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The Cross is the Direction of Christ’s Holy Resurrection, Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, August 18, 2013

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Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, August 18, 2013

Jeremiah 23:23-29 Psalm 82 Hebrews 11: 29-12:2 Luke 12:49-56

The Cross is the Direction of Christ’s Holy Resurrection

One time in a church conference, I was telling people about all the suffering we were going through. It was down in Coney Island and we were having it really rough. There were over 500 hundred fires a summer, owners burning the roofs out from over their four story tenements in order to collect the insurance money just ahead of the inner city blight that would make them lose it all. Our church was broken into 46 times (counting the number of times they hit our buses). Twice somebody broke all the glass reflectors and many windows of our church bus. In one burglary, someone broke a hole through the wall of the church office, crawled over the desk, changed the whole office into a foot of rubble, even stole the seal of the church that dated all the way back to 1900, and more. (You know, with the seal coming out of a lion’s mouth) Someone stole my festival make, silver bell trumpet from the sanctuary, while I was bus-driving the Spanish congregation to the church. Running frantically to the board-walk, it made no sense, because two million people were in Coney Island that Sunday and where could one begin to look for the thief?!

In that conference one of the missionaries asked me, “What happened to rejoicing in your suffering?” My spirit was so low, that it was scraping the ground, so first his remark did not affect me the way it should have, because I’m a complainer by nature anyway. But then I thought about Paul and Silas locked into stocks while sitting in jail after having been beaten, and beginning to sing hymns and praise the Lord. I thought of other disciples who thanked God that they had the grace to suffer the way their Lord Jesus did. And I tried it and what I discovered is that rejoicing in your suffering is very best way of coping with the suffering and for getting through it!

It was our first day of Vacation Church School and Day Camp and I was driving our 60 passenger church bus loaded with children and staff to the church.[1] When we got there someone had broken in, broke every lock on every door, used  a crowbar to break open the organ, and we found all kinds of loot outside that he hurriedly left there in order himself to get away when we came. But I had allowed a huge bus to park in our parking lot, while the singing group that was touring with it went down to enjoy the rides in Coney Island. When they came back and noticed what happened, they had our whole school sit down in the sanctuary, they set up their amplifiers, audio equipment, like you might see in Carnegie Hall, and played and sang a concert for us that lifted us up, so that we realized, we had never had

a first day of VCS like it in all our 14 years! One crook had sought to bring us down, but God sent six members, six angels of that singing group, and I don’t even know who they were, to lift our spirits and set us all rejoicing. When they left it was no trouble sweeping up all the glass and door handles and assessing all the damage and repair we needed, because God overcame all our suffering, by letting this band start our hearts rejoicing!

Our little St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, your namesake, tried to start another fire in Coney Island, the fire of God’s reign, the fire of the Holy Spirit, turning hearts bent on evil to those filled with love and hope, and as you see, the fire that Jesus came to bring to the earth, had not found much kindling wood in Coney Island. But we had fourteen Vacation Church School and Day Camp programs and when the children returned from their outing singing in the bus, the whole neighborhood could hear the children singing their wonderful songs: “His Banner over Me Is Love,” “I’ve Got Peace like a River”…Do you want to learn one?

[We sang “His Banner over Me is Love” with all the signing.]

Yes, and there was the wonderful song: “Shout it from the Mountain-Tops, I want the world to know, the Lord of Love has come to me, I want to pass it on!” I guess I think of Vacation Church School, because this is the time we always ate, drank, and slept VCS because it was so much work, from 6:00am when we had to get the buses to late at night when we finally got all the kids, our precious cargo, back home to their Marlborough and Coney Island projects. We would say, “If the program was going right, you could feel yourself grow!”

Sometimes when my wife Nora and I told stories to people about what we went through, we would laugh so hard the tears would stream down our faces. I realized that I needed a rest and relaxation vacation before the program, because if I did not take one, invariably my back would go out after the program and I would have a week of sheering pain.

You would be surprised by how much help and strength the Holy Spirit would give when we were doing that mission as the church. A White faction in our congregation left the church. The treasurer slammed her keys down on the table and resigned as of immediately. The pastor was supposed to evangelize in the White side of the church, in Brighton and not in the projects. But a faithful third of our membership was Caucasian, a third Black, now we say, Lutherans of African Descent, and a third Hispanic. Our second service was all in Spanish and because they were Puerto Rican, our Colombians and Guatemalans would not attend, even though they could not speak English!

