Learning German at the Old Latin School (Wittenberg)

Ich komme aus der Ukraine“, „Meine Adresse ist….“, „Mir geht es gut, und Ihnen?“ We practice this over and over again, the new sounds and words are difficult to remember. But gradually the phrases become automatized and more and more fluent. We are making progress. Almost all of the students come from the Ukraine. Most of them would never have thought that they would have to sit and study again, forced into a situation nobody anticipated. It all started with the Ukrainians moving into the OLS. They need to find their way around in German and I offered to do conversation classes with them, but quickly the word spread and more and more people from outside joined in. So, we moved from the common room to the foyer, where the tables my husband organized from neighboring „Wittenburger“ come to novel use. Instead of beer, wine or tea at English Stammtisch in old Lutheran “table talk style”, they are now covered in German books and notes and writing four times a week.

Just conversing did not suffice. So, I ordered course books as well as workbooks from Cornelsen. This makes teaching and learning much more efficient. The books are excellent, the e-book and listening exercises can easily be downloaded on everyone’s phone and enable the students to practice at home as well. I am extremely grateful to the Lutheran Church Missouri Synode, who made funds available to sponsor the books via their Eurasia Mission section, which supports this outreach to Ukrainian refugees. The digital smart board is a modern and helpful tool for teaching, which can be used simply as a writing board but also, I can connect my laptop to show the e-book, or the video clips included in the learning material. So, we are well equipped – which makes the classes not only more professional but also lots of fun.

Because of the different levels of language proficiency – some do have previous knowledge obtained during their studies (albeit many years ago) – others are starting at zero, I decided to divide the group into a beginner and an advanced group. The age of the participants ranges from 12 to 70+. There is a pastor Kolesnyk with his wife and four daughters learning German together as a family. There are pensioners who worked as engineers, others were chefs. There is a vet, a miner, a music teacher, and a conductor. I enjoy their optimism and good spirits, their eagerness, their humor, and sometimes, when they don´t understand what I’m trying to say they can just babble away in Ukrainian and I stand amazed, wondering where their discussions are going. Most of the time Kiril joins the class. He just turned 12, but he has a gift for languages – just like his mother. He made it into the Luther-Melanchthon-Gymnasium because of his knowledge of English and German and it seems that he adapts very well in the school environment. He is our translator and much liked by everyone. His mother Nataliia is an English teacher and translator who ran her own language school in Kiew until the war drove her and her two children out of the country. Her husband passed away just two months before the war started. Her English is excellent, and she learns German at rocket speed, so that she often accompanies her fellow Ukrainians to official appointments to serve as a translator.

After the quiet years while the Corona-pandemic lasted, the OLS is now vibrant with life. We are most grateful that the Lord openend the hearts and hands of so many people in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, who see the need of those in distress and share graciously what they have through the work of the worldwide Missions – in our case the Eurasian Missions.

Dr. Angelika Weber

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Gottes Wort wirkt Tag und Nacht…

Als Dr. Martin Luther[1] an 19. Oktober 1512 zum Professor an der theologischen Fakultät der Wittenberger Universität „Leucorea[2] promoviert wird, fängt seine exegetische Arbeit an der Bibel in allem Ernst und wirkmächtig an. Zeitlebens hat er dann das Alte und Neue Testament gelesen, gebetet, übersetzt, ausgelegt, gelehrt, verteidigt, und gepredigt. Er konzentriert sich auf den Psalter, das Johannesevangelium, den Römer- und Galaterbrief, die Bücher der Propheten und jahrelang auf das Erste Buch Mose (Genesis). Sein Theologieverständnis, dass er in Psalm 119 vom König David ausgeprägt findet, faßt er in seinem Vorwort zum ersten Band seiner deutschen Schriften[3] (1539) im Merkspruch zusammen: Oratio (Gebet), meditatio (Textmeditation) und tentatio (Anfechtung). Das ergibt dem Bibelleser ein erfüllendes, obwohl unausschöpfliches Lebensprogram wie der Bibeldoktor am Lebensabend testamentarisch zusammenfaßt[4].  

Seine biblischen Übersetzungsarbeiten kommen nach seinem Wartburg-Exil in Schwung und endlich aller Welt zu gut. Dort übersetzt er mit kaum Hilfsmitteln das Neue Testament. Zurück in Wittenberg wird das mit der Expertise Melanchthons und der Kunstfertigkeit Lucas Cranachs senior für die Leipziger Messe druckfertig und von Melchior Lotter publiziert. Es ist das berühmte „Septembertestament“[5] (1522). Erst gut zehn Jahre später liegt die ganze Bibel von ihm und seinen Kollegen[6] in die sächsische Kanzeleisprache als „Weimarer Bibel[7] (1534) übersetzt vor. Die „Luther Bibel[8] wurde von Luther mehr als zehnmal revidiert und dann immer wieder gedruckt und unters Volk verkauft. Die letzte Ausgabe, die er noch beaufsichtigte war die Ausgabe von 1545.

Außer den Übersetzungen kommt sein Bibelstudium seinem Predigtamt in der Stadtkirche „St. Marien“ zugut. In der Fastenzeit predigt er täglich, sonst in der Woche zwei und sonntags zwei, manchmal drei, einige Male sogar vier Predigten. So kann er spekulieren,

daß er mehr gepredigt habe als die Kirchenväter Ambrosius und Augustinus.

Helmar Junghans 2010: “Luther und Wittenberg”, S. 89

Anfangsweise gibt er Modelpredigten als kirchenjahresspezifische Postillen heraus: „Adventspostille“ (1521); „Weihnachtspostille“ (1522) und schließlich die „Fastenpostille“ (1525). Posthum wird der ausstehende Teil des Kirchenjahres von seinem Schüler Stephan Roth aus nachgeschriebenen Predigten als reich bebilderte Kirchenpostille herausgegeben. Predigen ist seine Hauptaufgabe, da

Euangeli predigen ist … Christum tzu uns komen odder uns tzu yhm bringenn.[10]

Dieser fleißige Schüler der Bibel und schaffenskräftige Hirte der Kirche beurteilt seinen Einfluß nüchtern. In seiner zweiten Invokavitspredigt[11] hält er der rebellischen Gemeinde vor:

Summa summarum: Predigen will ich’s, sagen will ich’s, schreiben will ich’s. Aber zwingen, mit Gewalt dringen will ich niemanden, denn der Glaube will willig, ungenötigt angenommen werden. Nehmt ein Beispiel an mir. Ich bin dem Ablaß und allen Papisten entgegengetreten, aber mit keiner Gewalt; ich habe allein Gottes Wort getrieben, gepredigt und geschrieben, sonst hab ich nichts getan. Das hat, wenn ich geschlafen habe, wenn ich Wittenbergisch Bier mit meinem Philipp Melanchthon und mit Amsdorf getrunken habe, soviel getan, daß das Papsttum so schwach geworden ist, daß ihm noch nie ein Fürst oder Kaiser soviel Abbruch getan hat. Ich hab nichts getan, das Wort hat es alles bewirkt und ausgerichtet. Wenn ich mit Ungestüm hätte daherfahren wollen, würde ich Deutschland in ein großes Blutvergießen gebracht haben, ja, ich würde wohl zu Worms ein Spiel angerichtet haben, daß der Kaiser nicht sicher gewesen wäre. Aber was wäre es? Ein Narrenspiel wäre es gewesen. Ich habe nichts gemacht, ich habe das Wort handeln lassen.

Das ist keineswegs leere Redensart. Vielmehr realistische Einschätzung unserer Befindlichkeit vor Gott in der Welt. So heißt es von Gottes Alleinwirksamkeit: „Als die Zeit erfüllet war, sandte Gott seinen Sohn…“ (Gal.4,4) und wir bekennen uns zu dieser göttlichen Vorhersehung mit Paul Gerhardt: „Gott sitzt im Regiment und führet alles wohl.“ (1653). Luther, der Papst und Kaiser trotzte, hat durch Gottes Güte und Wohlgefallen die Gnadenzeit des aufblühenden Evangeliums in Wittenberg und vielen deutschen Landen erleben dürfen. Was konnte er schließlich daran ändern, dass Bauern, Schwärmer, Kaiser und Papst, Türken und Juden, Humanisten, Bilderstürmer und Sakramentierer dem Evangelium trotz all seines Redens, Predigens, Schreibens und Publizierens doch nicht glaubten, sondern es verkehrten, verdrehten und verstümmelten? Nichts. Beides das Aufblühen des Evangeliums und sein Wachsen, Zunehmen und viel Frucht bringen ist ausschließlich Gottes Gnade und väterlicher Fürsorge zu verdanken. Sola gratia. Es ist nicht zum Schauen, Greifen, Festhalten, sondern bleibt der Hoffnung auf die göttliche Verheißung vorbehalten. Dem Vertrauen, daß es werde, aufkeime, -blühe, wachse und zunehme, um endlich viel Frucht zu bringen. Manches dreißig- oder sechzig-, anderes hundertfältig. Die Selbstbescheidung Luthers hat ihn zum ernsten Warner und Mahner gemacht, daß wir nicht hoffen auf eigen Kraft noch Werk, da die doch nur selten Bleibendes schaffen, eher Not, Schaden und Verderben anrichten. In der Einsicht wird Luther kein Fatalist, Drückeberger, Aufgeber oder Nichtsnutz. Im Gegenteil, er erwartet alles Gute vom dreieinigen Gott. Er hofft und fleht zum Geber aller guten Gaben und Heiland der Welt – gegen allen Augenschein und wenn gleich alle Teufel hier wollten widerstehen. In dem Vertrauen studiert er Gottes Wort, predigt, legt es aus und bringt es an den Mann, sonst nichts. Das Wort Gottes, die schöpferische Dynamis, wirkt, schafft, baut, heilt, reißt ein und verdammt auch, wenn gar Luther schnarcht und wir längst tot sind. Gottes Wort baut sein Reich und bleibt in Ewigkeit. Wir beten, dass es auch bei uns seine göttliche Kraft erweise zum Heil und ewigen Leben. Er ist treu, der es verspricht. Er wird es tun. Luther hat das wunderbare Phänomen der missionarischen Wirksamkeit des Wortes beschrieben mit dem Bild vom Stein, der in den Tümpel fällt und die ausbreitenden Wellen verursacht und auch mit dem vom fahrenden Platzregen, der kommt und geht, wie Er will. Alles liegt an seiner Gnade.

