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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.

 

 

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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.

___________________________

[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

Christ is the Rock: a Sermon at the Church Picnic, August 27th, 2017

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The Time after Pentecost  August 27th 2017

Isaiah 51:1-6 Psalm 138 Romans 12:1-8 Matthew 16:13-20

Christ is the Rock

This worship was taking place at Bethlehem’s annual picnic: What a wonderful thing to worship out here under the open sky in the temple made by God’s hands and not by ours: out here in the grass and under the trees, instead of in pews and under a roof of our making. So let us witness out here to Jesus Christ our Lord, the way Peter did. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!”

How gracious Jesus was to Peter! Jesus answers, “And you are Peter” – or the rock, petros means rock in Greek, “and upon this rock [petra] I will build my church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” We know how shaky Peter was, how he denied Jesus three times and so often over-reacted. A little further on in our scripture Jesus has to say “Get thee behind me, Satan” to him! But Peter learned to stand on Christ the solid rock, upon which we also stand, as shaky and sinful as we also often can be. We know that Christ is the Rock and upon that solid Rock we can take our stand. All other ground is sinking sand!

It is important to realize that the place Caesarea Philippi, where Jesus asked his disciples who people said he was and more important still, who they said he was, was the center of pagan worship and the place of the Caesars. There was a grotto there where the god Pan was worshiped and where the Caesars named the city after themselves. So in effect, you are the Christ, the Son of the living God, the power and the glory and the dominion are yours and they do not belong to the Caesars ruling the Roman Empire. Because the one true God sent his Messiah into the world to save us, the way no earthly ruler can do. For us, Jesus also conquered death!

The Son of the living God was there when the world was created. Check out the Prologue of the Gospel of John. Yes, in the creation when God placed the sun, moon, and stars in the sky, the Son set them orbiting and spinning like a top in space and made it possible for the moon, which is 400 times smaller than the sun, to go to just right place to eclipse the sun, the way we saw it Monday! Did you get a chance to see it? We may have seen it at 90% after driving 40 miles to get out from under our cloud cover.  Then God knew to keep the sun, which has a corona with a temperature of millions of degrees in Fahrenheit, just the right distance from us to nurture and sustain our lives. Did that happen by chance? No God created the heavens and the Earth!

But the Son of God is close to each one of us and can be in our hearts, the way no earthly ruler can be, and save us, even through the valley of death and bring us into the kingdom of his and our Father!

“On Christ the solid rock we stand. All other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand.”[1] We become living stones, hewn from the Quarry, the Rock of Christ, and we make up the living church and it is good to be out here, where the church building does not distract us from how we are the church. Yes, we are the living stones of the church.

I read the papers religiously, because Karl Barth said to read the Bible but also the newspapers to translate the Bible into our times. Look at this heading: “I worship Jesus, not Xi Jinping.”[2] The writer is a Christian in Hong Kong, who is going to jail because he opposes the way the Chinese government is co-opting Christianity, saying that to follow the government’s lead of “One Belt, One Road” their slogan, would also spread the gospel. Meanwhile they are restricting free speech, freedom of assembly and the democratic rights that Hong Kong had under Britain, but now is losing under China. The government of China is atheist and very worried to keep communism alive and they don’t like Christians. So in one province they started removing all the crosses from on-top of the churches. Then they started tearing them down, razing the churches down to the ground, pretending they had structural problems, to stop the Christians from worshipping. The Christian writer of this article, Derek Lam has been protesting these anti-Christian actions of the government. Now he will go to jail with other Christian activists like him, who dare to protest. Because he is going to jail, he can no longer become a pastor and he has had his heart set on becoming a pastor! Jail in the laws over there must rule it out, while Jesus sat in jail before his trial. Peter was imprisoned and sat in jail. What kind of a rule is that? But just like Peter witnessed to Christ, the Son of the living God right where the Caesars sponsored a pagan religion, Derek Lam is witnessing to Christ, right in the face of the powerful ruler of China, Xi Jinping.

