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Are You a Martha or a Mary? July 17, 2016

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Ninth Sunday after Pentecost – July 17th 2016

Lectionary 16 / Proper 11, Year C

Genesis 18:1-10a psalm 15 Colossians 1:15-28 Luke 10:38-42

Avoiding all the bad news in the world today, I’ll concentrate on the good news and preach the Scriptures. May the Word of God illuminate what we are going through and rescue us. Amen.

Are You a Martha or a Mary?

We go all the way back to Abraham and Sarah with their tent pitched before the Oaks of Mamre. In ancient days, the church and worship took place under trees. According to Luther Adam and Eve worshiped under the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden. Often it was an oak tree. Boniface, the missionary to the German pagans in the eighth century chopped down their sacred oak tree, where Thor was worshiped. Tiu, Woden, Thor, and Freia are still remembered in our names for the days of the week. Boniface was converting the northern tribes from these gods to Christ.

In our lesson, Abraham gives hospitality to three men, whom he calls Lord, because they are a theophany. That is why André Rublev painted his icon of the Holy Trinity as three men looking like angels. So when we provide hospitality, we may be waiting on angels unawares. But appearing to him under the Oaks of Mamre, Abraham knew it was the Lord of Hosts. And when he prepares a feast for them, they give him and Sarah the promise that they will have a son. It is hard to fathom the ache in the heart of an infertile couple, who desperately want to have a child, but can’t seem to conceive or bear one. (We had so many children in our family, who would want a child?)

In God’s presence, our dear Lord God fills our greatest need, whatever that may be for each of us. For Abraham and Sarah it was to have a child. Host and receive the Lord your God into the home of your heart! Just pray: come Lord Jesus be our guest and we will be forever blessed. God promises to fill our deepest need and launches us on the promised life.

Our Colossians lesson is placed before the gospel lesson, because Mary and Martha are hosting Jesus, the One who is heaven sent, visiting and now present in their home. Christ is the Son of God, the visible image of the invisible God, the first-born of creation, for in him all things were created and in him all things hold together. In him the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. Read Colossians several times and try to fathom the mystery of Christ. The Creator of the whole universe became a human being in Jesus Christ to come and die for us on the cross to forgive us our sins and make us righteous, fill us with truth and integrity. Let’s strengthen our faith together: Lord, we believe; help us overcome our unbelief! Amen.

In Luke’s account, Jesus comes to Mary and Martha’s house and the Christ is receiving their hospitality. Scriptures may say, “Don’t forget to share hospitality with strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”[1] But Mary and Martha are hosting the King of all the Angels, the Lord Christ himself.

Back in Genesis Sarah was baking bread from the finest flour and a servant was preparing the choice calf, while Abraham, very much like us men, was leaning against a tree listening to their words.

“Where is Sarah?” they ask. She is of course being a Martha and getting all the food prepared for the guests. Abraham doesn’t do something; he just stands there, leaning against a tree. Sarah like Martha has to hear God’s words: “Don’t just do something, stand there.” Be an Abraham. Be a Mary.

But Martha takes the opposite tack. She fixes her eyes on Mary with reproach. “Mary, don’t just sit there listening to Jesus, do something. You’re letting me do all the work.”

The iconic three men were calling Sarah to come out way back when. The promised Son was not Isaac, it was Jesus the Christ and Mary was Sarah come out of the tent and listening to the Word of God coming out of the mouth of the Savior of the World. He may have been Mary and Martha’s guest, but he was the host providing them with a heavenly feast that fills the hunger of the heart and the thirst of the soul and Mary was receiving it, while Martha was fixed in the subservient woman’s role and could not get out of it.

Martha had an excuse, of course. She had no servants like Abraham did. She was not the president of the United States in the White House. She did not have an illustrious crew and world renowned chef, like the president and his family have in the White House, to take care of all the arrangements for hospitality down to the smallest detail. Did you see that special on TV?

I had nine sisters and some were really Marthas and some were Marys. And it brought friction. I was a Mary. I would be reading a book and a sister would say: “Get up and do something!” Like reading a book was not doing something! She never read a book. My sister Hannah was a real Martha and only when she retired did she start to read books.

Do you ever sit down and read a book? You need balance of course, if you only read books. You don’t want to become a leaf or a flower pressed between the pages. You have to become a living leaf or flower out there on your branches swaying in the breeze or have your blossoms and pedals bedecking a meadow alive and out there in the world. What is a leaf pressed between the pages of a book? The life of the mind is complemented by life and work out in the world.

Last week Jesus championed a Samaritan, maybe like today a Moslem Syrian refugee. This week Jesus is championing a woman and saying “Where are you?” Sarah, Martha, why are you fixed in a subservient role we men try to keep you in? Jesus has Mary sitting at his feet. Those are code words for studying to be a Rabbi like the men. “Mary,” he says, “has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Of course, we men quickly erased Jesus’ words. My sister Phoebe was one of the first women accepted in BU Medical School. Pastor Mary Rowe stood up with me celebrating her ordination, back in 1975 and she was one of the first women to become a pastor in our time. We kept women down for almost 2,000 years after Jesus said we couldn’t take the better part away from them. I wonder how long it will still take the Catholic and Orthodox churches even today!

We want to lock some people, like women, workers, immigrants, and Americans of African Descent into servant roles. They have to know their place! The Gospel of Jesus tells us all, you and me, to be servants. Jesus said that he did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.[2] We have to balance being Marys and Marthas. I can’t make my wife into a Martha and fix her in that role – like Abraham three and a half thousand years ago, standing under a tree while Sarah is working away in the tent.

You know my jingle about doing and being: to do and to be. Do be, do be, do.[3] We need balance. Sometimes we have to say, “Don’t just stand there, do something.” Sometimes, “Don’t just do something, stand there.” Meditate, think, take it in.

When a team is cutting a path through the jungle, a leader is someone who has the presence of mind intermittently to climb up a tree to ensure that they are going in the right direction.[4] That’s a Mary.

When we work hard, we also have to become quiet, rest and hear the Word of God. Otherwise we too, like Martha can become distracted by many things – but there is the one thing needful and we should not miss out on that and try to make other people miss out on it, too.

We have to become conscious of the only thing we need – the one thing needful. We can live our whole lives and miss out on it and die finding out that we never lived.

That is what Jesus is pointing to: getting at the real meaning of our lives and beginning to understand ourselves and our human condition. Because when we die, our life is like a sentence, after which death places a period and people then ask what did your life-sentence mean, what did your life mean? You, too are a Word of God.

Luther says, those “who hear the Word, we become like the Word, pure, good, and just.”[5] We trust God and become love letters, living leaves and blossoming flowers. We practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of love,[6] when we keep sitting at Jesus feet, and getting the living words that help us keep on keeping on.

I’ve got to cook some meals. Marthas have to stop and get some rest. We have to listen to Jesus and balance our roles. We all have to be Marthas as well as Marys, Marys and Marthas.

Luther put it this way: A Christian person is a free sovereign above all things and subject to no one, (let me add) because of faith. And at one and the same time, a Christian person is a dutiful servant in all things, subject to everyone[7] (because of love.)

We don’t shirk work, nor work and work and then get drunk on our off time, because we don’t want to think about our lives and our sorry human condition, where murder and carnage flout God’s purposes. That’s because we don’t live in the Word of God. So we pray: Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, as your host, we’ll be forever blessed. Be the Lord and master of our souls. Amen.

__________________

[1] Hebrews 13:2.

[2] Mark 10:45.

[3] Dewey said to be is to do. Sartre, to do is to be. Frank Sinatra said, dobe, dobe, dobe, do.

[4] Moneim El-Maligi, Leading Starts in the Mind: A Humanistic View of Leadership, online see: He is comparing leaders and managers.

[5] From Luther’s Freedom of a Christian in Philip and Peter Krey, Luther’s Spirituality,  New York: (Paulist Press, 2007), page 268.

[6] Anne Herbert, Sausalito, California, 1982: cf. Random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.

[7] Philip and Peter Krey, Luther’s Spirituality, page 70.

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Written by peterkrey

July 17, 2016 at 7:00 pm

A Response to Wayne M. Martin’s “The Judgment of Adam” and the Symbolism of the Snake

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A Response to Wayne M. Martin’s “The Judgment of Adam.”

By Dr. Peter D.S. Krey

A Preface addressed to Prof. Martin:

Thank you for leading me to your article, “The Judgment of Adam[1] after I responded to your study of “Hegel’s Bad Infinity.” Your thorough analysis of Lucas Cranach’s “Adam and Eve” painting in this study helped me see that there is a whole literacy involved in “reading” a painting that I did not know about. Lucas Cranach seemed to be presenting Luther’s theology through the medium of paint. The painting you analyzed was his Courtault picture of Adam and Eve of 1526.[2] In it all the layers of the interpretation of the snake 1) as the bronze serpent lifted onto a pole by Moses and 2) here painted on the tree with Adam and Eve and 3) as the snake that Cranach used for his signature can be reflected upon. Using the snake in his signature, Cranach following Martin Luther’s lead, probably wanted to imply that his painting like images and art per se were not evil, but just good or evil depending on their use or abuse, – the latter case if worshiped.[3] Islam strictly avoids all images. More relevantly for this study, at the time of the Reformation iconoclasm was in full swing, where Zwingli and Calvin white-washed the walls of their churches and proscribed not only art, but even music, both of which Luther championed.

When I first read the Genesis Lectures about how Luther called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil a church, it seemed bazaar to me. Now I realize that it was under trees that the ancients worshiped and they even sometimes worshiped the trees themselves – was it Boniface (or Winfrid?) who chopped down the sacred Oak tree of Thor? He did it to destroy a false ultimate. And in the book of Genesis, God appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre.[4] That these trees are mentioned with the theophany seems significant. They may also have been a place of worship.

According to Cranach’s painting and of course the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, shame and consciousness were awakened in humanity there so like a lion, we could no longer cruelly eat the warm meat of an animal that had not yet even died. While nature is red in tooth and claw, we received a conscience and we could feel shame. We could do right and wrong. We became aware that there was such a thing as good and evil. The Garden of Eden story can be related to evolution in the sense that we became human by dint of God, the consciousness of the universe, raising us up.

I also thank you for getting to the basis of Luther’s anthropology by declaring that we are in a helpless estate – Luther calls it being passive before God. Finding ourselves quite a way “east of Eden” and then when we are completely honest, we have to admit that we face evil choices whichever way we turn unless the Holy Spirit helps us live out of a new birth and a new strength from God’s consciousness on high. Perhaps the latter could be opposed to what you call our ontological self-consciousness: Adam knowing himself just enough to recognize Eve as his mate, but not yet really having human consciousness and conscience?

To admit that we face evil choices whichever way we turn, I’m thinking about our negative legacy here in the USA: the genocide of the Native Americans that continues in the reservations; the hangover from slavery and colonialism, where so much of our high standard of living has been at the expense of the oppressed. We never gave the slaves forty acres and a mule and have attempted to short change them at every turn for the unfair advantage of us Whites ever since, now as we realize we are in a new version of a Jim Crow era. Where is our protest against these injustices?

Thank you so much for writing that study and getting me to read it.

Part II: Now I am taking one more step in thinking about the symbolism that Wayne Martin discovers in Cranach’s painting:

Through his painting Lucas Cranach is superimposing the later story of Moses lifting up the bronze serpent in the wilderness[5] upon the snake in the sacred tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Paradise of the Garden of Eden. The former serpent, perhaps like a scapegoat absorbed all the evil venom of the people bitten by snakes, allowing them to be saved; the latter snake beguiles Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, making her become conscious and ashamed of being naked.

The symbolism of the snake or serpent has so many phenomenological layers, because one can take the next step into the New Testament as well: because Jesus also refers to his crucifixion with the same symbol: “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”[6] And thus the Lenten prayer:

Who by the tree of the cross gave salvation to all humankind, so that where death arose, life might rise up again, and that he (the snake) that once overcame by a tree, might also by a tree (the cross) be overcome, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Now we will not go even further and relate the serpent, Tiamat, the nature god of the sea, the personified ocean, representing chaos or Tohu va Bohu in Hebrew. Nor will we delve into the ubiquitous medical symbol, where two snakes are depicted climbing up a pole. Nor will we relate how a stick can be used to render a snake more harmless or the strange fact that poisonous snakes are milked of their venom to be used in vaccinations against snake bite.)

Lucas Cranach himself additionally, uses a winged snake with a crown, also looking like the primordial dragon, for his painting signatures. In this 1526 Courtault painting of Adam and Eve, he places his signature right onto the trunk of the sacred tree of the knowledge of good and evil.[7]

As already mentioned, Luther believed that that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was the place of worship in the Garden of Eden, and Adam and Eve’s eating the forbidden fruit brought about the Fall of creation. Perhaps we could identify the cross of Jesus Christ as the Tree of Life, which brings about our human ascent and that of all creation, so that God’s will can be done on earth as it is in heaven. We may not be able to experience the feature presentation here on earth, but we can get the previews of coming attractions. We can go in reverse as well and say the same about hell.

Painting as an art deals with pictures and images and can be enhanced into sculpture so that churches are filled with statues and paintings. In Cranach and Luther’s time an iconoclastic movement was in full swing. Image makers had become image breakers. Zwingli in Zurich and Calvin in Geneva emptied their churches of all the images and paintings, white-washing the walls of their churches. They did not even permit music, except perhaps, for intoning a psalm. On the other hand, Luther argued that Moses lifted up that bronze serpent in the wilderness, so an image was not good or evil per se, it all depended on its use or abuse. Thus to worship an image makes a person guilty of having a false ultimate and being idolatrous, but when someone like Cranach expresses Luther’s theology in paint, so that people can “read” his painting, then it represents no abuse, but a perfectly appropriate use of art. Wayne Martin asserts the latter conviction to be the most likely reason Cranach, Luther’s close friend, used the winged snake as his signature.

