As a deer longs for streams of water…

As a deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God!
I thirst for God, for the living God.

I say, “When will I be able to go and appear in God’s presence?”
I cannot eat; I weep day and night.
All day long they say to me,“Where is your God?”

I will remember and weep.
For I was once walking along with the great throng to the temple of God
shouting and giving thanks along with the crowd as we celebrated the holy festival.

Why are you depressed, O my soul?
Why are you upset?
Wait for God!
For I will again give thanks to my God for his saving intervention.

I am depressed, so I will pray to you while in the region of the upper Jordan,
from Hermon, from Mount Mizar. One deep stream calls out to another at the sound of your waterfalls; all your billows and waves overwhelm me.

By day the Lord decrees his loyal love, and by night he gives me a song, a prayer to the God of my life.
I will pray to God, my high ridge: “Why do you ignore me?
Why must I walk around mourning because my enemies oppress me?”
My enemies’ taunts cut me to the bone, as they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

Why are you depressed, O my soul?
Why are you upset?
Wait for God!
For I will again give thanks to my God for his saving intervention.

Psalm 42: For the music director, a well-written song by the Korahites.

Posted in Histories, Mittagsgebet, Trinity (The church season after Pentecost) | Leave a comment

Come join us for more in the courts of Zion… (2nd Sunday after Trinity)

Good morning from lovely Wittenberg. The sun is out. The little rain we got, is long gone even as the clouds hang in there and the summer heat is not quite back yet. Like every morning the people walk their dogs, people open up their windows, the organists drives in on her bicycle to unlock St. Mary´s staircase to go through her routine and the pretty woman in bright colors and from the Far East does her round past St. Marys to start off another day in these parts.

My task is cut out. I´ve got the basics laid out. The chapel is cleaned out. The floors swept, the chairs straightened, and the many bookmarkers adjusted to the right place. Well, it´s all about our good Lord´s big and gracious invitation on this 2nd Sunday after Trinity. His huge banquet is prepared. He´s just so eager to welcome all his invited guests at his table. He´s done all and everything to make sure, that´s all is set for us and our salvation. His invitation has gone out – and he´s full of great expectations to see his house full and the party started and everybody having a ball. He´s burning with longing to have you as his guest and with him too. Now, that´s no surprise. He is like that. From the very start. The great prophet Isaiah puts this holy desire into words for our Old Testament lesson:  

“Hey, all who are thirsty, come to the water!
You who have no money, come!
Buy and eat!
Come! Buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why pay money for something that will not nourish you?
Why spendyour hard-earned money on something that will not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me and eat what is nourishing!
Enjoy fine food.
Pay attention and come to me.
Listen, so you can live.
Then I will make an unconditional covenantal promise to you,
just like the reliable covenantal promises I made to David.

Look, I made him a witness to nations,
a ruler and commander of nations.”
Look, you will summon nations you did not previously know;
nations that did not previously know you will run to you,
because of the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for he bestows honor on you.

Isaiah 55:1-5

And we respond to this ancient goodness and godly pining with this Sunday´s Introit

O Lord, your loyal love reaches to the sky,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your justice is like the highest mountains,
your fairness like the deepest sea;
you, Lord, preserve mankind and the animal kingdom.
How precious is your loyal love, O God!
The human race finds shelter under your wings.
They are filled with food from your house,
and you allow them to drink from the river of your delicacies.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.

Psalm 36:6-10

So far, so good. Everybody in his right mind would now agree and intone: “Blessed is everyone who will feast in the kingdom of God!” No surprises there. That speaks for itself. And that´s the introduction for this Sunday´s gospel. Our good Lord Jesus Christ, however, points out, that there is unexpected and really very serious trouble. This is our fault – humankind´s sin in general. Something like original sin. Instead of taking this wonderful invitation seriously, we find all sorts of excuses, find better things to do than to follow the calling of our good Lord and get lost in all sorts of other business. It´s mind boggling and downright impudent. Imagine Your best friend hosting a huge celebration and you´re invited in good time, but you´re just not interested and stay away. Surely, this is unheard of. It´s just not done. It´s disrespectful, disloyal and just plain rude. However, that´s the message of his story retold in this Sunday´s gospel.

When one of those at the meal with Jesus heard this, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will feastin the kingdom of God!” But Jesus said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time for the banque the sent his slave to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, because everything is now ready.’ But one after another they all began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please excuse me.’Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going out to examine them. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I just got married, and I cannot come.’ So,the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the master of the household was furious and said to his slave, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ Then the slave said, ‘Sir, what you instructed has been done, and there is still room.’ So, the master said to his slave, ‘Go out to the highways and country roads and urge people to come in, so that my house will be filled. For I tell you, not one of those individuals who were invited will taste my banquet!’”

Luke 14:15-24

Yes. It is quite understandable that the man got furious. But he´s no fool. Instead of ruining the feast, he goes on and makes it even better. The house gets filled. The party gets going and it´s a heavenly sensation and once in a life-time celebration – going on without end.  However, not with the first choice, but rather with the second and third … smallest, most unlikely and very last groups, the outcasts and good-for-nothings. He says: ‘Go out quickly to the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’  And then, when that´s successfully accomplished and there´s still room: ‘Go out to the highways and country roads and urge people to come in, so that my house will be filled.” In other places, he categorized these very last remnants and leftovers (“Allerletzten”) as “prostitutes and tax-collectors”! And that, because the first choice, the eldest brothers, the scribes and leaders, the crème de la crème – just wouldn´t come. Too proud! Too rich! Too self-satisfied, complacent and smug in their own little world to heed the call of God out of this passing world and into His coming kingdom.

