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Text For The Month / Monatsspruch

Texts for the months of February and March 2010
Monatssprüche für Februar und März 2010

 

February 2010

There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be open-handed towards your brothers and towards the poor and needy in your land. Deuteronomy 15,11

There can be no misunderstanding about this text, only wilful disregard or the excuse that on the scale of things the involvement of the individual makes no difference.

“Even in the best of societies under the most enlightened laws, the uncertainties of life and the variations among citizens result in some people becoming poor. In such cases the Lord commands that generosity and kindness be extended to them” (The NIV Study Bible).

In the ideal world such commands would not be necessary, but in the actual order the poor will always exist. Hundreds of years after Deuteronomy, this is confirmed by Jesus: The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. (Mark 14,7)

In the text for this month “a solution is offered for one of the most vexing problems in history. Poverty makes for class struggle, ideological and political conflicts, even revolutions. Deuteronomy’s religious-based solution is simple and practical. The key to the problem of poverty lies in unreserved service to God. To acknowledge that all are children of one Father, and to act accordingly in mercy, is to leave no room for poverty, special privilege, or injustice. Human need is not a matter just for systems and laws, but for mercy and loving kindness” (The Interpreter’s Bible).

These quotes underline that the problem of poverty is huge, complex and global.

As we celebrate this year the 150th Anniversary of our Association, I suggest that we now look into its history for a few examples, which relate to the theme of this month.

In the early days of the Association, its members were not poor, but most of them had to lead a frugal life on a very modest income. They looked after each other, but caring for the most needy amongst their countrymen had to be learned. And although they did their best to provide practical services, which always stretched their financial commitment to its limits, mistakes were also made. When enthusiastic young men were preaching to destitute fellow countrymen they found in the streets of the East End, they should not have been surprised, that all, what these poor people had on their mind, was the next meal, that they were not receptive for the Word of God, but grateful for a few pence for some food and a night’s sheltered sleep. Members had also come to terms with the experience, that their good intentions could be misused, that for instance a practical gift of clothing for Christmas could easily be transformed into a bottle of booze. They had to accept, that their support was often a thankless task.

But there was also always the other side, the experience of effective measures, success and gratitude. For this, here just one example, recorded in a Nachrichtenblatt from 1951: Unexpected we received a letter from America: “About 40 years ago [at the time, when the Association had the impressive house in City Road] the German YMCA helped me with a sum of money. Often I attempted per Illustration "Ubi caritas et amor, ubi caritas deus ibi est"mail to repay my debt, but again and again the letters came back as undeliverable. Now I am 92 years old and try it once again.” The letter was gratefully acknowledged. That it did not find its destination before, was due to the fact that the Association in the years of two world wars and difficult times in between, had several addresses and, dictated be external conditions, kept a low profile.

How much more could be written about the text for the month from Association records alone. But, I would like to conclude with a reference to the illustration above, which I drew originally in 1993 from a design by Sister Eva Maria Steidel in Elbingen. Ubi caritas et amor, ubi caritas deus ibi est : Where there is kindness and love, there is God. These are lines of a refrain sung around 800 A.D. in a Benedictine monastery on the isle of Reichenau in Lake Constance, where on certain days the monks washed the feet of the poor and gave them alms.

 

 

März 2010

Es gibt keine größere Liebe, als wenn einer sein Leben für seine Freunde hingibt. Johannes 15,3

Warum macht es mir dieser Text so schwer, dazu ein paar Zeilen zu schreiben? Weil ich nur andeuten kann, wie vielschichtig dieser eine Vers im Evangelium ist.

Er deckt die Grenzenlosigkeit des Liebesgebotes auf. “Was es heißt, daß einer sein Leben hingibt für seine Freunde, das wird man doch in all den Beziehungen eines Leidenden zu Anderen nur eben angedeutet finden können” (Karl Barth).

Da ist von Freunden die Rede. Der Begriff “Freund” hat eine grosse Spannweite. Bereits in der oberflächlichsten Begegnung redet man von Freunden, wenn es nur eine Bekanntschaft ohne gegenseitige Verpflichtung ist. Im tiefsten Sinn ist Freundschaft ein sehr seltener, wertvoller Schatz. “Der Mensch hat nichts so eigen, so wohl steht ihm nichts an, als daß er Treu’ erzeigen und Freundschaft halten kann” (Simon Dach, 1605-59).

Nun ist es kein Zufall, dass dieses Wort Jesu gerade für die Passionszeit gewählt wurde. Wir erkennen, dass Jesus hier von sich selbst spricht. Und seine Jünger nennt er im folgenden Vers Freunde, obwohl er weiß, dass er unverstanden von ihnen verraten, verleugnet, und in der Nacht seiner größten Anfechtung, in Todesangst allein gelassen wird. So nimmt er einsam, mit Zittern und Zagen den Willen des Vaters im Gehorsam an: Abba, Vater, alles ist dir möglich; lass diesen Kelch an mir vorübergehen! Doch nicht wie ich will, sondern wie du willst! (Mk. 14,36), und gibt sein Leben für uns, seine Freunde hin.

Bernd Hildebrandt

 

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