How do you keep your mind sharp

Dear Congregation:

"You surround me on all sides and hold your hand over me. Such knowledge is too wonderful and too high for me; I cannot understand it. Where should I go from your spirit, and where should I flee from your face? Heaven, you are there. If I went to bed in hell, see, you are also there. If I took the wings of the dawn and stayed at the outermost sea, your hand would lead me there and your right hand would hold me ... "

So pray Psalm 139 with boundless astonishment. Our world may be godless through and through and the universe may extend into unimaginable widths and times: I am in God's hand - I am secure in his hand, wherever I am, wherever I get, wherever I go or wish. Whether I am being raptured into the heaven of happiness, whether I am preparing my own hell or being taken to one of our modern hells by others, whether I am pushed to the edge of everything, whether I get lonely among people and get lost: me I am and remain in God's hand. I am and will remain in the hand of Heavenly Father, who threw his son into despair so that he cried: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" But who never let him out of his hand - Easter made it obvious.

"Such knowledge is too wonderful and too high for me," muses the prayer; "I can't understand it." With him none of us. That in this our more global world full of brutality, injustice and death, God encompasses us and everyone among us with his hand, holds me and each of us in his hand, even in the hells of our century, even in solitude of the addicted hustler: We can say that. But grasp, understand? Who of us would know what this means - unless he / she had actually experienced it at some point and somewhere or seen it from others? And even then it is and remains wonderful and too high for us.

Both experiences are old: that God holds us in his hand wherever we are, and that this is a miracle and incomprehensible. When Jesus went to the cross and into death and then returned to the glory of the Father, his disciples witnessed it first hand. That didn't leave them unscathed! And before they had time to adjust to it, to their own surprise they suddenly found themselves filled with the certainty, or rather with the physically palpable experience of his presence, and began - you have to imagine it! Who were they anyway ?! These few people from a new Jewish sect! So, enthusiastic and driven by this, began to preach Jesus Christ and his resurrection and to assert them publicly. This started what we call "world mission" many centuries later in retrospect. In short, in ways that were unpredictable and scoffed at all ideas, they had learned right down to their résumés: "You surround me on all sides and hold your hand over me." Understand that who can!

And again and again it was not understood, and out of this failure to understand it was bent, distorted, riddled with holes. Perhaps it played a role in the fact that the wonderful, which is too high for us, repeatedly challenges our know-it-all, which drives us to dissolve it, to make it banal, to present it as unimportant, possibly a deception. Jesus experienced this firsthand during his wandering; and to this day those who are not mature enough to "silently worship the incomprehensible" with Goethe sharpen their beaks at the miracle of his person, his path and his work. (Just last week, just in time for Pentecost, Rudolf Augstein adorned his SPIEGEL in a relevant manner and taught us that religion had no future "with whatever God".)

In any case, faith has no future if we do not know and feel that we are secure in God's hand and are guided by him - understandably or not. The early Church knew this and therefore formulated this experience as a dogma - the dogma of the Trinity. It states: God has surrounded me from before I was born until after my life; he surrounds me from inside and outside, he precedes me even in hells and into heaven, namely God, he, always the same God, we now meet him as father and creator, as son, "who went down and resurrected "(EG 184,4), or as a spirit that fills our hearts. "You surround me on all sides ...": The dogma of the Trinity pegs this down, as it were, and tries to make the unthinkable expressible. And when we sing: "Honor be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit ...", then we use this formula to praise at the same time that the one God surrounds us on all sides and as Creator, Savior and life force in in good hands - whatever happens to us.

"You surround me on all sides ..." - but it has also been made into "He sees everything! Even your most secret thoughts! Be careful!" So a fool? A paraphrase for: "You are watching me from all sides" - with the prospect that he will punish in due course? It has been misused often, far too often. But God is not a secret service chief! But he is - yes, and now something of the meaning and content of the doctrine of the Trinity may shine: He surrounds me on all sides as my Creator and Father, as my Redeemer and brother and as the Holy Spirit who gives me new life. So not as a "big brother", but as a triune, three times holy God. That he is God and holy - the whole Bible and the Church of all centuries has known: That also means, of course, that he does not silently accept every mess and every godlessness like an oil idol. He also strikes. He strikes against injustice - he did it up to the death of his son on the cross of Golgotha, where Jesus Christ died for all injustice of all people. He took it on himself. Because we - we would have to perish or suffocate if it were left on us.

"You surround me on all sides and hold your hand over me ..." - sometimes a gentle, tender hand, sometimes a hard, relentless hand: sometimes it seems as if it was lame or asleep, sometimes as if it could only strike - even he who screamed on the cross could no longer see through it when he had to die. But he arose from the dead and was united with the Father; Since then, the nursery rhyme has been singing with every right: "Always by my side, quietly and unrecognized that it [namely," the Christ child "] faithfully guides me by the dear hand."

