If these things are in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?
The following sermon was preached by Edgar M. Krentz, Christ Seminary-Seminex Professor Emeritus of New Testament, in Augustana Chapel at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago on Monday, November 17, 2008.
Zeph 1:7, 12-18, 1 Thess 5:1-11, Matt 25:14-30
"If these things are done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?"
A glance through the chapel windows gives visual evidence of our Lord's words-and an understanding of the influence of nature on the church year.
The conception of Jesus is dated to March, the birth of spring. (Discussing the differing dates for Christmas in the early church is an interesting topic itself.)
That glance out the window makes clear why the end of the church year comes when nature seems to die.
So it's not surprising that these last Sundays of year A, the year of Matthew, stress the final judgment in what the first gospel adds in Matthew 24-25 to Mark 13, the eschatological discourse..
In the face of the eschaton Matthew calls for the disciples to be both "faithful and prudent." Matthew's first parable describes the faithful and wise servant, who acts as his master wishes.
Last Wednesday Ralph Klein preached on the next parable, the girls who were prudent. They are ready to join the celebration when the bridegroom comes to take his bride home.
Next, Matthew narrates yesterday's gospel, the parable of the talents, which illustrates the faithfulness that is demanded of disciples. Both the five and the two talent man are called "good and faithful," while the man who hid th4 talent is called the opposite, "evil and timid or slothful."
One if the worst sermons I ever heard was at St. Michael and St. George, an Episcopal Church in a wealthy St. Louis suburb. The stone church replicated a fifteenth century Gothic church in England. The Sermon's application of this eschatological parable to their lives was, "Invest wisely so your money grows!"
That's not what Matthew was about. Instead he is stressing fidelity! What is fidelity in the face of the eschaton.
Paul comes close to Matthew's insights in 1 Thessalonians 5.
"For you yourselves know that when they say, 'Peace and security,'
Then sudden destruction impends,
Like labor pains on a pregnant woman,
And they will never ever escape."
Not much comfort there-at least at first glance.
Pax et securitas was the legend with congruent iconography on the reverse of some Roman coins. It placed security in the hands of Rome.
But Rome guarantees no security. That word, securitas, literally means "freedom from worry." I treasure that social security distribution that comes to our checking account each month-though it gives less freedom from worry than it used to in this economic crisis.
Paul stresses that there is no freedom from worry, no securitas.
You don't know when the Lord is coming. The day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night.
Like Matthew Paul does not despair; rather he calls for life sub specie aeternitatis, life "in the face of eternity."
Of course, we Christians have often not lived that way.
Live as children of light! Be awake and sober! Arm yourself with faith, love, and the hope of salvation. That's Paul's description of faithfulness.
After all, you are destined for God's rescue, for the certain possession of salvation.
So it's not security, but certainty, certainty based on the one who died and is coming as Lord.
We Christians have often failed miserably in such sub specie aeternitatis living.
I give you four quick examples.
1. The Crusades, when those wearing the cross of Christ sackcd Christian Constantinople. I learned how long the memories of Palestinians are about the crusades when I excavated in Israel.
2, Banishment of the Salzburger
There was a long history of oppression. Ruled by archbishops.
1588 Protestants ordered to recant or to leave. Many went to Austria or Swabia.
1613-1615 Strictures extended to entire region. Protestants went underground, literally. Worshipped in caves.
1731 last edict of banishment under Maria Theresa.
1781 Edict of Toleration. Franz Joseph II. You may know him from Amadeus.I recently gave to LSTC's rare book collection a facsimile of this edict.
SALZBURGER EXPULSION. On October 31, 1731, the 214th Anniversary of Martin Luther's Reformation, Roman Catholic Archbishop Count Leopold von Firmian (also, secular Prince) signed his Edict of Expulsion, Emigrationspatent, demanding that all Protestants recant their non-Catholic beliefs or be banished. It was read publicly November 11, 1731, the anniversary of Luther's baptism. 21,475 citizens professed on a public list their Protestant beliefs and were forced into exile from 1731 - 1734.
Luther's "Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms" affirmed the Christian's duty to obey the magistrate, unless contrary to God's Word. In the latter case, he recommended emigration instead of armed resistance. Luther identified with Jesus who "suffered under Pontius Pilate." Jesus did not attack the authority of Pilate, who was the functionary, statesman, politician doing the "politically correct" thing to please the Sanhedrin, maintain civil order and protect his own position of power. Therefore, the Salzburger émigrés identified with Jesus and Luther, submitting to legal authority.
