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Isaiah 61, 1-3
Isaiah 61, 1-3:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me;
Now the year 2000 has come. What did change except the figure? The same world, the same people, the same politics, the same business, the same games..., last not least the same wars and the same hunger in the world. Indeed, there is no new thing under the sun, as the Ecclesiastes puts it. There are the meek as before; there are the brokenhearted as before; the captives as before; the bound, those who are mourning and who suffer from the spirit of heaviness as ever before. The new millenium as such does not grant us a new time. The big problems, as well as our personal needs and longings, still remain unsolved and unsettled.
Sometimes, in fairy tales, there are good fairies who fulfill wishes or, in an instant, change the lot of the poor so that they become wealthy and happy. Sometimes, even adults with common sense long for such a good fairy to well, at least to stop misery and misfortune. And sometimes, I guess, we ourselves dream of finding such a good fairy on our ways, but, alas, this will never happen. There is nobody to lighten our burden. It is up to us to do it, to do the whole thing. And those who are unable to improve their situation well, one really ought to support them, but primarily it is their own duty to find their way. After all, the pursuit of happiness is not only our chance and our right but our task as well.
I have no right to be suspicious of those who dream of the good fairy; I must confess that, as a matter of fact, I personally know this dream... Nevertheless I cannot help wondering whether the dream of the good fairy turning all into better isnt but the reverse side of our fancy that we were able to go it. Of our fancy that, by virtue of our possibilities and strength and power, we were enabled to afford the big change, to establish a good new world or, to put it in one word, to make it. If, if only at least the majority cooperated in struggling for justice and in fighting against hunger and in keeping the ecologic balance and in... What makes me hesitate to continue at this point is the fact that I might continue here in that I recite the program of any political party. Even if I declared it Christian I would have problems in giving evidence that this matches our faith, let alone the Bible. There is a fundamental difference.
What is the difference? What is the difference between Almighty God in His goodness and the good fairy we dream of? What is the difference between our faith active in love (G.W. Forell) and our activity in faithfully working for a better world, a world of love instead of hatred and ill will? The difference between the fairy doing it on our behalf and God vouchsafing us His help?
Good Christians, of course, are in the know of the answer. And since we all are good Christians... Maybe. There is insight enough. There are thousands of theologians preaching and explaining genuin Christianity. There are millions of learned and helpful books telling us the difference and showing us the right way. And our brains are filled up with Christian thoughts or at least thoughts that derive from the Gospel. But our hearts ? Do our hearts know the difference? This is the crucial question here.
Once a man read our text to the congregation, gave the book again to the minister, and sat down. Then he opened his mouth and told them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. This was at Nazareth, and the speaker was Jesus Christ.
Here is the discord between our brains and our hearts. Our brains are asking what is meant by these words and how he brought this into reality (if at all) and, last not least, whether he was authorized to say so. And our hearts? Unless they are deafened by our brains they hear no fairy remaining remote from us and helping from far off, but a man who himself does the steps to go himself to the meek, to the brokenhearted, to the bound... He does not simply shift the switches so that we can go on as before but now on the good, on the safe track. He comes to us. He comes to us in order to bring us good tidings. He comes to us in the power and in the authority of Gods Spirit. He comes to us so to help us.
How do our hearts respond to somebody visiting us visiting us in this manner? I mean, if they realize the visit. Unless they feel annoyed (which does happen, to be sure), they will beat quicker, they will grow wider, thy will open up. Thus they will get filled with expectancy, with hope, with gratitude. They will feel warm with joy and faith. They will sense Gods good hand gently touching us and graciously comforting us. Thus we ourselves will get stopped on our ways. We will interrupt our current business. We will grant ouselves a break in order to assess what is happening to us and to let it linger on in ourselves. We will not give descriptions (as I am doing here!) but just dive into it and enjoy being carried by the Lord Himself and enwrapped by His love. We will breathe freely.
It is not the nasty guy from around the corner, it is a grim voice in myself asking me warily when and where this ever happened? whether I myself did experience this? and, after all, what change this has brought into reality? Answer me, the voice urges, but answer honestly! What am I to say? This it is what I reply: I do not intend, not the least, to argue at this point and thus to get trapped in the network of argument and counterargument, of evidence and counterevidence, of demonstration and defeat. But once you are asking me, and because you are urging me to be honest, exactly therefore I am decided to refuse to answer your suggestive question. Instead, I tell you:
Throughout the world and the centuries, people have been asking questions of this sort thus keeping their hearts off this vital event and allowing themselves to make it a matter of argumentation. Throughout the world and the centuries, we all have experienced our lack either of willingness or of confidence to open our hearts, i.e. ourselves, our souls, our lives, to Gods good tidings and particularly to whom who brings it as the Anointed of God. And throughout the world and the centuries, it did happen nevertheless that people were touched in their hearts by Gods Anointed and His good tidings and thus were enabled, were given the power, were granted the energy, to receive the light of His good tidings and to carry it on into our world. So, throughout the world and the centuries, He did move hearts and opened them and filled them with joy and restored them and thus did give evidence of His power as well as of the truth of what is said of Him: that the Spirit of God is upon Him and that He does bring good tidings. Tidings, to be sure, which are not mere words, but indeed matter from the heart or rather words that change our world.