Now the question: the government does not take the crosses off our churches in our society. The government does not tear down our churches so that we can’t worship. Why does one church after another close in our midst? Did we conform to the world rather than transform the society around us? Why did St. Philip’s close and have to join Bethlehem? Why did First Lutheran and our Savior’s have to join up to become United and we wonder what other churches will close? We have to ponder our witness. We have to say that it’s upon Christ the solid rock upon which we stand and all other ground is sinking sand. We have to become chips of the block, the Rock of Christ. Christ the solid Rock has to become the foundation of our lives and we have to figure out what makes the forces in our society be able to destroy our churches better and faster than the communists can do it in China.

My friend from Merced came and visited us Thursday. He lives right beside the new university there. Many of the students are in bad shape and there are many suicides. But they can’t get students to come to their church. So he is doing a meditation group, not calling it a prayer group and hopes to give students a spiritual basis, which they sorely need. Not to mention all the addictions and O.D.’s taking place in many parts of our country! People are missing a spiritual basis.  What is a spiritual basis, but Christ the solid rock upon which they can stand, because right now they are on sinking sand. My friends’ wife is in the church council. They talk about budgets, the conditions of the lawn, the church roof, and other things like that. Nothing the matter with that – but what about developing the spiritual basis that the people there and also the students need?

We don’t want people to come to our churches because we need them to fill our pews and make offerings, but because they need a spiritual basis strong enough to overcome all the negative forces in the our society today. They are in the sinking sand and need the power from on high, the angel power, that we get from the solid rock upon which we stand! So we need to be transformed by the renewal of our minds, like Paul says, and not be conformed to this world. We need to care about those out there so much that we witness like Peter to them about where their lives can be directed and sustained and unfolded into the living rocks who are chips off the solid Rock of Christ.

You know the story about the frog in water that was being heated on a stove. The heat was turned up only gradually and the frog never jumped out and got boiled to death. Our churches are like that in our society. It has become more and more ungodly, selfish, individualistic, materialistic, and before you know it, we have become conformed to the world, turned in upon ourselves and after we have lost our salt, what good are we to our solid Rock? What help are we to our society?

But as shaky as Peter was, Christ entrusted the witness to him, and by God’s grace, Christ also says to us: Blessed are you, because flesh and blood has not revealed our recognizing Christ, but the Father in heaven. And Christ promises that the gates of hell will not prevail against us. They will not prevail against Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Oakland! So let us witness to all those in need, those who are becoming casualties of our society, that Christ is the solid rock upon which they can stand, all other ground is sinking sand! Amen.

___________________________

[1] The well known hymn: “My Hope is built on nothing Less.”

[2] The New York Times, Friday, August 25th, 2017, Op-Ed page, A 23: “I worship Jesus, Not Xi Jinping.” 

Written by peterkrey

August 29, 2017 at 12:52 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

White Tribalism is Evil. A Sermon for August 20th, 2017

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The Time after Pentecost  August 20th 2017

Isaiah 56:1, 6-8 Psalm 67 Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32 Matthew 15:10-28

White Tribalism is Evil.

The times we are experiencing can leave us with a heavy heart. What reared up its ugly head in Charlottesville mocks everything Christians stand for, and can you believe?, some Christians support it. They are the blind leading the blind or worse. We don’t have to go far to prove it. It is expressed forcefully right in today’s lessons. Isaiah features the foreigner and it is easy to see that he is referring to immigrants. “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” Jesus cites this passage when he cleanses the temple:

My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples, but you have made it into a den of thieves.  (Mark 11:17; Mat 21:13)

Isaiah continues:

Thus says the Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather others to them besides those already gathered.

Thus Philip baptizes the Ethiopian eunuch, forbidden in older scriptures by Moses. And even though they take us way out of our comfort zone, our Lord God is gathering Gays and Lesbians, Trans-folk and others whom we like to cast out of our midst. Our military has done a wonderful job putting together diversity and that makes us strong. Diversity enriches us and makes us strong!

Let’s consider history, in World War Two estimates are that from 50 to 80 million people lost their lives. Germans wanting White supremacy and Japan exclusively for Japanese made a bid to rule the world. Notice that by default, the United States and the Soviet Union became the two world leading powers: we, a diversity of many peoples and the Soviets, a European and Asian, Orthodox and Moslem power. Real strength comes from diversity not from some ethnic, clannish, and racial tribalism.

