An often quoted dictum by the religious philosopher Franz Rosenzweig is, that God did not create the religion, but the world. It pretty much says what Matthew summed up in the Jesus word in his Gospel: “The field is the world.”
What we imagine as the “kingdom of heaven” happens right here, not beyond the stars. It's happening now, not in a far future. It happens in your behaviour towards your fellow believer, not in your feelings for millions of strangers. For this reason, the Torah regulates property relations as well as sexual relations, behaviour in the witness stand, animal protection and financial conduct. Jesus also teaches his disciples about dealing with guilt, ambition, and the will to rule. God's rule is presumed, he speaks of it in pictures: The seed in the field, the tiny mustard seed, the minimum yeast. The new world of God usually begins in a laborious, small, and inconspicuous way. But it grows. Right here in the middle of this world, as a world. acb
Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying: The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slaves of the householder came to him and said, Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from? He answered, An enemy has done this. His slaves said to him, Do you want us to go and pull them up? He replied, No, if you pull up the weeds
you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn. He proposed another parable to them. The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches. He spoke to them another parable. The kingdom of heaven is like yeast
that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened. All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables. He spoke to them only in parables, to fulfill what had been said through the prophet: I will open my mouth in parables, I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation of the world. Then, dismissing the crowds, he went into the house. His disciples approached him and said, Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field. He said in reply, "He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear.
Words that make an impact
When a man and a woman say their “yes” to the local registrar or at the altar, then their word makes an impact: the marriage is valid now. They act by their word. Something similar happens with words that, for example, want to convince, consolate or change someones mind. They make an impact on the counterpart. If the listeners understand and accept such an appeal, this has consequences for the action and relationship level of the persons involved.
The prophet points to this fact. Everything that has been heard as the word and will of God in the course of history is understandable as His action for the life and survival of the people. This shows His reliable loyalty, which constantly creates new possibilities for answers. To stick to the image of the Prophet: the power of the word is shown when the addressed people bring forth fruit. hak
Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.
Considering the repeatedly spreading fake news, the longing for reliable and true words grows. This is not just about individual findings, but about whether such a search can reach its goal at all.
Because you cannot google the truth. The breakthrough happened in Israel, not by searching, but by fact. Encountering a concrete man, many found that his life was compatible with the history of Israel and was able to compete in the midst of the experiences of the pagan world and Greek philosophy. The fact is that it is rather the small ones to understand, probably because they are setting off to take his yoke and learn from him. hak
At that time Jesus exclaimed: I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him. Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.
A different way of love
It was a big deal that Israel learned to love the fellow believer, “as thyself”. At this point in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus goes into detail.
He does not say: “He who loves father or mother more than his fellow believer is not worthy of me.” The measure is not the fellow believer, nor the community as a whole, but the acknowledgment of the Messiahship of Jesus. Before his death, Jesus says: “Love one another as I have loved you.” That is the measure. And it also includes the ones who have not followed the way of Jesus, very concretely: “Whoever gives a cup of fresh water to one of these little ones because it is a disciple ...” This adds a very new facet to the theme of “charity”. tac
Jesus said to his apostles: Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward. And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple — amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.
For a normal Christian, Jeremiah's lamentation contains a shrill dissonance: “I will witness your vengeance on them.” With this one word, one of the most serious and persistent prejudices is evoked:
the Old Testament God of Vengeance, replaced by the New Testament God of Love. Fortunately, the new German standard translation has corrected this mistake: it isn't vengeance, but retribution, meaning restoration of justice. The prophet does not want any personal satisfaction, he wants that the persecutors won't prevail, that defamation is revealed, injustice is restored, violence is ended. When Jeremiah calls the “God of Retribution” with all of Israel, then he does this because evil must not only be suffered, but it must be combated and overcome. mim
Jeremiah said: I hear the whisperings of many: ‘Terror on every side! Denounce! let us denounce him!’ All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine. ‘Perhaps he will be trapped; then we can prevail, and take our vengeance on him.’ But the LORD is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph. In their failure they will be put to utter shame, to lasting, unforgettable confusion. O Lord of hosts, you who test the just, who probe mind and heart, let me witness retribution, for to you I have entrusted my cause. Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord, for he has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked!
