What a glorious day in Wittenberg and it’s a holiday too. Well, not really a Holy Day of the Church, but rather one of these secular days, which celebrate the achievements of “mice and men” (John Steinbeck). I´m just not catholic enough to have realized that it´s St. Joseph´s holiday by their reading. So you´ll probably excuse me, that it didn´t feature in my plans for this week. I just have the church holidays marked on the calendar and this Friday was supposed to be just like any other one – except that my twin siblings celebrate their 52nd birthday today down in South Africa´s lockdown… I like these holidays, because they´re excellent as family time and even we pastors get to relax all day long with our loved ones. Don´t get me wrong, I like church holidays too, but they´re more like highlights of the working week – secular holidays are more like soccer games. Whereas at church there´s coffee and doughnuts, at soccer (you can change that to rugby/cricket according to the season and nation!) you get beer and biltong (jerky) Well, that´s one difference. There are more, but that again is another story…
Here in Germany 1st May is a big day for demonstrations and marches and it´s small wonder that Karl Marx pitched such high hopes on the uprising of the German nation in his days. We all know, that played out quite differently – although the socialists did have a major part in the final script. Still, not quite what the old agitator dreamt of anyway. During Corona the revolution is mainly off road and on air, but it does continue. Hot air most of it, but obviously Russians, Chinese and their multiplying minions still fantasize about world rule even as the current plague prevents public showing off of their growing mechanizations and their persistent determination to forcefully liberate (Read: “subjugate” – it´s just a question of socialist dialectics!) the world in the name of the international fraternity. The open air displays of military force and misplaced grandeur are put on hold for now, but their struggle continues: “This is the final struggle let us group together, and tomorrow “The Internationale” will be the human race.” Thank God, if there are still some, who push back and don´t let them have their way.
So, when my friend Jochen called to ask me over today for some work on our hunting installations, I was taken by surprise. It was supposed to be procedure as every day – me sitting in the bookstore – going about daily business and hopefully registering some book sales too and not just showing a pretty face. So, without much ado, I excused myself and he wondered aloud: “Are You going to the May demonstrations?” It seems, he really doesn´t know me yet – archconservative, anti-communist to the core by genetic coding, intensive training and even personal disposition too and really not much in favor to bring down the status quo by force. Just think of what Luther would have said – me joining the peasants and raucous Karlstadt in uprising? I´m far too skeptical of our human ability to save ourselves and way too much inclined to suspect things will go quite wrong if people build paradise without God and against so many, many citizens not in favor of conforming with “Koba” and tyrannical despots.
Just look at the “Corona kingdom” of late and realize how fast experts for this and that go way out to call for draconic measures making “Animal Farm” look like some preliminary funfair: No church, no travel, no toilet paper! Seems – the old socialists GDR is back with a vengeance. No, not really, but it surely has roused democrats and thinkers of all colours worldwide from their sleep: We must be vigilant. We can´t let ourselves be caught up in very real attempts to minimize human rights and religious liberties at the cost of state authoritarians and some dogmatic ideologies and passing fancies. Red warning lights are flickering all over from Hong Kong to Johannesburg and off course the Copacabana too.
Not bad, if there still are some dissident teachers like old Mister Hall – our flamboyant history teacher at WKHS – who introduced us to Steinbeck´s novel, when he should have taught us political paradigms of the ruling party instead. I don´t remember much of the prescribe curriculum of those days, probably because it´s still ingrained into my subconscious and part of flesh and blood, but I sure do recall vividly those lessons, where this my liberal arts tutor of years back sat on his desk visibly enjoying the lessons from that weathered paperback… There´s some very engaging stuff in the fast expanses of worldwide literature, especially because it runs counter to so much in our ideological givens and cultural presuppositions. So, do take up a good book and start reading. The chances are good that it might become a significant other – meaningfully challenging and prompting You to reach distant goals yet, a good companion and a friend even on any given day – never mind a working holiday. A good starting point is any best-seller list – just like the amazing ratings on Amazon. Such democratic lists work. At least for starters. You could ask trusted friends and valued persons, people you hold in high esteem. They could list 5-10 of their best reads. You might be as surprised as I was, when I first started asking my most highly valued brothers… They come up with all sorts of novelties and priceless treasures. In my life, that´s proven priceless! It goes far in taking us to far off and beautiful places even as I grow more attached to certain stations…
So, instead of waiting in vain for my new Chinese friends, who wanted to photograph some more pictures in our house, I´m just going to work straight on Sunday´s sermon, thinking about the cancelled demos in Moscow and Peking and the lock-down in SA, listining to Chopin and ever so glad I finished the painting job last night still.
Finally, we´ve still got one of the most comforting sayings of our Lord Jesus Christ as motto for this day (Herrenhuter Losung & Lehrtext) recorded in the holy gospel of the holy evangelist and apostle Saint Matthew in the 6th chapter, which fits so nicely with the lilies St.Joseph displays as his trademark of virtuous family father – a saintly figure much in need today – and not only because of last night´s episode of “The Zürich Krimi“: “Think about how the flowers of the field grow; they do not work or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these! And if this is how God clothes the wild grass, which is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven, won’t he clothe you even more, you people of little faith? So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.”
1 If thou but trust in God to guide thee
And hope in Him through all thy ways,
He’ll give thee strength, whate’er betide thee,
And bear thee through the evil days.
Who trusts in God’s unchanging love
Builds on the rock that naught can move.
2 What can these anxious cares avail thee,
These never-ceasing moans and sighs?
What can it help if thou bewail thee
O’er each dark moment as it flies?
Our cross and trials do but press
The heavier for our bitterness.
3 Be patient and await His leisure
In cheerful hope, with heart content
To take whate’er thy Father’s pleasure
And His discerning love hath sent,
Nor doubt our inmost wants are known
To Him who chose us for His own.
4 God knows full well when times of gladness
Shall be the needful thing for thee.
When He has tried thy soul with sadness
And from all guile has found thee free,
He comes to thee all unaware
And makes thee own His loving care.
5 Nor think amid the fiery trial
That God hath cast thee off unheard,
That he whose hopes meet no denial
Must surely be of God preferred.
Time passes and much change doth bring
And sets a bound to ev’rything.
6 All are alike before the Highest;
‘Tis easy to our God, we know,
To raise thee up, though low thou liest,
To make the rich man poor and low.
True wonders still by Him are wrought
Who setteth up and brings to naught.
7 Sing, pray, and keep His ways unswerving,
Perform thy duties faithfully,
And trust His Word; though undeserving,
Thou yet shalt find it true for thee.
God never yet forsook in need
The soul that trusted Him indeed.