From the cross of Christ, absorbing all the sin of the world and becoming the scapegoat for the forgiveness of all our sin and evil, Christ was like that serpent raised up on the pole by Moses in the desert; and like that serpent in the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, people trying to be like God, made all things ambiguous, now vulnerable and at the mercy of their use or abuse, able to be used for good or evil. But in the eating of the forbidden fruit consciousness was won as conscience, so that Adam and Eve realized that they were naked and became ashamed; but they became aware as well that they would one day die. After Eve eats the apple, the animals on her side of the painting also awake and the lion gets ready to pounce on the doe and take that poor creature out of Paradise. Thus consciousness was won, but Paradise was lost. They experienced how the earth also could be cursed and not yield its fruit, even with hard labor and the sweat of their brows. But Christ transformed that curse into a blessing on the tree of the cross, when he was lifted up like that serpent in the wilderness, drawing all of humankind heavenward too God:

“For when I am lifted up, I will draw all people to myself.”[8]

These are some of the symbolic layers of interpretation:

  1. Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness to save the snake-bitten people
  2. Christ describing his crucifixion by means of the Moses story
  3. Luther seeing Moses’ action as an affirmation of painting, sculpture, music and all the arts, because images are not evil per se, but good or evil in their use or abuse. Images cannot be done without in thought, language, and culture.
  4. Cranach superimposing the Moses story upon the story of the Fall. He depicts the sacred tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden as a snake on a pole once more, where consciousness and conscience are gained but paradise is lost.
  5. Cranach uses the image of a snake in his own painting signatures, even placing that signature on the trunk of the sacred tree affirming his vocation as an artist. But, of course, when culture represents the worship of elite secular people, it is an abuse of art. When art expresses the human condition before God, places a mirror before people, in which they can see themselves in, (like the deer in the painting seeing its reflection in the pond from which it drinks) generating consciousness and conscience for good and evil, right and wrong. Art can even be the painting the Gospel of Jesus Christ and him crucified showing the way of salvation.

____________________________

[1] Should you want to read Wayne M. Martin’s Study of Cranach’s painting, click on “Judgment of Adam”

[2] To view and study Cranach’s painting of Adam and Eve with a detail feature tool for the purposes of comparison, click on “Adam and Eve”: by Lucas Cranach

[3] Pope Gregory I (590-604) noted that “the illiterate could contemplate in the lines of a picture what they could not learn by means of the written word.” In a sense, Wayne Martin contemplates Cranach’s painting and in its lines reads Luther’s theology.

[4] Gen 18:1.

[5] Numbers 21:4-9.

[6] John 3:15.

[7] See a detail of his signature with the tool provided: Cranach’s signature

[8] John 12:32.

For God So Loved the World: Fourth Sunday in Lent (March 15, 2015) in Christ Lutheran Church, El Cerrito, CA

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Sunday Lent IV March 15th 2015 at Christ Lutheran Church

Numbers 21:4-9 Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22 Eph. 2:1-10 John 3:14-21

For God So Loved the World

It is strange to us to think that gazing at a serpent lifted up on a pole could heal people. Some commentators called it a belief in sympathetic magic. Rationally speaking, I think lifting a snake up on a stick makes it harmless, if it is a snake in the grass. The antidote to snake bite comes from the venom of snakes. Go figure. Symbolically, the snakes crawls out of its old skin and comes out with new skin to point to the resurrection, leaving the old self and becoming the new self in Christ, the way we do. Be that as it may, if God wanted to heal people by letting them look at that serpent that Moses lifted up, then God could heal the people through faith that way. In any case, the Medical community still has snakes climbing up a pole as the symbol of their healing profession, which is quite fitting this morning for our healing service. (Healing prayers for people took place at a station in the narthex during communion.)

Luther called the verse John 3:16, the Gospel in a nutshell:   “For God so loved the world that God gave God’s only begotten Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have everlasting life.”

The God who we believe in is not stand-offish and does not keep a distance from us. God roots for us, cares about us, heals us, and is all involved with us. As St. Augustine says, “God is closer to us than we are to ourselves.”

Our God is full of compassion. God loved the Hebrew slaves for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’s sake; for Sarah, Rebekah, Leah and Zilpah; Rachel and Bilhah’s sake, to include the wives – and God heard the cries of the oppressed under their heavy, task-masters and sends Moses to tell old Pharaoh, “Let my people go!”

Now in the new covenant, God so loved the world that God sent his Son Jesus so that Jesus could save us from our sins. Now in Lent, the week after next is Passion Week. The passion of Jesus is God’s love story for us sinners. The passionate love of God takes place in Jesus’ dying on the cross for us, because greater love has no one than this than to lay down his or her life for their friends.

The Gospel is the greatest love story ever told, because in the passion and crucifixion of Jesus Christ our Lord God showed the greatest love, the most passionate love the world has ever known.

We who are baptized participate in this divine passionate love, loving God back and spreading this almighty love to everyone that we relate with, so that they too learn and experience that “God so loved the world, that God gave God’s only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

On the cross we see God’s Son dying for us, but we also see the sunshine of the resurrection, we see God raising up Jesus from the dead. On that cross we may not be able to look upon him, his face is so marred. In the words of Isaiah: “He was acquainted with our infirmities, he was despised and rejected, and held to be of no account. Surely he has borne our sicknesses and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God and afflicted. But Jesus was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, upon him was the punishment that made us whole and by his bruises we are healed.”[1] We hide in the wounded side of Christ, because all our wounds, sicknesses and afflictions are healed because God raised Jesus from the dead.

So when we participate in the passion of Jesus Christ, we will not perish. We will be awakened to live with God, become alive in God. That is the Good News, which is much better than life-insurance, which can’t overcome death and it kicks in only after we die.

Everlasting life is the wonderful promise of John 3:16. And that promised life starts right here and now, not only after we die and go to heaven. In the words of Athanasius, a church father, the resurrection of Jesus makes our whole life, your whole life and my whole life, a feast without end. In the Middle Ages they had to deal with the plague and a constant threat of death. Martin Luther died at 62 years of age, which was considered very old for back then. They often celebrated the dance of death, painting it on walls and performing it in carnivals, but because of the resurrection, the Lord of the Dance Jesus Christ,[2] leads us in the dance of life. We dance for joy because of our recovery from sickness. We dance in the joy of the resurrection into the wholeness and fulfillment of life, which Athanasius of old called “the feast without end.”[3] Amen.

_________________________________

[1] Cf. Isaiah 53:3-5.

[2] The Lord of the Dance, the song with the lyrics.