Ich will von Geschichten erzählen, die das lutherische Erbe veranschaulichen. Als Louis Harms zu den Omoro in Äthiopien wollte, da ging es nicht so, wie er wollte. Sein Glaubenskreuzer „Kandaze“ mußte unverrichteter Dinge zurück: „Mit unserer Macht ist nichts getan, wir sind gar bald verloren!“ (Luther 1528) Fünfmal haben sie es versucht und erst nach des seligen Louis Harms Absterben gabs ein Durchkommen. Nachfahren der Hermannsburger Rückkehrer, die ihr Ziel und das gelobte Land nicht erreichten, haben im südlichen Afrika ein, ja zwei Missionsfelder gefunden im Zululand und Botswana, aber das ist eine andere Geschichte. Nur das noch: In den besten Jahren unter Bischof Georg Schulz waren ungefähr 25, 000 Lutheraner aus dieser Missionsarbeit in der Lutherischen Kirche im südlichen Afrika (LCSA) gesammelt worden. Die Äthiopier, die damals von Louis Harms nicht erreicht wurden, die kamen um die Jahrtausendwende selbst ins südliche Afrika. Sie suchten Arbeit, Lebensraum, Frieden. Sie klopften auch bei der LCSA und bei den Nachfahren von Louis Harms an. Sie suchten Heimat- und Wohnrecht. Sie wollten unsere Kirchen, Gotteshäuser und Seminargebäude für ihre missionarische Arbeit unter den äthiopischen Ausländern nutzen. Und mit einem Schlag – praktisch als wir schliefen (oder mit Anibati, McBen und Kainerugaba Windhoek Lager tranken) – waren es weit mehr als doppelt so viele Lutheraner unter dem konfessionellen Dach. Himmel und Erde werden vergehen, Gottes Wort bleibt bestehen. Es kommt nicht leer zurück, sondern schafft, wozu Er es sendet und macht, was Er haben will.

Wie man des Himmels Heer nicht zählen noch den Sand am Meer messen kann, so will ich mehren die Nachkommen Davids, meines Knechts, und die Leviten, die mir dienen.

Jeremia 33,22

Eine andere Geschichte spielt sich gerade ab, aber sie ist nicht weniger wunderbar. Mein Opa Ziegenhagen war im 2.Weltkrieg Hauptmann in der Wehrmacht und war an der Ostfront stationiert. Er war nicht Teil einer Friedenstruppe. Im Gegenteil. Ihr wißt, wovon ich rede. Nach Jahren der mörderischen Besatzung und auf ungewolltem Rückzug ist er gefallen. Das ist wohl auch, wo vor Luther gewarnt hat, wenn er meinte, wir sollten nicht auf eigene Faust und gegen Gottes klaren Willen Heil, Macht und Ehre durch eigene Kraft und Willen suchen. Damals sang er noch vertrauensvoll: „Verleih uns Frieden gnädiglich…“[12]. Heute marschiert Udo Lindenberg als großer Rattenfänger los und viele bilden sich ein: „Wir schaffen das!“ – alleine und ohne Gott. Jeder kann sehen, wohin diese maßlose Selbstüberschätzung der Menschen hinführt. Immer tiefer ins selbstherrliche Verderben. Jahrzehnte sind seit dem zweiten Weltkrieg ins Land gegangen. Mauern und Grenzen sind gefallen, aber die Kirchen sind immer leerer und die Hirten stehen vereinsamt. Doch dann, kommt Bewegung ins Bild. In Berlin-Steglitz wächst die Dreieinigkeitsgemeinde mit Syrern, Iranern & Afghanen und stellt bisherige Statistik auf den Kopf.  In der Lutherstadt Wittenberg sind 2015 mehr als zwei tausend Syrer gelandet. Heute sind mehr als tausend Ukrainer hier untergekommen. Sie finden Arbeit. Gehen zur Schule. Haben Wohnraum. Eine ukrainische Gemeinde hat in unserer Alten Lateinschule neue Heimat gefunden – Kapelle, Altar, Taufstein und Orgel im Gotteshaus inklusive. Und das alles wie über Nacht, praktisch als wir schliefen bzw Ur-Köstritzer Bier genossen. Lutherische Pastoren, Seelsorger und Theologen, die heute Gottfried Martens, Thomas Junker, Markus Fischer, Armin Wenz usw. heißen. Wir waren in der Alten Lateinschule oft bloß eine Handvoll deutscher und englischer Gäste im Gottesdienst mit den himmlischen Heerscharen um den Thron unseres lebendigen und gegenwärtigen Gottes. Inzwischen haben wir zwei, manchmal drei Gottesdienste nacheinander. Einen nach westlichem Ritus[13], den anderen nach östlichem (Ukrainisch): „Erkennt doch, daß der Herr seine Heiligen wunderbar führt“ (Psalm 4,6). Ja, „Wunderbar wird sein, was ich an Dir tun werde“ (Exodus 34,10b). Wenn der Befehl: „Geht auf die Straßen und Gassen, daß mein Haus voll werde“ (vgl. Lukas 14,23) augenscheinlich ungehört verschallt, dann macht Er wahr, was er längst durch den Propheten Hesekiel versprochen hat:

„Ich will mich meiner Schafe selbst annehmen.“  

Hesekiel 34,11

Schließlich noch eine Geschichte aus Afrika und zwar aus dem lutherischen Herzland Tansania (früher Deutsch Ost-Afrika).[14] An unserem Stammtisch, der sich donnerstags in der Alten Lateinschule trifft, nimmt auch Harriet aus Moschi unter dem Kilimanjaro teil. Sie ist Voluntärin und arbeitet in der Evangelischen Akademie beim Wittenberger Schloß. In ihrer Heimatstadt im „Luther-Hotel“ wurden vor gut zehn Jahren die Lutherischen Bekenntnisschriften in Swahili vorgestellt. Die „Lutheran Heritage Foundation“ hatte diese Arbeit gefördert und Dr. Anssi Simojoki (Karen, Nairobi) und Dr. Wilbert Kreis (Paris) haben diese Übersetzung begleitet. Nun, ich hatte für diese Arbeit nichts getan, aber wurde zu diesem Fest der lutherischen Bekenntnisschriften eingeladen. Diese Reise hat mir Gottes Wirken im Herzen Afrikas noch mal von einer anderen Seite gezeigt und tief in mein Herz eingeprägt. Wir besuchten lutherische Gemeinden, predigten dort in Gottesdiensten, die alle bis auf den letzten Platz besetzt waren. Die Blaskapelle spielte bekannte lutherische Weisen zur Begrüßung, während der Feier und zum viel zu schnellen Abschied. Bläser waren auch in den Straßen unterwegs und oft winkten uns freundliche Einwohner willkommen. Ich kann kein Swahili. Ich war fremd in dem Land. Aber ich kenne tansanische Lutheraner, die bei uns in Pretoria zur Gemeinde gehörten. Wir hatten sie als treue Kirchgänger kennen- und schätzen gelernt. Tansania hat viel aufgebaut – gerade unter dem Bergmassiv und aktivem Vulkan: Eine lutherische Universität, ein diakonisches Zentrum „Ushirika wa Neema“ (= Gemeinschaft der Gnade), Schulen, Kirchen und vieles mehr. Mich beeindruckte vor allem die Ausstrahlung dieser Menschen und Gemeinden. Sie haben uns tagelang gastfreundlichste aufgenommen und zuhause fühlen lassen. Es hat mich zutiefst bewegt. Der Großvater Garz meiner Klassenkameradin Annemarie war hier stationiert gewesen. Er hatte in der Zeit von Bruno Gutmann als Leipziger Missionar dort gewirkt. Bruno Gutmann war ein Verwandter von Johannes Junker, der uns als Bleckmarer Missionsdirektor die gesammelten Aufsätze „Afrikaner Europäer in nächstenschaftlicher Entsprechung“ (1966) schenkte. Natürlich ist Gutmann längst tot, aber die Arbeit geht weiter. Wilbert Kreis ist in der Nacht nach der Veröffentlichung friedlich in seinem Bett in dem Luther-Hotel eingeschlafen, ehe der Herr über Leben und Tod ihn dort aus dieser Welt in die Ewigkeit abgerufen hat. Ja, es war eine denkwürdige Feier der lutherischen Bekenntnisschriften in Swahili. Beeindruckend das ausstrahlende Gemeindeleben dort, die weit über die eigenen Grenzen Auswirkungen hat. Das berichtet der Enkel von Gutmann – der Journalist Tilman Prüfer aus Leipzig –  in der Zeit[15] und in der Biographie über seinen Großvater[16]. Es ist eine wunderbare Bekehrungsgeschichte in der fortlaufenden und andauernden Missionsgeschichte unseres lieben Gottes, der will, „daß allen Menschen geholfen werde und sie alle zur Erkenntnis der Wahrheit kommen“ (1.Timotheus 2,4).