After all that murderous history, how could those demonstrators have spouted NAZI anti-Semitic slogans? Look at St. Paul. He writes that God remains faithful to the Jews, even if they rejected the Messiah Jesus. That rejection made their blessings overflow and become a blessing for us Gentiles, so that we too have become honorary Jews, through Jesus Christ our Lord. And God was faithful to us when we were nowhere near the faith we needed in the one true God. God also remains faithful to the Jews. In the words of St. Paul:

For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable!

How wonderful the God we worship! Even when we become disobedient, our gracious God remains at work redeeming us and will continue to do so as long as it takes. That wonderful God whom we worship has our back and loves us more than a doting mother loves her child. Then why not love God in return and love our neighbors and the strangers, immigrants, and even get out of our comfort zones and love the outcasts of our society? If we obey God, we will have everything to win.

Bigotry, racism, tribalism, and xenophobia go way back. In the Gospel lesson, we come to the abrupt realization that the Jews were brought up calling the Canaanites dogs! There was no love lost between the Jews and those people from Tyre and Sidon, and do you notice how Jesus led his disciples out of their comfort zones to be among them?

Joshua was ordered to annihilate them in a holy war. That is a very unholy command in the Old Testament. Jesus says, “You have heard what is said of old, but I say unto you, ‘love your enemies,’” etc. We read the scriptures begging the Holy Spirit to have us read it with the eyes and mind of Jesus Christ.

So in our story, Jesus turns around and lets this pesky, bothersome woman approach him. After all she is calling him, “Son of David.” “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David!” She was screaming for their help relentlessly. The word used in Greek is krazo, referring to the unpleasant cry of a crow! Caw! Caw! The disciples ask Jesus to send her away, but Jesus talks to her breaking through all the walls and barriers between their peoples. Don’t forget that dogs were not pets in those days, they were rejected eye-sores and considered pests.

I remember a scene in a documentary about Gypsies, who are now called Roma and who have been persecuted in Europe for hundreds of years. From a hilltop overlooking a village, this woman screams: “You treat your dogs better than you treated me!”

A Jew wrote about his experience in New York when White people threw pennies down beside the swimming pool to see little Jewish children scramble to pick them up. A father rushed in to lead the children away, while the White people were laughing derisively, ridiculing them. They were trying to identify the Jews with money, filthy lucre, the old form of anti-Semitism. After all those millions of Jews, Gays, Jehovah Witnesses, and resisters died in those concentration camps, how could those hate-mongers spout those Nazi slogans again?

As Jesus explained, what comes out of those mouths defiles them and they have proven that they are a “basket of deplorables” unless they repent. The hatred and threats coming out of their mouths meant to intimidate and frighten us all, especially with militia openly backing them with semi-automatic assault rifles! That probably also frightened the police!

Jesus listened to the Canaanite woman and reasoned with her. She did not become offended but kept on keeping on despite being referred to as a dog. She knew that the man, who was in front of her, had an open heart, a heart open to all and that is why we say, “Let all the people praise you! O Lord, let all the peoples praise you!” Those are the words in our Psalm for today.

She countered Jesus with, “even the little dogs eat the crumbs that fall under the master’s table.”

Sometimes we feel that crumbs are all we get and all we expect out of life! But let me tell you, the crumbs that we receive from Jesus are more sumptuous than the banquet tables of White privileged racists. A neo-Nazi Jeff Hall, who believed in and fought for an all-White society, taught his little ten-year old son to hate so well, that after he had punished him, his son took his dad’s revolver while he slept and shot him in the head. That happened in Riverside, CA on May 1st 2011.

Like Jesus said, when the blind lead the blind, they all fall into the pit. Look at the number that they did on President Obama obstructing everything he wanted to do. Some of it might have been legitimate difference in politics, but how much of it was racism? How beautiful that family, Pres. Obama, Michelle, and their two lovely daughters, and his administration remained without scandal, which has not happened in many presidencies. And this president makes it an ugly White, White House and even calls it a dump!

What is happening today is very dangerous, because our democracy has been dysfunctional. The democracy of the Weimar Republic was also fragile and Hitler’s thugs were able to overturn it.