So, our Lord passes out the invitation. It´s standing. It´s open – still. He invites all and every one: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Watchword from Mt.11:28) Who would not think of those, who are breathing heavily because of Coronna or of those, who are suffocating under the heavy knee of brutal force, racism, slavery, political discrimination and other terrible exploitation? Misuse of police authority and parental abuse comes to mind. Our Lord invites them, to come to him and find peace with him – solace there! He is the peace maker. He forgives sins and heals all our iniquities. Just as the epistle for this Sunday makes us recall:

Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh—who are called “uncircumcision” by the so-called “circumcision” that is performed on the body by human hands— that you were at that time without the Messiah, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, when he nullified in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees. He did this to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace, and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, so that through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord,  in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

Ephesians 2: (11-16) 17-22

Our good Lord himself rejoices in this salvation and heavenly celebration of sinners being saved, little children finding their heavenly Father and foreign strangers a new birthright and lasting citizenship in God´s family and Christian Church. The words for this Sunday´s sermon:

At that time Jesus said,“I praise you, Father, Lordof heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son decidesto reveal him. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.”

Matthew 11:25-30

So, we confess with all the Christian Church exclaiming “My God is my rocky summit where I take shelter, my shield, the horn that saves me, and my refuge.” (Psalm 18:2) and sing joyfully as we gladly follow His gracious invitation:

Come, we that love the Lord,
And let our joys be known;
Join in a song with sweet accord,
And thus surround the throne.

Refrain: We’re marching to Zion, Beautiful, beautiful Zion; We’re marching upward to Zion, The beautiful city of God.

The sorrows of the mind
Be banished from the place;
Religion never was designed
To make our pleasures less.

Let those refuse to sing,
Who never knew our God;
But children of the heav’nly King
May speak their joys abroad.

The men of grace have found
Glory begun below;
Celestial fruits on earthly ground
From faith and hope may grow.

The hill of Zion yields
A thousand sacred sweets
Before we reach the heav’nly fields,
Or walk the golden streets.

Then let our songs abound,
And every tear be dry;
We’re marching through Immanuel’s ground
To fairer worlds on high.

Isaac Watts 1674-1748
Posted in Gedankensplitter, Gottesdienst, Hymns, Trinity (The church season after Pentecost) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pastors ever close to their Shepherd

A good friend of mine and foreign pastor in these lands phoned me yesterday. Whereas I only use the phone for urgent messages, something like the original telegraph, he obviously uses it to catch up on visitation and the blessings per mutuum colloquium et consolationem fratrum (Smalcald Articles III,4: Concerning the gospel), which William Russel translates as “through the mutual conversation and consolation of brothers and sisters.” (Kolb/Wengert, Pg.319). How grateful can we be for the Lord´s promise: “Where 2 or 3 are gathered in my name, there I am with them!” (Mt.18:20)

In these times of “social distancing” this telephonic chatroom is a wonderful way to share comforts of a friendly voice and catch up on some fraternal news outside the provincial bubble. Thank God, we have such good fellowship even as we rejoice in that of our books, podcasts and films too. Of course, this ever growing freight is also a great distraction and can become an excessive overload. The good old Saint Anthony – like all desert fathers and other hermits – knew all about these temptations – even outside in the desert. The present situation is very helpful in reducing this ever-expanding surplus of diversions to a healthy, still stimulating, but sustainable level. Very much like a necessary fast or at least healthy diet. Part of the basic daily schedule remains the quality time in dialogue with our maker – the triune God – in reading His Word and bringing our all to Him in prayer. For me it works best to start the day with that before I get lost in daily business…    

This morning’s readings prompted these subsequent thoughts. So, allow me to share those with You too, starting off in reverse order i.e. from the passages in the “Anthology” (Dobberstein Pg. 354-6) for Thursdays – to the Scriptural meditations for the day on “The minister as pastor” (ebd. 34) – on Ezekiel 34:1-16 and Isaiah 40:11. Here are those readings from the Anthology on “Christ´s curates” and on “being close to the Chief Shepherd”:

Lest You be overwhelmed with the greatness of Your task, remember no church is given to any man without the Saviour of the church and of him. After all it is Christ´s Church more than yours. He is the real Pastor of every real church, and the Bishop of its minister. You are but his curate.

Peter Taylor Forsyth

When Jesus handed over to Simon Peter the charge of the Christian Church, he was careful to use the possessive pronoun “my”. “Feed my lambs! Tend My sheep! Feed my sheep!” It is the mightiest pronoun in the New Testament for the saving or the minister from lordliness. “Simon, son of Jonas, feed my lambs . They are not yours, they are mine, but I wish you to look after them for a little while. I do not give them to you. They belong to me. Mine they always shall remain, but I ask you to tend them for a season for me. Feed my sheep. They are not yours. Not all one of them shall ever pass from my possession, but I am going away for a few days, and I leave them with you. Guard them, feed them, guide them, be good to them for my sake. Follow me. Remember my gentleness, my watchfulness, my considerateness, my patience, my compassion, my readiness to help, my swiftness to heal, my gladness to sacrifice. Be the kind of shepherd to my lambs and my sheep that I have been to you. Follow me!

Charles Edward Jefferson

The real vital question of the ministry is that every individual Shepherd be constantly and earnestly concerned to be remaining in immediate contact with the chief Shepherd, from whom he has received his office and to whom he will one day be accountable for it … only daily, direct encounter with the Chief Shepherd will keep the shepherd alert to the cares and needs of his flock. Only this will carry him across the abyss of proud or conceited self-satisfaction on the left or the abyss of tedium and resignation on the right. The shepherd needs the Chief Shepherd; if he is no longer conscious of this, if he constructs his own ministry, he’s already lost.

For pastors, therefore, it must again become simply a matter of course that there shall be time set aside for daily Scripture reading and daily prayer, and this not only in the form of general family worship. The pastoral ministry requires pastoral study of the Scriptures and pastoral prayer. This is not merely a pious pastime which a few pastors indulge in alongside of the ministry. Because of his office and for the sake of his office the pastor must study the Bible. When a man knows of no more than texts of the pericopes and Bible class lessons on which he has to speak to the congregation it will soon be found, when his work is objectively tested, that he cannot preach rightly on these texts either.

And for the sake of his office the pastor must continue in prayer. He cannot be a real pastor to the endangered and suffering in his congregation without practising priestly intercession for them. Here, too, there’s a deep gulf between pastoral care with prayer and pastoral care without prayer. Let not the pastor tell himself, that he is “praying without ceasing”. Let him set aside a daily quiet time for Scripture reading and prayer. Many an error and scandal in the doctrine life of our church would have been prevented if all pastors had kept this rule, if they had not allowed themselves to be led astray by the business of their Sunday and everyday life into the slothfulness of the inner man.  