The White people stayed with us. In Oakland I served St. John’s in East Oakland and Bethlehem in West Oakland, and here in progressive Oakland the churches are all Black except for one or two White members. What’s wrong with this picture?

When in the seminary, being very ashamed of being German and the antisemitism and our history with the Holocaust, I determined I would minister against prejudice, bigotry and racism. I started with Les Schulz in Cincinnati, in an area called Over the Rhine where there were race riots in the late sixties. I came home after harrowing experiences, because I had to deal with my own prejudice. I had grown a beard and when I got home, my father, also a minister, was furious that I was working among the Blacks, said I was a pastor and not a deacon and I experienced a rather sound rejection and that from my whole family.

When you try to bring reconciliation, somehow you get rejected. Like a commentary said, “if you want some conflict, work for peace.” Now we are like this, society is like this: compare the case of a little child. It will have a cut and you will want to treat it and the child will fight with you so you can’t get at it and if you don’t treat it, it will only get worse. So often we have to hold the arms and legs of a little child, so the doctor can have it hold still enough to touch and treat the deep cut. Sure it will hurt, but if you don’t allow the hurt that will bring healing, then it will only get worse.

My little son Mark was hit by a bicycle passing on the sidewalk as he got out of our car. He needed to have it treated. Did we have to hold him down! And instead of stitches, they stapled the long and deep cut. “Pop, they used a staple on my head!” He was outraged. Of course, it is now funny and we laugh. And we are like that to, things go wrong in our society and even in ourselves and we don’t want to go through the pain that is involved with healing. No pain no gain. Like doing the little exercise that we can manage so that we become more healthy. The pain and the division is just what we go through to avoid the greater suffering that takes place if we do not take care of the problem.

So you see the sword that Jesus brings is for the sake of healing, for reconciliation, for peace. But it is often like going through fire to do that ministry. It is like receiving the baptism of suffering. And that means that we can

“Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice.”

because we can also place our cross squarely on our shoulder blades and carry it following after Jesus. And Jesus becomes a Simon Cyrene for us, carrying the cross for us, saying, “It’s not heavy, he’s/ she’s my follower!”

A funny thing I read in the online commentary: “How can so many pastors be burnt out, if they’ve never been on fire?”[2] We don’t live out of our own strength, but out of the strength of God’s grace, God’s inexhaustible strength, and pray for the Holy Spirit to use us for God’s purposes. And we pray that God will use us as torch-bearers for the wonderful new order that Jesus pronounced to be near at hand and that it come not in spite of and against us, but with us and for us. So if your life is going in the wrong direction, go through the fiery ordeal of getting it right. The division you cause will bring unity, the conflict you cause will bring peace, the pain you cause and also go through will go a long way in overcoming untold future suffering for many. When we visited the Holy Land with a group of our church, an Israeli soldier was our bus-driver. He said, “The only good Palestinian is a dead Palestinian!” I remember back in elementary school how our teacher said pioneers used to say that about the Native Americans. Let’s pray for John Kerry trying to get the Israelis and Palestinians together!

Now about predicting the weather versus telling the signs of our times, sometimes they have all these polls that are hard to take much stock in. Is our government going in the right direction? And so and so many, such a percentage will say: “It is not” and others will say, “It is.” Is your life going in the right direction? Is our society, is this congregation, our church? Jesus says that we have little trouble predicting the weather, but we don’t seem to be able to interpret the signs of our times. It is easy to see that in Russia they chose prosperity over democracy and now they are regretting it, because things are going badly with Putin. Over here are we choosing security over democracy and will we have hell to pay later? In our church are we choosing comfort over the real challenge that it means to follow Christ? Will we pray to Christ to give us the strength to go through the suffering to direct our lives on the right course?

Like in our family we were very anti-Semitic and I was determined to not be that way. Well, there is one conversion to Jesus, but there is another to overcoming our bigotry, another to become a listener, when we’ve always been a talker, and another to activate ourselves to do the real mission of Christ in this time and in this place. Our society is in a very dangerous place and we have to make our witness or the night could come where we can no longer work. 10 million people have experienced foreclosures since the Great Recession, how many millions are unemployed with little prospect of employment? We have what over two million incarcerated and what is going to happen to us? Our church has to make a witness!

