Gerd Winner Kreuz, Liebenberg

Proper 12 (C) – 24 July 2016

Sermon preached at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Hillington

Genesis 18:20-32
Psalm 138
Colossians 2:6-15
Luke 11:1-13

Teach us to pray, said the disciples.  And Jesus said:

Eternal Spirit, Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
Source of all that is and that shall be,
Father and Mother of us all,
Loving God, in whom is heaven:
The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world!
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom
sustain our hope and come on earth.
With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and test, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.
For you reign in the glory of the power that is love, now and for ever. Amen[1]

 We know the Lord’s prayer so well that sometimes it is hard to hear the words – and so perhaps it is helpful to begin with this version, from the New Zealand Prayer Book, which may help us to see the Lord’s Prayer afresh.

Our Father – “Eternal Spirit, Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver, Source of all that is and that shall be, Father and Mother of us all.”  We pray to a Trinitarian God, who creates us and the whole world, the whole universe, who loves us, shares our pain, and sustains us in life.

Our Father in heaven – “Loving God, in whom is heaven.”  Heaven is not distant, out there but here: eternal life is breaking into the here and now, into the world in which we live, with the potential to make of us also heavenly beings whilst yet on earth.

Hallowed be your name – “The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!”  Let our lives be filled with a recognition of God’s glory and goodness.

Your will be done – “Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!”  Let everyone, all things, act according to God’s will.

On earth as it is in heaven – “Your commonwealth of peace and freedom sustain our hope and come on earth.”  Let God’s order for the world shape our world, our society, and help us to work to bring that about.  Help us to see beyond this moment to a larger picture which is not only about our own needs, our own hopes and our own fears.

Give us today our daily bread – “With the bread we need for today, feed us.”  May we notice and give thanks when our basic needs are satisfied, and may we help to ensure that the basic needs of others are satisfied too, to bring food and clean water to those who are hungry and thirsty, and to feed the world in a sustainable, responsible way.

Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us – “In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.”  May we be willing to offer forgiveness and to accept forgiveness.  May we recognise when we have hurt others.  May we seek to live in ways that do not exploit others.

Lead us not into temptation; deliver us from the time of trial – “In times of temptation and test, strengthen us. From trials too great to endure, spare us.”  Help us to know that God is with us in difficult times.  Help us to see how difficult and testing times can bring us new insights, new understanding, to recognise them as important times of growth, however deep our pain.

Deliver us from evil – “From the grip of all that is evil, free us.”  Help us to have the clear sight to recognise evil, and the courage to name it.

For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and for ever – “For you reign in the glory of the power that is love, now and for ever.”

There is so much in these few short lines we pray so often.  And there is a lot here that resonates with our very imperfect world, our sometimes rather frightening world, our world that seems so often at the moment to be pervaded by hate, by belligerence, by instability.  In the face of the news of attacks and death, we may feel utterly helpless.  Can we do anything at all?

One response to that question is certainly:  we can pray.  But that can sound so trite.  In the face of all the injustice and unpredictability in the world, what good can prayer do?

To offer a response to this question, I think it is worth considering what prayer might mean.  Ten years or more ago, when I was preparing an intercessions workshop. I found an extraordinary reflection on the nature of prayer written by someone called Zoe Hancock.  Let me share with you some of her thoughts:

Prayer is giving something to the people you love. It is an openness of spirit, willingness to go that extra bit, staying up that extra hour or two for a friend in need, or not in need. It is loving.
Each connection to your maker, your partner, your friend is prayer.
The intimacy of knowing your breathing is prayer. To feel the wellness of your soul, your spirit, your body. Expressing and sharing this gift in the present moment. This is prayer.
It is knowing the closeness of water as you swim, and are supported, and held by it. As you turn your head upward for air, as you feel the moment, each breath, each bubble, each stroke, and heartbeat, and movement.
To look upon work colleagues with gentleness and understanding when you haven’t understood a damn thing they’ve just said. To admit you’ve totally missed the point, and laugh at yourself, in kindness. This is prayer.[2]

There is a profound recognition here that prayer is about a rootedness, a sense of self, a sense of understanding how each of us fits into the world and is related not just to ourselves, but to the world in which we live.  Prayer as loving, as active loving, as taking the time to see, to understand where that active loving is needed and how we might be called to live it out.  What Zoe Hancock writes is focused on an immediate community: the people you love, friends and family, colleagues at work.  And that is surely where our prayerful living starts.  But prayer encourages us to widen that circle, to understand that we are called to enlarge our definition of the people we love to encompass those we do not know personally, perhaps do not understand, perhaps have been taught to see as different from ourselves, even as our enemies.

A Palestinian prayer puts it like this:

We pray for peace, with justice, for the wounded and broken-hearted,
and dignity to be restored to all.
Pray not for Arab or Jew, for Palestinian or Israeli.
But pray for yourselves, that you may not divide them in your prayers,
but keep them together in your hearts.[3]

Prayer is a way of coming to help us to understand the needs of those around us, the needs of the world, or perhaps even of simply recognising that we do not understand.  But prayer also offers space to acknowledge our failures of love, our transgressions, the places where we have offered or caused hurt, wittingly or unwittingly, where our lives are indebted to the exploitation of others.

O Lord, how clearly you know
the foolishness of humanity.
No-one has yet been found
who has not transgressed your way
From the first Adam to the present day.
Protect us, save us!
For you, Lord, are far from anger,
full of mercy and righteousness.[4]

 Prayer then, is not a kind of Christmas wish list, not about presenting God with a catalogue of orders, but about understanding more deeply our place in the world that God has created, and the responsibilities that our place gives us.  It is important to remember this as we hear the end of our gospel passage today.  “Ask and it shall be given unto you!”  says Jesus.  “Seek and you shall find.”   And our response may be:  “Really?”  Especially as we remember all our prayers for peace and justice and then look at the world.

But what does “Ask and it shall be given unto you” mean in the context of the Lord’s Prayer?  Sarah Dylan writes:

I find it quite scary to pray that God would treat my sins as I treat debt and other burdens that keep the poorest in poverty.  Is that a prayer I want God to answer?
And when I pray that God’s kingdom would come, and that we each would have daily bread, I can’t help but be a bit nervous wondering whether my prayer will be answered as the rich man’s was – with a friend who, if need be, will expose how shallow my prayers often are if I will not participate in God’s mission to answer them.[5]

But, she says:

I pray nonetheless.  I pray, and I look for opportunities to participate in God’s answering that prayer, in God’s reconciling the divide between rich and poor. … I ask and I seek knowing that it feels risky to do so, and as I do that, I find not only friends … who will hold me accountable to my prayers, but also a God who is generous beyond my asking.[6]

“What can we little people do?” asks Gerald Hughes in Cry of Wonder.  His answer is to know ourselves better.  “Our most valuable source of learning lies in our own experience” and it is through prayer that we understand our own selves.  “The source of our violence does not lie in the existence of hostile external powers, but within ourselves, in our ways of thinking and behaving, in our minds and hearts.”[7]  Hughes points to the undercurrent of language in much human interaction, in much language, and calls us all to contribute to a more peaceful and just society by thinking about how each of us communicates.[8]  This is, he says,

not an instant remedy to finding peace in conflict … slowly it begins to change the way we see things, the way we see other people.  We begin to meet ourselves in them, begin to see them as another self, begin to understand the meaning of “Love your neighbour as yourself,” not as a command, but as a deep need/longing in ourselves which brings us to life, a life we begin to delight in bringing to others.[9]

