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Evangelization in Germany

Posted on August 9, 2016 at 2:10 PM

In Germany, evangelizing, mission work, making disciples or whatever you might call it, is a touchy subject. At best, smaller evangelical churches might practice it - the way it should be done. The two big ones - Lutheran and Catholic - have (if at all) a totally different concept. For most of the Christians here, this is at best something fundamentalists do. Ar members of religious orders when they go to Africa. We donate a little money. This is what we contribute to mission work.

Evangelizing Jews is something the big churches won't even think of - or reject straight away (where in the Bible does God exclude the Jews from the Great Commission?).

Even Muslims or members of other religions are "non-touchables" when it comes to evangelizing.

What lacks, is an understanding of what discipleship is all about to begin with. You cannot pass on what you do not love. And you cannot love what you do not know.

At the moment, God blesses us with pastors, priests and nuns from Africa, India and similar countries that used to be the object of mission and evangelizing work. They sometimes painfully remind us of what being a disciple of Jesus Christ is all about (though German Christians would never call themselves like that. They are Lutherans or Catholics - and not disciples of Jesus Christ).

The idea that both the Great Commandment and the Great Commission is something EVERY Christian is called to and will be held accountable for lacks completely.

Lukewarm cafeteria Christianity and moral relativism reign.

 

So far, so bad.

 

But! It does not end there.

 

In the worst of times, God sometimes calls the least of the least. Simple laypeople stand up for Him, even though others attack them. Simple people like Peter was one. It is easy to spread the faith when everything goes easy street. When things get rough though, it becomes a challenge. Jesus did not come to heal the healthy, but the sick.

 

The situation in Europe is very grave - spiritually and politically. Things can escalate and explode very fast. The current times remind me of the Weimar Republic - the political system here before Hitler got to power. Likewise today people do not seem to be able and willing to read the sign of the times.

 

To live in such times is both very hard and very rewarding. It has been a long time when being a true disciple was such a challenge. Then again - it was worse for the early Christians and reading their testimonies, we get an idea of what discipleship is all about.

 

Our hearts must burn for the love of God, neighbor and self. Burn so much we set others on fire!

 

"What are we so afraid of," Fr. Bill Casey from the Fathers of Mercy in Kentucky, USA, might say now. That we get angry emails? That others will not talk with us anymore?

 

So be it! Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world at the moment. Many are brutally murdered for their faith.

 

And yet - their light will continue to shine. They will not be forgotten.

 

Some time ago, I visited the memorial site of the former concentration camp in Dachau near Munich, Germany. The tour guide showed us the cells where the priests were at. Technically, they were even allowed to celebrate mass there. In reality, it could happen that someone took the chalice and smashed it into their face.

 

People like Dietrich Bonhoeffer were there (I had also been at the site where he was finally killed in Flossenbürg). He wrote a book that fascinated me: "Life together".

 

Or take people like Mother Theresa. She could not care less when she was talking in the USA in front of the President and other celebrities. She said what needed to be said, not would people wanted to hear. Among others, she very strongly condemned one of the most horrible crimes - abortion.

 

However, it has always been the most simple people that touched my heart deeply. Those that nobody knows and talks about and whose life witness had been a tremendous testimony for the hope and love within them. They evangelized in a way that puts me to shame.

 

Among many, I want to mention my mom. She died last year after 30 (!) years of illness. No, she was no saint. She was an ordinary woman. Except for the way she dealt with her pain. I had been with her the last months when it got really bad. The way she bravely coped with her deteriorating health while at the same time keeping a strong faith very much impressed me.

 

In her last days she fell into a coma after water got into her lungs. They put a tube down her air pipe so she would get oxygen and also many cables into her arms to supply her with what her body needed, to watch over the body functions, to put her on dialysis and so on. I was told that even if she woke up she would not be the same as her brain was damaged through the lack of oxygen. Anyways she would notice nothing as she was in a coma, they said.

 

The family gathered around her bed and we had a priest come for the anointing of the sick. We prayed over her and the priest performed the rite. I stood beside her head and my sister near me.

