The turning point
Transformation of transportation, energy revolution, climate reversal. As battle cries of moral re-armament the slogans focus on a coming time that it seems imperative to upend.
The letter to the community of Christians in Colossae confronts this only prospectively better world with the messianic turning point, that has already taken place: “You have died with Christ. You are raised with Christ. ”With the language of the second reading baptism is described, the acceptance and entrance into the community of the disciples of Jesus. The perspective is revolutionized, turned upside down. The world’s decisive turning point has already happened. The place exists, where the ancient divisions seen as insurmountable between Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free people are obsolete, and where the disciple can live in a way that he can offer others knowledge, ability and success, without losing anything. Usually people want to thwart it with all their might, life in its inalterable limitations – in Jesus’ community it turns into the time of today, where everything is decided and the new creation has already begun. acb
If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory. Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry. Stop lying to one another, since you have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all.
A crushing record or keeping the balance?
Many see our world as already on the path to ruin; it will fare as Sodom and Gomorra fared. The two cities have become a cypher for humanity’s endangerment, given the threat it is to itself. Abraham advocates for the corrupt city:
Maybe there are 50 righteous, maybe only 45, but maybe only 40, only 30. In the end he knocks the required minimum down to 10. He does not go down any further. The scene reminiscent of the haggling at an oriental bazaar shows that Abraham has an understanding of the Other’s heart. He is familiar with His thoughts: One person alone is not enough; there have to be at least ten, a minority, who are entrusted with the care of keeping the world from overturning. hak
So the LORD said: The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and their sin so grave, that I must go down to see whether or not their actions are as bad as the cry against them that comes to me. I mean to find out. As the men turned and walked on toward Sodom, Abraham remained standing before the LORD. Then Abraham drew near and said: “Will you really sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were fifty righteous people in the city; would you really sweep away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people within it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to kill the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike! Far be it from you! Should not the judge of all the world do what is just?” The LORD replied: If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake. Abraham spoke up again: “See how I am presuming to speak to my Lord, though I am only dust and ashes! What if there are five less than fifty righteous people? Will you destroy the whole city because of those five?” I will not destroy it, he answered, if I find forty-five there. But Abraham persisted, saying, “What if only forty are found there?” He replied: I will refrain from doing it for the sake of the forty. Then he said, “Do not let my Lord be angry if I go on. What if only thirty are found there?” He replied: I will refrain from doing it if I can find thirty there. Abraham went on, “Since I have thus presumed to speak to my Lord, what if there are no more than twenty?” I will not destroy it, he answered, for the sake of the twenty. But he persisted: “Please, do not let my Lord be angry if I speak up this last time. What if ten are found there?” For the sake of the ten, he replied, I will not destroy it.
What you could hear
In political talk shows you can often hear: “Let me finish!” Apparently it is difficult to listen to someone else telling you something you do not already think you know.
Exactly this happened in a village in Galilee at the time of Jesus. This event is so unusual that it causes a small family fight. To the one who really listens, the new things Jesus has to say are more important than everything else. To those who think they already know everything, she can become an example. She is prepared to really listen to His word. This is not without its risks: You might hear something new. ruk
As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
Who hasn’t experienced this? We realize what we should do and the brain automatically enters into an unparalleled mode of creativity – all the reasons not to do what we know would be the sensible thing to do.
That is what is on Moses’ mind during his farewell speech to the people of Israel. He knows them well. Even though they have learned everything and know what makes their lives successful, they would rather shirk; it is too difficult, too inconvenient, too complicated, and so forth. Moses clears out the shelf of excuses completely. Too far away to lay your hands on the original saving order of life? No, through creation, the likeness to God – in your heart. And through the arduous history of teaching and learning during the time in the desert everyone in Israel has come closer to the realization of how He wants to have life culminate in salvation. Closer than through a book you could acquire in a store and read. To whoever shares this story it has become second nature and thus he can keep the word, God’s order of life. bek
For this command which I am giving you today is not too wondrous or remote for you. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who will go up to the heavens to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” No, it is something very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it.
All that matters
Paul’s discovery that it is not important, whether someone is circumcised or not, was a revolution for him.
But he does not relativize circumcision. He does not preach cheap tolerance and equality of all. Because circumcision is not just a separation wall from the pagans, it is also a defensive wall around God’s seed. This wall can only fall where a new reality exists through looking at the story of Jesus together. That is what Paul describes with “new creation” – that is all that matters. tac
But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither does circumcision mean anything, nor does uncircumcision, but only a new creation. Peace and mercy be to all who follow this rule and to the Israel of God. From now on, let no one make troubles for me; for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.
“I just wanted to give you another idea” –
Merlin says this in the same-titled play by Tankred Dorst to King Arthur.
He proves himself to be resistant, but there have been many attempts to put new ideas into the heads of contemporaries. As in the mid 19th century through the future Cardinal John Henry Newman. It was during the golden age of Darwinism and of the so-called religious history that was unable to see anything unique in the bible and Christianity anymore – everything was supposedly borrowed from surrounding religions. To this Newman said confidently and fearlessly: It may well be that the angels are a Babylonian invention; all that matters to us is that they sang in Bethlehem. In 1905 the protestant exegete Julius von Wellhausen wrote up his realization: “Jesus was not a Christian, but a Jew.” When, a hundred years later, an Italian Donna was confronted with this for the first time, her spontaneous reaction was: Jesus maybe, yes – Ma la Madonna no!
In today’s gospel Jesus calls on a man to follow him – he is on his way to Jerusalem and probably senses how that will end for him. The man is ready to, but first wants to fulfill his familial duty and bury his father. What response does he have to listen to? “Let the dead bury their dead.” How he decides is not recorded; we only know that Jesus continued on his path to Jerusalem. ars
When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him. On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.
As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” And to another he said, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” And another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.” To him Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”
What Paul, the founder of the community and author of the letter, writes to a couple of Christian communities in Anatolia, is nothing less than a revolution:
The three deep societal divisions of antiquity into Jews and Non-Jews, men and women, free people and slaves, that seemed irreconcilable, have been overcome. Paul is not outlining a utopian dream here. The new togetherness does not take place anywhere or anytime, but it has become reality in the communities of the disciples of the Jew Jesus of Nazareth. Nowadays it is easy to read Paul’s words as comments on multiculturalism, gender-sensitivity or class struggles. But that is not what it is about. That new knowledge is not created through the strategic removal of differences. Rather, it is through belonging to Christ, latching on to the history and knowledge of the Jewish people, that the weight of the differences is removed and the old barriers are cleared away. It it’s a qualitative leap within the people who began with Abraham and now serve God as a laboratory for a new societyt. acb
For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise.
From the first line on, the Bible uses ever-new images to express the experience that the otherworldly God is devoted to our world with the affection of a creator.
The book of proverbs depicts this by personifying wisdom. She is with God from the beginning, like a child, plays in front of Him and is His joy. At the same time she plays on earth and delights in being with the people. Thus, wisdom embodies the inner purpose of creation: God wants to be with the people, he wants a history with them. So he gives of himself what brings him joy, grants moderation and order, his wisdom. In the course of this history the eternal wisdom of God, the Logos, takes up residence with the people, in Nazareth. hak
The LORD begot me, the beginning of his works,
the forerunner of his deeds of long ago;
From of old I was formed,
at the first, before the earth.
When there were no deeps I was brought forth,
when there were no fountains or springs of water;
Before the mountains were settled into place,
before the hills, I was brought forth;
When the earth and the fields were not yet made,
nor the first clods of the world.
When he established the heavens, there was I,
when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep;
When he made firm the skies above,
when he fixed fast the springs of the deep;
When he set for the sea its limit,
so that the waters should not transgress his command;
When he fixed the foundations of earth,
then was I beside him as artisan;
I was his delight day by day,
playing before him all the while,
Playing over the whole of his earth,
having my delight with human beings.
In the same place
In many parishes it is difficult to assemble a choir for Pentecost because almost everyone drives into the country. How differently does the report in the Acts of Apostles sound.
There, many come together in Jerusalem for the Feast of Weeks. They celebrate that Israel has received the “instruction”, the guide for a good life. Today we can marvel that this center still exists. The joy over this brings us together. In physics this movement would be called centripetal instead of centrifugal. The Acts of Apostles calls the reference point “mighty acts of God”. ruk
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 own 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.”
In the Old Testament the word glory describes what is visible about God.
Jesus’ existence and his work uphold this topic – here in the form of a prayer. It summarizes his entire life. Through listening to Him, through unity with Him, the entire possible unity of man with God tangibly becomes a reality. Jesus’ prayer connects his time to all generations of faithful. Thus, it is the mission of the Church to show the glory of God in this continuity and unity. bek
Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said: “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”