And this is about prayer, for prayer brings us to recognise that each of us is “a human being, called to play a unique role in creation and to be at one with that power which Dante writes of, the power ‘that moves the sun and other stars,’ the power of Love.  This power is nearer to each one of us than we are to ourselves.”[10]

All this is to say that prayer is about understanding our place in God’s world and discerning what we are called to do where we are.  This weekend I have been part of a celebration of the women’s peace crusade which began in Glasgow on 23 July 1916, when 5000 women gathered to march from George Square to Glasgow Green to protest against the terrible losses of the Great War and to call for peace.  In the midst of the terrible losses of the Somme, those women had a vision of a world at peace, a world in which the carnage that surrounded them could be stopped.

In 1915, Maude Royden had written:  “Truth is more than victory. …  We cannot tell whether defeat or triumph is better for a nation, or whose success upon the battlefield is better for the world.”[11]  She did not know who would win or lose the war, and for here that as not the point.  The point was to find the peace that God wanted to give.  Her call to respond to the war was rooted in the recognition that prayer leads to action:

Many Christians find it hard to believe that they are called upon to enter into a political struggle. … There are times when our fight is the fight of the individual soul, but there are times also when the great forces of Good and Evil are locked in a tremendous struggle, and we are bound, publicly, to take sides.  There was a time for St. Catherine of Siena to tend the sick of her city, and a time for her to heal the sores of Europe, and end the schism of the Church.  There was a time for Joan of Arc to knit and spin in Domremy, and a time for her to lead an army, and save the kingdom of France.  There was a time for Christ Himself to live in Nazareth with His mother; but if He has stayed—in Nazareth? [12]

Prayer will not give us all the answers, but it will give us new understanding and new perspectives.  It will show us, if we let it, what we can do – what we are called to do – to help the world to become what God wants it to be.

Almighty God, Father of us all,
we ask you to inspire the people of this land
with the spirit of justice, truth and love,
so that in all our dealings with one another,
we may show that together we are one in you
for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.[13]

 Amen

 

[1]    New Zealand Prayer Book (also online at:  http://loddon-malleeuca.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/alternative-lords-prayer.html.

[2]    I have been unable to find the source of this text.  Please do contact me if you know it.

[3]    We are US: Prayers for the world (London, n.d.), 51.

[4]    Anaphora of Saint James of Suareg, in: We are US, 50.

[5]    Online at: http://www.sarahlaughed.net/lectionary/2007/07/proper-12-year-.html.

[6]    Online at: http://www.sarahlaughed.net/lectionary/2007/07/proper-12-year-.html.

[7]    Gerald Hughes, Cry of Wonder: Our own real identity (London 2014), 241-242.

[8]    Hughes, Cry of Wonder, 242-245.

[9]    Hughes, Cry of Wonder, 244.

[10] Hughes, Cry of Wonder, x-xi.

[11] Maude Royden, The Great Adventure: The Way to Peace (London 1915), 16.

[12] Maude Royden, May Mission Speeches (London 1913), 7.

[13] Anglican Church of Southern Africa Prayer Book; in We are US, 50.

15. Sonntag im Jahreskreis (C) – 10. Juli 2016

Predigt in der altkatholischen Gemeinde Münster am 9. Juli 2016

Deuteronoium 30.10-14
Kolosserbrief 1.15-20
Lukasevangelium 10.25-37

Wer ist mein Nächster?  Die Frage des Gesetzeslehrers, des Schriftgelehrten ist uns sehr bekannt. Wir kennen doch diese Geschichte, die Geschichte des barmherzigen Samariters.  Wir kennen sie, vielleicht zu gut.  Ich weiß nicht, wie es Ihnen damit geht, aber ich finde diese Geschichte schwierig.  Sie erzeugt in mir immer wieder ein schlechtes Gewissen.  Ich weiß:  ich müsste den Bedürftigen doch mehr Aufmerksamkeit zeigen, auf die Bedürfnisse von Anderen anders, liebevoller reagieren.  Diese Geschichte sagt mir doch, dass ich zu erkennen habe, dass alle Leute meine Nächsten seien.  Oder?

Der Sinn dieser Geschichte, dieses Gleichnis, ist mir vor ein paar Jahre ganz anders klar geworden.  Ich war mit einer Gruppe in London unterwegs, der Tag war sehr heiß und wir liefen gerade zum Restaurant um zu Abend zu essen.  Auf einmal stellte ich fest, dass der eine Kollege fehlte. Wir haben kurz überlegt, ob wir zurückgehen, dachten aber, er habe sich wohl einem anderen Teil der Gruppe angeschlossen, und sind weiter gegangen.  Am nächsten Tag stellte es sich heraus, er sei wegen der Hitze mitten auf der Straße zusammen gebrochen.  Es hatte keine von uns, seinen Kollegen, bemerkt.

Nur: wer sehr genau zugesehen hatte, was im passierte, war eine Gruppe von Obdachlosen, die sich gerade einen  Schlafplatz im Eingang eines Gebäudes suchten.  Sie haben gesehen, wie er zusammengebrochen ist, haben ihm zu trinken und zu essen gegeben, haben für ihn ein Taxi geholt.  Sie haben seine Not gesehen.  Sie waren seine Nächsten.

Im Internet zum Jahr der Bibel gab es eine Seite mit Interviews mit biblischen Personen.  Eine davon war der barmherzige Samariter.  Ach ja, sagte er in der erfundenen Interview – ja auch ich hatte eigentlich keine Zeit, hatte auch einen dringenden Termin in Jericho, aber wenn ein Mensch Hilfe braucht, dann hilft man eben, oder?

Eine Interpretation diese Geschichte lautet also:  „Der Priester und der Levit sind nur sich selbst die Nächsten gewesen.  Ihre Gedanken kreisen nur um sich selbst: Was passiert mit mir, wenn ich mich um diesen Menschen kümmere? Welchen Gefahren setze ich mich aus?  Wie viel Zeit verliere ich, wenn ich mich um ihn kümmere…?“[1]  Ich finde diese Interpretation schwierig: Denn in Wirklichkeit wissen wir aus der Geschichte nicht, warum der Priester und der Levit ihm nicht geholfen haben.  Wir können nur sagen, dass sie in diesem Fall dem Überfallenen, dem Verletzten nicht die Nächsten waren.  Auf welchen Grund auf immer.  Auf welchem Grund auf immer haben diejenigen keine Hilfe geleistet.  Stattdessen ist der Fremde, der Aussätzige, der völlig Unerwartete angehalten, hat Hilfe geleistet, sich um den Verletzten gekümmert.