Now another subject: We have to be capable of critical thinking. In the gospel lesson Jesus shows that he is a critical thinker. Don’t you understand, he asks his disciples, that the kosher laws do not make you ethical? That is something outward. We can take a shower, but have a dirty, rotten, filthy heart. Someone wearing a clean white T-shirt can be filled with hate and violence. What came out of those mouths in Charlottesville defiled those fellows, like Jesus said. Our society is saturated with violence already, but we have to prevent it from going to a higher level altogether. Like Hitler used the Jews, this administration has also scapegoated the most vulnerable among us for the sake of attaining power, cruelly tearing families apart.

How can some Christians be fooled by that? The prophet must ask again, “How blind can my servants be?” Jesus lifts up the most vulnerable. He champions the foreigner, the immigrant, the refugee, the outcast and declares: how great is your faith! And he provides her with the help she requested.

How blind we are: when the greatest refugee crisis since World War Two engulfs the world, we shut our doors. And who destabilized the Middle East? Remember Colin Power and the pottery barn rule? “You break it, you own it.”

Something demonic came out of the cover of the Internet and they didn’t even bother to wear hoods.

What does Isaiah say, maintain justice and do what is right and God’s deliverance will come. And foreigners, we could translate the word, and say immigrants, who participate in our society, “Thus says the Lord, ‘I will also bring them to my holy mountain and make them joyful in my house of prayer, for my house of prayer shall be called a House of prayer for all peoples.’” That does not sound like building a wall. It does not sound like White tribalism.

Tribalism in defense of powerless people helps by providing a little protection. That’s for the powerless. Tribalism of the powerful intending to victimize others is evil. White tribalism demonstrated by carrying torches and shouting NAZI slogans like “blood and soil” is evil. This country does not belong to White anti-Semitic supremacists. “This land is your land and my land.”

Like St. Paul said, “The gifts and calling of the Jews are irrevocable.” Jews are still God’s children and one day they too will turn to Christ and bring us all to the top of God’s Holy Mountain. As Abraham’s children, they have already brought countless blessings to the nations.

Let me end by just introducing the word adiaphora. It distinguishes what is essential from what is not and in the spirit of Jesus, it requires critical thinking. Our faith does not ask us to unscrew our heads, take them under our arm and not use them. Jesus explains that washing our hands before we eat does not make us ethical. It is a matter of hygiene. My mother used to say that we had to eat a wheel barrow full of dirt before we died. That really gives our immune system something to fight in order to prevent allergies. But if you serve people in a restaurant, you better wash your hands. And what’s more doctors have to wash their hands and some still forget to do it. Doctors used to work on cadavers and then deliver a baby without washing their hands and many women died in childbirth with infections. In this case, washing hands is no longer adiaphora, it is essential and those doctors did not know that by not washing their hands they used to kill many mothers who were giving birth.

Jesus was distinguishing hygiene from ethics. Just washing your hands like Pilate did after condemning Jesus to be crucified, did not wash the blood off his hands. Even if he had had dirty, unwashed hands and declared Jesus innocent and released him, then he would have had clean hands, as the saying goes, in the sense of having been righteous. Jesus asks us to be critical thinkers. “Can’t you see? Can’t you understand these distinctions” Jesus is asking us as well as his disciples. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by peterkrey

August 20, 2017 at 11:48 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Understanding the Parables, Sermon for July 30, 2017

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Time after Pentecost – July 30, 2017

1 Kings 3:5-12 Psalm 119:129-136 Romans 8:26-29 Matthew 13:31-3, 44-52

Understanding the Parables

This morning we heard five parables that Jesus told to describe the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. They are not easy to understand. In Psalm 78, verse 2 is written:

I will open my mouth in a parable;

I will utter dark sayings from of old.

Jesus must have read that Psalm and made up parables. Isn’t it something to know that when we read a psalm, way back then Jesus read it too, and all our ancestors in the faith for these two or more millennia also read them? Scripture reading gives us a bond with all who have gone before us.

      I believe that Jesus made these parables difficult, so that his disciples would understand them, but not those who were not hoping and waiting with eager longing for the kingdom of heaven, those nailing down and protecting their comfortable status quo.