Martin Dörne

Thank God, He himself keeps the bad shepherds out and takes good care of His own as the very good Shepherd – Jesus Christ:

The Lord’s message came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them—to the shepherds: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not shepherds feed the flock? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the choice animals, but you do not feed the sheep! You have not strengthened the weak, healed the sick, bandaged the injured, brought back the strays, or sought the lost, but with force and harshness[b] you have ruled over them. They were scattered because they had no shepherd, and they became food for every wild beast.[c] My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over the entire face of the earth with no one looking or searching for them.

“‘Therefore, you shepherds, listen to the Lord’s message: As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, my sheep have become prey and have become food for all the wild beasts. There was no shepherd, and my shepherds did not search for my flock, but fed themselves and did not feed my sheep. Therefore, you shepherds, listen to the Lord’s message. 10 This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look, I am against the shepherds, and I will demand my sheep from their hand. I will no longer let them be shepherds;[d] the shepherds will not feed themselves anymore. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, so that they will no longer be food for them.

11 “‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look, I myself will search for my sheep and seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will seek out my flock. I will rescue them from all the places where they have been scattered on a cloudy, dark day.[e] 13 I will bring them out from among the peoples and gather them from foreign countries; I will bring them to their own land. I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the streams and all the inhabited places of the land. 14 In a good pasture I will feed them; the mountain heights of Israel will be their pasture. There they will lie down in a lush[f] pasture, and they will feed on rich grass on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will feed my sheep and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. 16 I will seek the lost and bring back the strays; I will bandage the injured and strengthen the sick, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them—with judgment!

Ezekiel 34:1-16

And the brief passage for meditation on this:

Like a shepherd he tends his flock;
he gathers up the lambs with his arm;
he carries them close to his heart;
he leads the ewes along.

Isaiah 40:11

We sing and praise His name – now and always:

1 What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer!

2 Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
take it to the Lord in prayer!
Can we find a friend so faithful
who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
take it to the Lord in prayer!

3 Are we weak and heavy laden,
cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge–
take it to the Lord in prayer!
Do your friends despise, forsake you?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In his arms he’ll take and shield you;
you will find a solace there.

Joseph M. Scriven (1819-1886)
Posted in Gedankensplitter, Hymns, Lectionary etc, Morgengebet | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1.Sunday after Trinity: Old Love song…

The Psalm for this 1st Sunday after Trinity

Ahimelech gives David Goliath´s sword

I will praise the Lord at all times;
my mouth will continually praise him.
I will boast in the Lord;
let the oppressed hear and rejoice.
Magnify the Lord with me.
Let us praise his name together.
I sought the Lord’s help and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Look to him and be radiant;
do not let your faces be ashamed.
This oppressed man cried out and the Lord heard;
he saved him from all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord camps around
the Lord’s loyal followers and delivers them.
Taste and see that the Lord is good.
How blessed is the one who takes shelter in him.
Fear the Lord, you chosen people of his,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
Even young lions sometimes lack food and are hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
Come children. Listen to me.
I will teach you what it means to fear the Lord.
Do you want to really live?
Would you love to live a long, happy life?
Then make sure you don’t speak evil words
or use deceptive speech.
Turn away from evil and do what is right.
Strive for peace and promote it.
The Lord pays attention to the godly
and hears their cry for help.
But the Lord opposes evildoers
and wipes out all memory of them from the earth.
The godly cry out and the Lord hears;
he saves them from all their troubles.
The Lord is near the brokenhearted;
he delivers those who are discouraged.
The godly face many dangers,
but the Lord saves them from each one of them.
He protects all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
Evil people self-destruct;
those who hate the godly are punished.
The Lord rescues his servants;
all who take shelter in him escape punishment.

Psalm 34 by David, when he pretended to be insane before Abimelech.

The hymn for this 1st Sunday after Trinity

From God can nothing move me;
He will not step aside
But gently will reprove me
And be my constant guide.
He stretches out His hand
In evening and in morning,
My life with grace adorning
Wherever I may stand.

When those whom I regarded
As trustworthy and sure
Have long from me departed,
God’s grace shall still endure.
He rescues me from sin
And breaks the chains that bind me.
I leave death’s fear behind me;
His peace I have within.

The Lord my life arranges;
Who can His work destroy?
In His good time He changes
All sorrows into joy.
So let me then be still
My body. Soul, and spirit
His tender care inherit
According to His will

Each day at His good pleasure
God’s gracious will is done.
He sent His greatest treasure
In Jesus Christ, His Son.
He ev’ry gift imparts.
The bread of earth and heaven
Are by His kindness given.
Praise Him with thankful hearts!

Praise God with acclamation
And in His gifts rejoice.
Each day finds its vocation
Responding to His voice.
Soon years on earth are past;
But time we spend expressing
The love of God brings blessing
That will forever last!

Yet even though I suffer
The world’s unpleasantness,
And though the day’s grow rougher
And bring me great distress,
That day of bliss divine,
Which knows no end or measure,
And Christ, who is my pleasure,
Forever shall be mine.

For thus the Father willed it,
Who fashioned us from clay;
And His own Son fulfilled it
And brought eternal day.
The Spirit now has come,
To us true faith has given;
He leads us home to heaven.
O praise the Three in One!

Ludwig Helmbold (1532-1598): “Von Gott will ich nicht lassen…”

Watchword for this 1st Sunday after Trinity

The one who listens to you listens to me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects the one who sent me.

Luke 10:16

The Old Testament lesson for the 1st Sunday after Trinity:

These words I am commanding you today must be kept in mind, and you must teach them to your children and speak of them as you sit in your house, as you walk along the road, as you lie down, and as you get up. You should tie them as a reminder on your forearm and fasten them as symbols on your forehead. Inscribe them on the doorframes of your houses and gates.

Deuteronomy (5th Book of Moses) 6:4-9

The epistle lesson for the 1st Sunday after Trinity

God is love, and the one who resides in love resides in God, and God resides in him. By this love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because just as Jesus is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears punishment has not been perfected in love. We love because he loved us first.