In the assembly of our church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the body just elected a new presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, and that is exciting, but we can’t depend on presiding bishops, bishops, pastors, deans, or even ourselves as committed Christians. We have to rely on God’s grace, depend upon it completely, and see the wonders that God will accomplish through us and then sing, “I long for you my friend, the happiness that I’ve found!” And you’ll be saying this while wiping away the tears from your eyes. “I’ll shout it from the mountain-tops! Hey, world, I want the world to know that the Lord of Love has come to me and I want to pass it on!” Amen.

[1] 40 adults or 60 children could fit into that bus, a 1966 GMC. We drove it so long until it was going sideways.

[2] Brian Stoffregen is quoting a Bill Easum.


Written by peterkrey

August 19, 2013 at 1:22 pm

“Love Makes Us One” June 3, 2012: a Sermon for Holy Trinity Sunday, Shepherd by the Sea, Gualala, California

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Holy Trinity Sunday, Shepherd by the Sea, Gualala, California

June 3rd 2012

by Pastor Peter D.S. Krey, Ph.D.

Isaiah 6: 1-8 Psalm 29 Romans 8: 12-17 John 3: 1-17

Love Makes Us One

Thank you for inviting me to come preach God’s Word to you for this Sunday in which we worship and bless the Holy Trinity. I’ve finally been able to pronounce Gualala and spell it correctly. I read that that name is Pomo Native American meaning “the place where water is coming down.” Gualala is the place where the mystical blues of the river, ocean, and marine haze flow up to become one with the sky.[1] What a lovely thought!

That your church, Shepherd by the Sea, faces the mighty ocean makes me think that you, as the priesthood of all believers, have to have a great deal of strength to minister here. You’re about 49 feet above sea level.

The ocean is so full of life, but at the same time it is capable of changing the whole world as we know it into chaos. We all remember what that Tsunami did to Japan. The villages and cities in its path were reduced to rubble; huge ships toppled over like children’s toys, new cars were flung around and found in heaps mixed with buildings turned into trash. We won’t even talk about what happened with the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear plants!

The Shepherd by the Sea is a congregation called upon to minister and pastor against some forces like the mighty ocean, forces that far beyond our human control. So you and I have a calling which requires some real strength. For that kind of strength we call upon the Holy Spirit, who hovered over the waters and brought a fresh new world into existence out of the watery chaos that can snuff out all our lives. God, who created the heavens and the Earth as well as the mighty oceans, has the power to grow a fresh new paradise abundant with life where our human strength fails completely.

That is why in the Gospel of John Jesus says that we must be born from above. Our natural birth is not enough; we also need a heavenly one. That is why God sent the Son, so that whoever believes in him, becomes born not of the blood, nor of the flesh, nor of the human will, but [becomes born] of God. It is for the love of this world that the Father in Heaven sent the Son, so that out of the love of the Blessed and Holy Trinity, we too receive a heavenly birth, like that of Jesus, who is the first-born and only begotten Son of the Father and because of our birth from above, has become our own dear brother.

Our natural parents are not enough. Thank God that they had us baptized, because Jesus says that we must be born of the water and the spirit. The most wonderful gift parents can give a child is faith. (Perhaps they can’t give it to them, but they can have faith themselves and let the children see it shine in their lives.) When there is no faith, even the strength of the parents can become curses on their children. When the parents have faith, even their weaknesses can turn into blessings for their children.

Face it, some parents are very troubled. I once asked, “What is the greatest natural disaster?” People would answer, “Earthquakes, a Tsunami, Tornado, a hurricanes, perhaps.”

“No,” I would answer. “It’s your natural parents.” But if you receive God as your Father and are born from above from the water and the spirit, then it does not matter whether you had mature and understanding parents or abusive ones that left you in very bad shape to deal with the troubles of this world. Out of the love of God, you have the strength to forgive them, to love and honor them anyway, because they brought you into the world and did the best they knew how to do. But best of all, you were baptized and now the heavenly Father has given you the highest possible status and the highest possible standing and strength, so that God takes over the upbringing that your family ran out of and graciously helps you grow and mature in the stature of Christ.