 

When the priest made the cross on her forehead with the chrisam oil, I thought my heart would stop beating and my blood would freeze. Tears were rolling down her cheek. I nudged my sister to show her.

 

There was no dry eye in the room.

 

Sometimes God shows you through the weakest of the weakest that He is still there, that He is in control and that He is - and will always be - God.

 

In her hardest hour, my mother most likely drew more people to God than in her whole life.

 

Munich. August 9th 2016

 

Robert Anton Gollwitzer

World Youth Day 2016

Posted on July 31, 2016 at 6:05 AM

1.5 million youths at the concluding mass of the World Youth Day in Krakow. Great. Now when they are all at home again, you won't see most of them again. You will look in vain to see their faces in the Sunday masses. You will not see them on vacation days of religious orders. So what is WYD? A short and emotional hype or a tremendous potential that lies bare? If so, what can be done so it bears rich fruit?

I-Know-It-All Christians

Posted on June 4, 2016 at 6:40 AM

Few things I dislike more than those I-know-it-all Christians. You know them: Whether asked or not they give an endless monologue on everything and love to hear themselves talk. It is futile to even start a discussion with them, as their point is not a reasonable argument but winning the fight at all costs. They look down on others and think themselves something better, but of course hide that behind Christan phrases and common places.

In a way I feel sorry for them. If you are so convinced of having the ultimate and complete truth you do nothing else than playing God. Idolatry and pride is the antidote of Christian love and humilty. They prevent you from finding the real truth - God.

What am I here for?

Posted on May 8, 2016 at 1:25 PM

I am not here on this planet to make friends, but to serve Jesus. Therefore, I don't have to like everybody, but I have to love them. It is okay not to like some as well as it is okay that some don't like me (it is impossible to like everyone anyway). The thing is: Will you love them with the same unconditional love with which Jesus loved us just the same? Also I am not here to kiss people's butts. Many will find me and what I stand for and believe in offensive. So be it. They nailed the Son of God on the cross - why should they treat His followers any differently. Or as people say: When our King and Savior wore a crown of thorns, ours should not be of gold. There will be moments when we will have to suffer for Him. Will we still love Him then? Will we let Him suffer through us? We share His whole life - the joy, the witness, but also the passion and the cross.

"If you don't look good on wood, don't become a Christian." (Mike Cumbie)

Go Out and Make Disciples

Posted on February 8, 2015 at 7:45 AM

We as Christians are called to go and and make disciples. We should never content ourselves just meeting on a weekly basis like a religious club and listening to nicely sounding messages. Going out, however, means going out to those who need the Lord most: The poor, the sick, the lonely, the drug addicts, the hookers, the sexually broken, the gays, the desperate, the criminals, the inmates and many more. That means diving into their (!) waters. Only working on finding new ways to lure people into the Church (building) won't cut the deal. Those people will not even waste a thought on our nicely thought-out programs. If we go to where they are at though, we need to be aware that this is the kingdom of the Prince of the Air. These are highly dangerous waters, even though they offer us the greatest challenge for a rich harves for the Lord. To go there means to prepare - to put on our spiritual armour. Having a daily spiritual structure and surrounding ourselves with good and solid Christians is crucial if we want to face the evil. Then again - there is nothing like that. THIS is what Jesus wants us to do and where he wants us to be at. All the angels in heaven will cheer for each sould saved, for each sheep that finds its way back to the flock! Hallelujah!

Go Big!

Posted on October 5, 2014 at 7:35 AM

Go big! There is nothing I dislike more than passive people that are constantly whining and pitying themselves and put the blame for their miserable life on others. People that have no fire or dreams and visions inside, that wait for others to provide for them and pull them out of the mud. What a life is that. Dare to go for the alternative: Life is a daily adventure. Go big! Dream big! Your dreams and visions should never bee too low. What's the point if you have a tiny goal and reach it - as opposed to having a huge goal and reaching "only" fifty percent of it - which is still way beyond option #1. Stop pitying yourself. If you keep on blaming others for what's going wrong in your life, there will never be any change or progress. You canl only change yourself. Other people usually are beyond your reach and responsability. Have visions! See yourself standing on top with the medal around your neck! Get the feeling for it and act as if you already have it! Don't be shy asking others for help. Most of all: Go new ways. Things will never change if you always do what you've always done. Don't be a copy of somebody else as everyone around you is already taken. Find your own way and learn to think and act completely different from everybody else! God has provided each one of us with passions and talents. Go for it! What do you have to loose - as opposed to the many things you could gain! And if you stumble and fall on your butt, get up again! There is nothing wrong with falling, but a lot with staying on the floor! Get into the ring and become a fighter! God needs courageous men and women who know what they want and are willing to give it their all to get it! Go big -and go now!!