If anyone says “I love God” and yet hates his fellow Christian, he is a liar, because the one who does not love his fellow Christian whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And the commandment we have from him is this: that the one who loves God should love his fellow Christian too.

1st Letter of St. John 4:16b-21

The Holy Gospel for the 1st Sunday after Trinity

Our Lord Jesus Christ told this parable: “There was a rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. But at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus whose body was covered with sores, who longed to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. In addition, the dogs came and licked his sores.

“Now the poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. And in Hades, as he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far off with Lazarus at his side. Sohe called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in anguish in this fire.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things and Lazarus likewise bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in anguish. Besides all this, a great chasm has been fixed between us, so that those who want to cross over from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ So[ch] the rich man said, ‘Then I beg you, father—send Lazarus to my father’s house (for I have five brothers) to warn them so that they don’t come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they must respond to them.’ Then the rich man said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ He replied to him, ‘If they do not respond to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

St. Luke 16:19-31 (The rich man and Lazarus)

The Sermon for the 1st Sunday after Trinity is on the following reading

The group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one said that any of his possessions was his own, but everything was held in common. With great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on them all. For there was no one needy among them, because those who were owners of land or houses were selling them and bringing the proceeds from the sales and placing them at the apostles’ feet. The proceeds were distributed to each, as anyone had need. So Joseph, a Levite who was a native of Cyprus, called by the apostles Barnabas (which is translated “son of encouragement”), sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and placed it at the apostles’ feet.

The Acts of the Apostles 4:32-37

Overview of the Divine Service in German

  1. Entrance Hymn 346, 1-4 Die güldene Sonne …   (Paul Gerhardt 1666)  
  2. Readings, lessons and Sermon: Ps.43; Dt.6,4-9 ; 1.Joh.4,16b-21; Lk.16,19-31 
  3. Hymn of the day: 99 Nun bitten wir den hl. Geist ... (Martin Luther 1524)
  4. Hymn before the sermon: Von Gott will ich nicht lassen (Ludwig Helmbold 1563)
  5. Sermon Acts 4,32-37 
  6. Hymn after the sermon 387 Geh hin nach Gottes Willen… (Johannes F. Möller 1822)
  7. Closing hymn 346,6-8 Lass mich mit Freuden … (Paul Gerhardt 1666)

<a href="http://&lt;!– wp:file {"id":20437,"href":";} –> <div class="wp-block-file"><a href="">acts-4_32-37-als</a><a href="; class="wp-block-file__button" download>Download</a></div> Sermon Outline

  1. The Holy Christian Church will remain forever by God´s gracious providence
    1. St. Augustine: Love God himself – and not just as a means to an end!
    2. Preaching the Gospel of IX: They have Moses and the prophets…
    3. His grace was with all of them: Whoever hears You hears me!
    4. Loving our neighbour as ourselves: Taking care of the other´s needs – not using them as a means to an end.
    5. Bonhoeffer: “Church for others!”
    6. IX gave his life for us and that we may live… Love for God/fellow humans goes hand in hand.
  2. Strive, division, envy and conflict – our sins and evils.
    1. Hananias und Saphira – taking care of themselves, feeling shortchanged…
    2. Persecusion, expulsion and exile (Synagogue/Rome): Poverty, homelessness, discrimination
    3. Slavery – childlabour/molestation – prostitution/sex trafficking, Racism
    4. Nygren: Eros and Agape
  3. The message continues granting salvation, liberation, and healing
    1. Eternal home: Church, promised land, paradise
    2. Family of God: One holy Christian Church
    3. Human rights, freedom, respect
    4. Carrying each other´s burdens: “Mitmenschlichkeit” (Ubuntu)
    5. Martin Luther: Allgemeine Kasten (Common chest)
    6. Justification of Sinners – Good news for modern man!
      1. No reason for hybris and megalomania: Judge others higher than yourself
      2. No reason for despair and giving up: God loves You and so do we!
      3. God forgives and restores: Thank Him now and always!
      4. He wants us to live together – forgiven, free and in loving kindness/respect.
      5. Therefore pray for those that persecute you, bless those that curse you, forgive those, that wrong You + Overcome evil with good +
Posted in Gottesdienst, Hymns, Lectionary etc, Old Latin School in Wittenberg, Predigten in der ALS, Trinity (The church season after Pentecost), You comfort me + | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We´re no longer in paradise – that´s for sure

J.K. Rowlings has made herself a name writing. She´s found her voice in many ways and needs no introduction. She´s famous for going to dark places and not shying away before monsters and fiendish beasts in fables and stories, in myth and dark alleys of that spooky Island. Now her brave stand against yet another shitstorm has drawn the attention of the popular German magazine “Spiegel”, because she has not gone into hiding, but come out with her guns firing.

Her thoughtful response to this complicated issue is authentic, even convincing in parts. She eloquently tiptoes, where angels fear to tread. She´s no Voldemort, nor Dolores Umbridge either, but like the rest of us part of a fallen and broken world, where paradise is long lost and we´re all on our way back – seeking everywhere to find it and by all means to regain it. It´s complicated terrain – and with all those trolls out there, difficult to find one´s way.

We know full well, that none of us is going to get there by biology, economy, force or intellect – but only by grace through faith – even if all devils try to oppose that and his ilk is having a wail of a time wrecking havoc – in what was origianlly supposed to be safe havens like families, clans, tribes and nations.

In the meantime, we will continue to stick to our Lord and our God, who is a mighty fortress indeed as Psalm 46 teaches us and the theological Doctor sings with the Church:

1 A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
our helper he, amid the flood
of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
does seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great,
and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.

2 Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing,
were not the right Man on our side,
the Man of God’s own choosing.
You ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth his name,
from age to age the same;
and he must win the battle.

3 And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God has willed
his truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure,
for lo! his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.

4 That Word above all earthly powers
no thanks to them abideth;
the Spirit and the gifts are ours
through him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
this mortal life also;
the body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still;
his kingdom is forever! 