Die Tragik dieser Geschichte liegt in der Erkenntnis, dass wir uns oft in der Rolle des Priesters, des Levits finden.  Wir müssen immer wieder erkennen, dass wir der Herausforderung, alle Leute seien meine Nächsten, nie gerecht sein können oder werden.  Das ist die Tragik, die in dieser Geschichte des barmherzigen Samariters steckt.  Es ist die Tragik der eingeschränkten Möglichkeiten eines jeden Lebens, der eingeschränkten Möglichkeiten unserer Energie, unserer Unterstützungsfähigkeit.  Sicher steckt hier die Tragik unseres nicht immer geben Wollens, die Tragik der eingeschränkten Fantasie, die uns nicht erlaubt zu sehen, was möglich wäre.   Aber die Geschichte  des barmherzigen Samariters ist in Wirklichkeit eine Geschichte, die uns daran erinnert, dass wir uns etwas vormachen, wenn wir denken, es wird mit der Nachbarschaft immer und einfach klappen.  Wir können es wollen, dass jeder Mensch meiner Nächste sei, aber in Wirklichkeit, werde ich eine solche Rettungsarbeit nicht immer, nicht jedes Mal leisten können.

Die Antwort Jesus dreht die Frage des Schriftgelehrten auf dem Kopf.  Wer ist mein Nächster? hat der Schriftgelehrte gefragt.  Wer hat sich als der nächste dessen erwiesen, der von den Räubern überfallen wurde?  erwidert Jesus.  In Prinzip ist jeder, jede mein Nächster, aber IN DER TAT – im dem, was ich tatsächlich tun kann, was ich tatsächlich tue – werde ich zur Nächsten, zum Nächsten von anderen.  Es geht hier nicht um eine theoretische Frage, sondern darum, dass ich doch Möglichkeiten ergreife, andere zu unterstützen und zu helfen, auch wenn ich es nicht bei jeder und jedem tun kann.

Ich glaube, wenn wir uns zu sehr auf die theoretische Frage konzentrieren, wer mein Nächster sei, kann sie uns davon ablenken, überhaupt Nächste zu sein.  Und darum geht es.  Nächste zu sein, sofern ich es kann.

Denn man braucht keine Qualifizierung, um Hilfe zu bekommen.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer deutete die Frage des Schriftgelehrten als „Flucht in den ethischen Konflikt.“[2]  Es ist einfacher, darüber zu diskutieren, wem ich helfen sollte, als zu jemandem helfen, als Nächstenliebe zu praktizieren.  Es geht hier doch um die Praxis, unsere Praxis, nicht um eine Theorie:  „Du selbst bist der Nächste“,[3] bestätigt Bonhoeffer.  „In jedem Augenblick in jeder Situation bin ich der zum Handeln, zu Gehorsam Geforderte.  Es ist buchstäblich keine Zeit dafür übrig, nach einer Qualifikation des anderen zu fragen.  Ich muss handeln und muss gehorchen, ich muss dem anderen der Nächsten sein.“  Auch wenn man manchmal gar nicht weiß, was man tun sollte, sollte man es versuchen.  „Fragst du abermals erschreckt, ob ich denn nicht vorher wissen und bedenken müsse, wie ich zu handeln habe, so gibt es darauf nur eine Antwort:  Was Gehorsam ist, lerne ich allein in Gehorchen, nicht durch Fragen.  Erst im Gehorsam erkenne ich die Wahrheit.“  Was zu tun ist, lerne ich erst im Tun.

Die Tragik der Geschichte bleibt.  Es gibt Situationen, Momente, in denen ich gerade nicht der Nächste, die Nächste sein kann.   Momente, Situationen, wo ich keine Hilfe, keine Rettung anbieten kann.  Die Trauer, die Traurigkeit dieser Situationen tragen wir mit uns.

Aber es geht darum, dass ich mich in meiner Unfähigkeit, allen Leuten zu helfen, nicht so verliere, dass ich keinem Menschen mehr die Nächste, der Nächste bin.  Und es geht darum zu erkennen, dass Hilfe auch – vielleicht sogar oft? – von Fremden, von Verachteten, von den Aussätzigen kommt.

Wer ist mein Nächster?

Wer hat sich als der Nächste denen erwiesen, die gerade jetzt Hilfe brauchen?

 

[1] Te Deum, Juli 2007, S. 154.

[2]    Te Deum, Juli 2007, S. 155.

[3]    Bonhoeffer, Te Deum, Juli 2007, S. 156.

Proper 8 (C) – 26 June 2016

sermon preached at St Mungo’s Alexandria

2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14
Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20
Galatians 5:1,13-25
Luke 9:51-62

I wonder how you are feeling this morning?  It has been a momentous week, and some of you, some of us, may be feeling quite vulnerable, distressed.  Others may be greeting a new future for which you have profoundly wished.  I expect all of us are wondering what the future brings, and how the political situation will now develop: here in Scotland, in Westminster, across the EU.  It will be a time of change, and change, especially this kind of radical systemic change, is both difficult to manage and difficult to be on the receiving end of.  We are entering a period of negotiations which will change relationships in Europe, in world, and within the UK.

There is a lot of anxiety about this, and that is not at all surprising.  But what I think is important is that in the uncertainty and anxiety we do not lose hope.  And so I want to offer some reflections from today’s readings  and from other reading I have been doing this week which might say something to us about moving forward in hope.

Of course, we are not the first people to find ourselves standing at a cusp, looking into an unknown future.  One of my favourite passages is something we often hear at New Year, but it seems very apposite this week:

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year,
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied, “Go out into the darkness
and put your hand into the hand of God
That shall be to you better than the light
And safer than a known way!”
So I went forth and finding the hand of God
Trod gladly into the light.

Perhaps those steps into the future are not being taken gladly by some of us, but we nonetheless need to have hope and faith that as we take them, our hand is in the hand of God.

I am guessing that I was not the only one to find myself thinking apocalyptic thoughts on Friday.  Wondering whether this was the way people were feeling in Germany on 31 January 1933, or in Britain on 5 August 1914, or on 4 September 1939.  But then I began to realise what this is not: this is not the takeover of power by militarised fascism; it is not war.  It is a step which might, if we do not find it in ourselves as a country, as citizens, to respond responsibly, lead to something worse, but this is not Armageddon.  What I would want to say to all of us, regardless of how we voted, is that it is now our responsibility to make out of this an opportunity and not a threat.  Those of us who would have preferred to remain in the EU might ponder Frances Copley’s prayer:  “May we discover that the road we didn’t choose, didn’t want to travel, is a highway that leads unerringly towards the light.”

In the run up to the centenary of the Women’s Peace Crusade in Glasgow on 23 July 1916, which will be marked on Saturday 23 July 2016,[1] I have this week been reading the works of Maud Royden, an early campaigner for the ordination of women who during the First World War was also a strong advocate of peace.  In 1916, in the middle of that war, when the outcome was entirely uncertain, she wrote a pamphlet entitled: The Great Adventure: The Way to Peace.  In it, she wrote:  “You cannot kill hatred and violence by violence and hatred.  You cannot make men out of love with war by making more effective war.”  And, she went on:  “Truth is more than victory.  We cannot tell whether defeat or triumph is better for a nation, or whose success upon the battlefield is better for the world.” [2]  The future is open, and it does not have be – it must not be – full of despair.