Mission eben nicht nur als Einrichtungsverkehr, sondern hin und her. Luther schrieb vom fahrenden Sommerregen und meinte immer wieder: Hin ist hin, wenn das Evangelium einmal vorbeigerauscht ist. Aber Sommerregen ist trotz anhaltender Dürre und mancher Unterbrechungen doch ein saisonales Ereignis. Gott sei Lob und Dank. Da können wir doch auch immer wieder auf das Wunder hoffen, daß Gott sein Evangelium erschallen läßt und es viel Frucht bringt. Gerade so wie z.Z. die Blumen in der Karoowüste wieder aufs herrlichste aufblühen dank des guten Winterregens in der Kap der guten Hoffnung. Es ist halt wie es der dreieinige Gott durch seinen heiligen Prophet verkündigen läßt:  

Vom Aufgang der Sonne bis zu ihrem Niedergang sei gelobet der Name des Herrn.

Denn meine Gedanken sind nicht eure Gedanken, und eure Wege sind nicht meine Wege, spricht der HERR, sondern so viel der Himmel höher ist als die Erde, so sind auch meine Wege höher als eure Wege und meine Gedanken als eure Gedanken. Denn gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt und nicht wieder dahin zurückkehrt, sondern feuchtet die Erde und macht sie fruchtbar und lässt wachsen, dass sie gibt Samen zu säen und Brot zu essen, so soll das Wort, das aus meinem Munde geht, auch sein: Es wird nicht wieder leer zu mir zurückkommen, sondern wird tun, was mir gefällt, und ihm wird gelingen, wozu ich es sende. Denn ihr sollt in Freuden ausziehen und im Frieden geleitet werden. Berge und Hügel sollen vor euch her frohlocken mit Jauchzen und alle Bäume auf dem Felde in die Hände klatschen. Es sollen Zypressen statt Dornen wachsen und Myrten statt Nesseln. Und dem HERRN soll es zum Ruhm geschehen und zum ewigen Zeichen, das nicht vergehen wird.

Jesaja 55,8-13

[1] https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther

[2] https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leucorea

[3] https://kwaweber.org/2021/05/05/pray-read-and-temptation-will-teach-you-even-further/

[4] https://kwaweber.org/2021/06/23/we-are-beggars-that-is-true/

[5] https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Septembertestament

[6] Unter anderem Philipp Melanchthon, Justus Jonas, Caspar Cruciger und Matthäus Aurogallus.

[7] https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weimarer_Lutherbibel_von_1534

[8] https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lutherbibel

[10] Maja Ruhkamp von der Wartburg Stiftung erklärt: „Die reichhaltigen Postillenausgaben Luthers sollten den „reinsten und schlichtesten Sinn des Evangeliums“ zu den Menschen transportieren. Dabei geben sie einen tiefen Einblick in Luthers Frömmigkeit und Theologie, nach der das Evangelium von Jesus Christus das Zentrum der Bibel darstellt. Die Geschichte seines Leidens, Sterbens und Auferstehens sei nach Luther ein Geschenk Gottes für die Gläubigen und zentrales Wesen ihrer Identität.“ (ebd).  

Der Doktor schreibt 1520: „Aus all dem lernen wir, dass es nicht genug gepredigt ist, wenn man Christi Leben und Werk oberflächlich und nur als eine historische Geschichte oder Chronik predigt – geschweige denn, dass man ganz von ihm schweigt und das geistliche Recht oder das Gesetz und die Lehre anderer Menschen predigt. Es gibt auch viele, die Christus ebenso predigen und verstehen, dass sie Mitleid mit ihm haben, mit den Juden zürnen oder andere kindische Weise darin üben. Aber er soll und muss so gepredigt werden, dass mir und dir der Glaube daraus erwachse und erhalten werde. Dieser Glaube wird dadurch erweckt und erhalten, dass mir gesagt wird, warum Christus gekommen ist, wie man sich seiner bedienen und ihn sich zunutze machen soll, was er mir gebracht und gegeben hat. Das geschieht, wenn man die christliche Freiheit, die wir von ihm haben, recht auslegt, und dass wir Könige und Priester sind, aller Dinge mächtig, und dass alles, was wir tun, vor Gottes Augen angenehm sei und erhört werde, wie ich bisher gesagt habe. Denn wenn ein Herz Christus so hört, muss es fröhlich werden von ganzem Grund, Trost empfangen und liebevoll gegen Christus werden, ihn seinerseits lieb zu haben. Dahin kommt es mit Gesetzen oder Werken niemals. Denn wer will einem solchen Herzen schaden oder es erschrecken? Fallen die Sünde und der Tod ein, so glaubt es, dass Christi Gerechtigkeit sein sei und die Sünde sei keineswegs sein, sondern Christi, dann muss die Sünde vor Christi Gerechtigkeit im Glauben verschwinden, wie oben gesagt ist. Und das Herz lernt mit dem Apostel dem Tod und der Sünde zu trotzen und zu sagen: Wo ist nun, Tod, dein Sieg? Wo ist nun, Tod, dein Stachel? Dein Stachel ist die Sünde. Aber Gott sei Lob und Dank, der uns den Sieg gegeben hat durch Jesus Christus, unseren Herrn. Und der Tod ist ertränkt in seinem Sieg usw.“ (Von der Freiheit eines Christenmenschen 1520)

[11] https://jochenteuffel.com/2022/03/07/martin-luthers-zweite-invokavitpredigt-am-montag-10-marz-1522-predigen-will-ichs-sagen-will-ichs-schreiben-will-ichs-aber-zwingen-mit-gewalt-dringen-will-ich-nieman/

[12] https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verleih_uns_Frieden_gn%C3%A4diglich

[13] Englisch: „Divine Service Setting Three“ im „Lutheran Service Book“ der Lutheran Church Missouri Synode (LCMS) und/oder in Deutsch „Evangelisch-Lutherische Gottesdienstordnung“ (SELK)

[14] Alexander Merensky berichtet aus der missionarischen Blüte- und Anfangszeit: „Deutsche Arbeit am Njassa – Deutsch Ost-Afrika“ (Berlin 1894)

[15] https://www.zeit.de/zeit-magazin/2015/24/tansania-kilimandscharo-kolonialismus-missionar

[16] Tillmann Prüfer: Der heilige Bruno: Die unglaubliche Geschichte meines Urgroßvaters am Kilimandscharo. Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2015, ISBN 978-3499630576.

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Luthers Vorrede auff den psalter (WA 10,1 S.94ff)

Den Psalter hat Luther zeitlebens studiert, gebetet und angewendet. In 1524 hat er ihn wieder als Teil des Alten Testaments in Deutsch übersetzt. Zu den jeweilig übersetzten Büchern hat der ehrwürdige Doktor dem Laien Vorreden geschrieben und darin einiges erklärt und betont.

Es ist die Ebreische sprache so reiche, das keyne sprach sie mag gnugsam erlangen. Denn sie hat viel wörter die da, singen, loben, preysen, ehren , frewen, betrüben etc. heyssen, da wyr kaum eynes haben. Und sonderlich ynn göttlichen heyligen sache ist sie reich mit worten, das sie wol zehen namen hat, da sie Gott mit nennet, da wyr nicht mehr haben denn das eynige wort, Gott, das sie wol billich eyn heylige sprache heyssen mag. Der halben keyne verdolmetschung so frey gehen kann, als ym Ebreischen selbs lautet, on was noch ist der verblümeten wort, die man figuras nennet, darynnen sie auch alle zungen ubertrifft. Doch das der psalter an ettlichen örtern deste heller werde, will ich ettliche wörter hie weyter ausstreichen.

Ym psalter und sonst hyn und widder, begegnen offt diese ywey wort beyeynander, barmherzigkeyt und warheyt, wilche von ettlichen sind wild und wüst gezogen, die habe ich verdeutscht also, guete und trewe, und ist eygentlich, das wyr auff frey deutsch sagen, Liebe und trew, wenn wyr pflegen zu sagen, Er hat myr liebe und trew bewyset. Aber ich habs nicht dürffen wagen so frey zu uerdeutschen, Denn Hesed, das sie barmherzigkeyt, und ich guete habe verdeutscht, heysst eygentlich, das, wenn man yemand freundschafft, liebe odder wolthat erzeygt, wie es Christus Matt.12. aus Hosea selbs deutet und spricht, Ich habe lust an der barmherzikeyt und nicht am opffer, das ist, Ich will das man freundschafft, liebe, und wolthat beweyse, lieber denn opffern.