[3] Several of my ideas in this sermon come from reading Jürgen Moltmann’s wonderful book: Der lebendiger Gott und die Fülle des Lebens: auch ein Beitrag zur Atheismus Debatte unserer Zeit, (Güterslohe Verlagshaus, 2014). (To translate the title: the Living God and the Fullness of Life: also a Contribution to the Atheism Debate of our Time) For example, the Augustine and Athanasius citations come from his work. Also that eternal life starts here and now as well as the idea that we live toward the fulfillment of life and thus are led by Christ, the Lord of the Dance, into the newness and fulfillment of life.

Written by peterkrey

March 19, 2015 at 11:56 am

Blogging my thoughts: Lighting up the Thoughts of the Mind

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Blogging my thoughts: Lighting up the Thoughts of the Mind by Peter Krey

Reading about optogenetics in the New York Science Times for today (April 22, 2014) I read an article entitled, “Brain Control in a Flash of Light” by James Gorman. Reading it I had to think of the lightning flash of that preceded Luther’s entry into the monastery. (The incident took place before the Reformation on July 2, 1505 near the village of Stotternheim in Germany.)

Dr. Karl Dreisseroth and his team devised a practical way to turn neurons in the brain on and off with light. Is it far-fetched to think that the lightning strike that came so close to Luther that it knocked him down, also affected Luther, in this case, turning his mind on to ultimate questions? I’ve read how Karl Marx thought that that lightning flash began a change of mind not only in Luther but in all of Europe and I have somehow felt myself, that Luther’s whole Reformation came out of one flash of insight, that was not only intellectual but went way down to the enlightenment of his affects as well.

Dreisseroth talks of people with psychoses having a different reality from our own (New York Science Times, page D4). He describes bipolar disorder as “’exuberance, charisma, love of life, and yet how destructive’; of depression, [so] ‘crushing – it can’t be reasoned with.’” (D4) But what about on the positive side, that is, a brain that reaches a new level of integration and insight through an encounter with God? A Psalm speaks of God in terms of “the Light in which we see light.” (Psalm 36:9) Often we are locked with our thinking in the pathological, while we remain oblivious to the wholesome, the wonderful level of a new maturity in life. St. Paul on the road to Damascus and perhaps Luther, on his way back from home to Erfurt, experienced something along these lines.

Now to delve more deeply into the article: various laboratories experimented with using light to control brain cells. Needed in that process are proteins they call “opsins.” “When light shines on an opsin, it absorbs a photon and changes.” (D4) Smuggling opsin genes into nerve cells caused no harm. (D5) They found that one particular opsin called channelrhodopsin-2 “could be used to turn on mammalian neurons with blue light.” (D5) Dreisseroth used microbial opsins to get those neurons to respond strongly to light. With that Dreisseroth’s team could switch the neurons on and off.

Then working in his laboratory they took a step beyond optogenetics making the whole brain transparent in a method they have called “Clarity.” It cannot be used for living brains because a chemical called hydrogel has to be infused into the brain tissue, “which leaves the brain not only transparent, but also still available for bio-chemical tests.” (D5)

Dreisseroth’s aim continues to be helping people with severe mental illness or brain diseases “and he recently proposed ways that optogenetics, Clarity, and other techniques may be turned to this aim.” D5) It turns out that optogenetics is a crucial tool in understanding brain functions. “Clarity, on the other hand, is an aid to anatomical studies, basic mapping of structure, which, he says, is as important to understand as activity.” (D5) When as a psychiatrist he administered electro convulsive therapy (electric shock therapy) a general seizure results, in which the whole brain is disrupted. “’Within a few minutes the whole person comes back. Where does it come back from? From the structure,’ he said.” (D5)

It is interesting the way Dreisseroth speaks of the whole person coming back but then uses the pronoun “it” for merely the structure of the brain. Perhaps the mind envelopes the whole person, while the brain is just the seat of that source.

When Dreisseroth speaks of encountering a whole different reality in a person experiencing a psychosis then he needs to be completely cognizant that we all agree on a conventional, everyday level of reality which we call normal. This kind of scientific work, however, shows how there are deeper realities that go far beyond the everyday level of reality we accept as normalcy.

When a St. Paul or Luther experience the source of light, then perhaps they were treated to a shock therapy for a more wholesome reality through and after which the reality of the presence of the Divine has to be proclaimed. This ultimate reality, filled with healing love and compassion can also fill a psychotic person with healing light.

“Clarity” now for a live brain may provide a physical analogy to enlightenment, say of the Buddha, or the transfiguration of Jesus Christ. The transfiguration of the person or mind, if “mind” is understood as enveloping the whole person and the whole person’s intellect and affects as well are taken to be in the mind. When that mind becomes transparent, then perhaps the source of light can shine through a person.

Recently I wrote about the light of the eyes, as it was understood in Biblical times.[1] The light of the eyes, but really the light of the mind and all its wonderful functioning cannot hold a candle to “the Light in which we see light.” The whole verse from Psalm 36 also includes affects and more: “For with you is the fountain of life and in your light we see light.” That living light is the source of our being (structure) and consciousness (functioning and activity).

In blogging my thoughts here, I go all the way into opsins, photons, optogenetics, and “Clarity,” because Luther said that we cannot go into the flesh deeply enough. I first interpreted his sense of the word “flesh” to mean that we cannot go into everything concerning what it means to be human being deeply enough. In the words of Cicero, “I am a human being and I consider nothing that is human alien to me.” But here I interpret “flesh” as delving into this completely physical and natural study of the brain as a foray into theology.

Now Dreisseroth maintains that one cannot reason with depression. (D5) Of course not. But we should not discount the talking cure,[2] because insights enlighten the brain with optogenetic potential. And the encounter with the omniscient, compassionate, and wholly loving God, can bring a healthy person back from a “divine structure” into the wholeness of a new maturity, a fully functioning and fulfilling life. But God also has to encounter those like Dr. Dreisseroth, who go into a mind completely transparent or enlightened by the living Light of God to heal not only people with psychoses, but also as many of us who are walking around in an everyday reality unenlightened by the real presence of the One who “created the sun, moon, and the shining stars; for God commanded and these lights were created.” (Psalm 148:3 and 5)

 

[1] See “Your Eye is a Lamp for your Body.” Also see “Seeing the Light of God.

[2] Check out Ira Steinman’s book Treating the Untreatable. I relate a story from it in my Sermon of Feb. 8, 2009 called, “Not just the Healthy, the sick are saved too.”  Here of course, I take the neuroscientific approach of this article.

Blogging my thoughts: the Social Justification by Faith

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Blogging my thoughts:

In packing boxes while getting ready to move, I found some notes jotted down during the writing of my dissertation that I did not throw away:

In my dissertation, I worked with four of Luther’s most popular pamphlets: Sermon on the Ban, Sermon on Good Works, The New Testament, that is, the Holy Mass, and the Freedom of a Christian. In analyzing these pamphlets I found that they follow the same regular pattern in critiquing the church of that day for the wealth and power of the hierarchy, the exclusion of the Christian laity from the spiritual estate, the fact that cardinals, bishops and priests did not consider it their duty to preach, unless called to do so with a different call above sacramental ordination. These factors, among others, brought opposition to the hierarchy of the spiritual estate.