The Primus has written to the Scottish Episcopal Church:

The people have spoken and the will of the people must be respected.
In a hard-fought and at times bruising campaign, it has been clear that debate about Europe has allowed a number of difficult issues to come to the surface. The debate and the patterns of voting suggest that our politicians in recent years may not have paid sufficient attention to some of the deeper issues which are present in our life. The inevitable and necessary period of reflection which must now follow will allow space for questions of poverty and immigration to be explored.
Those of us who live in Scotland are aware that the outcome of the Referendum is potentially of great significance. We hope that our politicians on all sides will take time for careful reflection and consultation.
This a time when we should hold all of our political leaders in our prayers.[3]

I would want to put that even more strongly:  “The inevitable and necessary period of reflection which will now follow must allow space for questions of poverty and immigration to be explored.”  Here is Paul speaking to the Galatians in the reading we have just heard:

For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

That is, as the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have said:

we must now unite in a common task to build a generous and forward looking country, contributing to human flourishing around the world. We must remain hospitable and compassionate, builders of bridges and not barriers. Many of those living among us and alongside us as neighbours, friends and work colleagues come from overseas and some will feel a deep sense of insecurity. We must respond by offering reassurance, by cherishing our wonderfully diverse society, and by affirming the unique contribution of each and every one.[4]

We are called to freedom, and in that freedom to love of neighbour.  There are many political structures and constellations in which that is possible.  What can we do to support a political discourse that takes seriously the importance of loving our neighbour?  How can we engage with one another in ways that show respect and love?

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year,
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied, “Go out into the darkness
and put your hand into the hand of God
That shall be to you better than the light
And safer than a known way!”
So I went forth and finding the hand of God
Trod [gladly] into the light.

Amen

 

 

 

[1]    http://womenslibrary.org.uk/event/forward-remembering-women-peace-crusaders-launch-event/.

[2]    Maud Royden, The Great Adventure: The Way to Peace (London 1916 [?]), pp. 11, 16.

[3]    At http://www.scotland.anglican.org/primus-comments-outcome-eu-referendum/#sthash.g37bsEMS.dpuf.

[4]    At http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/articles.php/5743/eu-referendum-statement-by-archbishops-of-canterbury-and-york.

 

Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1]    http://womenslibrary.org.uk/event/forward-remembering-women-peace-crusaders-launch-event/.

[2]    Maud Royden, The Great Adventure: The Way to Peace (London 1916 [?]), pp. 11, 16.

[3]    At http://www.scotland.anglican.org/primus-comments-outcome-eu-referendum/#sthash.g37bsEMS.dpuf.

Proper 11 (C) – 12 June 2016

sermon preached at Drumchapel Scottish Episcopal Church

Galatians 2:15-21
Luke 7:36 – 8:3

A grudging host and a passionate gatecrasher:  that seems to be the message of this morning’s gospel reading.  It is a story which turns expectations on their heads:  Here is Simon the Pharisee, the good Jew, the upright member of society, who has invited Jesus to dine, but who seems – as we find out as the story progresses – not to have done any of the things you might expect a host to do.  A good man, an upstanding man, a Pharisee and a leader of the religious community, but his welcome to Jesus seems insincere, heartless.

And there is the woman, uninvited, someone whom Simon is shocked to have in his house, who throws herself at Jesus’s feet, pours rich, expensive ointment over them, and wipes it away with her hair.  A sinful woman, not an upright member of society at all, a great sinner who shows a passionate commitment to – love for – Jesus.  So passionate, indeed, that it might make us rather uncomfortable.

We don’t know her name, this woman, but we can see that early Christians thought she was important.  This is one of the very few stories that appears in all four gospels.  The account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, his time in Gethsemene, arrest, and trial, his passion, death and resurrection, all appear in all four.  The only others which do are the account of his baptism (the beginning of his ministry), the feeding of the five thousand, and the profession of faith by Peter, and later, in the context of Jesus’s trial, his denial.[1]  So this woman, her passionate anointing of Jesus, is important: it is a key event for understanding who Jesus really is: the Christ, the ‘anointed one’.  Her passion for him points to the true meaning of his passion.

But although all the evangelists include the story, they are not agreed about who she is or where this anointing happens.  John (12:1-11) sets the scene in the house of Mary, Martha and Lazarus at Bethany and puts the ointment in the hand of Mary, the sister of Martha.  Mark (14:3-9) and Matthew (26:6-13) place the story “in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper”, but do not give the woman a name at all.  What they do say, both of them, is that she will be remembered:  “Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her” (Matthew 26:13).  This affirmation was the inspiration for Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza’s pioneering work in feminist biblical interpretation, In Memory of Her, first published in 1983.

But Luke, as we have seen, sets this event in the house of Simon the Pharisee, and in doing so he uses it to make a point about the relationship between apparent goodness and actual goodness – a point which gives the story a quite weight from that of any of the other gospel writers.  Here we have the upstanding host and the sinful gatecrasher, who turn out to be a grudging welcomer of Jesus and a passionate adorer of Jesus.  This is quite a different context. For John, the woman’s action takes place in the context of a household of strong believers.  Martha has already declared her commitment to Jesus: “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”  Mary has already affirmed her faith that had Jesus been there her brother would not have died, and the sisters have seen Jesus respond to their faith and raise their brother Lazarus from the dead.  Mary’s anointing of Jesus happens soon after that.  In John’s reading, Mary’s is an act of passionate thankful adoration which offers the culmination of his narrative about this household’s faith, as well as pointing towards Jesus’s own death.

In contrast, for Mark and Matthew, the anointing takes place when Jesus is at the house of a social outcast: a leper, someone at the edge of society.  What is important in their account is the recognition, just hinted at by John , and not mentioned at all by Luke, that she has anointed Jesus:  “For you will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial” (Matthew 26:11-12).  This woman she has seen the truth that Jesus is the Christ; her action is a declaration of that faith as well as an outpouring of her love for him.

In the accounts by Mark, Matthew and John, there are objections: this is a waste of resources that could have been given  to the poor.  The people who question her actions change too.  Mark says “some who were there” were angry about the waste.  Matthew has the disciples say this.  John puts the same protest into Judas’s mouth.  But Luke does not mention the poor at all.  For Luke something quite different is going on.  This is a question of sin and forgiveness.  Who needs grace more?  The one who has sinned a little, or the one who has sinned much?

Luke does not give this woman a name, but he does give her a status: she is a sinner.  The juxtaposition of this story with the account of the women who followed Jesus, including “Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out”(Luke 8:1)  led Gregory the Great to identify her with Mary Magdalene, and to assume that she was a prostitute.  It is this woman, Luke says, this sinful woman, who recognises in Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one, who pours out her love for him in the form of costly nard.  It is she, and not the upright religious leader, who shows her passionate commitment to Christ.  Luke’s Jesus offers a parable to explain what is going on:  “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?”  “The one with the greater debt,” says Simon.  “Exactly,” says Jesus.

This leaves us facing something of a theological conundrum.  Writing to the Romans, Paul says (5:20):  “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”  And he asks (Romans 6:1):  “What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?”  His response to this perhaps not-so-rhetorical question is “of course not” (Romans 6:2-4):

How can we who died to sin go on living in it?  Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

The point for Paul here, and also in this morning’s reading from his letter to the Galatians, as I think it is also for Luke, is that those who have sinned most grievously are most  aware of their need for grace, for forgiveness.  But once they have received that grace, that forgiveness, by coming into a relationship with Christ, they are forgiven and will no longer live their lives in the same way.  For both Paul and Luke it is that deep encounter with Christ which brings about this radical change.

Martin Luther spent much of his life grappling with questions of sin, grace and forgiveness, and struggling with his own anxieties about his relationship to God.  In 1521, he wrote to his friend and colleague Melanchthon in 1521, in words that have become notorious and caused consternation ever since:  “Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly.”[2]  (In the letter, he was discussing clerical marriage, which in the eyes of the church was a sin, but in his view was not.)  His deeper theological point resonates with Luke and Paul, as we can see when we put the notorious quotation into context:

God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world.”[3]

Luther had a deep sense of his need for Christ, and an equally deep sense of his love for God, and both are reflected in his words here.

Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are,[4]

sings Matt Maher (of whom I had never heard until I started working on this sermon).  It is that encounter with Christ through grace that is important for sinners – which is to say, for all of us.  The church needs to be a place where that encounter can take place.  It is, as has often been said, a school for sinners and not a society for saints.  A school for sinner who know their deep need for God, and respond to the gift of grace by loving God.  This is, as we are often reminded in the liturgy, the first (and great) commandment:

Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord.
You shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart, with all your soul,
with all your mind, and with all your strength.

The transformative and transforming power of love for Christ: that is what Luke, what Paul, what Luther, what matt Mahon are talking about.  That is what this woman, whoever she was, discovered.   Gregory the Great may have been wrong in thinking that she was Mary Magdalene, but he was quite clear about what she had done:

A woman of the city which was a sinner, washed out the stain of her sins with her tears by her love of the truth; and the world of truth is fulfilled which says her sins are forgiven for she loved much. She who had previously been cold through sin was afterward aflame with love.[5]

The challenge to us all is, I think, clear:  can we – do we – love God “with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength”?  Are we, like this un-named woman, so deeply aware of the gift of grace and forgiveness that we are “aflame with love”?  If not, what do we need to do about it?

Amen

 

[1]  See, for instance, http://skipslighthouse.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/eleven-events-in-all-four-gospels.html.

[2]  Martin Luther to Philip Melanchthon, August 1, 1521, LW 48, 282.

[3] Ibid.

[4] http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/mattmaher/lordineedyou.html.

[5] Gregory the Great, Homily XXV, cited according to  http://www.edgeofenclosure.org/proper6c.html.

10. Sonntag im Jahreskreis (C) – 5. Juni 2016

Predigt in der altkatholischen Gemeinde Münster am 4.Juni 2016

1. Könige 17,17-24
Galaterbrief 11-19
Lukasevangelium 7, 11-17

 

 

Heilungsgeschichte – Auferstehungsgeschichte – und sogar zwei davon.  Darum geht es heute sowohl im Alten Testament als auch im Evangelium. Es sind schwierige Geschichten, finde ich, denn welche trauernde Mutter hätte nicht so gerne das Kind zurück?  Mütter, Väter, die Kinder verloren haben, Kinder, die Eltern verloren haben, wir alle, die um einen lieben Menschen trauern – wie sollen wir mit diesen Auferstehungsgeschichten umgehen, mit der Vorstellung, hier passiert etwas, das wir so gerne mit erleben würden, jedoch in dem Wissen, dass es nicht so kommen kann.

Diese Frage stellt sich jedes Jahr bei Ostern: was heißt überhaupt Auferstehung?  Was kann sie für uns bedeuten?  In der Geschichte der Witwe von Naïn wird beschrieben, wie Jesus Mitleid mit der trauernden Frau hat.  Er geht zu ihr, sagt „weine nicht“ und geht dann zu dem Sohn, den er heilt.  Dabei scheint es Lukas wichtiger zu sein, über die Frau zu erzählen als über den Sohn.  Durch Jesus wird ihre Trauer durchbrochen, es kommt Licht in die Dunkelheit, Leben in den Tod, Liebe in ihre Trauer, Gemeinschaft in die anbrechende Einsamkeit.  Für sie kommt es durch diesen Wunder, durch die Auferstehung ihres Sohnes.  Aber die Auferstehung Jesu bedeutet für uns alle die Verheißung, dass es uns auch so gehen kann, wie dieser Frau, wie dieser Witwe von Naïn.  Nicht, dass wir unsere lieben Menschen wiederbelebt erleben aber auch wir können erleben, dass Licht in die Dunkelheit kommt, Leben in den Tod, Liebe in die Trauer, Gemeinschaft in die Einsamkeit.  Darum geht es bei der Menschwerdung, Tod und Auferstehung Christi.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer stellt in seinen Überlegungen zu Nachfolge fest:  „Leiden ist Gottesferne. … Aber Jesus trägt die ganzes Gottesferne. … So bleibt zwar das Leiden Gottesferne, aber in der Gemeinschaft des Leidens Jesus Christi ist das Leiden durch Leiden überwunden, ist Gottesgemeinschaft gerade im Leiden geschenkt.“[1]  Das ist das Versprechen an die Menschheit, an uns:  auch uns wird Gottesgemeinschaft mitten im Leiden geschenkt, mitten in die Gottesferne gestellt.  „Wenn wir in einer ‚dunklen Nacht‘ feststecken und die Finsternis vielleicht schon Wochen oder Monate dauert, dürfen wir trotzdem darauf vertrauen, dass einer da ist.“  So glaubt Abt Notker Wolf.[2]  Und weiter:  „Im Leid ist es wichtig zu erfahren, ich bin nicht allein, ich muss es nicht allein tragen.“[3]  Gottesgemein­schaft gerade im Leiden, in – oder auch trotz – der Gottesferne:  auch hier geht es darum, dass wir im Leiden nicht gefangen bleiben.

Aber mehr: die Witwe von Naïn erlebt mitten im Leiden neues Leben. Neues zu erleben, wenn alles kaputt, verdorben, tot zu sein scheint: Das ist ein Wunder.  Licht in Dunkelheit, Freude in Trauer: Das ist ein Geschenk Gottes, das auch wir erleben.  Henri Nouwen schreibt, „Ich wage es sogar zu sagen, ‚Meine Trauer war gerade das Ort, an dem ich Freude begegnet bin‘. … Mitten in der Trauer können wir Freude entdecken.“[4]  Wichtig ist für Nouwen, dass eine solche Freude erst dann kommen kann, wenn wir zugeben, dass wir wie unsere Welt gebrochen sind.  Das will aber unsere Gesellschaft oft nicht .  „Tod, Krankheit, menschliches Versagen … alles muss versteckt werden, denn es uns davon abhält, glücklich zu sein.“[5]  Aber diese Zustände, diese Gefühle zu verstecken heißt, dass wir sie nicht mehr zugeben, und deshalb nicht geheilt werden können.  Wie kann Jesus Christus, Gott, der Heilige Geist, zu uns in unsere Not kommen, wenn wir vorgeben, überhaupt keine Not zu erleben?  Dabei geht es nicht darum, Not hervorzurufen, sondern darum, ehrlich damit umzugehen.  „Hier begegnet uns eine völlig neue Lebensweise. Es geht um die Möglichkeit, Schmerz so anzunehmen zu können, nicht etwa um Leiden auszusuchen, sondern in dem Wissen, dass aus der Schmerz etwas Neues geboren wird.“[6]  So schreibt Henri Nouwen.