So heysst warheyt, trew, das man sich auff eynen verlassen darff, und zuflucht zu yhm habe, und der selbe halte, was er geredt, und wes man sich zu yhm versihet. Also lesst sich Gott auch rhümen gegen uns ynn der schrifft allenthalben, das er barmherzig und trew sey, das ist, das er liebe und trew beweyset, und uns alle freundschafft und wolthat erzeyget, und wyr uns auff yhn verlassen mügen tröstlich, das er thut und hellt trewlich, wes man sich zu yhm versihet. Solche trew und warheyt heyyt Emeth. Daher kompt Emuna, wilchs S. Paulus selbs aus Abakuck verdolmetscht, glaube. Ro.1. Der gerecht lebet seyns glaubens. Und wird ym psalter offt zu Gott gesagt, Deyn glaube oder ynn deynem glauben, draumb das er solchen glauben gibt und auff seyne trew schier eyns fur das ander genomen wird. Wie auch auff deutsch wyr sagen, Der hellt glauben, der warhafftig und trew ist, Widderumb wer mistrewet, den hellt man fur falsch und ungleubig.

Darnach komen die zwey wort, gericht und gerechtickeyt, wilche wyr auch nicht wol geben konnen, Denn das wörtlin gericht, wens alleyne stehet, heysst es ettwa eyn richter ampt, als psalm. 7 Erwecke das gericht das du gepotten hast, Und richten heysst den regiern. Ettwa heysst es Gottes gepott, als Psalm. 119. Lere mich deyne gerichte. Item eyne gewonheyt odder recht, als Exo 21. Er soll mit yhr thun nach dem gericht der tochter, das ist, tochter recht, odder wie man eyner tochter pflegt zu thun etc. Wens aber bey dem wort, gerechtickeyt, stehet, so ist es des gerichts werck die helfft, nemlich ,das urteyl da mit das gottlos und unrecht verurteylt, gehasset und gestrafft wird, Und gerechtikeyt heisst das ander teyl, damit die unschuld beschirmet, erhallten und gefodert wird. Dises alles wollt ich auff deutsch gerne sagen, Recht und redlich, Als man spricht, Er hat die sache recht und redlich gewonnen. Aber ich durfft nicht so weyt von den worten gehen.

Wenn nu ym psalter odder sonst dyr furkompt, das er nicht schlecht von gericht und gerechtickeyt, sondern von Gottes gericht und gerechtickeyt redet, odder zu Gott spricht, Deyne gericht und gerechtickeyt, so mustu durch die gerechtickeyt den glauben verstehen, und durchs gericht, die tödtung des alten Adams. Denn Gott durch seyn wort beydes thut. Er verurteylet, verdampt, strafft und tödet was fleysch und blut ist, rechtfertiget aber und macht unschuldig den geyst durch den glauben. Das heyssen denn Gottes gericht und gerechtickeyt. Das gericht ubet er durchs wort seyns gesetzes. Röm.7. Das gesetze tödtet, Die gerechticketyt durchs wort des Euangelij, wilchs der geyst durch den glauben annympt. Röm.1. wie das fleysch die tödtung durch gedult leyden mus. Der gleychen mehr wird mit der zeyt die ubung selbs klar und erkendlich machen.

Das Alte Testament  1524. Luthers Vorrede auf den Psalter“ (WA 10,1. S.94-96)
Posted in Bibel und Übersetzung, Martin Luther and the Reformation, psalms and spiritual songs, You comfort me + | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not just one genius

What a nice welcome back to Wittenberg. The exhibition: “Nicht ein Genius allein” shows Dr. Martin Luther´s September Testament of 1522. It was prepared by the Reformationsgeschichtliche Forschungsbibliothek (Dr. Matthias Meinhardt) and the European Melanchthon-Academy, Bretten. It´s on show in the castle until mid-November. Prominent guests like Ministerpräsident Dr. Reiner Haseloff and Bishop Friedrich Kramer emphasized the ongoing significance of this publication.

Luther´s translation of the New Testament printed in September 1522

Dr. Meinhardt stressed the special impact of Luther´s translation of the New Testament (Das newe Testament Deutzsch) drafted during his forced exile on the Wartburg in 1522. In just eleven weeks Luther produced the remarkable draft, which was then refined and polished for the Leipzig book sale in September in cooperation with Philipp Melanchthon and Lucas Cranach. Melchior Lotter jr printed the “September Testament” on three printing presses.

Luther had only very basic tools at his disposal there in the realm of the crows, but the result was truly a game-changer anyway. His feel for the biblical imagery, prose, vocabulary, and way of speaking changed the German language for good. Still, in teamwork with his professional colleagues like Amsdorf, Bugenhagen and even the court connection Spalatin his ongoing translation improved continually – until the whole bible was translated in 1534 and printed by Hans Luft jr.

Even this milestone did not stop the translation efforts. Rather Luther continued to work on this translation until his end. It was the work, he was called for as Doctor of Theology and church teacher of the Bible. This is the lasting monument to his genius.

Still, it was not just his genius, but incorporated the efforts of many more. Luther took advantage of compilations by Italian humanist Laurentius Valla´s and those of Erasmus of Rotterdam, who was working in England, amongst others. Luther´s translation sparked other bible translations too. For example, in Switzerland amongst the Reformed and in Italy, Spain, France and the Netherlands amongst the Roman Catholics. The bible translation became a truly European project, which rapidly morphed into the global one it is today.

The exhibition shows precious originals worthwhile seeing – even as we are grateful that we can read the Word of God in our mother tongue – even as the heavenly Father talks to us His very own children and our brother Jesus Christ addresses us directly as good friends and true siblings.

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St. Anthony preaches to the fishes

“St. Antonius preaching to the fishes” by Oskar Laske (Czernowitz 1874 – 1951 Wien)

My father told me the story. It happend in Pella near Wartburg. Long time before I went to school there. Pastor Karl Meister was a grumpy old man, just as short as his temper. Never really got to grips with the vernacular, nevermind the local people. Still, the old Superintendent trusted him, teaching Old Testament at the seminary in Salem. Probably was part of the family. They stick together.

Well, this missionary was based at Pella after our very own Zulu “walkout”. It occurred, when evangelist Thembu “pointed out” (Komba) the superintendent with his stabbing spear (Iklwa), while dancing (ghitta) around the fire at some theological conference. Obviously, this was not part of procedure. It happened after hours – and long after the missionaries had gone to bed. Sure enough, the senior cleric and chief pastor, who was thus bewitched with the “evil eye” fell seriously ill.

The native rebel was disciplined and left the young mission church with most of his member – three thousand members and some. That left the congregation deserterd and the church building pretty much empty. The “master” preacher was left to preach to empty benches. I wonder, whether he preached in German or in his broken Zulu. From this time, he bore the honorary title: maBenchees! (The man preaching to the benches). This incident stopped the mission´s plan to move ahead with independence of the local church. That was shelved indefinitely together with the idea to go on to Rhodesia, but that´s another story.

The holy Anthony suffered much the same fate. When finding his church in Padua empty, he went to preach to the fishes. His contemporary St. Francis had preached to the birds for much the same reason. So You might as well preach to those dwelling in rivers, lakes and seas or to benches too. Gustav Mahler used this story for the third part of his second symphony on “Des Knaben Wunderhorn“.

Antonius zur Predigt
Die Kirche find’t ledig!
Er geht zu den Flüssen
und predigt den Fischen!
Sie schlag’n mit den Schwänzen!
Im Sonnenschein glänzen!
Im Sonnenschein, Sonnenschein glänzen,
sie glänzen, sie glänzen, glänzen!

Die Karpfen mit Rogen
seynd all’ hierher zogen,
hab’n d’Mäuler aufrissen,
sich Zuhörn’s beflissen!
Kein Predigt niemalen
den Fischen so g’fallen!

Spitzgoschete Hechte,
die immerzu fechten,
sind eilend herschwommen,
zu hören den Frommen!

Auch jene Phantasten,
die immerzu fasten:
die Stockfisch ich meine,
zur Predigt erscheinen.
Kein Predigt niemalen
den Stockfisch so g’fallen.

Gut Aale und Hausen,
die vornehme schmausen,
die selbst sich bequemen,
die Predigt vernehmen!

Auch Krebse, Schildkroten,
sonst langsame Boten,
steigen eilig vom Grund,
zu hören diesen Mund!
Kein Predigt niemalen
den Krebsen so g’fallen!

Fisch große, Fisch’ kleine,
vornehm’ und gemeine,
erheben die Köpfe
wie verständ’ge Geschöpfe!
Auf Gottes Begehren
die Predigt anhören!

Die Predigt geendet,
ein Jeder sich wendet.
Die Hechte bleiben Diebe,
die Aale viel lieben;
die Predigt hat g’fallen.
sie bleiben wie allen!

Die Krebs’ geh’n zurücke,
die Stockfisch’ bleib’n dicke,
die Karpfen viel fressen,
die Predigt vergessen, vergessen!
Die Predigt hat g’fallen
sie bleiben wie Allen, die Predigt hat g’fallen, hat g’fallen!

Posted in From Africa, Gedankensplitter, Histories, biographies and other stories, Lutheran Church in Southern Africa, Lutherische Mission, Saints of the church | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Life is a long list of meetings…

A lot can happen in a day. Sometimes that´s true for Wittenberg too. Luther´s wedding celebrations last weekend prove the point. Thousands filled our streets, eager to forget regulations of distancing and hungry for some serious party. Now, a few days later, the many stands, tents and platforms are gone, rubbish is removed and more birds than people fill our square.  Still, due to fine weather, open doors and God´s favorable providence some find their way to the Old Latin School and setting us up for another string of meetings.