In the Great Peasants’ War of 1525, the peasants were looking to improve their lot. They could work as peasants on the level of being feudal serfs but they could also work as peasants, like farmers as the equals of burghers and the common man.

Patrick Collinson, in The Religion of the Protestants[1] works with the concept of elective affinity comparing laws. He wrote that the many laws of that day were not like the ones the Puritans would have attempted – for a severe and legally enforced religious and moral discipline. The laws in Luther’s days amounted to an unjust legally enforced exploitation of the peasants. A complicity of the laity and clergy existed in undermining the severity of the Christian moral mandate. Karl Holl would also have argued that the legal practice of the church ban was not used for moral discipline. It was used for debt collection for the spiritual estate and control of the laity.

I think that Holl is convincing in arguing that Luther emphasized the conscience and the intensification of the Christian moral mandate. But Luther’s mandate is more than that of a religion of conscience. With conscientia – according to Steven Ozment, heart, soul, and spirit have to be included as well, to grasp Luther’s anthropological concepts referring to the whole person,[2] (and I add) in terms of maturity and creativity as well. Luther’s concept of spontaneity refers to being moved personally, but who cannot see that it is involved with initiating and sparking social movement for justice as well – rather than merely the justification of the person? Thus Luther’s theology should also include shalom or the Russian concept of sobornost. This idea is not one of a collective emotionalism or an enhancement of religious pleasure, but the experience of a new social and personal harmony and creativity in the further approximations of the Kingdom of God, the Beloved Community – or what Luther describes as “the internal Kingdom of Christian Freedom in terms of the circulation of grace for the common good in the joyful economy of abundance” – (to patch in some of my later work)[3] – while realizing that the Christian state is a historical problem not yet at all solved. Basing it as Luther does on reason and law, rather than a particular faith and Gospel, should not preclude greater and greater approximations of justice.

How can justification merely apply to an individual person? That ignores the historical reality of the social dynamism unleashed by Luther: the Wittenberg Disturbances came first, then the Knights’ Rebellion, and then the Peasants’ War or the Revolution of the Common Man as Peter Blickle would have it.

I like to relate Henri Bergson’s first order feelings and reactive ones.[4] A charismatic social movement as well as a charismatic personal response can issue from a first order “feeling,” that is, not a reactive feeling – but a feeling that initiates new thoughts, feelings, and actions.

So Luther experienced justification by faith as an individual; the peasants wanted justification by faith in terms of social justice. I was thinking in those terms when I wrote against systematic racism and justification not by race, but by grace.[5] What would constitute justification on a social level? The way a whole and mature person can be described as self-aware, autonomous, with quality relationships, etc., the basic ingredients of social justification should also be worked out, as Luther attempts to do in the third part of his pamphlet on Christian Freedom.

________________________

[1] Patrick Collinson, The Religion of Protestants: the Church and English Society 1559-1625, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), p. 241.

[2] Luther’s thinking is holistic. When he refers to the anima, soul, cor, heart, spiritus, spirit, and conscientia, conscience, he always refers to the whole human being from a certain aspect. Steven Ozment notes that for Luther this totus homo is operationally united. Ozment, Steven, Homo Spiritualis: a Comparative Study of the Anthropology of Johannes Tauler, Jean Gerson, and Martin Luther (1509-1516) in the Context of their Theological Thought, (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1969), pages 89, 95, and 100.

[3] See the Third Mini-Lecture On Christian Freedom for Our Redeemer in South San Francisco. The existential rapture also applies to individuals and in face of personal realities can seem far-fetched. It is some flight of the imagination to take it to a collective level.

[4] Bergson, Henri, The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1935, 1954).

[5] See my writing: Luther’s Justification is not by Race and my Social Ethics developed from Luther’s Theology.

Book Review: Martin Luther, On the Freedom of a Christian by Tryntje Helfferich

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Book Review with Translation Issuesby Peter D. S. Krey

Tryntje Helfferich, On the Freedom of a Christian with Related Texts, edited, translated, and with Introductions by the author. (Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2013), 132 pages with a 21 page introduction and important introductions before each translated text, a two page bibliography for further reading, and an index slightly longer than seven pages. The footnotes are well researched, informative, filled with background and biographical notes, and very helpful for the reader as an introduction to this material.

 

It is always welcome to see Luther texts presented for readers today, especially with the coming Luther Decade and the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation October 31, 2017. I was surprised that not the Latin, but the popular German version of Luther’s most popular pamphlet was translated by Tryntje Helfferich, because I had just translated it for Luther’s Spirituality, (New York: Paulist Press, 2007), in an anthology for The Classics of Western Spirituality edited by my brother Philip D.W. Krey and me. Translation is such a challenging art, so I read Tryntje’s work avidly to compare her translation decisions with mine.

First to the contents of this short book and then to translation issues with what I hope is constructive criticism and a help for future translations.

Perhaps the title of the book should not read “with Related Texts,” but “with Opposing Texts,” because along with one of Luther’s most famous non-polemical pamphlets, Freedom of a Christian, containing the whole sum of the Christian life,Tryntje included Johannes Eck’s Handbook of Commonplaces against Luther and the Enemies of the Church, John Fisher’s Sermon against the Pernicious Doctrine of Martin Luther, Thomas Műntzer’s Highly Provoked Defense against the Spiritless, Soft-living Flesh at Wittenberg, (He’s referring to Luther of course.) and finally, Luther’s most notorious pamphlet, Against the Rioting Peasants, which registers down there with Luther’s most inexcusable outbursts full of rage, like his Anti-Semitic writings at the end of his life. During most of Luther’s life, he was able to keep opposite extremes in a tension that brought deep theological insights, but it seems at the end of his life he fell apart and produced scurrilous writings on the one hand and the wonderfully rich and rewarding Genesis Lectures on the other. How can one fathom that?

Again, what drew me to this book was Tryntje’s translation of the popular German version of Luther’s Freedom of a Christian. I thought that I had been the first to translate it until I discovered Bertram Lee Woolf’s translation for London’s Philosophical Library in 1956 in a two volume work named, Reformation Writings of Martin Luther (reissued in 2001). All the common translations of this very important writing that were available until now are from the intellectual Latin version and not this more spiritual one.