A note: Matthew is the Gospel written for Jewish Christians and thus he calls it the kingdom of heaven rather than the kingdom of God. Jews do not like to name God, because the name is too holy. Thus, throughout Matthew, it is the kingdom of heaven.

ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν in Greek.

We can get some help from this morning’s Psalm if we pray:

The unfolding of your words gives light.

It imparts understanding to the simple.

Like Dear Jesus, what is wrapped up in your words that helps us understand the nature of the kingdom of heaven? That kingdom over which you rule from the right hand of God the Father? Dear God, we pray that you would unfold your words so they shed light on your kingdom of heaven and you impart understanding to us who are simple – who don’t have a clue.

Now Solomon prayed for wisdom to govern his people. You know the story of the two women who fought over a baby. Two mothers were sleeping in the same house with their little babies. During the night, one laid on her baby and it died. She quietly took the live bay from the breast of the other sleeping mother and put her dead baby in its place. First the other mother cried and cried, but in the morning light, she realized it was not her baby. Fighting with each other, they were brought before Solomon. “Bring me a sword.” He said. Their fighting was such a nuisance. “I’ll divide the boy in two so both of you can have half.”

The real mother said, “O, please, my lord, give her the living boy, please don’t kill him!”

The other said, “It shall be neither mine nor yours; divide it.”

“Do not harm the child.” said King Solomon. “Give the first woman her baby. She is the real mother.”[1]

That was a way to figure out the truth that would otherwise stump us. It took some wisdom.

Looking at some of these parables makes me feel at a loss like that. Jesus is challenging us to understand what he is saying and if we don’t, then we do not have ears that hear, nor eyes that see, nor a heart that understands.

Our Romans lesson is different. It is pure Gospel clearly preached by St. Paul. We hear: nothing can separate us from the love of God and we wait with eager longing for being formed into the brothers and sisters of Christ. That is when we will become part of the new humanity in the form or the species of Christ. We will no longer be in the old Adam and Eve, but we will become the children of God; those God knew would respond from the time before the foundations of the world were laid; whom God predestined to receive the form of Christ, so that Jesus would be the firstborn of many brothers and sisters, the very family of God, the members of which he called, justified, and glorified together with Christ. Now nothing can come between us and the love of God. nothing can separate us. That’s pure Gospel!

But what is this kingdom of heaven like in which all the children of God live, move, and have their being? We have to know, because it starts here and now and not only in the sweet by and by. We can at least experience the previews of the coming attractions, if not the feature presentation. But what are its mysteries? What are its sevrets?

The mustard seed is the tiniest seed and it grows a large shrub. It’s like a humble tree and not a cedar of Lebanon, like one of our redwoods here in California. The old empires were compared to such proud trees, like with Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian Empire. He said the nations of the world nestled in his branches for shelter like birds. Are you getting an inkling about how Jesus is describing his kingdom? It’s not like earthly empires, but a humble thing, an improbably tree, eight to twelve feet high, planted in a field, but considered more of a weed in some parts. The Babylonians Empires became the Persian one: they use the word “translated into.” So the Persian Empire translated into the Greek, the Greek translated into the Roman Empire, etc. We won’t go further, like for example, to the modern British Empire, over which they proudly said, the sun never set.

The kingdom of heaven is not like those earthly empires, the great military conquests of the Alexanders, Caesars, Napoleons, and Hitlers. No, from the tiniest seed and from the most humble shrub, the birds of the air will be able to make nests in its branches, the nations of the world will find a friendly shelter. Rich nations will help out the poor ones. No shock and awe, no mother of all bombs.

My father always started this song when the children left the grown-up worship for Sunday School:

Little drops of water, little grains of sand

Make the mighty oceans and the beauteous land.

Little deeds of kindness, little acts of love.

Make the world an Eden like the heavens above.

We had bible study before Vacation Church School and Day Camp in Cincinnati. Over the years, it became a fully developed Leadership Training Laboratory and in Coney Island we rented out whole elementary schools to run our large VCS and day Camp programs!

The tiny seed from the humble and disrespected bush, but then mustard is sure good on a hotdog!