Robert

Geh, und arbeite!

Posted on October 3, 2014 at 8:15 AM

26. Sonntag im Jahreskreis – Lesejahr A – 28. September 2014

 

+Im Namen des Vaters und des Sohnes und des Heiligen Geistes. Amen.

 

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder,

 

Gleichnisse – so hat mal jemand gesagt – Gleichnisse haben ihren Sitz im Leben. Mit Gleichnissen, Vergleichen drücken wir manches aus, auch wenn wir sagen, dass Vergleiche oft hinken. Jesus bedient sich vieler Gleichnisse und Bilder, um den Leuten klarzumachen, worum es geht. „Mit dem Himmelreich ist es, wie ...“ diese Floskel, dieses Wort hören wir sehr oft aus dem Munde Jesu.

 

Heute haben wir wieder ein Gleichnis gehört: Es geht um einen Weinbergbesitzer, der zwei Söhne hat, und von diesen beiden erzählt Jesus. Ich hab in der Vorbereitung auf die Predigt innerlich schmunzeln müssen und hab mir gedacht: das ist heute nicht anders.

 

Wie oft antworten wir automatisch, wie aus der Pistole geschossen – und später kommen wir dann drauf: „ui, falsche Antwort, oder zumindest nicht die Antwort, die sich mein Gegenüber erwartet. Und dann stehen wir da. Und manchmal wird dann auch nicht mit Kritik gespart, und mit was? „Mit Recht!“ Wir sagen JA und tun Nein, oder wir sagen erst nein, und wir kommen dann drauf, dass unsere Hilfe vielleicht doch gebraucht wird.

 

Wir kennen das aus unserem eigenen Leben. „Kannst du mal bitte....!“ – „Ja!“ – „Vielleicht heute noch?“ Jaaaaaaaa! Und im Stillen denken wir uns: „Wozu das Ganze? I mog jetzt ned.“ Wir sagen Ja und tun doch nein. Es wird sich sicher wer anderer finden. So wie der Sohn im Evangelium. Wir sagen höflich „JA“, wahren die Form und eigentlich ist es uns egal.

 

Oder auf eine andere Ebene gehoben:

Liebe Eltern, Sie haben für Ihr Kind die Taufe erbeten, damit erklären Sie sich bereit, es im Glauben zu erziehen. Sind Sie sich dieser Aufgabe bewusst?“ Und alle Eltern antworten: „Ja!“

 

„Sind Sie bereit, die Kinder, die Gott ihnen schenken will, anzunehmen und sie im Geist Christi und seiner Kirche zu erziehen?“ – so wird bei der kirchlichen Trauung gefragt, und alle Brautleute antworten „JA“!

 

„Versprichst du mir und meinen Nachfolgern Ehrfurcht und Gehorsam“ so fragt der Bischof bei der Priesterweihe jeden Weihekandidaten. Und jeder antwortet „Ja, ich verspreche es!“ Ein deutscher Bischof hat mal gesagt: „Mir ist oft gar nicht so wohl, wenn ich diese Fragen stelle...“

 

Warum sollten sie alle bei diesen Feiern auch nicht JA sagen, bei jedem Nein wäre die Feier „gelaufen“. Schluss, Ende, Aus. „Man“ weiß schließlich und hat es eingeübt, was an welcher Stelle zu sagen ist.