For that the Heavenly Father lifted up the Son so we could see all the signs of God’s power, God’s almighty love, in which we also live and minister. We watch Jesus changing water into wine, giving eye-sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and movement to the paralyzed. He had compassion even on a hemorrhaging woman — way out of the ordinary bounds for a Rabbbi — but out of God’s compassion he healed her. He raised up the only son of a widow, so that she could still have a life in the man’s world of that day, when women had no rights. God the Father lifted up Jesus so that we can see what we become when we are born from above.

From up there our heavenly Father will also pour love and compassion into our hearts and make a way where there is no way, whether you are between a rock and a hard place yourself or finding the way for others. If the countries of the European Union got together and humbly asked God to show them the way to stay together, God could provide a way where right now there is no way. If in our country we all got together and asked God humbly to let our economy recover and prosper again, God could make a way where there is no way. If a community, and perhaps a congregation, has become nothing but a field of dry bones, God’s Word can raise up those old bones and make of them a new, living, vibrant, and prosperous community once more. The forces of nature and even economic forces are as nothing compared to the almighty love of God, which can take a narcissistic heart, a person full of him or herself, evict Numero Uno, and fill that person’s heart with all the people God loves. What’s more, God can take our empty churches and in the twinkling of an eye make us shout “S.R.O.! S.R.O.!” that means, “Standing room only! Standing room only!” We had an usher in Coney Island, who used to shout that. Usually S.R.O. stands for a “single room occupancy” for the poor. God has the power to fill all the pews and have people standing outside the doors unable to come in, because we are talking about the children of God. The almighty love of God can come in powerful waves formed by the wind of the Spirit like those of the ocean!

You may know the song that compares love with the ocean. In Vacation Church School and Day Camp we used to sing it with hand signals:

1. I’ve got peace like a river. (2 times)

I’ve got peace like a river in my soul (in my soul).

(Repeat the whole verse)

2. I’ve got joy like a fountain (two times)

I’ve got joy like a fountain in my soul (in my soul).

(Repeat the whole verse)

3. I’ve got love like an ocean (two times)

I’ve got love like an ocean in my soul (in my soul).

(Repeat the whole verse)

The love of God that we as God’s children receive from above is mightier than the ocean, as mysterious and wonderful as this whole universe, because it too was born from God and God is continuing its creation.

I have a copy here of André Rublev’s icon of the Holy Trinity. (Click on it to get a look at it.) In it you will see the Three Persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit filled with love. This icon is filled with theology expressed in syllables of color, symbols, and figures. The Father’s robe, for example is translucent blue and brown for the sky and the Earth; the Son’s a deep blue and brown colors also for the sky and the Earth. The robe is brown for the Earth, because he is truly human and blue for heaven because he is truly divine. The Holy Spirit is blue for heaven and green for all the life and growth the Holy Spirit brings to Earth.

They look at the chalice, because the Son is coming to us to shed His blood for us, and is ready and willing to lay down His life for us, even while we were yet sinners in this lost and fallen world. We were really not worth it, except that the precious drops of blood, by which the Son ransomed our souls, make us more valuable than diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and pearls.

“How deep is your love?” the Bee Gee’s asked in their song. The love in the Holy Trinity is so deep that each person is completely one with the other. The Father is not only continuing the creation, but bearing the Son’s burden of redemption and the Holy Spirit’s burden of sanctification. The Son is one heart with the Father also shouldering God’s continuous creation, because it is not finished yet, just like we are not finished yet, because we are becoming the new creation. The Son is also in there with the Holy Spirit, who is burdened with the difficult task of taking away our love for sin and making us become alive to the things of God. The whole of creation is having the contractions and awaiting the birth of the children of God upon whose arrival the morning stars will sing and shout for joy together.

The Holy Spirit is with the Father hovering over the waters of creation and also bearing the Son’s burden, because the Son is laying down His life for us. The Holy Spirit is also in each one of us helping us find the way to become one with each other, and have the loving and gracious relationship, in which we bear each other’s burdens and provide wonderful places in our hearts for each other and all the people we love.