The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with or hid (the word is hid) in three measures of flour until all of it was leavened. Mixing, just makes me think of the little packets of yeast my mother would tear open and pour into the flour and water. But in those days, they had to hide the dough in a dark and dank place because yeast comes from molds in a fungus, feeding on the flour producing carbon dioxide. Those are the gas bubbles that make the dough rise. My other would have bread pans on top of all the radiators and when the dough started spilling over the pan, we would hit it to make it go back and rise again. Now number one, what is Jesus saying? You don’t feature leavened but unleavened bread. Nor a woman, nor something hidden. Bread and wine required fermentation in order to make wine and bread, and that spelled corruption. We use unleavened bread for communion, because the fermentation used to be associated with corruption, just like the alcohol produced from it. But a complete transformation results.

Jewish men used to pray, “Thank God I was not born a woman.” Jesus features the work of a woman in his kingdom. The Goyim were unclean, so the leavened bread represents them and the unleavened bread represents the Jews, the chosen people, who would not accept Christ. Jesus was called the Beelzebub, meaning a devil. Luther was called a devil, Darwin, we Christians thought was one for sure, and there is Sigmund Freud. Someone I knew called him “Siggy, the piggy.” What do you know! But three measures, using that moldy yeast was enough to bake 100 loaves of bread, a footnote said. Jesus is telling us that the faith of the Jews would become universal and transforming all of those who were formerly thought to be unclean, people from all over the world.

In a Bible Study in Saint Paulus, someone said, the parables make it necessary to do a mind-flip, because everything in the kingdom of heaven is turned upside down from the things in this world. So from a tiny seed there grows the tree of life; from a lump of moldy yeast, not corruption, but God’s righteousness rises one hundred-fold and filling and transforming the kingdom into wonderfully smelling bakery with warm and fresh bread for all the world.

That the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. Somebody finds it, then hides it, and overwhelmed with joy, then goes and sells everything in order to buy the field. The pearl of great price is like that too. The merchant sells everything that he had in order to purchase it. The passion for the Gospel and overwhelming value of the kingdom of heaven, makes a person joyfully give everything else up for its sake. One illustration in the commentary referred to a man meeting a lovely and beautiful woman, giving everything up and following her and vice versa, a woman, meeting a handsome and caring man, giving everything up and following him. The question these parables of Jesus pose to us is where is our passion for the kingdom of heaven. Hey, we say, “We’re quite comfortable in the status quo.” That makes us deaf, dumb, and blind, like those see nothing, hear nothing, say nothings.  Meanwhile St. Paul says,

I regard everything as loss, because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and regard them as rubbish, [just garbage] in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him.[2]

With the health care and Medicaid crisis in the senate, I felt I had to do something and with my knee I can’t get out and demonstrate, so I decided to send an email to John McCain, saying how much I admired him and hoped he could overcome his ailment. Then I just said that medical bills are on a corporate lever and they would take down even middleclass people if they were uninsured. For my new hip, one miscellaneous hospital charge was $84,000. I did not put that in, but reminded him about how 2,000 people came to free clinics and some had to have 20 teeth pulled and others were also way sicker than they needed to be because they had no access and could not afford to medical care. I asked him to think of the people and not try to save the face of our rogue president.

When I saw him walk over to Sue Collins and Lisa Murkowski and give the drastic bill the thumbs down in the PBS News Hour, I was applauding him on the TV! I really don’t think my email did it, his governor also reminded him of the damage the bill would do to his state – but I just rejoiced in the fact that I had also gotten involved and done something. Just because we cannot do everything or something in one way, does not excuse us from doing something in the way that we can.

The dragnet of the gospel pulls us all in and we dare not say which fish are good and which are bad. Do not judge. Let the angels be in charge of that. Imagine condemning Saul, not realizing that he would later become Paul! Or when Moses murdered that Egyptian overseer, if he had been caught and executed! He was a murderer, King David was one too, and an adulterer, to boot, but nothing separates them and us from the forgiveness and love of Christ Jesus our Lord. Our sins also do not separate us, because Jesus loves us and that’s all we know. Amen.[3]

________________________

[1] 1 Kings 3:16-28.

