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Text For The Month / Monatsspruch

Texts for the months of April and May 2018
Monatssprüche für April und Mai 2017

 

April 2018

Jesus said: “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” John 20.21

It is an inescapable fact for all of us, that on our journey through life, we will disappoint in some way the people around us. Rightly or wrongly, others have expectations we do not or can not fulfil. In the same way we will be disappointed, feel let down, disillusioned by others, who do not fulfil what we expect of them. This has always been our lot. It was not different at the time, Jesus of Nazareth travelled in his homeland and instructed in word and deed his people about the will of his Father in heaven. Oh yes, he had followers everywhere and the gospels give witness of this fact throughout. And in a way even more important, Jesus chose twelve men, took them away from their daily lives, to become his disciples. As teacher he chose his students, because that is what the word ‘disciple’ means. He chose them with the purpose and expectation, that they would see, learn, understand and above all, carry forward his divine purpose. He taught them by example, preaching, exposure to conflict, every way possible, to learn about humility, forgiveness and selfless love. A lesson in humility was exemplified when Jesus was washing the feet of the disciples (John 13). But he could not overcome their religious heritage, their faith, based on expectation carried forward by the prophets through the generations. To this needs to be added the disciples’ personal ambitions, weaknesses, bravado, even attempts to force their master into some mighty actions they deemed necessary of the Messiah. “They had clung to their material dreams of an earthly kingdom and of their own prominence in it.” (Interpreter’s Bible).

Through all this, Jesus experienced, to the point of despair, the shortcomings of his chosen ones. The enthusiastic reception on his entry into Jerusalem must have given his disciples the greatest of expectations of wonderful things to come. But then the terrible events, the purpose of which Jesus repeatedly had tried to prepare them for, became reality.

In the Garden Gethsemane, in the company of chosen disciples, Jesus finds himself utterly alone: Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour? (Mt 26.40). Can there be a greater disappointment? We know what follows. Jesus on the cross cries to his Father: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Mt 27.46). And: All the disciples deserted him and fled (Mt 26.55).

We find them again hidden in a room behind closed doors, a frightened little group of broken men. They were grieving, hurting and humiliated; their faith, their wonderful dream was destroyed. And they were not capable to believe in the risen Christ. The reports of witnesses meant nothing to them, it was met with rejection. Their own peril and despair blocked out everything else. We see them in dire need of counselling. And they get it, and more. It was of the utmost importance, that the risen Christ appeared amongst them. An everyday greeting, as so many meaningless ones spoken to this day, becomes here a profound meaning: Peace be with you. This was what they needed above all, peace in their own heart, peace for their bruised conscience. Christ’s presence and spirit frees them from all anxiety and startles them out of their sense of failure into calmness, the quietness of mind that opens to new understanding. He reminds them, that he has chosen them and that he believes in them to be after all the ones to be of service to God in his plan for the salvation of the world. You remain my choice: As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.

Only recently I read in one of Elly Griffiths’ mystery novels words to the effect that “learning begins when formal education has ended”. This, in secular literature formulated observation is certainly true here. The disciples emerge from their student status as apostles – men sent. Only now, after what they had been taught and largely misunderstood, do they begin, (‘begin’ being the key word here), to understand what it will mean for the fulfilment of their Great Commission: Go and make disciples of all
nations
(Mt 28.19). As eyewitnesses of life, death and resurrection of Christ, they are now appointed ambassadors. They are to take over the task to continue Christ’s work on earth. And they will not achieve this by themselves, but through Christ’s spirit. It is the beginning of Christianity. The conversion from disciples to apostles did not happen overnight, it took time. But the church had begun, even before the gospels were written. The apostles were sent into a hostile world, surrounded and pursued by antagonism, to continue a mission in the faith, that with God’s help they will see it through.

What does this mean in today’s world? “There are wide areas in modern life, in which only one Christian language will be understood, the language of unselfish service and sacrifice” (Hanns Lilje). So much more could be written about the text for April. But as a bridge to the text for May, I will use a verse from a German hymn (EKG 241), a prayer, that refers to the first witnesses of Christ’s purpose on earth:
Wach auf, du Geist der ersten Zeugen,
die auf der Mau’r als treue Wächter stehn,
die Tag und Nächte nimmer schweigen
und die getrost dem Feind entgegen gehn,
ja deren Schall die ganze Welt durchdringt
und alle Völkerscharen zu dir bringt.


Mai 2018

Es ist aber der Glaube eine feste Zuversicht dessen, was man hofft, und ein Nichtzweifeln an dem, was man nicht sieht. Hebräer 11,1

Wenn ich einen Satz beginne: “Ich glaube …” und mir jemand abfällig ins Wort fällt mit “Glauben ist nicht wissen”, merkt er gar nicht, dass er in seiner vermeintlichen Überlegenheit eine allgemein gültige Wahrheit ausgesprochen hat. Wie schon zum April Text zitiert, beruht Schulwissen auf dem bereits Bewiesenen. Fortschritt kommt dann durch Lernen. Wer da nicht glaubt und hofft, in jedem Lebensbereich, durch Fragen und Forschen zuversichtlich und hoffnungsvoll ins Ungewisse vordringt um Kenntnis über etwas Unbekanntes zu bekommen, trägt nichts für die Zukunft der Welt bei. Was für ein riesiges Thema liegt da im Monatsspruch bereits ohne seine biblische Herkunft zu berücksichtigen. Zum Letzteren hier nun ein Zitat: “Also lerne hier, was ‘glauben’ heißt, nämlich nichts anderes, denn dass wir am Wort Christi und der Verheißung nicht zweifeln, sondern wie das Wort verheißt, solches für gewiss und wahr halten, dass es nimmermehr fehlen werde, ob wir’s gleich nicht sehen oder fühlen. Denn das ist des Glaubens sonderliche Art, dass es damit umgeht und das glaubt, was noch nicht vorhanden ist“ (Martin Luther, Hauspostille).

Bernd Hildebrandt

The drawing by an unknown artist came to us as a printing block from a WWII POW camp.

 

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