A pilgrim on his way to Luther´s wedding celebrations at our door

Take last Tuesday for instance. The regular group from Fredrikstad (Norway) were busy singing Luther hymns in our chapel. This attracted two vicars from Vienna (Austria). They were going from Berlin to Halle and spending a day in our Luther city. They were fascinated by our Luther stuff on the shelf. Especially the board game “Luther” (Kosmos). They were keen to try that with their children´s unit. Not long after they were gone, a colleague of theirs followed their lead. They had told him, that we sell serious books. He was into biblical theology. He had even studied in Tübingen. There in a student residence he had shared a room with a Lutheran for several semesters. This Lutheran was from the SELK. Not originally, but through conversion. Allegedly he was not big in size, but he left a big impression on his roommate, who remembered him as so devout and dedicated with a mission. He recounted his bowing before church altars, kneeling for prayers and going about studying with deep earnest. He professed, that he himself hungered for meaningful theology, but was often at a loss for suitable books. There is just so much to choose from and where to get started as life is so short? In the end he walked off with some of our best offerings from Schöne & Sasse. More did not fit into his rucksack. I hope, he stays in contact. Perhaps next time, I share my list of 10 best Lutheran books – or make it 50. That´s what the late dogmatics Professor Gottfried Hoffmann did for us when we were students.

The next guy to drop in, was a cyclist from Berlin on his way to Dessau. He was all sporty in racing gear, parking his bike inside our hallway. He didn´t feel like locking it up outside. Not long after browsing through our store, he owned up: I am an atheist, but I do know a pastor up in Brandenburg somewhere. Perhaps another SELK-connection? No, he could hardly recall the name of his clerical acquaintance, but assured me, that that one was a sincere individual. Someone whom he could point out as personal reference. I could take his word for it. Sounded like he felt in need of an advocate in this Lutheran stronghold or was it Cranach´s “Crucifix” (Weimar), that put him on the spot and demanded a clear confession? After friendly banter, he pointed out, that although he appreciated our discussion about God and the world, his highlight in Wittenberg was the waiter at “Zur Schloßmühle”. He had walked in there with his blue and white kit after visiting the “Schloßkirche”. On account of those colors the landlord tipped, that he was a fan of “Hertha BSC”. However, those colors were just accidental. He was a fan of “1.FC Union” instead. This outing prompted the innkeeper to hug him most dearly because that was his true love as well. That´s how “Union” ticks. They share a deep solidarity and emotional bond. My visitor made sure, I understood, where his true allegiance was hinged. That´s where he belongs. That´s his family. His creed.

A lanky guy walks in and checks out the display. He´s a pastor from the States: Rev. Michael H. Lives in Milwaukee of all places. Does he know my friend Don Hougard? Of course he does. And how is his congregation? 200+ worshipping 100 on Sundays. Nice. Been doing that for nearly 20 years – and just received a call to Kansas. Really? I don´t know much about Kansas, but I was in Topeka – at St.John´s LC. Met with my predecessor Kristin Lang´s father and with Dr. Jon Bruss. That was on my tour through the South-West of the States. Good memories. Now, it´s his turn to be surprised, because his call is to that very congregation. Small world! St. John´s has supported the Old Latin School substantially over the years – and so now their prospective pastor walks in at our front door. He´s part of the Bach week in Leipzig and using free time to check out Wittenberg and surroundings. Nice meeting just as the church bells of St. Mary´s invite to noon prayers in the chapel “Corpus Christi”.

The church bells of St.Mary had just struck one, when Monika F. entered in a flat spin. She´s one of my oldest neighbors. Over eighty years. She´s lived on our square for more than sixty years. Initially she fled the war with her mother and eventually found the love of her life in Luther city. He´s been dead for some thirty years. She knows, what it means to be lonely. Well, Tuesday she was distraught. She had lost her car key. She could just not remember, where she had put it: “Please, help me find it again!” That´s how it started. Later on after our successful search, she returned to my little bookstore. This time, she was her old confident self once more. She was pulling a bag on wheels. From that she pulled flask and pudding bowls filled with ice cream: “Always, when we reached a goal in my firm, we celebrated. Well, now we celebrate, that we found the key.” So, we drank coffee and enjoyed the contrasting sweetness in some bliss.  It could have ended there, and it would have been a nearly perfect ending, but the story continues.

A complete stranger entered the bookstore and asked, whether one could learn Latin here. Depends, I answered. Depends on a whole lot of things. To start off, it depends on whether You have the aptitude to learn a new language etc. It did not take long, and our caller addressed his barbed questions at my old neighbor. She was quick to admit, that in contrast to him, she was not raised roman catholic, but protestant.  However, she had dropped the Christian faith years ago. She trusted more in daily news, clever professors, and science in general. When cosmonaut Gagarin had returned to earth with the announcement, that he had not found God “up there”, she had given up on God too. That was her story. Our guest was running warm. He drew out his iPad and literally at the click of his finger, the right and true answers popped up. Here was the perfect missionary in action. Yet, my old friend held her faithless ground with aplomb. The stranger was not put off, but rather energized by this lack of positive response. So, he read one verse after the other, but always with some strange intent. My friend was not convinced. In the end, she left, closing: “We can believe, what we want and I don´t believe that!”

Amongst numerous references our intrusive missionary had shared a weblink, which gave him away. He was a Jehovah’s witness. So, with Monika gone, it was my turn to fire off my ammo for the day. I started with confessing the one triune God. We´re still in the week after the high holiday of the most Holy Trinity after all. Had we not just confessed the Athanasian Creed? I pointed the sectarian to Luther´s lifelong biblical studies and final testament: Wir sind Bettler. Hoc est verum.”, but also to his warning, that if we read Holy Scriptures without Jesus Christ – and even against him as those false witnesses do (JWs) – then we´d be as hopelessly lost as the rabbi adhering to some cabalistic rules in his vain effort to decipher God´s Word numerically as the image on St.Mary´s depicts and which is media headlines these days.  

Well, that was close to the end of another day in Wittenberg. This Sunday we will hear our Lord IX preach to his hearers by the voice of Father Abraham: “They have Moses and the prophets. Let them hear those! They will not believe even if one would return from the dead.” (cf. Luke 16,19-31) Yes, our good Lord knows all about missions and its many faces – good, bad, and ugly. After all, He lives and reigns now and always. Glory to Him in the highest. Amen.

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Tanks for the Ukraine

There´s a lot of grumbling about this war inflicted on the Ukraine. Lots of touchiness who’s right or wrong.

Well, there´s no doubt in my mind that Putin is the aggressor and that far too many Russians are voluntarily goosestepping against their very kin, those who have emerged from the very same baptismal font even. It´s fratricide, nothing civil about this border crossing war. Nothing at all. Putin reckons, he can get away with war, mass murder, genocide as if he was Attila the Hun. Yeah, he´s in the league of Ivan the terrible. In the name of special ops and Russian peace, he claims divine right to wipe any opposition off the face of the world as You would clean dishes of food scraps. Down the drain the rubbish goes. As if Russia is the measure of everything and Putin the rule of law. In megalomania, Putin has concocted some fantastic narrative mixed with religious fanaticism blessed by some sectarian Moscow patriarch. Their demagogical story allows bloodthirsty maniacs to rape children, murder widows and old cripples in wheelchairs. With the Russian free pass to wreak havoc in country towns and mega cities they turn blooming landscapes into deserts. Whilst the world is watching aghast, these fiends ruin the global breadbasket. They plant devastation as they go and leave nothing but death in their wake.  The Kremlin calls out marauding hordes from the expansive Russian hinterland, calls up bandits from its many war zones, summons outlawed terrorists and ghouls from the underworld to attack a peaceful country Ukraine, which tries to go about its daily business, prepares for Easter, crop sowing in spring and family summers. Well, the Russians sure match Ivan the Terrible in madness, terror, and shamelessness. They do them proud. No evil is beyond them – even as they parade as angels of light and world peace. Defiling churches. Razing seminaries, monasteries and chapels, fraternities, and religious centers.  Targeting theaters, cinemas, and opera houses. Firing on fleeing civilians. Bombing cyclists with tanks and bazookas. Haphazardly shelling living quarters, maternity wards, emergency units from their pirate fleet in the Black Sea. Destroying shopping centers, playgrounds, parks just as crazily as milking sheds, tyre factories, bakeries, eateries, and wide-open spaces haphazardly. Cutting water mains, electricity, and lifelines. Poisoning water and air with weapons of mass destruction like they did in Syria, Chechnya, Mali, and Libya. Running mortuaries day and night to hide atrocities even as they leave their own dead to rot or be eaten by scavengers. These Russians are dogs of war, bloody robbers, fucking predators from the East, savages falling into the Ukraine worse than the sum of all ten pests plaguing Egypt of old and competing for devilish honors as apocalyptic horrors to beat.  

You get the picture. There on the road between Jericho and Jerusalem, where East meets West, on the banks of the Black Sea, there in the beautiful pearl of Ukraine. It has fallen under the robbers just as that traveler in Jesus´ tale. It´s in a terrible state. No question. They´ve stood up against the aggressors for nearly two months. But it´s tough. Their strength is severely tested. The world watches. Sees the poor soul in duress. Some help comes. Some is promised. Some actually arrives. Thank God, there is always that good Samaritan. Shame on those bigoted churchmen going by and rambling off their legal excuses like bishops Maggot Rottencheese and Fritz, the cheap soul peddler, who sold his gran for a few dimes and feasts on a stolen vineyard like King Ahab even as those entrusted to his care, suffer distress, and lack the gospel. Oh, there are so many good reasons not to get one’s hands dirty, keep walking and looking the other way, which only appears right! Thank God for the foreigner, who does come up with positive action. He does the right thing. Helps the victim up and out, applies medicine, pours out the stuff and pays the fee until the poor chap is back on track again. Our good Lord uses him as encouraging example: You go and do likewise!