Our relationships, when we are children of God, become like those of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; three persons, but completely one. This is a strong internal oneness and internal unity that helps us bear each other’s burdens. Borne in the almighty love of God, we can say, “He’s not heavy, he’s my brother!” “She’s not heavy, she’s my sister!” This love of God is so powerful it makes the heaviest burdens light. That is the same love that the Persons of the Holy Trinity have for one another. As the children of God we are inside the Holy Trinity with their same love. It penetrates all the way to the heart and makes us have an unbreakable internal bond with each other wherein our hearts and souls become one. We begin to live in each other’s hearts giving new life and healing to each other – the way Christ did in His ministry here on earth.

The early Christians sold all their property and laid the money at the apostles’ feet. In this oneness they even began a Christian commune. They held all things in common and no one claimed anything they had as their own.[2] But we read about their troubles very quickly. When we live together outwardly, sometimes we don’t know where our hearts might be. One thing is for sure, sometimes they are not together. The point is for our hearts and souls to become one. When we become one heart and soul together and the loving and compassionate heart of Christ starts beating in our breast, then we do not have to live in a commune. Our oneness is an internal bond. We live in each other’s hearts. We bear each other’s burdens. I was so proud of our congregation in Coney Island, when the council decided to help a member with a few months’ rent, so her family would not get evicted. We lay down our lives for our neighbors and that includes spending our money too. To grow and mature in this respect is a life-long commitment. We will fail, of course, again and again, because we are all sinners who have fallen short of the glory of God. We live out of forgiveness. But we keep on keeping on and you know what kicks in! God’s amazing grace, which is as mysteriously blue as a river, ocean, and marine mist flowing up to become one with the sky! Amen.

[2]  Acts 2:  43-45 and 4: 32-35.

Listening our Way into Another’s Heart, Pentecost VIII, July 17, 1983

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Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, July 17, 1983

St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church in Coney Island, New York during Vacation Church School and Day Camp

(We were learning active listening in our Leadership Training Laboratory.)

Deuteronomy 30:9-14 – Colossians 1:1-14 – Luke 10: 25-37

Listening our Way into Another’s Heart

When we see through the eyes of our heart, there are many more people mugged and beaten, fallen by the wayside in life, than those we find who have been mugged  – like the poor fellow in our story. But because we do not have this precious kind of seeing added to our eyes, which we have talked about in active listening[1]– so that seeing takes place by hearing – we just walk by, oblivious to a person lying there, hurt, bleeding, dying.

This seeing comes through the ears. Two clowns were doing a comedy routine:  “What would happen if I cut one of your ears off?”

“Why, I couldn’t hear out of that ear.”

“What would happen if I cut both of your ears off?”

“Then I couldn’t see.”

“Why couldn’t you see?”

“Because my hat would fall down over my eyes and I couldn’t see.”

This is a joke, of course, but we really see a person as they are by hearing them.

There is a whole “nother-world” into which we gain entrance, when we learn the radical, deep listening that becomes obedience to God. But because we are so caught up in the visual dimension, we are shut out of this world. we can’t penetrate the surface image.

When we were doing multi-media presentations back in the sixties, we found that if a recorded voice played with slides being shown, the audience picked up the visual images much better than the recorded voice. We are a more visually oriented society than an auditory one.

Ask yourself: what would be worse if you lost your eyes or your ears? If you answer your hearing, then I believe you would be right – although most of us are much more attached to our vision. When, however, studying the blind versus the deaf, an important distinction comes to light. With blind people we can still share our experiences in the same culture, whereas the deaf leave our culture and form a sub-culture. Their inability to hear shuts them out of our world in a more substantial way, than the disability of the blind.

Now “faith comes by hearing.” Thus with this radical and deep listening that we achieve through more highly developed listening skills, we enter the sub-culture of faith.[2] Yes, and because faith comes by hearing. The Kingdom of Heaven is near at hand and entrance can be gained by good listening.

As Deuteronomy says, “If you obey the voice of the Lord your God… with all your heart and soul…” or “if you hear the voice of the Lord your God… with all your heart and soul…,” then you are taken out of the power of the darkness into the place of the Kingdom of the Son (to allude to Colossians).

Our commentaries state that the Hebrew and Greek roots for “to hear” and “obey” were the same. In English we also find that this same word also has a double meaning. “That child does not listen!” In this sense “listening” means obeying. There is a real issue being fought out between what it means to listen and what we mean by listening. Our focus in this sermon is radical and deep hearing and not listening in the sense of doing what we are told to do, that is, obeying.