Tryntje’s translation is very strong and may well be “smoother and more faithful to Luther’s tone and meaning” (p. xxvi) than Woolf’s and mine, but the following criticisms are meant for a future translation that can provide the basis for one very much more improved. This pamphlet is worth it and even the foremost Luther scholar today, Oswald Bayer, asserts that it deserves more study.[1]

I believe that Bertram Woolf and I agreed on the significance of a passage of Freedom of a Christian of Luther’sin point 6: “What is the word that gives such great grace, and how shall I use it? Answer: It is nothing other than the preaching of Christ contained in the Gospel, which should be, and indeed is, presented so that you hear your God speak to you, explaining how all life, etc.” In my translation which, if I remember correctly, Woolf also affirmed when I discovered his translation, we made a full stop after “you,” namely, “so that you hear your God speaking to you! It shows how your whole life and work, etc.” There’s a vergula or slash in the pamphlet and in Otto Clemen’s Luthers Werke,[2] left out by the Weimar Edition. The vergula used by the printers can be interpreted as a comma or period. Placing a period there brings out the point that in, with, and under the words proclaimed by the preacher, God is speaking to you. As a preacher, one often marvels at what a listener in the congregation heard, something you realize that you did not say.

As opposed to Tryntje, I avoided using the word “doctrine” and always translated “teaching” because of how the doctrinal emphasis has distorted and dampened the creativity in Luther’s thought.[3] Then in Luther’s St. Paul’s citations, Tryntje uses the word “predestined” (p. 28) and “reprobate.” (p. 32) From Lutheran sensibilities, these are Calvinist words that do not belong in this quintessential Luther writing.

I respectfully disagree that gender inclusive language transforms the text, because in Luther’s day the masculine, patriarchal language did not offend women, but it does in our day, and that offense is the real transformation of the text, from my point of view.

Luther’s theology is misrepresented in the Introduction (p. xx), with Tryntje perhaps taking the cue from Johannes Eck, Luther’s life-long adversary, who “strongly criticizes Luther’s claim in Freedom [of a Christian] that the believer is his own priest.” (p. 50) Along the same line, in the Introduction, Tryntje writes, “Furthermore, Luther argued, Christians did not need a priesthood to mediate for them with God. Each man was his own priest and the overseer of his own soul.” (p. xx) Perhaps like Pope Leo X, Eck never read Freedom of a Christian, because in Tryntje’s own translation of the pamphlet, Luther writes, “Therefore in all his works his thoughts should be free and directed only so that he thereby serves and benefits other people. He should conceive of nothing else than what is necessary for the other.” (p. 37) (As an aside, Tryntje entitles this section “Man’s Relationship to Man,” which today is no longer inclusive of women.) Again just before the concluding paragraph of his pamphlet, Luther’s writes that we are not to seek our own benefit and intend thereby to expiate our sins and be saved, but “God’s goodness [must] flow from one to the other and become common to all, so that each one accepts his neighbor as if he were himself…the holy apostle said of love that it does not seek its own interests, but those of the neighbor.” (1 Cor. 13:5)(p. 41). Because each person is his or her neighbor’s priest,[4] Lutherans do not even sing hymns where the “I” is pronounced, as in “I Walk in the Garden Alone,” but only hymns using the pronoun “we.” That may also be why Scandinavian countries that are Lutheran are very socially advanced and Lutheran Social Services in this country makes a strong witness.

Tryntje’s decision to allow masculine language to dominate allows the structure of language to reinforce patriarchy. Language does not, of course, have absolute control and is not the only reinforcement of sexism, but it has a measure of influence. For example, when translating point 12, I wanted to soften the word “whore” and replace it with “harlot” in the marvelous exchange. The passage in question goes, when “the rich, noble, pious bridegroom Christ takes the poor, despised, evil whore in marriage, absorbs all of her wickedness, and adorns her with all goodness,” (p. 26) my decision was overturned and the word “whore” was replaced into the text. A woman that I know was really offended by this passage. The masculine gets to identify with the innocent Christ, while the soul, referred to in the grammatical feminine somehow sticks women with the very worst epithet: a whore.

Now God did not become a man as opposed to a woman in Christ, but God became a human being in Christ. So the passage could also be turned around: “the rich, noble, pious bride Christ takes the poor, despised, evil schmuck in marriage, absorbs all of his wickedness, and adorns him with all goodness.” That puts the man into the pejorative for a change. At least now there is a growing awareness that the woman in the streets should not be arrested, but all the Johns and pimps should be, because of their victimization of women and the rampant violence perpetrated against women. Linguistics has a way of forming social realities and shaping social policies, sometimes against women.

Tryntje uses the words “pious” and “piety” to translate the German word “fromm,” to use the modern spelling. I first translated the word as “religious.” A decision in my case was made to translate each occurrence of the word with “upright,” a word that I believe does not capture the whole meaning. “Spiritual” does not have the traditional churchly sense of the word. Today I would use the word “devout” which can be a noun or modifier. Very seldom are the words “pious” and “piety” used today.

The following assertion by Tryntje in the introduction to Eck’s Handbook left me skeptical. “Indeed, sixteenth-century Catholics were just as prolific as Protestants in publishing pamphlets, essays, sermons, and books to defend their own ideas and attack the ideas and character of their enemies.” (p. 43) David Bagchi estimates that there was a ratio of about five Reformation to one Catholic publication, especially when Luther’s non-polemical publications and his polemics against other Protestants are included.[5] Between 1521 and 1525 Luther himself published 192 titles while all his Catholic opponents between them published only 128. Many pamphlets in that day developed from sermons and while Luther preached two or three times a week, Cochleus, a staunch opponent of the Reformation at age 62 had never preached a sermon in his life.[6] Other evidence to the contrary of Tryntje’s assertion is the consideration that Catholic authorities frowned upon disputations that included the laity and thus Catholics wrote in heavy scholastic styles and mostly in Latin. Bagchi reports that publishers refused to publish Catholic works because they would not sell. Murner and Emser had to bear their own publication costs.[7] Meanwhile Luther became a best-selling author in his life-time with over a million copies of his pamphlets in the homes of the people.

That made me question Tryntje’s assertion that John Eck’s Handbook of Commonplaces appeared in almost a hundred printings in its various editions before 1600. (p. 49) But in reading the introduction of what seems a magisterial work of reconstructing Eck’s Latin text by Pierre Fraenkel – to translate the Latin title, “The Handbook of Commonplaces against Luther and the Enemies of the Church,”[8] it turned out that there could have been a hundred printings of Eck and his many revisions, some with the help of others. To explain the difference: Eck’s Handbook is probably an exception, because Bagchi does not follow printings until 1600, focuses more on Germany, rather than Italy, France, Spain, and pre-Elizabethan England, where the Reformation did not take hold; and most interestingly, Eck took Melanchthon’s popular Commonplaces as a model; and finally also translated his work into German. For those reasons, Eck’s Commonplaces was probably an exception.

Let me end with these comments: If Eck and Fisher are to be taken seriously asserting that good works are required and demanded for salvation, then those among us with wealth and power will be saved. Who can equal the works possible by a very powerful president or wealthy philanthropist? Exactly how many good works will save us? Sorry, a poor woman with MS in a wheelchair, who can do nothing, will be condemned. Such a woman said to me, “Will you please tell people that although I have MS and cannot be productive, that I still have value?” Good works leave us with the limitations of the law. We have to go to the source of good works, into the grace of the Gospel.