They change the world in the same way as does He who spoke them, i.e. not as the fairy in the tale nor as we ourselves when we achieve something new, a housing project e.g. or the pacification of a troubled country. They change the world, instead, in that they affect the hearts and inspire them and fill them with joy and hope. This is the way the brokenhearted are bound up and those who mourn are comforted. The acceptable year of the Lord is not the year of big events or political upheaval. It is the year of His presence in our world so that he keeps our hearts. Likewise, the day of vengeance of our God is not the day of severe discipline or of bloodshed. It is the day of His way to te Cross there to bear Gods wrath and to carry Gods punishment on behalf of the wicked and the unjust. Thus, the time of the Lord turns out to be a time of intimacy in a noisy world, a time of graciousness in a sphere of business and brutality. This is hidden from those who call the shots in our time and is ignored by those who command armed forces or the streams of money. Indeed, it is the meek, the poor, the troubled whose hearts are sighing for joy and for redemption, whose eyes are open for this.
They do understand. They grasp that the gifts that brings He upon whom the Spirit of the Lord is, that these gifts stem from a reality different from ours the reality of the holy God. They realize that these gifts thus neither improve nor turn our circumstances immediately. For they do not match them at all, rather they catch our hearts so to open them to the Lord and to turn them to Him. History shows that this silent or even secret revolution has proved to be the revolution absolute in our world. It not only led a movement from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth which could not be overcome. Moreover, it has moved hearts all over the world in all times. We all know that nothing is as able to bring new things on the way and to afford change and improvement as persons whose hearts are glowing with their sake whatever it is. So once hearts are filled by the good tidings from the Anointed of the Lord, filled by gifts from Gods own world (different from ours), it is unavoidable or rather normal and natural that these tidings spread all over the world and seize other hearts and thus create a new world under the cover of the current circumstances.
Yet this world is being noticed. There are Christians. There are churches. There are persons who in the name of Jesus Christ dare do things unheard of before or even forbidden by the authorities or by sacrosanct traditions. There are persons, even parties, who under the influence of people spreading the Gospel try to cater for the poor and the captives and the suppressed. And every once in a while it happens that Christians provoke the hatred of the leading class in the state or in the society for the only reason that they obey God rather than men. From all this there have arisen the institutions and organizations that are usually named Christian such as: Christian traditions, Christian ethics, Christian culture, Christian parties, Christian behaviour and what not. We may feel awkward with this, but we should realize that these are very remote, indeed ramifications of the good tidings of the Anointed of God being creative in the hearts of people. Although this may have become mere convention or even mingled with error and hypocrasy, - what a remarkable effect of simple words having seized and filled human hearts!
Do we catch it?
Our way as well as the way of the good fairy in the tale is the way of action, of projects and plans. Of course I do not blame this. But this way, our way of acting and doing, remains on the surface - on the surface of the world, the surface of human life, of ourselves. So it is proper that we measure the effects, that we evaluate the output, that we test the efficiency and so on. But it has effects only on the surface. And if it goes into the region beneath the surface history and experience tell us at least to be cautious; for what came out quite often hurt our humanity.
God, however, does not stay on the surface. He no less cares for the invisible world beneath too. So he takes the gentle, the hidden way to our hearts. It is the way of the good tidings announced by Gods Anointed. He, in the Spirit of the Lord, brings the good words to the meek and the mourning and the brokenhearted and all those who suffer. Its only words. They hardly scratch the surface, let alone causing ado. But these words not only prove to be mighty to seize and to affect hearts. They turn out to be effective mostly hidden, yet noticeably and, in due time, obviously. And we should not forget that it is just not the mighty and the wealthy and the powerful etc. people through whom God thus works upon our world. It is those who have no means and no power, who suffer and are disregarded and overlooked, those who would say they are too poor or too faint or too minor, through whom God makes His gifts bear fruit and cause effects. Thus they become and, consequently, are those amongst us whom God calls trees of righteousness and the planting of the Lord so that, indeed, he might be glorified.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me;
What do we hear? Words saying special things, giving information? Or words that warm our hearts and widen them and touch our souls and inspire our lives?
May the Lord open the ears of our hearts.
Prof. Dr. Klaus Schwarzwäller,
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