Of course, there are others, who warn, the Russian robbers are sure to spread their violence with a vengeance. They´re known to be brutal. This is their terrain. Their doing for ages. That´s what they have been born for. Spreading fear, terror, death. Don´t antagonize them further. That may make it worse.  They might take it as an invitation to spread their brutish violence. Better lie low, mind Your own business. Just like with those dragons of old. Let sleeping dogs lie and ferocious demons too. Otherwise, You might wake them, land up in trouble, fighting a war You can´t win, they say. Stay out of it. That´s how they´ve been stuck in gulags for decades now. Fear is the very enemy of freedom! Just as the slaves in Egypt. Moses had his work cut out to draw them to the promised land. Israel always looked back with fear and trembling at Pharaoh and his troops.   

Others are in cohorts with the Russian robbers. They pay extortion fees. Exorbitant sums for gas, oil and coal. Daily. Putin´s cash cow. Golden goose. Laying eggs – battery wise. Utterly dependable.  Close connections over decades, brown-nosing and playing privileged upper class in the inner circle of the Kremlin monster web. Collaborators. Paying with honor and soul. Betraying motherland. Selling out fatherland. All for Putin, whom they can´t refuse. He, the old deceiver, knows. He´s caught a lot. Paid plenty bribes and cheap Germans are a bargain any day. Still the price for traitors is high. You land up on the wrong side. The dark and evil one. The one that is going to lose ultimately. You might try to forget. Try to sweep the dirt under the carpet. Escape before the whole story explodes. Yet, there is nowhere to hide. Shit happens and it’s hitting the fan. Just watch. It´s not just the Moskva sinking nor only Russian tanks stalling. Putin’s generals are dying as if they´ve found a shortcut to paradise. His soldiers are revolting as if it’s going out of fashion. He´s losing badly and so are his pals. They can´t win. That’s crystal clear. Just watch.  

Dr. Martin Luther got involved in politics now and again. Not just in the peasant’s war. He used the law against both the peasants and against the nobility. None really listened to him. They were too busy with their agenda. He was often too late with his admonition. Often misunderstood and not just due to bad timing. Luther acknowledged many grievances of the peasants based on the renewed discovery of the gospel and encouraged the nobility to give ear and concede, where it was conducive to the spreading of the gospel and promoting good order in the land. However, taking the law into their own hands, forceful rebellion was out of the question for Luther. In his biblically sound view, it was always better to suffer, than to achieve owns own goals by force. David´s struggle with King Saul was a prime example in this argument. God would eventually provide. Just wait patiently for His help in His own good time. So, Luther´s advice to the peasants was to wait for the help of the Lord. Yet, the peasants impatiently revolted. Struck out on the war path. That was wrong. Luther went out of his way to encourage the nobility to crush this militant uprising by force. He was afraid, that the war would destroy the lands and wreak havoc amongst the people, causing political chaos and ending the free course of the gospel. The ensuing massacre was brutal, and Luther lost whatever standing he had amongst those crushed. For them, he had picked wrong sides and proved himself as a kowtowing servant of ruthless lords. Theoretically i.e. biblically and theologically he was right all along, but the results of this armed conflict were just too terrible for calm and collected argumentation, never mind heated and emotional sermons from Wittenberg. Many peasants turned their back on the gospel and the church – not just the old one, but also the reformed Lutheran one. The nobility got away with murder and continued to do their own thing – just because they could. Luther´s efforts to admonish both sides to stick to the gospel way, had lost a huge battle in the German reformation. Liberation, which had been high on the reformation agenda, was now seriously limited in its outreach to the common people. Luther was very much restricted to the inner church realm after this.

Another political episode in which armed conflict was seriously contemplated, was in the conflict of the Evangelicals (Lutherans) with emperor Charles V. The good Doctor from across the Elbe was initially quite compliant. Even when he already fought all out against the pope, he was not for armed resistance against the emperor. This changed, when his lawyers convinced him and his fellow Wittenberg theologians, that according to imperial law, there was a right to oppose the emperor if he failed to promote the gospel, the church, and the prosperity of his subjects. In Luther´s mind it became more and more obvious, that by siding with the pope the emperor had chosen the wrong side and was thus opposed to the very gospel, the true church, and his evangelical subjects. Thus, armed resistance and use of force were legitimized in this struggle. Especially if it was a defensive struggle against the assaulting imperial forces – intruding on peaceful lands just because they were following the true gospel. This argument for armed resistance became important for the German confessional church and their defiance against Hitler. Bonhoeffer uses this legal argumentation to promote armed struggle against the demonic rule of the Nazis, who had turned the German law into godless lawlessness – especially with their attempted genocide of the Jews, but also with the laws of total war.

A final aspect in this issue, is Luther´s discussion of our good Lord´s admonition in His Sermon of the Mount to turn the other cheek, when somebody strikes You. Well, that is true and You should do that, if You personally are faced with such a violent attack. Still, Luther points out, that You have a task and duty towards the attacker too. Just letting him get away with his vicious power would be detrimental to his own wellbeing – in this life and the one to come. The violent attacker should be stopped for his own good – and not just thinking of eternal judgment, but also his earthly travail. The aggressor should not be encouraged by passivity to go on with his lawless misdoing and evil. Rather he should be stopped – definitely in the name of God´s good law, which puts a break, stoppage and limit to our lawlessness and bars free-for-all unruliness. Obviously, there is police and other office-bearers of government, who should protect innocent and law-abiding citizens from unruly attackers. However, if they are not around, every Tom, Dick and Harry is called to carry out this office, ministry, service over and against the attacker in God´s name, for his own sake and also to protect innocent victims. I should thus use appropriate force to stop a criminal and get him to refrain from his wild attack. Rapists should not be encouraged to run free. Child molesters should be stopped. Murderers should be hindered by all means. Luther uses the example of two people crossing some lonely marshlands. If the one, hurts or harms the other, that should not just be accepted as good, right, and salutary. Rather, the harmed party should use self-defense to prevent the attacker to live out his violent and sinful desires. I should do that not so much for my own good, but for the transgressor´s good. That´s not selfish reasoning, but rather tough love. It would be bad for the transgressor to get away with evil and think that all is ok. He needs definite limits. He´s not free to do as he pleases if evil pleases him. That means also, if I see a robber stealing, looting, or causing harm I should prevent him from doing so. I should not let him get away with it. The same holds true for all sorts of crime and vice against God´s commandments. The fifth commandment: “Thou shallt not kill!” is prominent on the list and goes before those following. It has prominence. Thus, if somebody harms, destroys, rapes, burns, cuts, or even kills – he should definitely be stopped by appropriate force if necessary. That holds true not just in the private realm, but especially also in public and common realm. Even in international relations. We, who hold that people are plagued with original sin – and don´t just do good naturally all the time – and that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely – therefore also believe in the continued place of the law. It needs to stop evil and regulate society in such a way, that evil does not harm innocent life. Wherever it does, it needs to be prohibited, limited, and stopped. Government doesn´t bear the sword for nothing, but to punish evil doers and protect innocent lives. The apostle Paul knew that. That´s what he writes to the Romans. We know, it holds true even today. That´s why we don´t just say, Putin is crazy, sick or feeling off track, but that he is transgressing international Law and needs to be restricted – not just verbally, but by appropriate force in a true match for his threats and war efforts.  

So, after this detour, we´re back with the Ukraine and the Russian aggressor. There is no question, that the Ukraine has the right to self-defense. There is no question, that the Ukraine did not provoke Russia – nor anybody else. NATO did not invite Russia to invade Ukraine. That´s a fact. Aggressive Russia did so, because Putin thinks, he can get away with breaking international law and common sense. Even after serious setbacks in their first offensive, the Russian invader did not come to their senses and retreat, but rather they regrouped and have again hit full-out against the victim Ukraine. Even in the first round Russia did not follow any rules. Rather, they did whatever evil damage they could inflict, crossing all red lines of international decorum and civilized law, perpetrating crimes against humanity and carrying out acts of genocide. That´s not in question. That´s fact. And all passersby are now no longer in a position to just pretend, they are watching a game of ping-pong. No, this is a matter of life and death. Does the long-gone superpower Russia get away with its old ways of bullying smaller nations like the free Ukrainian opposition into submission – even killing huge numbers of civilians, destroying the infrastructure of that independent nation, and causing stress, expense and immense damage to many more. Even threatening world order and disrupting longstanding peace with terror and sheer brutality. The EU and NATO have promised that this will not be so. Some diehard Putinists like the Kreml collaborators in the SPD together with naïve pacificists like Bishops Friedrich Kraemer and Margot Kässmann don´t want to swap sides but continue to cheer on the Russian aggressor with their refrain of “No force!” Ghandi and Mandela knew, when it was no longer conducive to talk, but time for armed resistance. Putin has gone beyond the permissible, excusable and exonerable. He doesn´t listen to outsiders, just his inner calling. Not even to his buddies Macron & Schroeder! He needs opposition – fierce, armed and determined. Lots of it to match his super ego and the proliferation of his nukes. Therefore, tanks for the Ukraine – and enough jets too. The West (and also the German Angela Merkel!) convinced them to give up their nukes. Now the West needs to live up to their commitment to keep them safe against military aggression and deceptive Russian warlords.