[2] Phil. 3: 8.

[3] The sermon is getting too long. The problem of tradition the old and the new, and the householder who pulls out of his treasure what is new and what is old, really applied to Old Zion Church in Philadelphia and I dealt with it here: https://peterkrey.wordpress.com/december-2007-message-to-old-zion/ Jaroslav Pelican said, “Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”

Written by peterkrey

July 30, 2017 at 4:13 pm

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Our Experience in a Native American Reservation: a Sermon for July 23rd 2017

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The Time after Pentecost

July 23rd 2017

Isaiah44:6-8 Psalm 86:11-17 2 Romans 8:12-25 Matthew 13:24-30,36-43

Our Experience in a Native American Reservation

You know that Wednesday through Saturday, Nora and I were in Montana in the Rocky Boy Chippewa Cree Reservation and we had quite an experience. There a meeting of the Native American Lutheran Churches took place. It is called the American Indian, Alaskan Native Lutheran Association (AIAN) and from the European Descent Lutheran Association for Racial Justice (EDLARJ), I am one of the liaisons to the Native American association. There is also an African American Lutheran Association (ADLA) as well as a Latino and Asian, Pacific Islander one. You may want to get in touch with and become involved in your African American Lutheran Association. These associations are working to make our church more multicultural and just.

The Rocky Boy Reservation in Montana is about two hours from the airport in Great Falls. The great grandfather of one of the leaders of this conference, Loni Manybears, helped build this Lutheran chapel and she has been Lutheran all her life. She is from the Cree tribe and the Chippewa tribe is also part of the reservation. The Chippewa are a medicine people, the Lakota are a friendly people, while the Cree are a spiritual people, which works nicely with our lesson, because they walk in the spirit. As St. Paul says, “For all of you who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.”[1] and “Those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”[2] The Crow Indians came and did a Pow Wow and representatives of the Blackfoot and Northern Cheyanne tribes also gave presentations.

Pastor Larry Thiele and his wife Darla from North Dakota were there. She does therapy for troubled children with horses. Horses seem to have healing powers, much like comfort dogs. Jonathan a Lakota from Grand Rapids inspired us with his Native ceremonial songs, while beating the drum in Indian rhythms.

The Indians are trying to reclaim their languages and identities, because both were stolen from them by White people. Jon called White people Wachitii, which meant the greedy ones.

When you begin to understand how spiritual these Indians are, perhaps because they are Lutheran too, (I sincerely hope) you can understand the question brought to Jesus: why are there so many weeds, people that have done so much evil to the Indians? Jesus used the metaphor of the wheat and weeds, while a Cree Elder used a different symbol. Evil spirits descended from sharp and pointy mountain peaks, while good spirits came down from round ones. He was telling us Indian stories in a holy site, because it was in a clearing facing a mountain shaped like a heart. Indians climb to the top of that mountain to fast and pray. Many Indians used this site to celebrate their sacred ceremonies.

Let’s join in with the Native Americans protesting the evil done to the indigenous people of our country, because slavery is not the only evil atrocity that White people in our system have perpetrated. The poor houses all around the church seemed to be filled with casualties, because of the historical trauma that they even now continue to experience. There are addictions, suicides, broken families and many broken people. A representative of the Northern Cheyanne, however, reminded us that good things also take place in the reservations.

Their children had been torn away from their families to “civilize” them. They were brought to boarding schools far away from the reservation and not allowed to speak their native language. If they were caught, the staff tore out their fingernails. One of the leader’s father and grandfather lost their fingernails that way. There are graveyards behind the schools because many Indian children died while they were trying to kill the Indian in them. Only recently did the boarding school movement stop in America and Canada and the Indians forgot how to be parents and have to learn it again.[3]