Whether in school, in the office, at the civil registry office or in the shower at the swimming pool – discrimination is against the law: we treat everyone equally. It's strange that the Bible has a very different way:
“You are my special property”. God makes a difference. He chooses. He only needs few, his tiny people: Israel. Like on eagle's wings, he carries them to their election. They often don't even want to, because being chosen is a burden for them. Being a people to serve – “a kingdom of priests”, “holy people” – just to show: That's how a society might work. That's the way you can live. This is the way to achieve the freedom of choice, for all. acb
In the third month after their departure from the land of Egypt, on its first day, the Israelites came to the desert of Sinai. After the journey from Rephidim to the desert of Sinai, they pitched camp. While Israel was encamped here in front of the mountain, Moses went up the mountain to God. Then the Lord called to him and said, Thus shall you say to the house of Jacob; tell the Israelites: You have seen for yourselves how I treated the Egyptians and how I bore you up on eagle wings and brought you here to myself. Therefore, if you hearken to my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my special possession, dearer to me than all other people, though all the earth is mine. You shall be to me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation. That is what you must tell the Israelites.
Consequence from Pentecost
The church doctrine of the Trinity of God seems to show how incomprehensible and remote He is. Paul has a different view on this.
He is certain of God's closeness and therefore writes to the church in Corinth, which has lost its unity. Since the mission gets out of their view, they are disunited, and disorder darkens their joy, the Apostle confronts them with the Trinity: The one God of Israel discovered in history has revealed through Jesus: by God everything is there and through His mind they can understand that too, they can be united. This trinity is the necessary help to find unity again. hak
Brothers and sisters, rejoice. Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the holy ones greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.
More than the United Nations
One end-time scenario follows the other, some think our planet will still last 1000 years, others speak of only 100.
Our ancestors, about 2,500 years ago, were also hunted by terrifying images: that the sun suddenly won't rise anymore in the morning, that the upper firmament would collapse and turn the land into sea ... But on the one hand their mind told them that they couldn't pull the strings in life and the world anyway and, on the other hand, some people in Israel had the impressive experience of an assistance of a special kind – both led them to express: “The Spirit of the Lord fills the world, it is all-embracing.” (Wis 1:7)
This realization progressed and became more concrete: Life on this planet was most threatened by man-made disasters, such as the inner and outer theaters of war, which were the result of evil thoughts in the hearts of human beings. Nevertheless, is there a way for unity, peace among the all too different peoples? About 2000 years ago, the “Spirit of the Lord” came upon the members of a gathering in Jerusalem in the form of a tongues of fire. And the spark jumped over, so that the long-desired arose among people “from the province of Asia, from Phrygia and Pamphylia, from Egypt and the region of Libya, also Romans, Jews and Proselytes, Cretans and Arabs”: mutual understanding – in obeying this spirit.
The institutionalized intercultural understanding of today, the UNO, is only a poor derivative, indeed an anti-Israeli counter-event to what happened back then. The Church still knows the original thought, and therefore formulates in the day's prayer: “What Your love has done at the beginning of the church it should still do today.” bek
For the spirit of the LORD fills the world, is all-embracing, and knows what man says.
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.
It is rare that the liturgical texts still surprise us. But the readings of this Sunday between Ascension and Pentecost are full of unusual terms, which are not from our vocabulary:
“blessed”, “glorify” ... and yet another unknown word in the Acts of the Apostles: “devoted with one accord”. Where can you find people staying together for a few days to figure out what has happened to them? And where are the 12, 70 or even 120, which are of one mind, inspired by a single passion, namely, the passion of Jesus? If a community would assemble in Jerusalem today, just as it was then, the spirit would certainly not hesitate to descend upon them. mim
After Jesus had been taken up to heaven the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day's journey away. When they entered the city they went to the upper room where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
Christians should explicitly answer questions about their faith and life. The author uses the word apology, “Apologia” in Greek.
In doing so, he recalls the most famous apology of antiquity that his readers knew: The Apology of Socrates. Socrates had to defend himself against slander, which ultimately led to his death sentence nevertheless: godlessness and seduction of youth.
The letter of Peter sees Christians in a similar situation. It is not a matter of recovering civic honour, but the truth. For Christians, this means they should not be discouraged by defamations and never hide their own modest truth with shame. Their community is community “in Christ”. Their apology is their togetherness. It is their true way of answering questions. acb
Beloved: Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit.