Predigt zu Lukas 12:32-40; 11. Sonntag nach Trinitatis – 7. August 2016 (auf englisch)




directions 1

Wohin soll ich mich wenden? Where shall I turn to? These are the opening words of Schubert’s ‘German Mass’, the mass we are hearing today in an instrumental version, thanks to the ‘Deutsche Musikverein’.

‘Where shall I turn to?’ In the case of Schubert, this is a rhetorical question – everything that follows in his mass is a long prayer of thanks and supplication to God. We turn to God, of course, with all that burdens us and all our joys.

However, I dare say that, for many today, the answer to the question where to turn to is not that easily answered as is was for Schubert.

Look at the world. Look at your life. We live in a day and age and part of the world, where possibilities seem endless. We have myriads of choices, from the cereal aisle in the supermarket to TV channels to values and philosophies, and, yes, religions. Heck, even among Christian churches, we have a plethora of different denominations to choose from. It’s all there, we can pick what we like and whatever suits us best. This is an expression of the freedom we value so much in this country and other democratic nations of this world. As long as we follow the ground rules and the laws, we can do as we like.

Not that this is all good. A myriad of choices and the freedom to choose can be quite confusing, even frustrating. When we have no clear vision, no clear direction, no specific goal, we easily get lost. Just think of raising children. We don’t do children any favor by trying to be their friends and cater to their every whim. We don’t do them any favor by not providing them with some structure, values, rules, and expectations. They need clear direction in order to find their way through this jungle of a world and to grow into responsible and compassionate people, who have an idea what’s right and what’s wrong and who live their life with purpose. Children need something – and someone – to turn to.

Same with us. Where do we turn to as we maneuver through this life? Where is our heart? Ah, there are so many things that promise us happiness and fulfillment. Food, drink and beauty products. Cars for every taste. Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. Entertainment of all kinds. The gospel of consumption. And haven’t we all turned to these things at some point or another in order to fill that strange and mysterious hunger in us? Haven’t we all trusted in these promises to a certain degree – maybe to be disappointed in the end, as we have to find out that all these things, in the end, can’t buy us happiness?

And it’s not only material things that promise us heaven on earth. There are so many things we strive for in this lifetime, like prosperity, security, success and acknowledgment, and we hang our hearts on those. There are many out there who promise us to give us these things, not the least among them the current presidential hopefuls. And don’t we want to believe these promises, don’t we want to believe that somehow, someone can single-handedly solve all of our issues and worries for us – and all that without raising taxes? Ah, it’s so tempting to believe that somehow, there’s an easy fix for all the issues and the fears we are facing, if we just follow the right leader. But, as it says Psalm 146, ‘Don’t put your trust in princes, in human beings, in whom there is no salvation.’ If I may say so, there is a lot of wisdom in those ancient words. One person, and not even the most gifted leader, can solve complex and multi-layered issues and problems by themselves.

So where do we turn to when all else fails and we have to realize, at the end of the day, that most worldly promises are shallow and maybe even plain empty and don’t give us the fulfillment we are searching for? What do we do when our heart is not in all those things anymore that once gave us some fleeting pleasure, or when we are heartbroken by broken promises?

In today’s gospel, Jesus famously says, ‘Where you treasure is, there your heart shall be also’.  In other words, our heart and our passion will be in whatever we value.  We turn to whatever gives us satisfaction. Now that can be quite a temporary and shifting thing – today, our heart is here, and the next day, somewhere else.

But I think what Jesus wants to tell us is that we have to find those things that go beyond the temporary and the fleeting. God gave us many things that give us a much deeper fulfillment than many materialistic things or the latest and hottest lifestyles and philosophies.

The love and appreciation for nature, God’s good creation, for example – being in the great outdoors. Schubert mentions the glory of creation again and again in his mass, nature as the visible manifestation of God’s loving and creative power; shining stars and murmuring wind, the roaring ocean and all the variety of creatures. This is something we can turn to and find peace and strength.

Another treasure is love and appreciation for beauty of all kind – in arts and in music, for example. Our very own Hans Sass has a big part of his heart in music, it’s one of the great loves of his life, and for 73 years now, he has shown this love by playing his clarinet with the Deutsche Musikverein. And I bet it gives him fulfillment, just as playing music or singing is deeply treasured by many among us. This is something we can turn to and find peace and strength.

Another treasure without which our heart would be stunted and our life much poorer is purpose. When we are really passionate about a cause, be it family life, be it some meaningful work, be it a labor of love for the community or creation, we know there’s a reason why God has put us on this planet. Purpose is a special treasure, and it feels good and right that our heart is in such a place. This is something we can turn to and find peace and strength.

Our purpose is intricately connected to the gift of relationships. People are such a precious treasure; our parents, our siblings, our spouses, our children, our grandchildren, our friends, the communities we are a part of. In relationships, we invest our hearts big time. In relationships, we give and receive the kind of love God first gave us. In our neighbor, we see the face of God. This is something we can turn to and find peace and strength.

And beyond God’s marvelous gifts, there is God-self; present from age to age, incarnated and made visible in Jesus Christ, active among us – and spurning us on – as the Holy Spirit. Not surprisingly, in his mass Schubert talks a lot about Christ and his sacrifice of love for the sake of all creation.

Martin Luther, the father of the church we call Lutheran, started every day with the words: I am baptized. I am baptized. Thus he reminded himself that, no matter, how bad he felt, no matter, how much his intestinal tract bothered him, no matter, how lost and forsaken by human beings he felt – he could always rely on God’s presence and abounding love and grace. He knew this was the one treasure that would never be taken from him. And that’s why he could say in his hymn, ‘A mighty fortress’, words that might sound quite horrifying and callous to our ears: ‘Were they to take our house, goods, honor, child or spouse, though life be wrenched away, they cannot win the day. The kingdom’s ours forever!’

When all else fails, there is still God. Where shall I turn to? God. God is our greatest treasure, and if we acknowledge that, out heart will be confident and at peace. My prayer is that we may remember this in this jungle of a world with its manifold options, promises, temptations, disappointments – and disagreements – today.

Let me close with words from Schubert’s German mass: ‘There too you are really near me everywhere and all the time. Thy temple is everywhere that the heart devoutly worships thee. Bless, o Lord, me and mine; bless our path through life! May all our deeds and words form a pious hymn of praise. Amen.