Auch das ist Auferstehung:  Neuanfang, und insofern neues Leben.  „Das, was wir Anfang nennen, ist häufig das Ende. Und etwas zu beenden, heißt etwas zu beginnen. Am Ende fangen wir an“ schreibt der Dichter T.S. Eliot.  Am Ende fange ich an.  Das neue Leben fängt an, dort wo das alte nicht mehr weitergeht.  Nicht erst nachdem… was auf immer passiert, erreicht ist, sondern hier und jetzt.  Christian Morgenstern drückt es so aus:

Wir brauchen nicht so fort zu leben,
wie wir gestern gelebt haben.
Macht euch nur von dieser Anschauung los,
und tausend Möglichkeiten
laden uns zu neuem Leben ein.[7]

Wie geht das?  Das frage ich mich oft, und weiß, dass dies Frage nicht meine Frage ist, nicht nur von mir gestellt wird, sondern bei anderen auch sehr präsent ist.  Frederick Buechner schrieb mal:  „Man muss nicht Heilen verstehen, um geheilt zu werden oder überhaupt etwas über Segen wissen, um gesegnet zu werden.“[8]  Ähnlich sagte ein Priester neulich in seiner Predigt zu Trinitatis:  „Dreieinigkeits­sonn­tag macht mir bewusst, wie wenig ich weiß, wie wenig ich verstehe. … Eins aber weiß ich, ich muss nicht alles wissen, muss nicht alles verstehen, um glauben zu können.“

Steve Goodler vergleicht das Leben mit der Erfahrung einer Luftakrobatin.  Sie schwingt auf dem Trapez, pendelt hin und her. Und da kommt das zweite Trapez.  Nun muss sie sich entscheiden:  Bleibt sie wo sie ist, oder schwingt sie zum anderen Trapez?  Wenn sie zum neuen wechselt, gibt es einen Moment, wo sie nicht mehr am alten festhält – und auch noch nicht am neuen.  Sie fliegt durch die Luft, kann nur Vertrauen haben, dass sie das zweite Trapez erwischt, dass sie das zweite Trapez fest in die Hände bekommt.  Manchmal ist auch das Leben so: “Du fühlst dich an, als ob du mitten in der Luft wärst.  Es geht um etwas neues, du hast dich vom Alten schon verabschiedet, aber das Neue hat noch keine richtige Gestalt, du kannst es noch nicht ganz begreifen.  Du fühlst dich verwundbar an, vielleicht beängstigt.  Aber die einzige Möglichkeit, das Neue zu ergreifen, ist das Alte los zu lassen.“[9]

Immer ist Ort und Stunde. Immer bist du gemeint.
Und es ist jede Wunde einmal zu Ende geweint.
So viele Schritte gegangen, egal wohin sie geführt.
Hauptsache angefangen, ab und zu Leben gespürt.[10]

So singt Konstantin Wecker.  Und er meint:  „Man kann sich um Leid nicht herum drücken, man kann es nur durchwandern.“[11]  Durchwandern, bis das neues Leben einem erwischt, auf einem zukommt, einen fängt.

Das Leid durchwandern, sich nicht herumdrücken – durchwandern, bis das neue Leben Gestalt nimmt, bis man es ergreifen, begreifen kann.  Wir werden unsere lieben Toten nicht mehr in diesem Leben wiederbekommen, wie die Witwe von Naïn, wir werden aber doch in diesem Leben neues Leben bekommen, ein verändertes Leben, und vielleicht auch ein tieferes Leben.  Vielleicht werden wir zur tieferen Freude fähig, wenn wir tiefere Trauer erlebt haben.  Vielleicht werden wir, wie auch die Witwe von Naïn die Erfahrung machen, dass mitten in unsere Trauer Christus zu uns kommt, dass auch wir in der Gottesferne die Gemeinschaft mit Gott spüren, dass Gott in den schwierigsten Zeiten bei uns ist und neues Leben schenkt.

            Amen

 

[1]     Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Nachfolge (Gütersloh 21994), 83-84.

[2]     Notker Wolf, Schmetterlinge im Bauch. Warum der Glaube Flügel verleiht (München 2011), 184.

[3]     Wolf, Schmetterlinge im Bauch, 186.

[4]     Henri Nouwen, Here and Now: Living in the Spirit (London 1994), 10.

[5]     Nouwen, Here and Now, 25.

[6]     Nouwen, Here and Now, 25.

[7]     Gesammelte Werke (Munich 1965).

[8]     Frederick Buechner, A Room Called Remember: Uncollected Pieces (San Francisco 1984); citation online at http://www.frederickbuechner.com/blog/2016/5/30/you-do-not-need-to-understand-healing-to-be-healed?rq=You%20Do%20Not%20Need%20to%20Understand%20Healing%20to%20Be%20Healed).

[9]     http://stevegoodier.blogspot.de/2008/08/put-your-behind-in-your-past.html.

[10]    Konstantin Wecker, Es gibt kein Leben ohne Tod (Cologne 1999).

[11]    Konstantin Wecker, Mönch und Krieger: Auf der Suche nach einer Welt, die es noch nicht gibt (Wiesbaden, 2014).

Easter 5 (C) – 24 April 2016

sermon preached at St Margaret’s Newlands

Acts 11:1-18
Revelation 21:1-6
John 13:31-35.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.”

The Book of Revelation offers us a series of visions, prophetic visions of a new world.  The old has passed away; something new has arisen in its place.  The world is being changed, radically changed.  “Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.  And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’”

I am reminded here – as I think I am meant to be – of those passages in Isaiah and the other prophets which proclaim the coming of the Messiah:  “Every valley shall be raised up, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places a plain.” (Isaiah 40:4).  God’s coming will make things new.  It is clear that neither of Revelation nor Isaiah think that that being made radically new is going to be particularly comfortable.  And yet it is clear as well that both John the Divine and Isaiah think that it may be somehow comforting.  Radically uncomfortable, and yet deeply comforting:  how can that be?

Peter encounters radical change as well.   Our reading from Acts shows us how Peter is confronted in a dream by a sheet full of things that are forbidden by Jewish law: “four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air.”  Peter hears a voice – presumably he thought he was being tested or tempted in some way – telling him to eat these forbidden things:  “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.”   But Peter is a good Jew, and he knows what is done and what is not done:  “No, Lord;” he says, “nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.”  And then his world, his religious understanding is turned upside down:  “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.”  The Jewish law, Peter is told, is not definitive for the early Christian community.  A radical shift.  A radical change.  This is a making new, the coming of a new way of thinking about religion.  And it is one that is not initially recognised or accepted by his fellow apostles.  And yet this radical shift, this rejection of the religious teaching about what is sacred and what is profane, what is clean and what is unclean, opens the door to a new phase of the church’s development.  Peter is sent to the gentile Cornelius; he baptizes Cornelius and his household, even though they are not keeping the Jewish law.