The Cree tribe are spiritual people, who continually emphasize prayer. We had three activities one afternoon. Some people chose to visit the reservation; some visited the Buffalo jump, where the Indians drove the buffalo off a cliff to get their meat and supplies. Nora and I with trepidation chose the sweat lodge. The elderly Indian woman leading it had smoked the ceremonial pipe and had prepared herself with prayer. The hut was covered by thick blankets and there were rods made of wood acting like ribs, visible inside, holding up the covering. A huge fire burned in front of the hut heating up stones. The rocks became very hot and with a pitchfork, men then shoveled some at a time into a pit in the middle of the lodge. You had to crawl into the lodge and happily there were rugs around the pit of hot stones. As we sat around the rocks the Indian woman asked each of us what she should pray for us for. I never realized that the whole sweat lodge ceremony was about prayer. She threw some sweet grass onto the rocks and then the carpets or blankets used for a door were pulled down and it became pitch dark in the lodge. When she splashed water on the rocks, she did it four times and hot steam covered us and stinging drops of water. Then she prayed for our concerns, remembering them all. They let Nora and me stay near the door, so that if we couldn’t take it, we could leave. When the blanket door is shut, you are in pitch darkness, like in a womb and the water crashes like thunder when it hits the hot rocks. The prayers become more and more fervent with each of the rounds, especially on the fourth and last round of prayer. Mercifully they let us crawl out after each round to recover. After the last round, you crawled out as if you were being born again. The whole experience featured hours of prayer. Then an elder told us Indian stories with a great sense of humor, making us laugh many times, especially about the way White people misunderstood and mispronounced Indian language words, which became the name of states and rivers.

One bishop there was part of the Osage tribe in Oklahoma, where they had been driven to the most arid land in the state, which no one wanted. Then they discovered oil under the Indian land and wanted it back. They negotiated and the government got 70% of the proceeds and the Indians 30%. Then many White men wanted to marry Indian women to get in on the money – Wachitii.

How did all the weeds get into our field? When they built a dam in the head waters of the Missouri river, they flooded the Missouri River Valley, Indian land, which they had lived on for centuries. The Indians feel like they are part of the land and without their land, they feel like they have to die. Like with Israel and Palestine, White people keep taking more and more of their land away, here for farms and ranches.

All the hurt they feel became a fresh wound with the oil pipeline run through their reservation and their part of the Missouri River. The pipeline goes right over their sacred sites and corporate greed just steam-rolled right over them again. The basic purpose of the Indians was to protest with prayer so that their land would not be contaminated. The pipelines of the company involved have a habit of breaking.

The Native Americans are trying to get the government to apologize to them for all the atrocities done to them. But our society will not yet own up to it. While their challenge is to forgive, the challenge for White America is to repent.

In the last meeting, Darla Thiele suggested that the Native Americans all show up in the church-wide assembly and forgive the White people for what they did to them, even though many do not even have a clue, and take care not to know the sorry history of the Indian dislocations and death marches and now the extreme poverty suffered on their reservations.

They would forgive and perhaps a truth and reconciliation movement could come about like in South Africa. The Indians would be willing to take the first step by offering forgiveness.

They protested against the Doctrine of Discovery and emphasized the de-colonization of the church, which I will take up in a future sermon. But I love the story about the Aborigine from Australia, who went to the Dover Cliffs of England and claimed England for the Aborigines. He figured if Columbus and the Europeans could claim America and act like they discovered it, then what was good for the goose was good for the gander.

It would be wonderful if we could become allies with the Indians and suffer with them in solidarity. They have been marginalized in their own country with their traditional spiritual ways. We will find that suffering with them will not be able to be compared with the glory of the coming of the children of God in the new creation. In their tears and sighs the Holy Spirit is praying for us to overcome what we perpetrated upon them. But we have to learn their stories. I gave you just a brief glimpse, but America, especially White people in America have to repent, show remorse and apologize for the genocide we attempted on them. They are still struggling with all their pain and hurt. Hearing their stories brought sighs too deep for words. Nora and I cried several times.

If Black people in America were to have solidarity with the Indians, we too could wait with eager longing for the coming of the children of God – for which the whole creation is waiting and experiencing contractions, for walking in the newness of life here in America. Let those children of God, be us Lord, and not only others. How blessed we would be if America could feature the happiness of our Indians! Amen.

________________________

[1] Romans 8:14.

[2] Romans 8:5b.

[3] On investigating this issue, it turns out that some Indian boarding schools are still open, but hopefully they are not as cruel as before.

 

Written by peterkrey

July 27, 2017 at 8:21 am

Posted in Uncategorized