 

Oder wir hören eine gute Predigt und sagen uns: „Hm, die Predigt war gut, es lohnt sich zu merken, was er gesagt hat. Ist toll, kann mir viel mitnehmen. Ich werde versuchen das in der kommenden Woche umzusetzen“. Sie wissen, wie das mit dem JA sagen und den Vorsätzen ist!

 

Der zweite Sohn dagegen sagt „Nein“, er will nicht, er hat keine Lust. „Vielleicht die Frage: „Warum gerade ich?“ NEIN, ich will jetzt nicht. Sympathisch kommt er nicht rüber, der Gute. Und doch bekommt er die Kurve, will vielleicht sein Image retten. Fakt ist: er tut die ihm aufgetragene Arbeit.

 

Zwei Söhne, zwei Charaktere, zwei Antworten, zwei Lebensweisen!

 

Wir dürfen jetzt aber nicht den Fehler machen und den einen Sohn gegen den anderen ausspielen oder gar einem von ihnen den „Schwarzen Peter“ zuzuschieben.

 

„Geh, und arbeite!“ – Wenn wir heute das Evangelium hören und betrachten, dann gilt dieser Auftrag uns. „Geh und arbeite! Mach! Tu es!“ Dieser Auftrag ist nicht für die geistlichen Vorturner bestimmt, die die das Wort Gottes von Berufs wegen verkünden, auslegen, die versuchen entsprechend christlich zu leben. Dieser Auftrag gilt uns allen, die wir Gottes Wort hören und – wie der hl. Benedikt es im Prolog seiner Regel sagt – durch „die Tat“ erfüllen, den Willen Gottes erfüllen.

 

Der heilige Augustinus hat einmal gesagt: „Der Wille Gottes ist die Liebe!“

 

Gottes Wille verlangt Aufmerksamkeit: ein hörendes Herz.

 

Bei uns allen, liebe Schwestern und Brüder, gibt es die Haltung beider Söhne. Wie oft müssen wir uns fragen: stimmen unsere Worte mit unseren Taten überein, leben wir, was wir glauben, handeln wir aus diesem Glauben, fragen wir danach: Was will Gott von mir?“

 

Er sagt uns: „Geh, und arbeite in meinem Weinberg!“ Und wir sind in die Entscheidung gerufen, JA oder NEIN zu sagen. Aber Gott traut uns zu, dass wir zu einer Änderung fähig werden. „Wenn ich einen Fehler erkannt habe, dann gilt er schon als korrigiert“ hat ein verstorbener Mitbruder immer gesagt.

 

JA sagen zum Willen Gottes – das ist ein langer Weg, ein Weg des „Wachsens und Reifens“, eine Anstrengung, die sich lohnt. Dazu möchte uns das Evangelium heute ermutigen. Amen.

(Pater Gereon Gschwandtner OCist. Used with permission)

Is Your Church A Religious Club?

Posted on July 7, 2014 at 9:20 AM

“No, of course not!” – that’s most likely the knee-jerk response to this question. How does anybody even dare asking that?

 

Well, let’s take a closer look. I even go as far to say that most churches ARE religious clubs.

Just for the record: That is not altogether a bad thing. It only becomes bad when this is all there is to it.

 

Most church-goers are middle class people, at least in western industrial nations. Lots of them have their own families. And this is how the usual church bulletin looks like: groups for mothers with kids, choir meetings, outdoor events, meditation, retreats, youth activities, and the like. If your church is evangelical, you might add Bible studies and vacation Bible school. Sometimes you have missionaries reporting from their service and collecting funds – which reminds me of those rich ladies doing something charitable while having a copious dinner in their expensive clothes and jewelry. No, it is not a bad thing to report from missions, but the mindset that might be behind it could be.

 

Now think of all those activities – as good and nice as they are, why would you need a church for that? “But Bible studies are different!” you might object. Yes, they are – but then again, thinking of the many sermons I have heard in the past and some of the Bible studies I attended I dare say that – as well-motivated as they might have been – they sounded more like Christian wellness to me than food for the soul that makes your heart burn with passion for Jesus so that you stand up, leave everything behind and follow Him.

 

Is our church really so different from a religious club? A club with a religious background where we go to in order to have some common activities and at best do a little social stuff too?

