Herrenhuter readings for Friday, the 19th February 2016

The holy Christian Churches believes and confesses the biblical truth: “The living God in his holy dwelling is a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows. Our God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.” (Psa 68:5-6 NIV)

Our Lord Jesus Christ said: “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Mat 25:40 NIV)

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you + now and always +

Dear friends of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ: Well, this seems to be right in line with today’s hot topic of what it means to be Christian and how we should deal with those trying to flee wars and terror, financial poverty and social isolation and destitution. Is it by building higher walls and fences around what we perceive as our own – our birthright or the right we have worked for or that was granted to us in this or that way – and keep others from infringing on that very personal, private and priced possession? Or is it something else?

Pope Francis I said that building walls along the Mexican border to keep out those migrants and illegal immigrants would disqualify a party’s policy from being seen as Christian and a president, who’d promote such a strategy would very much be outside the Church. He probably would consider the wall along the Canadian border in the same categories, but he’s probably talking very closely to his catholic constituency, his followers and adherents on both sides of the borders – in Mexico and in the US. Pushing the political ticket and trying his catholic luck. Trying to regain political clout, which the Roman church has always coveted and tried to manage more or less successfully to its very own benefit and startling enrichment. Probably the pontiff’s reasoning was something like this: Brothers and sisters in the USA, but also in Mexico – don’t do as if you don’t belong together and are called to live together in a common continent, one catholic church and Christian community and koinonia. Building up walls between you – to keep brothers and sisters in Christ apart – is not the Christian way of doing things. It seems to be a very simple matter. In this way Francis I is just addressing this complicated situation rather superficially and perhaps with a little to much ease.

On the other side it does seem to go accord with those, who oppose the European nations option of constructing their own fences and barricades to try and limit, control and regulate the migratory influx of those millions of migrants and refugees coming in from the Middle East and also from Africa in the South. Even the deep Meditaranean and the wide desert stretches of the Sahara have not been able to put off the flood of migrants, so higher fences, more deterrents are coming into play. And there too, everybody will hear the papal verdict: “If you do that you’re not Christian!” It seems to be the consensus there too.

The biblical verses we read today seem very clearly suited to speak right to this dilemma. The holy Christian Churches believes and confesses the biblical truth: “The living God in his holy dwelling is a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows. Our God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.” (Psa 68:5-6 NIV) Obviously there is a lot of history, which seems to draw this into question. It’s because we’re not God and we just don’t see all and everything as clearly as it is. Much suffering seems to go right against this declared good will and best intention of our God. It’s the affliction of our faith, which struggles so much to believe God’s good word and gospel and not be put off by the damage, evil and sin around us. Yet our Lord Jesus Christ encourages us with the promise of the eschatological justice to be implemented at the final end and judgment, when he is going to complete and finish off the good work he has started: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Mat 25:40 NIV) Therefore we should not fear any ill, but trust in his good promises and do what is right, good and salutary for our families, friends and neighbours, but also for our enemies and those that persecute us.

Angela Merkel – the pastor’s daughter – has got some basics right. We need to provide shelter, protection and sure defense to those, who are helpless like the orphans and widows. We can’t just turn our backs on them as if they are not our problem. These desperate people, who have lost all and everything because of war are our neighbours and thus our responsibility too – especially if we are in the powerful position to help and grant assistance like the Germany and the USA are. This is not just the personal responsibility of this and that individual, but also of congregations, churches and people, who call themselves Christian. Remember who your God is and what he did for you and all the world and consider, what you can do to help and assist and alleviate the pressing need of these fleeing people in the most dire straits. And it remains an incentive that our Lord has promised that every one of these good deeds done in favour of these poor, helpless and most needy will not go unrewarded. He himself stands as the faithful guarantee for this promise. However that is to be fulfilled under the opposite – in faith – and not to be seen by our very own eyes as yet. It remains under eschatological reservation – already in faith, but not yet visible.

Still I doubt that the Roman bishop has the authority to expel somebody from the Church and to deny him the membership in the Christian community and ultimately sever him from the body of Christ because he plans to build a wall between us and them. I think he is confusing the temporal and spiritual powers that be. Politics is different from matters of faith. That does not dispense either from the clear laws and mandates of God, but there are issues of the law and those of gospel. The one is under human authority and uses the sword and military force and coercion & compulsion, whereas the other is by the power of the word alone, no brute force there, but only promise and forgiveness and grace and turning of the other cheek.

I can’t remember that a roman pontiff ever declared the East German communists to be excommunicated because of them building that wall and erecting that iron curtain, which thank God has been leveled since. I don’t think my neighbour, who just finished building a higher wall around his property has now stopped to be a Christian. I don’t think it is as simple as that. The Pope is not Jesus Christ after all – he can’t make divine law or godly promises at will – he can only proclaim, what has been entrusted and taught to us by the good Lord himself in the Word of the old and new Testaments. He as pope and bishop of the church remains subject to the Word of God or if he put’s himself over and above it he would be accursed as St.Paul writes to the Galatians. After all in the best construction of things this first Jesuit pope is also only but one of God’s pastors and bishops on earth and even that might be an exaggeration as it remains highly debatable and some would rather follow Luther and the Confessions who still have him as the Antichrist after all for preaching something contrary to the pure and divine gospel of Jesus Christ our one and only saviour!

See, the issue of building a wall is not just about keeping widows and orphans out, there are legal and official ways for them after all even if they admittedly can be very thorny and lengthy processes and nearly impossible to manage for some. Yet these walls, fences and controls are to regulate a border traffic, controlling in the best way possible the illegal influx of terrorists, trying to stop the drug smuggling, human trafficking and highly dangerous border crossings of those, who have no regard for human life and have shown that they are just so keen to strike at the very nerve and heart of American way of life with the brutal attack on the Twin towers or the free and easy going western society and its secular ways in the vicious murder in Paris. There’s a big difference whether the walls were built to keep people in or out too. Keeping people imprisoned against their will is much different from keeping people out, who have no right to come in.

In the letter to the Romans St.Paul writes: “For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.” (Rom 13:4-5 NIV) See, those walls, fences and borders are not aimed against helpless orphans or widows or persecuted Christians in the Middle East or against law-abiding citizens in the S.Americas. They need not fear these barriers, because they are after all somewhat permeable. There are legal means and ways to cross them. However the proper routes need to be followed and transgressors, evil doers and outlaws should be afraid. They should be kept out in the cold and not be allowed to carry out their works of destruction, terror or brutal violence. Rather they must be stopped, kept out and be isolated.  That’s a good purpose and sense of such a border fence and wall. I don’t think they are unchristian either. The borders are like burglar guards in my house. Off course my friends, family and visitors are allowed in through the door, but the railings are to keep the one out, who wants to crawl in by the window and surprise me and my loved ones in our sleep.

The happenings in Syria show that there are exceptions to the rule too. If you’ve got nowhere to hide and can only run from brutal terrorists like Isis or what these muslim radical and extremist vandals and barbarians are called, then there is no time or place to send these refugees back into the hands of their persecutors – especially if those persecuted are being persecuted for their Christian faith.  They – together with the entire Christian church on earth and with the triumphant church comprising all saints and martyrs too – know that nobody and nothing can keep us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. He will grant us life and salvation in his good time – in or outside of the worldly borders and fences and walls. Until then we put our trust in him alone, for he is God and nobody else. He alone can grant life and salvation – nobody else – not even the secular state and their highest authorities. They are but instruments and tools to safeguard the safety and peace of their subjects. Even and although they sometimes fail dismally, our God never fails and he will help, protect and keep us from all evil of body and soul – now and forever. Thanks and praise be to him our God and savior, he our Lord and king, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit – one God now and forever. Amen.

The peace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ be with you always + Amen.

  1. God of grace and God of glory,
    on your people pour your power;
    crown your ancient church’s story,
    bring its bud to glorious flower.
    Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
    for the facing of this hour,
    for the facing of this hour.
  2. Lo! the hosts of evil round us
    scorn the Christ, assail his ways!
    From the fears that long have bound us
    free our hearts to faith and praise.
    Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
    for the living of these days,
    for the living of these days.
  3. Cure your children’s warring madness;
    bend our pride to your control;
    shame our wanton, selfish gladness,
    rich in things and poor in soul.
    Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
    lest we miss your kingdom’s goal,
    lest we miss your kingdom’s goal.
  4. Save us from weak resignation
    to the evils we deplore;
    let the gift of your salvation
    be our glory evermore.
    Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
    serving you whom we adore,
    serving you whom we adore.

Harry Emerson Fosdick 1878-1969

 

About Wilhelm Weber jr

Rector of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Tshwane
This entry was posted in Gedankensplitter, Herrenhuter Readings, Politics, philosophy and other perspectives, Slavery, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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