Text For The Month / Monatsspruch
Text for the months of June and July 2009
Peter began to speak: "I now realise how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right".
Acts 10, 34-35
God has no favourites.
Peter preaches how Jesus , through his teaching, his actions, his death and resurrection, became the Lord of all. The carpenter's son from Judea, a small province in the great Roman Empire, became "universal".
Jesus tore down the fences, which religious people around him had built to protect themselves as God's chosen people, proclaiming their superiority above and beyond all others.
The Apostle Peter grew up and lived in this elitist religious environment. In fact, this trait is present to this day in all religions, in all Christian denominations, in each congregation, in the smallest social unit. Everywhere we find some ceremonial law, some ritual, some rule of etiquette, which gets into the way of Christ's law of love. And how many sects are around today, who turn Peter's insight on its head, bypass the Bible and "trade" on the concept that God's favour must be earned by any means. This makes them shepherds without mercy.
Jesus made himself unmistakably clear, when he said: The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. (Mark 2, 27) Therefore, fences of every kind have no divine sanction. This, Peter realised when he met Cornelius, a gentile who believed in the true God. Jesus is no longer the Jewish "Lord and Christ", but Lord of all.
God accepts men from every nation...
In the Association's monthly magazine "Wort und Werk" from the 1960s, I found in nearly all of the about 80 issues thoughts relevant to the text of this month, namely the acceptance of others in the spirit of tolerance and goodwill. Here a few examples:
...representatives of the Buddhist, Hindu and Islamic religions joined with Christians at a special Commonwealth Day service held in St. Martin-in-the-Fields on June 11th in the presence of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. The service took the form of four basic affirmations of faith in the Eternal Creator, in the dependence of man on God, in the supremacy of love in all human relationships and in the brotherhood of man revealed especially in service and sacrifice. These affirmations were followed by readings from the scriptures and by sacred music of the religions represented.
(Wort und Werk, September 1966)
Dag Hammarskjöld explained the thought behind the creation of a room for silence in the United Nations Building:
In such a room, in such a house as the UN Building, we must not use symbols, with which the peoples traditionally express their religious feelings... Therefore the meditation room has in its centre a block of iron ore that shines in the lamp light like ice. As in this house we try to convert the sword into a plough, we thought that this material from which swords were made and houses have been built, could have a special significance. The material represents the paradox of human life. God has made us in equal measure for creating and destructing. This was the thought process in choosing the block of ore. So the seeming emptiness of the room has something we wish to express. We wish to bring the calm back, which got lost in the streets and the conference rooms. We wish to bring back the thought of service and thanksgiving which is greater than ourselves. After all, in this room people of all races and nations, believers of all religions should find a place, where they can have a dialogue with their God.
(Wort und Werk, March 1966)
Fredrik Franklin, Secretary General of the World Alliance, presented answers to the question "What does the YMCA believe?" at a World Consultation in Geneva, 1968. Here are a few excerpts of his credo:
We believe that any country's greatest resources is its people. It is in the development of this resource we are engaged.
We believe in the development of truly indigenous and self-sustaining national movements, rooted in the culture, traditions and the way of life of their own countries, yet aware of their interdependence with people and fellow members of other countries.
We believe in the inequality of men in the sense that each one comes into the world with a different set and with varying degrees of talents, but we also believe in the equal rights of men to discover and develop his potentialities.
We believe that mankind is one family and that our doors must be open to persons of any creed and colour, culture or class.
We believe in the value and power of tradition but that our greatest tradition is to be open to change, to experiment and innovation.
We believe finally and especially, that man, to experience the fullness of life, needs a sense of purpose and meaning and that nowhere can this be found more completely than in the discipleship of Jesus Christ.
(Wort und Werk, May 1969)
In one short passage I found reflected, what is stated in the YMCA's Aims and Purposes, formulated in 1971, namely "Respect and freedom for all, tolerance and understanding between people of different opinion":
I like to live in such a way, that at all times I can converse with someone who has another faith, another view of the world than my own, and this in such a good spirit that he will not be offended, even if we do not have the same view.
(Wort und Werk, July/August 1964)
Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord.
When the text for June begins with "Peter began to speak", then the text for July could start with "Paul ends his letter and writes". The Apostle Paul, being under house arrest in Rome, writes to the church in Philippi, the first in Europe, in terms of warm affection about the joy and peace which belongs to those who trust in Christ. The letter ends with the above text and the word rejoice is interchangeable in Greek with farewell. We can read: Finally my brothers, farewell in the Lord, our conventional "good-bye", which is like modern texting, because it means "God be with you". But then comes a postscript, so often an important part of a letter. Paul repeats a warning against "busybodies", who insist on external observances and rites, which have no spiritual value.
This brings us full circle with what has been written in the first part of the June text above. Peter and Paul struggle with the same problems, all the "dear habits", which prevent people from an unconditional flow of love in action.
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