In this passage, in which he is explaining himself to his disapproving colleagues in Jerusalem, Peter can only say that he had recognised that Cornelius too was filled with the Holy Spirit.  And in the end, the other apostles come to agree with him:  “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”  This is a radical change, a radical reorientation, a total revision of what had been the practice of the Christians until this point.  It is a passing away of what had been, a making new.  It was disorientating, disconcerting, for those who had until then known exactly what was right – and yet it brought new life, new insights, new energy, new vision.

“See, I am making all things new.”  These might have been words spoken to Peter and the other apostles too.  Acts offers a reminder of the way in which such a making new can involve the destruction, the rejection, the relinquishing of what has gone before.  That can be very painful.  It can be particularly painful when – as for the Jewish Christians – what they are being asked to reject was precisely the patterns which had given their lives meaning and shape.  I wrote a book a few years ago called “If you love something let it go…”  It was a book for Lent and Easter, and I was exploring how the Easter season reminds us over and over again of how we have to let go of what we are used to and open ourselves up for something new.  Jesus is crucified: the disciples have to let go of him, bid him farewell and open themselves to the resurrected Christ.  The resurrected Christ will ascend to heaven.  The disciples have to let go of him, let him go, and open themselves to the coming of the Spirit.

Letting go can be particularly hard in the church:  for how we have learned to approach God, to worship, to enter into the encounter with Christ is deeply personal, deeply part of who we are in relationship with God.  Just as the Jewish dietary laws were for Peter.  I am a historian of the Reformation, which was a period of just such letting go and rethinking, to build anew.  But here too, we are called to let go: to let old forms and structures die that the gospel may be resurrected.   Rowan Williams writes that we are called to enter again and again into the realisation that nothing works, that no form of worship can give us a certain encounter with God, to let ourselves risk entering the terrible darkness of not knowing what is the right way to do things, the right way to believe, and to encounter there, in it, the presence and the light of God.

“This brings on a kind of vertigo; it may make me a stranger to my self, to everything that I have ever taken for granted.” writes Rowan Williams.   “If you want God, you must be prepared to let go of all, absolutely all, emotional satisfactions, intellectual and emotional.  .. If you genuinely desire union with the unspeakable love of God, then you must be prepared to have your ‘religious’ world shattered.”[1]

The unspeakable love of God.  And yet it is that love that transforms us, that teaches us to see anew.

As Ken Rookes puts it, in three Haiku:

Life poured out for friends,
generous, painful, costly;
so are we to love.

 Following Jesus
means loving one another.
No more; nothing less.

 Disciples must love.
It is as simple as that.
Why complicate it?[2]

 The call to love is a call to see anew, to be made anew.  That is the message of our readings today.  And that initiates a process that the church has gone through over and over again.  It is a process that every congregation has gone through over and over again.  We notice it perhaps particularly on questions of liturgy and practice – the sticky issue of what we do and how we do things.

But for the church this has also meant thinking anew on the level of its teaching.  Questions such as slavery, the role of women, contraception and divorce are all questions that for a very long time the church had a clear position on, questions that pretty much everyone agreed about.  The church knew that slavery was right, that women should not be ordained, that contraception should not be used and that divorce should not happen. But they are all questions which we now see rather differently.  We reject slavery, we ordain women, we recognise legitimate uses of contraception, we allow divorce.  The process that moved the church from the one position to the other was always disruptive and difficult, although in hindsight the outcome might look clear.  We can understand that because we are in the middle of another process like that now:  about sexuality.  It is always difficult when you something that you have always known to be right, something that is part of how you see the world is suddenly placed into question.  When someone comes along as says you need to think, do, believe differently.  It is difficult.  It is uncomfortable.  And yet, sometimes – not always, but sometimes – it is indeed a making new.

Looking back, I think we can say that all of those shifts – the Reformation itself, and then over slavery, over women, over marriage – brought new life into the church.  And that is because all of them, it seems to me, pressed Christians to think more seriously about what it means to take seriously Christ’s commandment – in today’s Gospel – that we should love one another.  Christ speaks those words at a cusp in the story:  he has just told Judas that he knows that Judas will betray him.  And after this he will tell Peter that he knows that Peter will deny him.  And between those two acknowledgements of human failure comes the command:  “Love one another.”  Out of betrayal, out of failure:  love one another!  And that is the comfort in these difficult processes of change.  That we will indeed be made new.  That our world will be made new.  That we too will see and experience the new heaven and the new earth.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. … And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’”

Amen

[1]  Rowan Williams, Open to Judgement, p. 97.

[2]  https://poemsinseason.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/the-new-commandment-three-haiku/.

4. Sonntag der Osterzeit (C) – 17. April 2016

Predigt in der altkatholischen Gemeinde Bottrop

Apostelgeschichte 5,27b-32.40b-41
Offenbarung 5,11-14
Johannes 21,1-19

Hoffnung haben in dunklen Zeiten.  Darum geht es in der Osterzeit.  Neue Wege finden, wenn alles aussichtslos erscheint.  Mitten in der Trauer, in der Hoffnungslosigkeit Hoffnung zu spüren, zu begegnen, zu erleben.  Darum geht es in den Auferstehungsgeschichten, auch in der heutigen Stelle des Johannesevangeliums.  In einer Predigt zu dieser Begegnung des auferstandenen Christus mit den Jüngern sieht Axel Schmidt die Versuche des Petrus, den Tod Jesus sowie die eigene Verleugnung zu verdrängen:

Als er zu seinen Freunden sagt: ‚Ich gehe fischen‘, da brennt in ihm noch die Erinnerung an seine schmähliche Verleugnung. Was tun mit solchen unangenehmen Erinnerungen? Am besten verdrängen – durch handfeste Arbeit, durch Tun dessen, was man gewohnt ist, bei dem man nicht nachdenken muß.
Aber die Rechnung will nicht aufgehen: Nicht einmal die Fische tun, was sie sollen. Alles geht schief. Alles ist umsonst. … Petrus ist verzweifelt, traurig, beschämt. Er fühlt sich schmutzig, müde, überfordert, weiß nicht mehr weiter.[1]

Was hilft, wenn man nicht mehr weiter weiß?  Das muss die Frage der Jünger und Jüngerinnen gewesen sein in dieser Zeit nach dem Tode Jesu, in dieser Zeit des Verlustes, die doch immer wieder zu einer Zeit der Begegnung wurde.  Heute haben wir wieder eine Begegnung, da steht ein Fremder am Ufer, er würde gerne etwas zu essen haben, aber die Jünger haben doch nichts.  Und dann fordert er sie dazu auf, die Netze wieder ins Wasser zu werfen, und plötzlich sind sie ganz voller Fische – 153 an der Zahl, eine große Menge, ein Überfluss.