Dr. Martin Luther 1483-1546 Psalter Hymnal, (Gray), 1987
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Prayers uplifted – this Thursday +

Wonderful morning in Wittenberg and some drizzle´s in the air. Not much, no, but still. Last night various weather applications forecast rains from around 4h00 this morning right until first tea, but that was false alarm. I could have gone out into the wilds and across the Elbe onto the flats without getting wet. However, it did not happen. That´s what happens if You trust in princes. I mean, men and their devices. When I first opened my eyes – without alarm – cleaners were busy on the church square – polishing the pavements, all the cobble stones and even our school´s entrance. The epidemic might be spreading.  The rain may be coming one day. For now, the tourists are keeping away, the cleaners continue their job and we with ours anyway. It´s an orderly world. At least in some parts. I love it.  

This morning’s prayer is in line with the general admonition of the holy apostle St. Paul to his student pastor and bishop St. Timothy the first letter chapter 2 that we pray for all people – especially the Christian Church.    

O God, most merciful and most gracious, who hast encouraged us in Thy holy Word to make supplication for all men, we beseech Thee for all Thy brethren of this nation, of the great cities and quiet country places, high and low, rich and poor together, that Thou wouldst prosper agriculture, manufacture, commerce and every lawful industry; that Thou woulds cleanse our national life from besetting sins, and remove all causes of division from amongst the people; that Thou wouldst fill our hearts with Thy love and our homes with Thy peace.  

And for all the nations of the human race, with their rulers, that Thou in thy Providence wouldst make an end of war, cruelty, oppression, and ignorance, and grant unto every land the blessings of peace and order, justice and spiritual knowledge.  

We beseech Thee for the church universal, throughout the world, in all its branches and in all its ministries; that Thou wouldst further with Thy continual favor her work in this land, and in the distant parts of the earth; that Thou wouldst heal the divisions among Thy Son´s disciples, and hasten everywhere the coming of the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ: in whose name we pray. Amen 

Dobberstein Pg. 37

We sing to the Lord and bring all our joys and sorrows before Him, because He cares for us and all the world – with fatherly goodness, divine favor and unending love:

1 When aimless violence takes those we love,
When random death strikes childhood’s promise down,
When wrenching loss becomes our daily bread,
We know, O God, You leave us not alone.

2 When passing years rob sight and strength and mind
Yet fail to still a strongly beating heart,
And grief becomes the fabric of our days,
Dear Lord, You do not stand from us apart.

3 Our faith may flicker low, and hope grow dim,
Yet You, O God, are with us in our pain;
You grieve with us and for us day by day,
And with us, sharing sorrow, will remain.

4 Because Your Son knew agony and loss,
Felt desolation, grief and scorn and shame,
We know You will be with us, come what may,
Your loving presence near, always the same.

5 Through long grief-darkened days help us, dear Lord,
To trust Your grace for courage to endure,
To rest our souls in Your supporting love,
And find our hope within Your mercy sure.

Joy F. Patterson
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Welcome to Rügen

During this time, people are anxious to get out into the open once again. It´s normal, if you consider that the average living space in Germany is just a little more than 40 square meters per person. That´s why they talk about “die Decke fällt uns auf den Kopf!” (Literally: „The ceiling falls on our heads!“ i.e. it´s just too cramped and uptight). No small wonder, most people are rejoicing that public spaces are opening up again. Kids are going to school; restaurants are serving up a storm and even churches are back in business – and not just online. Tourist bureaus are coming up with all sorts of ideas of getting people to come and visit. The various federal states are trying to outgun each other, putting the best foot forward and playing their trump cards as effectively as possible. So, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is not going to be outgunned, opened up its many holiday destinations in a concerted effort to get the tourist branch flourishing once again. One of the favorite destinations there for all Germany is the island “Rügen”.  

Although in normal years, this German outpost in the “Baltic sea” is full with campers, cars, bicycles, pedestrians, sunbathers and other holidaymakers, numbers are down quite drastic. You can actually get to see the sea and the many beautiful landmarks and get your lungs full of fresh air which pummels you more or less constantly with tangy wisps of free flying sea-salt. But it´s more than just the sea on this Island, which is stoically engaged in its ongoing struggle to maintain itself against the ever now and again brutal upheaval of hurtling waves or sometimes deceptively calm waters nibbling away at the shoreline, but never tiring of undermining the lofty chalk cliffs, always testing them, waiting season for season and day in day out, seeking their fatal fall into oblivion in the ocean below – just because they can. But still, the Island holds and for long stretches goes about its farming business as if there was no sea. Poppy fields as beautiful as never. Nowhere else in Germany have I seen them stretch out as wide and colorful as this. Canola fields in the brightest yellow too, but then you have corn fields plain and simple. Miles of the most impressive avenues of oaks, linden, chestnuts and others too linking the pristine beech forests, which are an world natural heritage site and understandably so.  Very impressive trees – and for as far as you can see…

The old islanders were not very rich. Fishing, farming, working all day, perhaps even smuggling a bit, who knows? Sounds romantic and recalls days of pirates in the legendary league of Störtebeker and Co. Ernst Moritz Arndt for his part was more land-bound, but not less courageous he first fled to Sweden only to return and fight as rebel and turn-coat on the side of the Russians against the tyrannical French emperor Napoleon, who had defeated Prussia in Jena and Auerstadt. Although I know him from his clear confession “Vom Fels des Heils”, he wrotes some really revolutionary stuff too:

Der Mensch soll gehorchen mit Freiheit und das Rechte tun, weil es seinem Herzen gefällt. Und es sind viele Laster schändlich zu nennen, doch das Schändlichste von allen ist ein knechtischer Sinn. Denn wer die Freiheit verlor, der verlor jede Tugend, und dem zerbrochenen Mut hängen die Schanden sich an. Wer mit hündischen Sinn das Rechte verschweiget, der umschleicht mit dem Unrecht bald auch das Recht.