Long live the Ukraine – and all its people.

May the peace of our good Lord be with them always +

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Luther on articles of faith…

I will here briefly recount these articles of the Christian faith to which everyone is above all things to pay attention and hold fast.

The first is the law of God, which is to be preached so that one thereby reveals and teaches how to recognize sin (Rom. 3[:20] and 7[:7]), as we have often shown in our writings. However, these prophets do not understand this correctly, for this means a truly spiritual preaching of the law, as Paul says in Rom. 7[:14], and a right use of the law, as he says in 1 Tim. 1[:8].

Secondly, when now sin is recognized and the law is so preached that the conscience is alarmed and humbled before God’s wrath, we are then to preach the comforting word of the gospel and the forgiveness of sins, so that the conscience again may be comforted and established in the grace of God, etc. Christ himself teaches these two articles in such an order (Luke 24[:47]). One must preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins in his name. “And the Spirit (he says in John [16:8]) will convince the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment.” You do not find either of these two articles in this one or any other of the false prophets. They also do not understand them, and yet these are the most important and necessary articles.

Now the third is judgment, the work of putting to death the old man, as in Romans 5; 6, and 7. Here works are concerned, and also suffering and affliction, as we through our own discipline and fasting, watching, labor, etc., or through other persecution and disgrace put to death our flesh. This putting to death is also not handled correctly by these false prophets. For they do not accept what God gives them, but what they themselves choose. They wear gray garb, would be as peasants, and carry on with similar foolish nonsense.

In the fourth place, such works of love toward the neighbor should flow forth in meekness, patience, kindness, teaching, aid, and counsel, spiritually and bodily, free and for nothing, as Christ has dealt with us.

In the fifth and last place, we ought to proclaim the law and its works, not for the Christians, but for the crude and unbelieving. For among Christians we must use the law spiritually, as is said above, to reveal sin. But among the crude masses, on Mr. Everyman, we must use it bodily and roughly, so that they know what works of the law they are to do and what works ought to be left undone. Thus they are compelled by sword and law to be outwardly pious, much in the manner in which we control wild animals with chains and pens, so that external peace will exist among the people. To this end temporal authority is ordained, which God would have us honor and fear (Rom. 13[:1]; 1 Pet. 3) [1 Pet. 2:13, 17].

However, we must see to it that we retain Christian freedom and do not force such laws and works on the Christian conscience, as if one through them were upright or a sinner. Here question are in order concerning the place which images, foods, clothing, places, persons, and all such external things, etc., ought to have. Whoever does not teach according to this order certainly does not teach correctly. From which you now see that Dr. Karlstadt and his spirits replace the highest with the lowest, the best with the least, the first with the last. Yet he would be considered the greatest spirit of all, he who has devoured the Holy Spirit feathers and all.

Therefore I beg every Christian who observes how we bicker in this matter to remember that we are not dealing with important things, but with the most trivial ones. Bear in mind that the devil is eager to spruce up such minor matters, thereby drawing the attention of the people so that the truly important matters are neglected, as long as they gape in his direction. From this each one should recognize how false and evil the spirit of Dr. Karlstadt is, who, not content to ignore and be silent concerning the great and significant articles, so inflates the least significant ones as if the salvation of the world depended more on them than on Christ himself. Also, he compels us to turn from the great important articles to minor ones, so that we with him lose time and are in danger of forgetting the main articles. Let this be the first fruit by which one is able to know this tree [Matt. 7:16–20].

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 40: Church and Ministry II, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 40 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 82–84.

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We didn´t know!

News casts show Russians, who don´t know about the war in the Ukraine, nor the havoc wrecked by the Russian army as they target civilians, destroy cities, and even bomb nuclear plants. Seventy percent of all Russians are in favor of their “peace keeping mission” and “the spreading of law and order in brother´s land.” Makes me think. Reminds me of somebody, who doesn´t read the news because it is too distracting.

Solschenizyn suggested not go silently if state security comes to pick you up. Rather, make a noise so that your neighbors hear. Don´t let anyone doubt, that you are going against your will and that your captors are doing it by force. They should all know the truth about this. His warning was, because most victims of state tyranny believe that by being law-abiding and not creating a big scene, you might just win the goodwill of the powers that be. You might even pacify these false authorities coming for you in jack boots. Big mistake! Even if they come on rubber soles, they are the idiomatic snake in the grass and you will be shoved into their prison vans in a wink, whilst the brutal forces try to keep faces straight and appearances normal. The Ukraine is making a big noise. They are showing, what chaos the Russians are bringing to their lands – and that this is not their idea of peaceful coexistence.

Back in my confirmation days, my pastor told us, that living close to a concentration camp during the 2nd World War, he had seen the countless trains with loads of huddled people coming in, but never leaving. He told of the putrid smell from the smoking furnaces and the common explanation, that that was from making soap for the people. He added: “Little did we know!” Afterwards, when they were walked through the camp, many repeated: “How could we have known?” It all looked innocent enough. Rumors of the contrary were just put off as fake news. Just like those many, many Germans, who heard afterwards, what terror the Wehrmacht had wrecked beyond German borders in Poland, Ukraine, Russia to name but just three of the many, many horror stations in that world war. Goebbels never mentioned that, did he? Neither did their own husbands, fathers, sons in their cryptic letters from the war zone. It was war. But the enemy’s radio (Feindsender!) did. No small wonder, it was forbidden to listen in on the BBC. Remember, how the authorities in East Germany (GDR) forbade citizens to switch to West-TV? That was just Propaganda! Sound familiar? It´s going on even now. Russia switched off BBC etc today.

When Max du Preez exposed the torture horrors of Vlakplaas and the “Truth and Reconcilation Commission” ran revealing reports on SABC, I thought again and again: “I didn´t know that!” How could that have happened in our dearly beloved and honored home- and fatherland? That recalled the many times, when foreign criticism of Apartheid was just discounted with a “You don´t know. You can´t know. You are a foreigner!” That held true of our very own Director of Missions: Rev. Friedrich Wilhelm Hopf DD. Some discontinued reading his “Missionsblatt” – because it was far too political! Or local atrocities were relativized with other horrors far away: “See? You are not much better (or even worse!) and how can You judge us?” Local criticism was silenced with: “Don´t wash our own dirty linen in public!” Germans call them: “Nestbeschmutzer!” People who bring their own family into disrepute. Do you recognize how perpetrators stylize themselves as victims and victims, who speak out, become further brutalized, ostracized, and punished?

Well, in peace and quiet, there is room for civilized debate, pro et contra – much like Luther´s ninety five academic thesis. At first that was just a professorial plea to clarify legalistic and pastoral misunderstandings, get the gospel back on track and live happily ever after. However, when the Pope refused to listen and declared war against Luther, the cards were on the table. There was no room for debate, but high time for clarity, strong words and determined action. As long as Hitler was still in the realm of legality, opposition was difficult, but he exposed himself more and more as prime evil. Especially when he legalized evil – like the lawful extermination of Jews. Some like Sasse and Bonhoeffer saw this abomination earlier than others, but some never woke up, but revered this deceiver as their leader and savior even when there was no room left for excuses. This German tyrant had not just transgressed basic commandments of God. He legalized apostasy, homicide, total war. He put himself in God´s place and deceitfully clothed himself as an angel of peace and goodwill. The only question remaining is, how to stop this blatant perpetrator and get rid of the evil leader, democratically elected in a previously civilized country. War changes everything – and the willingness to start war on others, is a blatant rejection of all legality, civility, and humanity even. Tyrannenmord: Kill the tyrant!

Many have blamed today´s Germans, that they were so tolerant and bent over backwards giving Putin the room he craved. Just like the British in the heydays. Poland had to be attacked in those bleak September’s days, before they woke up and declared war. There was no other way to stop Hitler´s armies. Thank God they did. And thank God, the Americans joined in after Pearl Harbor. We can all lament the fact that they woke up so late, but thankfully they woke up eventually. It took Germany and NATO far too long to push back against Putin. At last the please of the Ukrainians are heard. Their valiant efforts at defending their fatherland are astonishing, but Russia is all out to kill. It´s hurting its very own motherland. It´s that simple. There is no validity in the claims, that Russia needs to appease own hurt feelings in such a barbaric way. That´s puerile nonsense like dueling or archaic “Ehrenmorde!” Grow up and get a life: It´s free.

We know, the Russians can unchain hell fire still and they´re hell bound to do it. I have my doubts, whether the Ukrainians can withstand their aggressive onslaught much longer. But there is no doubt in my mind, that Putin is a bloody tyrant. He and his grim generals have too much innocent blood on their hands already, they´ve brought crying shame on Mother Russia and endless grief on their own people, never mind the horrific war they have unchained and brought to the independent nation of Ukraine. I know, Russia can do far worse, but we can´t say that we didn´t know this. It is high time to wake up and take a stand against the evil war machine with all means at our disposal wherever we are. Otherwise, the free world, as we know it, might fall – even as we are sleeping. It could be barren emptiness functioning as dreaded Gulags. Ignorance doesn´t serve as an excuse in courts of law. It doesn´t in everyday life either. Sticking one’s head into the sand is no meaningful option. We have a responsibility to get informed and truthfully so even if it aggravates Putin, his devious generals, and terrible war machine.