And Tryntje should have also included Eck’s chapter 27, his justification for burning heretics at the stake to balance Luther’s notorious pamphlet against the Thuringian Peasants, who in his area under Thomas Műntzer were plundering monasteries and burning down castles. That Luther supported going into battle against the peasants in those frightening times remains a blemish on his career and an inexcusable injustice on his part.

But while there is plenty of ammunition for an ad hominem argument demolishing the man, Luther, that will not refute the Christian truth of the Gospel of grace that he proclaimed. God’s Word and Luther’s teaching will remain for eternity. In German: Gottes Wort und Luthers Lehr vergehet niemals and nimmer mehr. His is a version of the authentic subjective truth of Christianity that the unreformed, objective Church of that day wrongly rejected. Reconciliation, however, is on the horizon, because the times are changing.

________________________

[1] Oswald Bayer, Schöpfung als Anrede, (Tübingen: J C B Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1990), p. 61: “Freedom of a Chrisitan [has] not received from Lutheran scholars the attention it deserves.“ (my translation) But see my dissertation, Sword of the Spirit, Sword of Iron, (PhD diss. Graduate Theological Union, 2001) where I have a seventy-five page analysis of the Freedom of a Christian and have posited the structure in terms of “Existential Rapture.” For the latter see Peter Krey’s Website.

[2] Otto Clemen, Luthers Werke in Auswahl, Zweiter Band, (Berlin: Verlag von Walter de Gruyter & Co., 1929).

[3] In a conversation with Hartmut Lehmann about Thomas Kaufmann’s biography of Martin Luther that I am translating for Eerdmans Publishing, I asked why Kaufmann called Luther a heretic throughout his book. Lehmann explained to me that he was calling him a heretic not from a Catholic point of view, but in order to honor Luther as an independent thinker! That is somewhat analogous with the Hamburg publishers in Luther’s day calling themselves Die Ketzerpresse, the Heretic-press, feeling honored to be so-called.

[4] In Freedom of a Christian, Luther even maintained that much more than a mere priest, believers should become Christs to their neighbors.

[5] David V. N. Bagchi, Luther’s Earliest Opponents (1518-1525), Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991), pp. 198-200.

[6] Ibid., p. 197.

[7] Ibid., pp. 199-200.

[8] Pierre Fraenkel, Johannes Eck: Enchiridion locorum communism adversus Lutherum et alios hostes ecclesiae, Published by Irwin Iserloh in Corpus Catholicorum: Werke Katholischer Schriftsteller im Zeitalter der Glaubensspaltung, (Aschendorff, Műnster Westfalen, 1979).

Written by peterkrey

April 4, 2014 at 5:07 pm

Wie Wird Dann die Stube Glänzen, Weihnachtspredigt von 2013

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Advents- und Weihnachtsgottesdienst, 1. Dezember, 2013 United Lutheran Church, Manteca, CA

Deutsche Adventsfeier, 15. Dezember, 2013 Resurrection Lutheran Church, Oakland, CA

Lukas 2:9 und die Klarheit des Herrn leuchtete um sie.

Wie Wird Dann die Stube Glänzen

Warum weiss ich nicht, aber als ich fűr diese Advents-Weihnachts Feier meine Predigt schreiben wollte, kamen mir wieder die Worte in den Sinn, „Wie wird dann die Stube glänzen.“ Ich hab zwar schon einmal davon gepredigt, aber es hat nichts geholfen. Wieder wollte ich diese Worte betrachten.

Die Worte kommen doch von einem wohl bekanntes Weihnachtslied:

1.Morgen, Kinder, wird’s was geben,

Morgen werden wir uns freu’n.

Welch ein Jubel, welch ein Leben

Wird in unserem Hause sein!

Einmal werden wir noch wach,

Heissa, dann ist Weihnachtstag!

2.Wie wird dann die Stube glänzen

Von dem grossen Lichterzahl.

Schőner als bei frohen Tänzen,

Ein geputzter Kronensaal.

Wisst ihr noch vom vor’gem Jahr

Wie’s am Heiligabend war.

Am Heiligabend war unsere Wohnstube fast verklärt. Wir hatten schimmerndes Lammetta am Weihnachtsbaum, mit siebzehn echten Kerzen, eine fűr jedes Familien-Mitglied, fűnfzehn fűr die Kinder und zwei fűr unsere Eltern. Wir konnten wohl singen, „Am Weihnachtsbaum, die Lichter brennen.“ Und dann lagen eine Menge Geschenke im Weihnachtszimmer herum. Wir haben die Weihnachtsgeschichte gehőrt mit Bibellesung und Gebet und wir haben Weihnachtslieder gesungen. Wenn ich mich an das glänzende Weihnachtszimmer errinere, muss ich an Verklärung denken – es kam mir vor wie ein wunderbares, heiliges Licht. Ein geweihtes, heiliges Leben war da in unserem Hause fűr eine geweihte und geliebte Welt. Das Christkind ist gekommen und im Christkind war Gott selbst anwesend und der Raum und die Zeit waren verklärt. Diese Verklärung kann sich durch Gläubige daher in die ganze Welt verbreiten, damit plőtzlich alle Welt und alle Menschen in einem neuen Lichte gesehen werden kőnnen, wie sie eigentlich von Gott so wunderlich geschaffen worden sind.

In der Weihnachtsgeschichte, fűr die Hirten „trat der Engel des Herrn zu ihnen und die Klarheit des Herrn leuchtete um sie.“ Dabei sehen wir wieder, wie die Frohe Botschaft der Engel unsere Welt mit Himmlischen Licht verklärt.

So beten wir:

O Gott, du hast diese geweite Nacht im Glanz des wahren Lichtes scheinen lassen. Verleihe uns, dass wir dort im Himmel der Freude jenes Lichtes innewerden, dessen Geheimnisse du uns hier auf Erden offenbart hast. Durch unsern Herrn Jesus Christus der das wahrhaftige Licht [ist.][1]

Ich wűnsche so sehr, dass ich fähig wäre diesen Glanz fűr euch zu erläutern! Wir kőnnten auch beten: O Gott, du hast die Stube in dieser geweihten Nacht im Glanz des wahren Lichtes scheinen lassen. Dieser Glanz ist dann auch also eine leuchtende Freude innewerdend in uns.“ (Auch ein leuchtender Glaube, Gnade, Liebe, Trost und Wunder innewerdend in uns.) Der Glanz im Weihnachtszimmer kam, weil das Christkind, das Licht der Welt, mit dem himmlischen Glanz Gottes anwesend war.

Ach, nach diesem Glanz der Ewigkeit will ich jetzt etwas weiter forschen, und zwar durch die Weihnachtslieder im Evangelischen Gesangsbuch, denn ich habe fűr diese Predigt all diese Lieder durch gelesen.