Katechimus Pg.8

The low-lying houses seeking the protection of the ground against the storms from the artic North, framed by cute little gardens – orchards, vegetable patches and always a myriad of flowers. Reminders of paradise lost. Robust churches, chapels and cathedrals even. Stocky. Firm. Somewhat daunting in their manly abrasiveness, but actually most comforting for those, who knew to trust in their enduring protection and safety. Unmoving, steadfast, confessional stalwarts – for eternities – just like the divine treasures guarded therein. Tourists come and go. And no wonder, they discover an idyllic destination – hiking trails without end, excellent biking trails too. Forests, glades and moors, lakes and rivers, hills and fields, towns and nearby cities, beaches, spas, saunas and the wide-open sea.  What do you need more for a holiday?  It´s enough for decent living – nearly perfect – if you ask me.  “Rügen” is worth a trip any day… good for a stopover, perhaps even for longer than that. Perhaps You should hurry though, before the Chinese get it. Don´t say I (or F.C. Delius!) didn´t warn you 🙂

Here´s the hymn “Vom Fels des Heils” – and hey, I am sorry, I didn´t find a translation:

1) Ich weiß, woran ich glaube, ich weiß, was fest besteht,
wenn alles hier im Staube wie Sand und Staub verweht;
ich weiß, was ewig bleibet, wo alles wankt und fällt,
wo Wahn die Weisen treibet und Trug die Klugen prellt.

2) Ich weiß, was ewig dauert, ich weiß, was nimmer lässt;
auf ewgen Grund gemauert steht diese Schutzwehr fest.
Es sind des Heilands Worte, die Worte fest und klar;
an diesem Felsenhorte halt ich unwandelbar.

3) Auch kenn ich wohl den Meister, der mir die Feste baut;
er heißt der Fürst der Geister, auf den der Himmel schaut,
vor dem die Seraphinen anbetend niederknien,
um den die Engel dienen: ich weiß und kenne ihn.

4) Das ist das Licht der Höhe, das ist der Jesus Christ,
der Fels, auf dem ich stehe, der diamanten ist,
der nimmermehr kann wanken, der Heiland und der Hort,
die Leuchte der Gedanken, die leuchtet hier und dort.

5) So weiß ich, was ich glaube, ich weiß, was fest besteht
und in dem Erdenstaube nicht mit als Staub verweht;
ich weiß, was in dem Grauen des Todes ewig bleibt
und selbst auf Erdenauen schon Himmelsblumen treibt.

Ernst Moritz Arndt, 1819
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Here we go again to Weimar…

I´ve still got some unkept promises. Some of those are to still take You further through Weimar. Now that the poster depicting the Cranach altar in St.Peter & Paul (Herderkirche) is up in my office, I´ve got another incentive to keep those commitments. Well, there are 3 more places in Weimar and one more on its outskirts, that I want to address today.

Firstly, there´s the Duchess Anna Amalia library (and a new website for this), that caught fire in 2004 and lost a substantial part of its treasures. There were old wires, that caused a short – and the whole thing nearly went up in flames. Thank God, lots of the books had been stashed for urgent renovations – and so the damage was by far less, than it could have been. Here´s a link to the Panorama of the place, with views before and after the fire. There´s not much to be added to these wonderful websites, except the enthusiastic encouragement: Go see this for Yourself. It is truly amazing!

Two more are the houses of Goethe and Schiller. Today they are both museums and in good condition, giving excellent insights into the living conditions of these famous exponents of Germany´s classical period.

Another must see in Weimar is the historical graveyard with the “Fürstengruft”. Here You have plenty to see. It´s a big place – thousands of graves spreading wide under ancient trees and over hectares and hectares of well-kept gardens, flowerbeds and shrubs. The ducal vault with the coffins of both Goethe and Schiller too is a somewhat morbid affair – big coffins one next to the other. Not much else. Well, it´s what it come down to in the end – a “little wooden box” as old Arnold Hiestermann put it. The Russian chapel is cute and rather exotic, but not much to talk about either. Now You may ask, why go to Weimar if You can just check it out online. Well, for one thing, the birds singing up in the trees and the fresh air in those green arcades and walkways, but there´s more even. Like meeting with the old architect, who lost his wife recently after sharing much of his life with her in Weimar for more than 75 years. That´s a long and happy dance as he described it. He was a typical German humanist – quoting Latin, getting excited about the classics and even taking photos of some dead poet’s grave (C.A Vulpius – Goethe´s brother-in-law) on that very day. He had the same bright, blue eyes like my father-in-law, displayed the same sharp wit although he was well beyond 90 years old and when he heard that Angelika was a German teacher, he was in his element. Now, You don´t meet such people online. He doesn´t even have email. He shared his house address and invited us to call on him. That´s one of the special take-aways that illustrate, why visiting in person is such so special – even in times of Corona.

Finally, we went through some allies and byways – past the Franz Liszt House (closed due to Corona), the Friedrich Nietzsche Archives (also closed!) and into the parks girding Weimar and following the course of the river Ilm containing Goethe´s Garden house, a Roman house and also the imposing “Sternbrücke” amongst other famous statues: Pushkin, Liszt, Shakespeare to name but some.

Now, one could get the impression as if all is just perfect in Weimar. Well, there are also dark chapters – and on the last day, we confronted one – the concentration camp of Buchenwald. Now, this is a perfect example for euphemism. The camp lies hidden on the hills above Weimar – hidden by the absolutely gorgeous beeches – enshrouding the hills, but also their dark history and the lingering memories. Angelika won´t let me bypass this, so we download the online app and listen in on that frightful chapter of our history before we drive all the way up there – and down the Blutstraße.  This was the best way to visit this otherwise deserted place – due to Corona. There were no guided tours – and we saw other visitors without this help rather lost in the ruins and wide-open spaces. Putting this into relation with the British concentration camps for the Boers in South Africa or the Russian and Chinese versions later, there´s lots of brutality and sinister evil festering in such places – very much worse than Mordor or other killing fields. Here people were incarcerated due to ideological incompatibility into the ruling tyranny and system – racial, religious, national, sexual, political criteria. Something, which continued even after the 2nd World War, because the Soviets used this very camp to continue the dreadful practices of starvation, isolation, torture and other forms of killing and murder for years to come. The Nazis were no longer in control. Now, it was the communists. For the inmates it didn´t change much. They were both lethal experts – one as ruthless as the other: Soviet Special Camp No.2. It´s just bad news – and thank God, that we´re living in better times and in safer places – but don´t stop crying for those, who still suffer this kind of despotic tyranny – in N.Korea, China and other dark terrorist hideouts.