I was reading my commentary in the car while waiting for my wife and son to come out of the flower store. Ashley came back to the car first, pretty downcast. Nora, my wife, followed exasperated. “Ashley just doesn’t listen!” she exclaimed.

“Do you mean in the sense of his ability to hear or in the sense that he does not obey” I asked.

“I mean he does not obey.”

So that was that. But by the ability to listen we come to understand, we become convinced, and then our wills become unified. Our listening goes to the heart, as it were, and the person responds from the heart, because both have to be “at one.”

We seem to be forever short-circuiting this process of listening which becomes deepened into understanding, agreement, and obedience. To a child we’ll say, “If you don’t listen, I’ll warm your behind!” Or a boss might say, “You won’t listen? Then you’re fired!” We turn to threats or force or coercion to bring about obedience apart from listening.

When my father used to say to me: “You don’t listen,” I thought he was being cruel and wrong to boot, because he was a non-stop talker and all I ever did was listen to him. He did not listen to me, so I did not obey him. If I had felt heard by him and could trust that he knew and could account for my needs, then I would have obeyed him. But he never listened to me. This listening that penetrates to the heart and brings about obedient responses from the heart, depends upon mutuality. Obedience first needs to come as a response from the heart through the work of the soul, in the “doing” of relationships, in the becoming “at one,” and then the other obedience falls into place.

To follow Christ, I believe, we have to become good listeners. We have to learn listening skills. We fool ourselves thinking that speaking is active and listening is passive. But listening is also active; it’s the active work of the soul. Listening requires a great deal of work, real concentrated effort to make inferences and observations, integrating what is being said and what cannot be said and that, with non-verbal communication. It takes a great deal of skill to be able to hear and be able to see a person as they are and with all their needs in bold relief.

I remember how Pastor Leslie C. Schulz of First Lutheran Church in Cincinnati put me through his listening. He would take us upstairs into his study to make sure there would be no interruptions and listen with his whole heart and soul to us. What intense listening he was capable of! He took seriously everything I said and tried to understand me as no one had ever done before. For me it was frightening, it was threatening. My tears flowed. Here the struggle began as he did the mid-wifery for a new person trying to come out. Faith comes by hearing. The new life in Christ comes by having experienced the grace of having been heard and there – through being seen as we are. But what grueling sessions these were! At the time, I too was a non-stop talker and his listening was making me see myself as I was – as if in a mirror – and that was a harrowing experience. I wanted to see myself in my kind of way – but not as I was.

What courage it takes to listen! To venture into the world of sorrows, the jungle, the despair that is below the surface in the heart. In there is the darkness and courageous listening goes into the darkness where a person is and brings the person out into the Kingdom of the Son.

That is what I mean by radical listening, the deep listening that becomes obedience from the heart – not from outward surface things.

Look at the story of the compassionate Samaritan. With eyes that see only the surface, the priest and the temple worker should have helped the victim. They should have had compassionate hearts. But their hearts were hardened. They allowed no stirrings to take place in their hearts, only annoyance. Thus they go by on the other side without helping. The Samaritan, on the other hand, should have had the hardened heart, but he doesn’t. Although he is the one outcast and despised, his heart is stirred by compassion. Those who stay on the surface, who do not penetrate to the heart, will be betrayed by outward appearances. Often, for example, a minister will be considered a desirable lamb by many a young woman in the congregation and they can’t see that he is a wolf ready to tear them up. You have heard of lost sheep. There are also lost shepherds.  A respectable married woman may not have one tender bone in her body. A gay person turns around to help a victim. A prostitute suddenly feels her heart stirring with compassion. Then an organist and choir director of an illustrious church turn away without even feeling anything for a mugged and beaten person lying in the road on their way to work. “I’d help him and then he’d sue me!” the one says to the other.

Behold a gorgeous woman, wonderful to look at, a prize because her image is so pleasing to the eye. Tell me how it is that inside her shell she is filled with bigotry, prejudice, and hate. With the eyes of the heart an ugly, miserable wretch can be seen in her outwardly beautiful exterior. She comes to our Sunday School and makes the cutting remarks: “Is everyone in this program colored? My children won’t mix with them!” I could also have spoken about some handsome, clean-cut, well-dressed men, who spouted their bigotry in words that are unspeakable in a sermon. In the words of Jesus, we can call them “white washed tombs filled with dead bones, filth, and corruption” (Mat 23:27).