"You surround me on all sides ..." - also from the inside, in heart and mind. How else would it be possible for people to believe - that they believed in and trusted this invisible and suffering God? Seen in the light, it seems absurd, and our own doubts and unresolved questions confirm it. And nevertheless - ! Doubts may fill our confidence to the point of destruction, and yet there remains a certainty into which we can sink: God holds me. He holds me in all the misery around me and in his own life and sees me through the ugly caricature of myself that I am and in which I am alien to myself and am not good, sees me as the person he once was created and whom I would like to be and which I can never be. - I myself am too realistic and enlightened to think it up. But it's in me. Even as the Holy Spirit, God surrounds us and does not let us out of his hand.

"You surround me on all sides and hold your hand over me ..." - the dogma of the Trinity holds fast; thus also the one who gave himself to torture, degradation and death out of love for us. Who knows us and shares our experiences. And who has long since opened heaven for us and made us children of the thrice holy God. God surrounds us on all sides and holds his hand over us; even in hell and on the edge of all life he is with us. And when we hear and see, when we even scream and believe vanish - "then his hand will guide us and his right hand will hold us": the good, the firm, the hard and the tender hand of God: the Father, the Son and of the Holy Spirit.


Isaiah 6:
The year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a high and lofty chair, and his hem filled the temple. Seraphim stood over him, each with six wings: with two they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one cried to another and said, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: all the earth are full of his glory! that the overflows trembled with the voice of calling, and the house was full of smoke. Then I said: Woe to me, I am perishing! For I am with unclean lips, and I dwell among a people with unclean lips; for I have seen the King, the Lord of hosts, with my eyes. Then one of the seraphim flew to me, and he had a glowing coal in his hand, which he took from the altar with the tongs, and touched my mouth and said: Behold, your lips are touched with this, that your iniquity may be taken away from you and your sin be reconciled. And I heard the Lord's voice saying, Whom shall I send? Who wants to be our messenger? But I said: Here I am, send me! And he said, Go and say to this people, Hear, and do not understand; see and do not notice! Harden the hearts of this people, and let their ears be hard, and blind their eyes, so that they do not see with their eyes, nor hear with their ears, nor understand with their hearts, and be converted and recovered. But I said, Lord, how long? He said, Until the cities become desolate without inhabitants, and the houses without people, and the field utterly desolate. For the Lord will turn people away, so that the land will be very deserted. And whether the tenth part remains in it, it will be devastated again, but like an oak and a linden tree, of which a trunk remains when it is felled. A holy seed will be such a tribe.

Dear Congregation:

That is a difficult and depressing text. God is three times holy and is looking for a messenger to send so that - you almost don't believe it, and it doesn't seem to fit the Bible either, and yet it is so: so that this Judah, i.e. the remainder of God's chosen and beloved people; so that he may destroy Judah. Or more precisely: ride to ruin. He is not supposed to preach to them so that they come to their senses, repent, make a fresh start. He should preach to them so that because of his sermon they stubbornly stubbornly stubbornly stubbornly lead to their ruin. It is so important - and so monstrous that it is imposed twice on the prophet. Yes, he is supposed to mute every single one of the senses of the people of his people, so that with seeing eyes and hearing ears they push like lemmings into the catastrophe.

What makes me feel uncomfortable about it is: We know those kinds of things. It is not alien to us. I am not talking, for example, of the history of our people in this century; I don't think about the churches. The misery and misery are great about the waves of exit and the lack of influence and indifference of the - still! - Church taxpayers and the low standing and the lack of faith and ... and ... We know these lamentations and do not like to hear them anymore! Not so long ago it was fundamentally different. At that time, warning voices rose, and in their wake criticism of the church became fashionable - and ran out like a wave on a shallow beach. Someone had already complained about the "shot in cotton wool" when I was at school - oh, it is as if all these voices had only achieved one thing: that one neither heard nor perceived, but in defiant trust in the "Lord of the Church" - involuntarily how the head of one's own was taken - remained on the well-trodden paths. "Church keep it up!"

"It's gone," Luther explained vividly: "God's word and grace is like a driving downpour that does not come back where it was once. It was with the Jews; but it is gone: they now have nothing. Paul brought him to Greece. There is also: Now they have the Turks ... "And so on. He added: "And you Germans must not think that you will have him forever! For ingratitude and contempt will not let him stay." This was written to Christian people. And while we in Germany lose ourselves in empty churches on Sundays, in Islamic countries in Asia Christians challenge the powers that be through their sheer faith, and in Somalia people convert to Christ with the real chance of ending up on the cross. Where are we today Is it really over for us - over?