On the way out, we slowly recovered. That normally takes time – even though Buchenwald is not as frightful as Auschwitz. Still, the terror gets to You – and it doesn´t want to let go. Much like the dementors (J.K.Rawling) sucking out Your very breath of life. Chocolate helps. We resorted to a local street festival somewhere in a village up in the hills. They were celebrating “family day” or something – and all the villagers were gathered around the grill – munching away on fried meats with potato salad and washing that down with all sorts of traditional brews. Obviously, they had been at this for some time, because they were as gregarious as they come. As soon as we greeted them, they knew, we were foreigners: Welcome to Thuringia! With proverbial hospitality they made us welcome and forget, where we had just come from. In next to no time, we were made at home and special – right there on some village street in the backwaters of the German hinterland.

In the end, we still went to see the “Lutherstone” near Stotternheim. Not much to see – it´s a lot of myths and speculation, but one big stone – and then many brown sun-seekers and other half- or totally naked Germans enjoying the sunshine around the many industrial lakes and dams there. Wonder, what Luther would have said? I´m sure, he would have had a ball!  Well, so much for the outing to Weimar – and my promise – to take You to some more sights there. I´m looking forward to the next ride. Until then: Tschüs!     

Posted in Feierabend, Gedankensplitter, Inside Germany, Sights and pictures, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

High feast of the Holy Trinity

Ready for church on this high holiday of the Holy Trinity. The table is set, the lights aglow and our baptismal font is as new. We´re full of great expectations on this wonderful feast day, because the one God, who made heaven and earth – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – who redeemed us and continues to bless and keep us, is amongst us, speaks to us, feeds us, listens to us, comforts, forgives, heals and leads us in all truth. Yes, He does great things to us – just as He did before, He will do again, because He is the one, who is, was and will be – now and always. Loving us and caring for us, granting us His ongoing favor and goodwill. He showers all His grace, love and mercy on us. Blessing us way beyond our knowing and boldest imagination. So, yes, we do have good reason to rejoice and sing His praises – now and always.

Today’s sermon on Numbers 6:22-27 is a prime example of how great our good God and Lord is to us in His divine service (Gottesdienst). He does these His very own miracles and wonders in His holy Church – through His holy Word and Sacraments – yes, through the holy office of the ministry. And the congregation is called, gathered, enlightened and sanctified in the process. He – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – does these holy things and matters.  And we are thus effectively christened, saved, justified, excused and made God´s very own through these effective means.

My sermon on Nm.6,22-27 for this Holiday of the Holy Trinity

The Lord spoke to Moses: “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is the way you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:

The Lord bless you and protect you;
The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them

Numbers 6:22-27

Reading this we as Christians don´t only contemplate some Wikipedia article on how blessings functioned in the past and what various groups and experts make of this phenomenon – something like going through the profound study of Claus Westermann: “Blessing in the Bible and the Life of the Church” (1987). Nor do we just hope for some positive outcome like that pastor, who would not bless the congregation, but instead, would week for week just do some wishful thinking: “May God bless You…” No, God actually does this. It´s not some subjunctive mood, but rather God´s good and gracious will, which happens come hell or high water. The divine service is much more than just more or less successful entertainment too. It´s value does not stem from the amount of likes or hits, but rather from God´s holy presence. Therefore, it´s also much more than just a good and maybe even effective lecture – profound and rhetorically sound. In the divine service God himself deals with us – effectively, really and – that´s crucial – lovingly in His Son IX. That´s much more than a hermeneutical problem or communicative exercise. It´s meeting up with God himself – personal and close. It doesn´t get more awesome than that. Heaven is wide open – and God himself is in our midst. Right there in the divine Liturgy. We can´t ask for more. It´s heaven on earth. Well, that´s why, we´ve got more than just some good lines, quips and even more than just passing fellowship and friendships to hope and look forward to, because our good God actually does effectively bless us through His performative words – now and for good and always. When He speaks, it happens. When He says something, it´s true and real. That´s His creative power. That´s His almighty purpose and good will in action – from the start until the very end. That´s what today´s gospel from John 3,1-15 underlines, when it points to the actions of the Holy Spirit in Holy Baptism. God himself is in action. He´s the doer in this process – much more and far beyond anything the recipient of His blessings could ever match. That´s why our faith is a might thing. Not because we´re so great, but because the one on which we focus – God himself – is almighty and does great things to us. He´s the one, who moves mountains. He´s the one, who creates and gives life. He´s the one, from whom all blessings flow!

We´re expecting great things – and rightly so, because like prophet Isaiah we´re in the very presence of the living Lord (Isaiah 6:1-13). That´s why, we kneel down at the beginning of the service and confess our sins – asking God for forgiveness and permission to stand in His holy audience: Kyrie eleison + Christe eleison + Kyrie eleison +  He talks to us in His Holy Word – and we respond in psalms, hymns, Christian songs, prayers and confessions. He feeds us. He hears us. He blesses us richly.

Example: Today we´ve got a young couple in our midst, which is planning to get married soon. Well, there we can see it too. We believe, that God himself joins this willing couple – who express their desire to get married before God and the congregation – as man and wife, so that whatever God has joined together, man should not pull asunder. These are not just empty words, but rather effective ones, which do, what they say.  

That´s why today´s Trinity Sunday has us rejoice and sing with great joy and thankfulness, because our God has done great things to us (cf. Magnificat). We will recap this in the “Te Deum”, just as in the Athanasian Creed after we have heard the holy apostle St. Paul´s jubilant exultation:

 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how unfathomable his ways!

For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?
Or who has first given to God,
that God needs to repay him?

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever! Amen.

Romans 11:33-36

Here is an outline of <a href="http://&lt;!– wp:file {"id":20312,"href":";} –> <div class="wp-block-file"><a href="">20200607-trinitatis-nm622-24-als</a><a href="; class="wp-block-file__button" download>Download</a></div> our German service. So, please join me in singing His praises – praising the one and only God: Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.

