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Metal Cross

Text for the Month

 

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                  1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)

A young man entered the store. Behind the counter he saw an angel. Clearly agitated he asked: "What are you selling, Sir?" The angel answered him: "Anything you want". The young man said: "Then I would like an end to all wars in the world; more and more willingness to talk to each other; elimination of slums in Latin America; apprenticeships for young people, more time for parents to play with their children and, and, and ..." Here, the angel interrupted him and said: "Excuse me young man, we don't sell fruit, we only sell the seed".

Now, what has this little story from an unknown author to do with the 'Text for the Month'? For you and me everything. By asking this question, you must have read the story either in this month's printed programme or by taking up the invitation to 'Learn More' on the homepage of our website. So, you are interested, have an open mind, have an open heart to read on. For me, as a gardener, who puts tiny seeds in the ground, never knowing if it is receptive, fertile, or so stony that the seed can't possibly take root, it fills me with hope, that what I do gives food for thought and more. When I was entrusted with the leadership of the Association and its Hotel, my wife had volunteered to look after the plants in and outside the premises. One day, while I helped her tend to the planters outside the entrance, I must have said something in German to her, because when some American guests came through the door, I heard them saying: "Even the gardener is German". How right they were, that was exactly what I was in everything I did; never refusing to get my hands dirty. And to date I have not heard a disgruntled neighbour shouting over the fence: "It's no good what you are doing there".
 
So I carry on: The text for this month is quoted from a circular letter of the Apostle Peter. Apart from the Gospels it is regarded as the finest writing in the New Testament. In the preface to this letter in Martin Luther's translation of the Bible it says: "Equal in edifying power to any other writing in the New Testament". In this particular case we have an advice that starts in the previous verse and ends in the following one. The letter as a whole is addressed to the earliest churches in Asia Minor, at a time when professing to Christianity was a crime. Having this in mind, what does it mean in later times?

The Mustard Seed (Mt 13:31; 17: 20)
J. Klonk's Church window, copied with permission from 'Hephata Diakonie'.

In the Middle Ages, the Church in Western and Central Europe was the dominating spiritual, cultural and political authority. None of these can be claimed by Christianity in our time. In Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Central America, more than 360 million Christians suffer high levels of persecution and discrimination for their faith. Closer to home, Christians have a secular world around them as never before, with uncountable attractions and distractions that seem to grow by the day. Religion is met with indifference, apathy, disregard. It seems no longer relevant, or authorities try to legislate for strict neutrality. This is not to be confused with loving tolerance and mutual respect. So, when nobody asks questions, nobody demands answers, where does that leave the Apostle Peter's advice? The vicar laments: "My parishioners are no longer interested". That may not be true, they are just elsewhere. These elsewheres are a reality. Using the image of a gardener again, he has to consider the given ground, prepare it as best as he can and sow seed. And yes, it can be hard work and faith that turns seed into plants that bring fruit for the benefit for all. Or as Vincent van Gogh thought it: "Life is only a time of sowing, the harvest is not here". And finally, believe in and act accordingly to what James, called the apostle of the social question, wrote in his letter, in chapter 2: Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
 

Bernd Hildebrandt

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