich einmal in Bethlehem gewesen, und zwar bin ich von der Stadt herunter in die Felder gelaufen, wo damals die Hirten ihre Herden gehütet haben. Und als ich weiter und weiter durch die Felder von der Stadt weg kam, hab ich mich verirrt und tatsächlich waren Hirten da in derselben Gegend und ich bat um Auskunft welcher Weg zurück zur Stadt führte. Sie haben mir den Weg und die Richtung gezeigt, aber als ich wieder den Weg erklomm, wurde es plötzlich Nacht, dass ich die Hand vor Augen nicht sehen konnte. Aber als ich nur ein Stückchen weiterlief, sah ich die ganze Stadt mit unzähligen Lichtern aufleuchten. Dann hab ich an das Wort Christi gedacht: „Es kann eine Stadt die auf einen Berge liegt, nicht verborgen sein.“ (Mat 5:14) Die Stadt war von Wolken umgeben, wie der Rahmen eines Gemäldes, so wunderschön wie ein leuchtender Weihnachtsbaum.   

     Bethlehem, die Stadt selbst hat ihr Zeugnis abgelegt, dass das Licht der Welt in ihr geboren war. Und wenn wir mit Glauben an das Christkind entzündet sind, dann leuchten wir auch, denn Christus spricht, „Ihr seid das Licht der Welt“ und wenn wir mit Glauben aufleuchten, dann können wir Jesaja verstehen: „Das Volk, dass in der Finsternis wandelt, sieht ein Großes Licht, und über denen, die im Finstern Lande wohnen, scheint es hell.“ (9:1).

     Als in Bethlehem das Christkind, Marias Sohn, geboren war, haben die Engel zuerst die Frohe Botschaft an die Hirten verkündigt. „Ja, der Engel des Herrn trat zu ihnen und die Klarheit des Herrn leuchtete um sie und der Engel sprach, ‚Fürchtet euch nicht. Siehe ich verkündige euch große Freude, die allem Volk wiederfahren wird, denn euch ist ein Heiland geboren, welcher ist Christus, der Herr, in der Stadt Davids.’“

     Wir singen so viel von Bethlehem, weil Christus der Herr, Gottes Sohn, selbst in dieser Stadt zu uns Menschen gekommen ist um uns zu erretten. Wie Jesaja weitersagt: Unser Heiland wird das drückende Joch und die Jochstange und den Stecken des Treibers zerbrechen. Das bedeutet die Freiheit eines Christlichen Menschen, wie Luther es sagen würde. Und dabei werden wir große Freude erfahren. Der Prophet Jesaja hat schon vorausgesagt wie unsere Weihnachtslieder mit Freude erfüllt sein werden.

Denn uns ist ein Kind geboren

ein Sohn ist uns gegeben!

„Und die Herrschaft liegt auf seiner Schulter und er wird heißen: Wunder-Rat, Gott-Held, Ewig-Vater, Friede-Fürst.“ Viele von den Königen Ägyptens, die Pharaonen, hatten vier Thron-Namen. Der Ramesses der Siebente, zum Beispiel, hatte einen Geburtsname und vier Thron-namen: Usermara, Meryamun, Setepenra, und Ramasses. So der Messias auch. „Wunder-Rat, Gott-Held, Ewig-Vater, Friede-Fürst. Auf das seine Herrschaft groß werde und des Friedens kein Ende auf den Thron Davids und in seinem Königreich, dass er’s stärke und stütze durch Recht und Gerechtigkeit von nun an bis in Ewigkeit.“ (9:5-6)

Daher flogen die himmlischen Heerscharen vom den offenen Himmel herab und stiegen wieder von der Erde in den Himmel herauf jauchzend: „Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe, Friede auf Erden, und den Menschen ein Wohlgefallen!“

     Auf unser Glauben kommt’s an. Der Engel des Herrn hat diese Frohe Botschaft erst an den armen Hirten verkündigt, dann die Hirten, an Maria und Joseph und allen die um Jesu Krippe herum staunten, als die Hirten sich in Pastoren verwandelten und das himmlische Wort verbreiteten. Und allen vor die es kam, verwunderten sich der Frohen Botschaft, die ihnen die Hirten gesagt haben. Maria, aber behielt alle diese Worte und bewegte sie in ihrem Herzen.

Wenn wir die echte Frohe Botschaft der Hirten hören und auch glauben, dann werden sie auch unsere Herzen bewegen und die Krippe Jesu in unserem Herzen wiegen als die Mutter Maria singt:

Joseph, lieber Joseph mein,

hilf mir wiegen mein Kindelein

und Joseph antwortet

Gerne, lieb’ Maria mein

helf’ ich wiegen dein Kindelein.

Denn nachdem der Jungfrauen Sohn Marias in deinem und meinem Herzen geboren wird, dann muss er ruhig schlafen und aufwachsen, damit Christus in uns stark und kräftig wird und wir andere Herzen mit der frohen Botschaft bewegen können. Ja, wiegen wir die Krippe des Christkindes mit Maria und Joseph in unseren Herzen damit es schlafen kann im himmlischer Ruh.

     Dann können wir auch die Frohe Botschaft von Jesaja hören und erfahren,

Uns ist ein Kind geboren

ein Sohn ist uns gegeben!

Diese Geburt des Christkindes ist unsere neue Geburt, auf der die ganze Schöpfung wartet, die neue Geburt der Kinder Gottes!

Und wir, die Kinder Gottes versammeln uns in einer Gemeinde und wie die Kerzen von einem zu einem anderen angezündet werden, so erfüllt der Glaube einen nach dem anderen, bis wir alle zusammen als Licht der Welt leuchten, und unsere Kirche, vom Licht der Welt entzündet, wird wie die Stadt Bethlehem auf Gottes Berg Zion aufleuchten. Denn wir sollen unser Licht nicht unter einen Scheffel stellen, sondern auf einen Leuchter, wie diese öffentliche Kirche, damit alle im ganzen Haus, in der ganzen Stadt El Cerrito, im Bundesstaat Kalifornien, und im ganzen Land erleuchtet werden. Amen.

Der Friede Gottes, welcher höher ist als alle Vernunft, bewahre Eure Herzen und Sinne in Christus Jesus. Amen.

 

 

Written by peterkrey

January 27, 2017 at 6:26 pm

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