1 Father most holy, merciful, and tender;
Jesus our Savior, with the Father reigning;
Spirit of mercy, Advocate, Defender,
Light never waning;

2 Trinity blessed, Unity unshaken;
Deity perfect, giving and forgiving;
Light of the angels, Life of the forsaken,
Hope of all living;

3 Maker of all things, all Thy creatures praise Thee;
lo, all things serve Thee, through Thy whole creation:
hear us, Almighty, hear us as we raise Thee,
heart’s adoration.

4 To the almighty triune God be glory:
highest and greatest, help Thou our endeavor;
we, too, would praise Thee, giving honor worthy,
now and forever.

Hymns to the Living God #2

Posted in Lutheran Order of service, Old Latin School in Wittenberg, Sunday, Trinity (The church season after Pentecost), Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Good weather, friends and neighbours…

Good morning from Wittenberg – or as we say here: “Moin, moin!”, but that´s the elaborate and somewhat redundant version. Most stick to the monosyllabic “Moin!” It´s promising to be another of my favorite days. Now that its rained, I´m over the moon anyway. Not much, but I won´t be ungrateful and even Oliver Twist asked to have some more. So, we´ll just continue with the 4th Petition: “Please can I have some more… daily bread”, which by Lutheran definition does include “good weather” – and that comes with enough rain. Just ask any South African (or Saxon for that matter).

Yesterday we had good neighbors celebrating birthday, today we get to “good friends”. Ha, now that´s something special. Really special. Looking back on my life, I always had the best of friends. Well, in the army it was more comrades than friends and later on with Facebook – it got somewhat out of hand. Just too many to really qualify as friends. I always pitied one of my old congregants “EB” back in days long gone, who pitifully declared: “My friends have all died!” Something like “Dead poets society“. Man, that´s much worse than being the last for a tough exam and you´re outside waiting to get into the shredder – better sooner than later. No use, hanging on outside. There´s just no escaping anyway. Thank God for good friends.

Like usual my FB-friend Gene Veith posted a great piece some days back. That´s what good friends do: They don´t write you off, but continue to connect, keep in touch and even motivate You to grow, flourish and live up to Your calling to live a holy and God-pleasing life. I like Veith – and I like what he writes. It´s worthwhile attending to. This time around he was discussing an article in the Federalist and giving good tips as he went along. Amongst other remarkable things, he wrote:

Most of the works I link to can be downloaded for free on Kindle, though the free versions are not always the best translations or editions–I tried to link to good ones–and I myself like to underline passages in books that are this good. I could go on and on, as I did as an English professor for four decades.  But you get the idea.  In every field, read the old books, look at the old paintings, go into buildings of the old architecture, and you will begin to “live” our civilization.

Gene Veith: Not just teaching, but living Western Civilization

You see, in this day and age it is crucial to be selective – otherwise you´ll just get swamped – and that´s just too much of goodness for one meagre soul. We´re human with serious limitations – and therefore often less is better.  It´s an old warning: “Non multa, sed multum!” Literally meaning “not many, but much!” It could be the heading for intentional living – or what the poet summarizes as essential:

One thing’s needful; Lord, this treasure teach me highly to regard.

Johann Heinrich Schröder translated by Frances Elizabeth Cox

We´re spoilt for choice and therefore it remains one of our main challenges to be choosey, picky, exacting if you wish. Even with the growing number of dead poets, painters and composers, there´s just so much good stuff to select from. Thank God for His bountiful goodness. He lays out our tables in rich abundance and lets our cup overflow with good things. Alleluia.

Thank God many of my good friends are still around. I count myself lucky, that there even octo- and nonagenarians amongst them. That´s way beyond the biblical age cited in Psalm 90:10. This current pandemic gave us time to reconnect and reflect on the great blessings of being alive and going about your business. As we catch up by good old mail, all of them refer to the blessing of this shutdown. It gives them well deserved rest, peace and quiet from interference and a break from all sorts of odd jobs typical for retirees. They are just so grateful to have some serious blocks for studies and intensive reading – and of course ample time to share with friends all over the world. None of them complain of any limitations. It´s not that they don´t have any. We all know that. After all, they´re not in heaven just yet. Still, the tenor of their song is the joy and happiness to concentrate on meaningful stuff. Probably very much like old Jerome in his study. Turning the skull with his hand as the hourglass runs out, he continues to read good news: Carpe diem. God´s Word is the staying force – our anchor in life and in death. Through this our good Lord draws us ever closer and closer to himself. He, our very best friend – faithful and true. Alleluia!

1 One thing’s needful; Lord, this treasure
Teach me highly to regard.
All else, though it first give pleasure,
Is a yoke that presses hard!
Beneath it the heart is still fretting and striving,
No true, lasting happiness ever deriving.
This one thing is needful; all others are vain–
I count all but loss that I Christ may obtain!

2 How were Mary’s thoughts devoted 
Her eternal joy to find
As intent each word she noted 
At her Savior’s feet reclined!
How kindled her heart, how devout was its feeling
While hearing the lessons that Christ was revealing!
All earthly concerns she forgot for her Lord
And found her contentment in hearing His Word.

3 Wisdom’s highest, noblest treasure,
Jesus, is revealed in You.
Let me find in You my pleasure,
And my wayward will subdue,
Humility there and simplicity reigning.
In paths of true wisdom my steps ever training.
If I learn from Jesus this knowledge divine,
The blessing of heavenly wisdom is mine.

4 Nothing have I, Christ, to offer,
You alone, my highest good.
Nothing have I, Lord, to proffer
But Your crimson-colored blood.
Your death on the cross has death wholly defeated
And thereby my righteousness fully completed;
Salvation’s white raiments I there did obtain,
And in them in glory with You I shall reign.

5 Therefore You alone, my Savior,
Shall be all in all to me;
Search my heart and my behavior,
Root out all hypocrisy.
Through all my life’s pilgrimage, guard and uphold me,
In loving forgiveness, O Jesus, enfold me.
This one thing is needful; all others are vain–
I count all but loss that I Christ may obtain!

Source: Lutheran Service Book #536

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