SNOWSTORMS. The first Saltzburger refugees were forced to flee in frigid ice and snow storms beginning in November 1731 through January 1732, seeking shelter in the few cities of Germany controlled by Protestant Princes. Adult men and women sang Luther's Reformation hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, Joseph Schaitberger's Exile Song, Isaac Watts' Come, Gracious Spirit, Heavenly Dove, Martin Rinkart's Now Thank We All Our God and other inspirational hymns as they trudged through deepening snow and cold knifelike winds, while their children rode on creaking wooden wagons loaded with baggage. The few coins exiles carried were soon exhausted by taxes, tolls and payment for protection by soldiers from robbers. Great sympathy for thousands of refugees poured out from the Protestants of Europe and some Catholics. Gifts received along the route were used to buy food and clothing for the dispossessed emigrants.
Lutheran King Frederick William I of East Prussia and Lithuania accepted 12,000 Salzburger Protestant emigrants in the year 1732.
3. St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre
Aug 24, 1572. The St. Bartholomew's Day massacre (Massacre de la Saint-Barthélemy in French) was a wave of Roman Catholic mob violence against the Huguenots (French Calvinist Protestants), during the French Wars of Religion. The massacre took place six days after the wedding of the king's sister to the Protestant Henry III of Navarre (the future Henry IV), an occasion for which many of the most wealthy and prominent Huguenots had gathered in largely Catholic Paris. Two days after the attempted assassination of Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, a Huguenot military leader, on 24 August 1572 (the feast of Bartholomew the Apostle) came the murder of Coligny; the massacres spread throughout Paris, and later to other cities and the countryside, lasting for several months. The exact number of fatalities is not known, but it has been estimated that over 2,000 Huguenots were killed in Paris and over 3,000 in the French provinces. Though by no means unique, "it was the worst of the century's religious massacres." The massacres marked a turning-point in the French Wars of Religion. The Huguenot political movement was crippled by the loss of many of its prominent aristocratic leaders, and those who remained were increasingly radicalized.
4. The Second Defenestration of Prague 1618 was central to the start of the Thirty Years' War in.
At Prague Castle on May 23, 1618, an assembly of Protestants, led by Count Thurn, tried two Imperial governors, Vilem Slavata of Chlum (1572-1652) and Jaroslav Borzita of Martinice (1582-1649), for violating the Letter of Majesty (Right of Freedom of Religion), found them guilty, and threw them, together with their scribe Philip Fabricius, out of the windows of the Bohemian Chancellery. They landed on a large pile of manure in a dry moat and survived. Philip Fabricius was later ennobled by the emperor and granted the title von Hohenfall (lit. meaning "of Highfall").
Roman Catholic Imperial officials claimed that the three men survived due to the mercy of angels assisting the righteousness of the Catholic cause. Protestant pamphleteers asserted that their survival had more to do with the horse excrement in which they landed than the benevolent acts of the angels.
But then, how has my life- or your life for that matter-reflected the light of Christ in which we live. Faith, love, hope are the path of fidelity for Paul.
Do we encourage one another to such living? Do others see in us the cross of our Lord?
We are destined for salvation through the Lord who died for us, which gives us not security, but certainty, puts us into the light of his glory, his rescue, his
If you ever are in Jerusalem, walk up the Mount of Olives to the Dominus flevit church, the church commemorating the traditional site where Jesus wept over Jerusalem. This may be the only Catholic church in the world with a westward oriented altar. If one sits in the center of this chapel and looks at the altar, The clear glass window behind it overlooks the temple Mount. An iron cross is superimposed on the Dome of the Rock, the traditional site of the Jerusalem temple/
A glance through the chapel windows gives visual evidence of our Lord's words. The trees are bare. But it is also the time of harvest. Had I come it time this morning, I would have asked to have the stained glass windows separated so that the processional cross wouid have been superimposed on 55th Street, the bare trees seen through the cross.
The last blessing of God in the Passover Seder come just before the fourth cup of wine:
"Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, creator of the fruit of the vine."
And after one has drunk the cup, one blesses God with these words:
"Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, for the vine and for the fruit of the vine, for the yield of the field, and for the land, pleasant, goodly and broad which thou favored and gave as an inheritance to our fathers, to eat of its fruit and to be sated with its goodness."
I grew up in the country, where there were farms all around. My six children grew up in cities, never having seen a cow milked, a thrashing machine march over the fields, hay pulled by huge forkfuls into the haymow, never played in a haymow, never having to weed a garden, pick off potato bugs, or gather the eggs from under recalcitrant hens.
The result is little appreciation of those who grow our food. It does not arrive in the world in plastic wrap or in frozen food wrapping. In Germany we celebrated Erntedankfest, "Thanks for the harvest festival". I liked that. Our thanksgivings often stress other things: thanks for medical folks, for police and firemen who protect us, and that list goes on.
I belong to the Northeast Iowa Synod, which each year about this time sends to its parishes prayers of thanks for the harvest and intercessions on behalf of those who work in agriculture. I invite you to pray with my synod today for the harvest and harvesters in the countryside.