Isn’t the truth more like this: The radical call for discipleship that Jesus issued has somewhat cooled down to a social meeting with a spiritual touch that helps the members feel better about themselves? Instead of “being church”, we “go to church”. Instead of following Him at all costs and with an undivided heart we do what feels good to us. We are looking more for a social activities club, a therapeutic group to talk about our mental problems, an organization that helps us deal with boredom, loneliness and a bad conscience?

 

I am not out to play the blame game or look down on anybody. My point is to think about what we are doing and where we are going. If we somehow forgot about the Great Commission and the Great Commandment on the way or watered it down a lot.

 

Someday we might think back at our lives and give everything to go back and do things differently. How about we do that now.

 

Robert

"Me, Myself & I": Wellness Christianity

Posted on June 4, 2014 at 12:50 AM

I don’t know about you, but if you go to any given Christian Sunday service (and it doesn’t almost even matter which denomination), you get the same picture pretty much everywhere: A nice service with nice people and a nice message. You can’t really say much against it, but then again – also not much for it. It’s all about love, forgiveness, nice & touching emotional stories and the like. Again: in and of itself that’s not really wrong. Is it not?
Let’s look back how Christianity started. Jesus’ radical call to give up everything – wealth, family and even life – to follow Him. Discipleship as the living symbol of the great Christian paradox: Die to live. Lives that spoke through their own examples, sermons that set hearts on fire, evangelizing at the cost of one’s life. Read the testimonies of the early Christian martyrs and weep.
What is left? Not much I dare say. Nice meetings, big events that don’t really say much nor do they have any lasting effects, church congregations that haven’t heard the words “hell”, “Satan”, “damnation”, “sin” for decades – not to speak of a godly sexuality and a Christian life. Right, Jesus is all about love. The hippie-like Jesus that paints everything rose. Who cares that back in the days Jesus could get really angry, spoke about Satan and hell like no other and did not care to shy away butts from the church benches as long as He had it right with God.
As to the Bible – well, technically it is still around, but man did they make something out of it. Back then it was a book that changed lives and gave people spiritual food. Now everything is “re-interpreted”. The biblical stories had been written by humans in their own historical and cultural circumstances. You can’t take that at face value and for sure it is not valid anymore. What’s left is that fuzzy “love”-feeling. Who cares that love in the biblical context is not a fuzzy feeling but a covenant where a person gives himself or herself in a life-giving manner reflecting the love that Jesus has for His bride, the Church – and in the marital context this love becomes so much “one flesh” that you have to give it a name nine months after – reflecting the trinity.
Don’t get me wrong – historical and cultural Bible interpretation has its place – but it is only ONE of many different aspects that need to be taken into account when studying the Bible. If you knock it down at that – and at that only – then you can throw away the whole book. If there are no lasting standards that no generation is allowed to change and that are valid across the centuries, then you can throw away the whole book.
Or – in other words: Then Christianity becomes the “me, myself & I” wellness-Christianity, where it is all about how I feel good about it, which church congregation offers me the best program, how the psalms give me feel-good-messages, how I can even mix things up with Zen-Buddhism, Yoga, pagan and even occult religious practices – or simply my own preferences, feelings and experiences. In other words: it all comes down to the satanic “do what you want” cult – with the sad side-effect that most are not even aware of that and would ascribe such thoughts to radical “fundamentalists”.
That’s the bad part of it. But then you have also the small gate to heaven that Jesus mentioned that few people will pass. Yes, they might be few, but they exist and they will get there.
You want to be one of the gang? Then go and check out what real discipleship is all about. Tell Jesus you want it, you want HIM and Him alone and that you are willing to give up everything for Him. And then let Him work in and through you. Yes, you will have to face consequences for that. People will mock you at best, or even harm you physically. You will lose everything and it won’t “feel good”. But then again you will find a sort of satisfaction that is beyond spiritual wellness. A satisfaction that unites you with Jesus’ life on the deepest level – the joy, the humility, the courage, but also the redemptive suffering.
You want all of that? Be careful before you answer. Because a “yes” might cost you everything – and give you everything: eternal life.
Robert