Für Karyn Wiseman beschreibt Johannes bei dieser Stelle eine dunkle Nacht der Seele.  Mitten in dieser dunklen Nacht, mitten in der Trauer können die Jünger im Boot das Wort Jesu hören und akzeptieren, folgen.  Dadurch wird ihre Situation verwandelt.  In der Gegenwart des Herrn kann alles neu werden.[2]  Durch diese Begegnung wird alles wieder anders.

Dabei geht es um Gnade, schreibt Karoline Lewis.  Gnade, die größer ist, als wir sie uns vorstellen können, Gnade die mehr ist, als wir sie berechnen können.  Auferstehung ist Überfluss, ist Fülle: die Begegnungen mit den Auferstandenen zeigen uns, was Gnade wirklich bedeutet:  “Ganz schön viele Fische, wenn man sie gar nicht erwartet – genau wie der Wein bei der Hochzeit von Kana.  Wenn die Hoffnung am Ende ist, wenn man sich fragt, was man tut, wenn man glaubt, dass es keine Zukunft gibt, wenn der Brunnen ausgetrocknet ist, wenn man an der Gnade zweifelt – da kommt der Überfluß.“[3]  Da kommt einem der auferstandene Christus entgegen, und zeigt einem, was doch möglich ist, welches Licht in der Dunkelheit brennt, welche Kräfte man trotz allem noch hat.

Aber manchmal fühlt es sich gar nicht so an.  Welche Fülle können wir überhaupt erleben, wenn wir um einen lieben Menschen trauern, wenn wir durch den Job oder eine Krankheit oder einfach das Leben völlig ausgepowert sind, wenn wir nicht mehr können?  Karyn Wiseman schreibt:  „Viele in der Welt sind verzweifelt, fühlen sich verloren, alleine, vernachlässigt, ohne Hoffnung.  Viele fühlen sich abgewiesen, ausgewiesen, benachteiligt.  Viele sehen kein Licht und habe keine Lust auf die Morgendämmerung.“[4]  Petrus, den Jüngern ging es wohl auch so.  Aber:  Auch wenn wir uns alleine glauben, ist Gott bei uns.  Auch wenn wir Jesus nicht erkennen, sollten wir daran denken, dass damals seine Freunde ihn nicht sofort erkannten.  Auch wenn wir Christus verleugnen, können wir uns damit trösten, dass Petrus eine neue Chance bekam, seine Liebe für Jesus, den Christus auszusprechen.[5]

Wichtig ist für mich in dieser Geschichte, dass die Jünger nicht alleine sind.  Petrus geht mit anderen zurück an seine Arbeit, die Jünger sitzen zusammen im Boot, im Raum, sie sammeln sich gemeinsam um das Feuer.  Für die Theologin Margaret Adam ist die theologische Hoffnung in Freundschaft , in Gemeinschaft begründet – Freundschaft in Christus, die wir aber oft in Form von Freundschaft unter Menschen erleben.  Freundschaft ändert sich nicht, wenn alles dunkel wird, wenn unser Leben sich schlagartig verändert.  Freundschaft, Ehrlichkeit, Vertrauen können einen roten – einen goldenen – Faden bieten.  Wie können Christen von einem Leben nach dem irdischen Dasein sprechen, ohne Leid und Tod zu verniedlichen, zu verringern, zu verleugnen?  Wie können wir mit dem Tod, mit dem Leiden unserer lieben Menschen in Hoffnung umgehen?  Für Margaret Adam bietet Freundschaft, Gesellschaft, Gemeinschaft eine Antwort auf diese Fragen.[6]  Denn Freundschaft gibt eine andere Perspektive, erlaubt eine andere Sichtweise, erinnert uns daran, dass wir nicht alleine sind.  Augustinus soll geschrieben haben:  „Nur auf dem Weg der Freundschaft kann man einen Menschen richtig erkennen.“[7]  Aber vielleicht sollten wir sagen: Nur durch die Freundschaft erkennen wir wirklich, wo wir sind.  Und Augustinus schrieb auch:  “Wenn ein Mensch ohne Freunden da steht, erscheint nichts in der Welt im freundlich zu sein.”[8]  Umgekehrt – wenn die Freunde da sind, ist die Welt auch freundlicher.

Nicht alleine gelassen zu sein.  Ich denke an die Familie in unserer Gemeinde, deren zwanzigjährigen Sohn kurz vor Ostern so plötzlich, unerwartet gestorben ist.  Und auch an eine ehemalige Studentin von mir und ihren Mann, die seit letzte Woche wissen, dass das Baby, das sie im Sommer erwarten, schwerkrank ist und nach der Geburt nur ein paar Stunden höchstens ein paar Tage leben wird.  Ich bin bewegt und zutiefst beeindruckt davon, mit welcher Ehrlichkeit, Tiefgefühl und Mut sie mit dieser schweren, traurigen Nachricht, mit dieser neuen Zukunft umgehen.  Besonders wichtig ist die Erfahrung, vom Freundeskreis und Familie unterstützt zu werden, schreiben sie:  „Ohne Euch würden wir gar nicht so gut mit der Situation umgehen können.“  Auch eine Erfahrung der Gnade.  Diese Mut komme vom Heiligen Geist, schrieb sie mir gestern abend.  Mag es auch anderen in dunklen Zeiten so gehen, dass sie sich von den Begegnungen mit anderen unterstützt und getragen wissen, dass sie dadurch die Liebe Christi erfahren.

Der Glaube ist kein Polster, das uns vor Verletzungen schützt. Der Glaube ist die Kraft, Verletzungen zu ertragen, um der Wahrhaftigkeit willen.[9]

Oder einfach:  Der Glaube ist die Kraft, Verletzungen zu ertragen.  Die Kraft, neues zu wagen.  Mut, sich dafür zu öffnen.  Glaube, Gnade, Auferstehung.  Die Begegnung mit Christus, auch durch andere Menschen, in Freundschaft, in Vertrauen, in Hoffnung.

 

Herr,
sprich dein ewiges Wort in mich
und lass es mich hören.

Herr,
strahle dein Licht in mich
und lass es mich schauen.

Herr,
drücke dein Bild in mich
und lass es mich bewahren.

Herr,
wirke dein Werk in mir
und lass es mich stets
von Neuem empfangen.[10]

                                                Amen

[1]  Predigt 2007:  http://www.k-l-j.de/predigt_c_os_03.htm.

[2]  http://www.onscripture.com/finding-light-dark-hope-inside-desperate-discourse#sthash.iJqFkdKF.dpuf.

[3]   http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=4583.

[4]  http://www.onscripture.com/finding-light-dark-hope-inside-desperate-discourse#sthash.9PT65kTn.dpuf.

[5]  Ibid.

[6]   Margaret Adam, Our Only Hope: More than we can ask or imagine (Pickwick: Eugene Oregon 2013), 222.

[7]   http://gutezitate.com.

[8]   Augustinus, Brief 130:2.4.

[9]   Te Deum, 16. April 2013.

[10]   Aus dem Kloster Rheinau (14. Jh.), Te Deum, 16. April 2016.