What we do in the end is what we have in our hearts, what we are in our hearts. Who will listen into the heart of a miserable and sinful wretch – in the darkness of the world of the shut-outs and bring them into the light of the Kingdom of the Son?

If someone with a radical obedience does not listen a person into a change of heart and being, then they can be hypocrites only so long – then the truth comes out, then such people lash out. They can even start a war.

So we need a compassionate person, who listens to us, helps us sort out the awful mess our thoughts and our feelings are in; who dares the radical listening that goes deep into the heart, where all the trouble is. And when we sort them out and finally begin to see clearly, we too, find that our Lord Jesus Christ, the good listener, pours oil and wine into our wounds – and we are healed.


[1] See Positive “I” Messages and Active Listening in Communication here in my website.

[2]By a greater sense of hearing we also enter the sub-culture of faith that we call the church .

Note: I’m reading Susan K. Hedahl’s Listening Ministry, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001). Her book brought this Coney Island sermon of mine once again to mind. It was preached in 1983.

Written by peterkrey

March 6, 2011 at 6:34 am

The VCS Logo, Remembering St. Paul’s Vacation Church School and Day Camp, 1978-1992

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Using our Vacation Church School and Day Camp as an instrument of mission, we had fourteen programs in Coney Island, New York. Several programs had three buses and three directors. Coming to St. John’s in Oakland, California, I ran three more programs, even as a part-time pastor. A part-time pastor is really an oxymoron, because during the six to eight week program we had to eat, drink, and sleep with it and when it was going right, you could feel yourself grow! The t-shirts have all worn out. This logo comes from the only sweatshirt we had. We developed the logo with potato stamps.

Written by peterkrey

August 31, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Our Youth in St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church in Coney, Island, New York

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I believe these photos come from the the late Eighties, 1989, perhaps 1990. We had a vibrant youth program with fourteen consecutive Vacation Church School and Vacation Day Camps, following the missional model devised by Pr. Leslie C. Schulz of Cincinnati, Ohio, my mentor. These programs flowed right into the creativity we all found so meaningful: the singing was wonderful, the dances, plays, the arts and crafts. A great deal of our creativity developed from the Family Night, when each class and sometimes the whole school performed for their parents and the congregation. Highlights were “A Mugging in Central Park”: a take off on the Good Samaritan, (thanks to Ruth Saldana Rohr); “New York City Nativity Now”: a modern play where the Christ child is born in an abandoned building, where the three kings were Reagan, Cuomo, and Koch (the president, governor, and mayor of that day), the angels were reporters, confronting them and saying they could not adore the child until they did something about the wretched conditions around us; and the “Martin Luther King, Jr. Passion Play,” where the civil rights marches took place down the different aisles of St. Paul’s, the actor playing M. L. King is assassinated, and he leads the demonstration in the white drum-major uniform up the center aisle of the church depicting the resurrection. Then once or twice a year, we all climbed into the old 1966 GMC church bus and I myself as the bus driver, would take everyone to Great Adventure. We made the sure and certain witness that Jesus gives us abundant life!

Written by peterkrey

June 11, 2010 at 4:32 pm

Vacation Church School and Day Camp as Mission at St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church in Coney Island, NY 1992

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I usually kept a log and then evaluated each summer program. This evaluation centered on the Leadership Training Laboratory, the following meetings, and resistance from the staff, especially by a professional teacher. All the names in this account have been changed to protect the identity of everyone concerned.

I scanned it to avoid retyping the document. The first file contains pages 1-5 and the second contains 6-31.

When everything was going right, you could usually feel yourself grow. We usually ate, drank, and slept Vacation Church School and Day Camp during the summer, because it was all consuming. The last event at Jones Beach was hard to describe. It resembled the family picnic in the movie, Bonnie and Clyde, where suddenly everything took place in slow motion.

img102 pages 1-5. Vacation Church School as Mission

img103 pages 6-31. Vacation Church School as Mission

Written by peterkrey

November 20, 2008 at 9:52 am

Vacation Church School in St. Paul’s Lutheran Church of Coney Island 1985

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Mrs. Marie Haynes leading the singing

Mrs. Marie Haynes leading the singing

Written by peterkrey

November 19, 2008 at 6:04 pm