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Don´t trust in princes… (Psalm 146,3)

My friend asks me, why I quote my granny: “Don´t trust the Russians!” Well, it´s complicated. Trust grows. So does mistrust. The easy reasons are bad experiences with Russians as neighbors and rulers – during wars and after. You know, after the war is before the war… Putin is worse than any fox (or snake!). He´s out to grow Russia even if others have to bleed. He bullies sovereign nations. Poisons his enemies not in the streets of London, but in Salisbury and in broad daylight Berlin. He locks them away in today´s Gulags with all legalities covered or at least bent to do so and moves against Ukraine whilst all watch wide eyed. Publicly declared Kiev and all of Ukraine to be his subjects, although they´ve been around longer than Moscow and historic Russia. It´s his powerplay, creating facts by force disregarding any semblance of finesse. War as final means of politics (Carl von Clausewitz). There´s nobody to stop him. He´s “walking over corpses” whilst our reporters are dumbfounded as they continue to seek some rationality in this brutal display of military force. It´s like a child complaining about the school bully, but nobody cares.

For Christmas I got this book: “Humankind. A hopeful history” by Rutger Bregman. It builds much on the same foundations as psychological courses for self-help and stress management: “You´re ok. I´m ok” (Thomas A. Harris). It strongly rejects the old narrative of “Lord of the Flies” (William Golding) and “radical evil” (Immanuel Kant). Rather, it advocates a positive outlook much along the lines of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Opposed to Kant, Golding and a long string of others, these starry-eyed proponents underestimate original sin and highly exaggerate our good inclinations. Mostly they are just self-seeking cover-ups. Ask Jacob, Moses, David and all the others… They had their dark sides. No question. And “Original Sin” remains the second article in the Augsburg Confession. The Formula of Concord confirms that.

The Russians understand about humans. Sinful humans. Erring, tarnished, envious and even hateful. Probably more than the Chinese do as there was a Conversion of the Russ – but the Chinese have no good God, only some sorry party idols and short lived communist effigies. Their own cultural revolution made sure of getting rid of all else. It was more effective than most exorcisms. At least, the Russians have Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Pasternak, Solschenizyn and so on. It´s their sensitive, good and suffering side. They know a lot about human hardship, punishment, innocent suffering too. Financial hardship doesn´t weigh too much in that context. Financial boycotts could work for materialistic capitalists, but I think, they´re feeble means against hardened Russians. They know poverty. Just read their stories of hungry, ill, imprisoned and downtrodden. They know what it means to be dirt poor. Nothing. Silch. Just plenty snow, dirt and wide open spaces. So, our talk of economic sanctions doesn´t frighten them so much as us but hardens their tough resolve. Perhaps they even hope for redemption through suffering. I don´t know, if they really know about justice, truth and reconciliation as possible outcomes of secular processes and democratic power sharing. Forgiveness in the political realm? Mitigating circumstances? Perhaps, but I´m not so sure. There´s just so much wildness, tyranny, brutal force, and harsh exploitation and that´s not only natural forces, evolution through many ages and eventual survival of the fittest, but rather in their best circles and prestigious families. Just think of “War and Peace” (Tolstoy). Napoleon couldn´t break their spirit by razing Moscow, nor could general Paulus by burning down Stalingrad. They left defeated. Russians lived to tell the story. It´s their very own never-ending story. It´s their long history. Remember Moscow founding Czar Ivan the Terrible, killing his only son in a rage. I mean, they know about playing God in a very serious fashion.

They know a whole lot about dialectics. Materialism too. They say this and do the other – just like that son, who tells his father, he´ll go work in the vineyard, but then doesn´t. They don´t just know a lot about the “Dialectics of Enlightenment” (Horkheimer/Adorno) and how something, that was meant to be so good, turns out to be so bad – it is the revolt of nature. They perfected the script. That´s not just with Joseph Stalin and his killing fields in the Ukraine, but even those organized mock trials, the Gulag system and ongoing tyranny proving over decades how the revolution eats its very own children. The good become the bad. Millions died for it. Yes, “Dichter & Denker” build Auschwitz, hold themselves as “master race”, whilst degrading others as “unworthy to live” – left to kill. Afrikaaners perfect apartheid – not many years after the Boer War. The Jews do it with their Palestinian compatriots – not long after the Holocaust. But in real existing socialism such political atrocities were perfected.

All good reasons for checks and balances, sharing and even division of power. Not losing sight of the distinct possibility that things go wrong in governments. Things get out of hand as power corrupts and absolute power goes all the way. There´s just so much going seriously wrong. Too much reason for revenge, bad blood, getting one´s own back. Nobody wins the blame game. There´s always reason for revenge and to hit back. You just need a memory for these things or some imagination. It´s always a good time for containment of brutal force, resistance against evil, some natural law justice – and to prevent the winner to take it all. We Lutherans believe in the Law holding true and setting boundaries not just for the criminals, but for the justified and righteous too as even they are prone to fall short of expectations and commit terrible sin. King David, but also St. Peter are long-standing examples. The Greek tragedies confirm these stories – and Shakespeare sings the same tune.

After the walls finally came down in the last century, many of us fell for the “End of history and the last man” (Francis Fukuyama). We were just so eager to believe in such a happy ending. Leaving politics for children (“Fridays for future”). Making room for previously discriminated genders – all seventy of them and counting! We have presidential actors like Zelensky. Utterly out of their depth confronted with serious military opposition. Parliament turns into a circus with clowns like Boris taking over and playing the fool with everyone. Democratic guardians fall asleep on the job and not just sleepy Joe. Serious professionals are scarce. In Germany far too many good people have been kicked into oblivion.

So now, whilst children block highways, harbors and key points, Putin´s generals roll into the Ukraine with thousands of tanks. Whilst local activist play hide-and-seek in lofty treetops, breaking up railways and painting horrid graffiti, Russians fire rockets into all directions, challenge Beijing´s closing function for most effective distraction from ongoing atrocities. Whilst European politicians fantasize of flowering landscapes under wind turbines, Russians are pressing down on our gas taps and spend as much dirty energy as they can to expand their bulging borders for just more dreary “Lebensraum”: “Just because they can!” Whilst we consider one nutty diet after the other, Russians are nursing a megalomanic appetite by swallowing up neighbors: Who is going to stop me now? (Queen) Somebody should tell them, that this kind of thirst for more is not stilled by giving in to it. Rather it needs tough love: “Stop it!” Just ask the AA about that. Their twelve steps would probably be way beyond modern diplomats, but they could get some serious hardliners on the job. This is a tough job after alle. Presently we have a pretty cool minister of foreign affairs. She´s a pretty little girl really. However, the old men in Putin´s war office don´t look as if they could take her seriously. They´ve got real business to attend to. They are at war – not having fun and playing games for bored voters. Their call is beyond child stuff. They´ve come up through the ranks and fill that post – by being ugly, dirty fighters. It´s been that way for decades. Just ask their opponents. At least those, who are still around. I fear most of them are dead and not due to natural causes. If they do that to their own people, what do You imagine will they do with foreign enemies and aliens?

Russian tanks stuck in the mud (London Times)

So, where have all the men gone? We need men to fight the Taliban, the Iranian mullahs firing up their nuclear reactors, Islamic state terrorists. Obviously computer nerds can go a long way at disrupting the networks, but for some ops, you need fighters even behind enemy lines – marines or SAS if you can´t find a recce. I doubt if the GSG9 is up to it after the latest purges. Chinese communists pressing for national glory beyond their narrow confines. Cowing Hong Kong, hurting Taiwan and destabilizing the region – infecting the world with their mutations. Russians, who seek vindication for far too much hurt pride and deflated egos – dating back decades, even centuries. It´s one big asylum – never mind lost case. And now, they´re on the loose. Putin let his dogs out! And we? We have ended compulsory military service. Our guns don´t fire. Our tanks don´t drive. Helicopters, jets, and drones don´t fly. Ships and submarines aren´t seaworthy. Hallelujah – we have helmets and masks and lots of cake to give away. So, let them eat cake! We have bureaucrats in every office and plenty forms to prove it – instead of professional soldiers – probably fluent at singing Kumbaya and baking vegan Pizza, but who the heck is guarding the gates?

It´s no longer “waiting for the barbarians” (J.M. Coetzee). We´re past that stage. They are here. Knocking at the door. Forcing entry. Our best men are in hiding. Ostracized. Castrated. No balls left. So, let’s see, what the Russians are up. Anybody for some tea? They prefer Vodka straight. You want to sit down and talk? They´d rather shoot – straight too. They´ve come to clean shop. Clean all their way. Do the lists. One dead, one tick. Death row. It´s dirty, but they´re used to it. It´s for a good purpose. Creating space for their people. Room for egos to flourish. Who is going to stop them? It´s tickets for now.

The strong man in China might stand up to Russia someday yet. For now, they are sharing jokes on us. It´s just a poor joke. Ukrainians caught up in the middle. Again. Trampling fields. They had hoped for a turn for the better. No longer crazy bears foraging in their front yard. Seems as if that was wishful thinking. Isn´t there always? As long as we´re still breathing there´s hope. Hope – maybe, but not in logic, military reason or in some political party or princes. There is one, who holds all the world in His hands – even the high and mighty like Putin & Co plus the one from Beijing. The prophet Amos proclaims: “Is there one evil in the city, that the Lord doesn´t do?” To Him we continue to cry: Lord have mercy! Christ have mery! Lord have mercy!

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