In unsere dunkele Finsterniss ist das Licht der Welt gekommen.

Jochen Klepper singt,

Die Nacht ist vorgedrungen, der Tag ist nicht mehr fern/ So sei nun Lob gesungen den hellen Morgenstern! Auch wer zu Nacht geweinet, der stimme froh mit ein. Der Morgenstern bescheinet auch deine Angst und Pein.

Das Christkind treibt die Finsterniss unserer Schwermut weg mit dem Licht der leuchtenden Freude und neu geborenem Trost.

In Luthers Liedern kommt das Christkind zu uns, so zum Beispiel bei „Vom Himmel Hoch da komm ich her,“ kann man an ein kleines Kind denken, das die Krippe anschaut und sich dann auf die Zehenspitzen stellt und in die Krippe hinein guckt.

Da findet ihr das Kind gelegt,

das alle Welt erhält und trägt.

So auch in dem Luthergesang „Gelobst Seist Du, Jesu Christ:“

Der alle Weltkreis nie beschloss,

der liegt in Marien Schoss.

Er ist ein Kindlein worden klein,

der alle Welt erhält allein. Kyrieleis.[2]

In der Schőpfung spricht Gott: „Es werde Licht und es ward Licht!“ Auf Hebräisch: Yehi Or, wa Yehi Or! Weil das Christkind gekommen ist, sieht man kein Tohu wa Bohu, sondern Gottes wundervolle Schőpfung. Das Wort ward Fleisch und wohnte unter uns. „Fleisch“ in Hebräisch bedeutet „Mensch.“ Das Wort ward Mensch. Das Licht der Welt wurde Mensch und besinnt euch in welch einer lieblichen Art und Weise, als ein Kindlein, ein Baby in Marien Schoss. „Ach, mein herzliebes Jesulein,“ singt Luther.[3]

Und er singt weiter:

Das ewig Licht geht da herein, gibt der Welt ein’ neuen Schein/ es leucht’ wohl mitten in der Nacht/ und uns des Lichtes Kinder macht. Kyreileis.[4]

So im Glanz Gottes könnten wir wohl singen: „Wie wird dann die Stube glänzen!“ Und auch, im Licht unseres Glaubens, wie wird dann diese Welt durch das Christkind glänzen! „Denn uns ist ein Kind geboren, ein Sohn ist uns gegeben!“

Luther spricht őfters von einem Gnadenhimmel űber allen Gläubigen. In einem Weihnachtslied wird das Christkind „die Gnadensonne“ genannt. Dieser Glanz ist dann halt also auch die leuchtende Gnade Gottes űber uns. Im Christkind ist Gottes Gnadensonne zu uns kommen, denn er ist das Licht in dem wir das Licht sehen, wie es im Psalm 36 steht. „Bei dir ist die Quelle des Lebens und in deinem Licht sehen wir das Licht.“[5]

Wenn wir Raum in der Herberge unseres Herzens fűr das Baby Jesu haben, dann kőnnen wir mit Paul Gerhardt singen:

So lass mich doch dein Kriplein sein/ komm und lege bei mir ein/ und alle deine Freuden![6]

Welch ein Glanz also von leuchtender innewerdender Freude! Wenn wir seine Krippe sind, dann ist das Jesulein in uns geboren, und unsere Gnadensonne vertreibt unsere Sorgen, Sűnde, Angst und Pein, und in der Klarheit des Herrn, gibt uns unsere Gnadensonne Licht, Leben, Freud, und Wonne. Siehe welch Liebe Gott uns erweisst!

Das Christkind trägt uns unter dem Gnadenhimmel, wo wir auf-atmen, wenn wir die schőnen und warmen Strahlen unserer Gnadensonne innewerden. Und da kann unsere Schwermut und Trűbsal nicht Stand halten. In der tiefsten Nacht ist das Christkind unsere Sonnenschein,[7] denn in einem anderen Weihnachtslied heisst es: „und diese Welt- und  Himmels Licht weicht hundert tausend Sonnen nicht.“ Die ganze Strophe geht so:

Dies ist die Nacht, da mir erschienen des grossen Gottes Freundlichkeit/ das Kind, dem alle Engel dienen, bringt Licht in meine Dunkelheit, und diese Welt- und  Himmels Licht weicht hundert tausend Sonnen nicht.[8]

Dann wird Jesu die schőne Weihnachtssonne genannt:

Drum Jesu, schőne Weihnachtssonne, bestrahle mich mit deiner Gunst; dein Licht sei meine Weihnachtswonne und lehre mich die Weihnachtskunst, wie ich im Lichte wandeln soll und sei des Weihnachtsglanzes voll.[9]

Wie wird dann unsere Seele glänzen! Ja, wenn wir in seinem Lichte wandeln, wie werden dann unsere Augen glänzen! Wie werden dann die Kinder Gottes glänzen, wie wird dann diese ganze geweihte Welt glänzen? Ich konnte mich nur an den Glanz unseres Weihnachtzimmers errinern, aber jetzt merken wir schon, dass zuvor unserer Gnadensonne, unserer Weihnachtsonne, hundert tausend betrűbte Sonnen weichen műssen! Welch ein Morgenstern! Welch eine Sonne bringt uns Gott in diesem Kind fűr uns geboren, diesen Sohn uns gegeben! Und der heisst: Wunder-Rat, Gott-Held, Ewig-Vater, Friede-Fürst fűr uns gekommen!

Die Welt is voll von Trűbsal, Schwermut, Sorgen, Sűnden, Angst und Pein, aber in diesem Christkind will Gott bei uns sein. Der Engel des Herrn trat zu den Hirten, aber er tritt auch zu uns mit der frohen Botschaft der Geburt des Jesulein in der Krippe liegend und in Windeln gewickelt. Die Klarheit, die verklärende Klarheit des Herrn leuchtet auch űber uns, und unsere Gnadensonne, unsere Weihnachtssonne ist auch fűr uns Licht, Leben, Freud und Wonne. Auch zu unserer Weihnachtszeit im Licht des Glaubens scheint der Glanz der Ewigkeit űber uns. Unsere Gnadensonne ist geboren. In dieser heiligen Nacht ist er aufgegangen. Nun bricht an der Gnadentag und in dessen Strahlen werden wir alle glänzen. Amen.


[1] Evangelisches Kirchen-Gesangbuch: ausgegeben fűr die Evangelische Kirche Berlin-Brandenburg, (Verlag Merseburger Berlin GmbH, 1. Advent, 1951), Seite 27.

[2] Ibid., Seite 15.

[3] Ibid., Seite 16.

[4] Ibid., Seite 15.

[5] Ps 36:10.

[6] Evangelisches Kirchen Gesangbuch, Seite 28.

[7] Ibid., Paul Gerhardt, Seite 28, die dritte Strophe.

[8] Ibid. Seite 32.

[9] Ibid.