"Honor 'be' to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, now and forever and for ever and ever", we sing every Sunday in the service in response to the opening psalm, and in the sacrament liturgy we sing threefold "Holy!" the seraph. What are we singing? Do we realize Is it clear to us that we are honoring and praising him whose holiness and sovereignty exclude one thing: namely, that we deal with his name, his word and his will in such a cozy way, as is customary among us both within and outside the church? No, I'm not exaggerating. I don't see where in our church and theology people actually and consistently put the honor and holiness of God before and above everything, before and above really EVERYTHING. Well, you have to see the realities and be considerate of them. As if Isaiah and Peter, as if Elijah and James had been dreamers - to keep silent about the Lord himself. Not only did they know with their heads, they lived it: "Man does not live from bread alone, but from every word that comes out of the mouth of God." With us that became - a Bible verse.
I can speak like that, because I know myself - depressingly enough - fully involved in everything, and I have also read my Brecht: "Only those who live in prosperity live comfortably!"

I can see helplessness all around me - a sign that the senses are starting to become sharp again and the hearts are starting to become free again? Who wants to know that? In any case, we can and should know: God's people, the people of the old as well as the new covenant, do not stumble into ruin or ruin by mere chance or because of unfavorable circumstances. If it has challenged the thrice holy in his patience and long-suffering beyond measure, or rather: despised it, then he is himself, the thrice holy God; It is then he who leads his people down the road, yes, drives them straight on. He also uses his prophets for this purpose. They are ordered to exorcise sickness and bring about death by proclaiming God's will. - There are prophets today too. Her office is really not cheap, not at all comfortable.

But since then we have been able to know two things - oh, we have known for a long time, but it is often mere, if not dead, knowledge.Namely, that on the one hand the way to repentance and to God is not always open to us, not even when God lets his word resound. There is the fact that he just doesn't want us anymore. And then for us, whatever it is, his word is ruin and end. And on the other hand we are condemned to remain in spiritual wasteland and divine darkness if God himself does not turn us back to him. We on our own and without him can only fidget like a fly on the catcher.

Maybe - maybe I see everything too gloomy about us. (This objection, if it is justified, would make my heart lighter!) But I am certain that one thing is buried in us: that God is holy, yes, three times holy. If we only knew, a lot of what happens in his name would not happen in his name or at all. Did we know that church officials and academic theologians said more and talked less. Did we know that Christians have something to communicate and give to those who are in need and who, for the sake of the name, as Christians, expect something from them or at least hope for something from them. As long as and as long as we do not really know that God is holy, we cannot escape the need to somehow float in the flow in the distress of general word confusion. Because if God is not holy among us, there can be no enduring supporting values.

The last sentences of our text are most likely not from Isaiah, but from a later hand. That makes them particularly valuable to us. Those who inserted them did so - according to old custom - as confirmation and comment: "Yes, this is how we experienced it, this is how it came, this is how it took shape." In this experience there is an excess compared to the command to Isaiah: God did not have them exterminated, but cut down like a big tree. A stump has remained. And that should be "a holy seed" - a riddle that awakens hope. We know that from the "stump of Jesse" came Jesus Christ at the end. And we hope that fresh, strong green will sprout from the swamp of the church buildings of our time.

It is not feasible. It is not even feasible that we grasp it. But we can let it work on us: God is three times holy. He is holy as the Father, holy as the Son, holy as the Holy Spirit. Holy - he, God, before and above all.


[Post Comment:
The associative connection of the threefold "holy" of Isa. 6 with the Trinity is no longer comprehensible for us, but leads us to the level of that joke, according to which the squirrel lives on the tree and the piano is also made of wood. It is therefore a matter of seriousness to avoid any relevant appeal. This means that a decision has to be made here: Either the sermon of the text or the theme sermon on the Trinity.
In a first version I tried to fit both into one sermon. I discarded this sermon: It was overloaded, and the Isaiah text that was inserted at the beginning of the second half howled the whole thing out, as it were. But now I got into the dilemma of disappointing expectations one way or another, either with a view to the given sermon text or to the Sunday of the church year. That is why I have decided to develop what I had previously compressed into one sermon in two sermons.
Whoever reads both sermons one after the other may have the question of where the preacher himself actually stands; for both sermons are not only very different, but are also in tension with one another. There are two things to say about this: As a preacher, I have to follow the text or the topic, wherever they lead me. And: Only he knows where I stand, whose hand, including my contradictions and peculiarities - as I am confident: embraces me.]

Prof. Dr. Klaus Schwarzwäller,
Department of Theology at the Georg-August University
Place of the Göttingen Seven 2
37073 Goettingen
Tel .: 05 51-39 71 50
e-mail: [email protected]