Vi er her i Münster-katedralen i Basel netop gået i gang med dag 2 på generalforsamlingen i “Community of Protestant Churches in Europe” (CPCE), dvs. Leuenbergfællesskabet. For lidt siden fik vi uddelt en spændende ny bog “Europäischer Gotesdienstatlas. Protestantische Perspektiven auf dem Gottesdienst”, som er et resultat af en længere CPCE studieproces, og som også må være relevant for den pågående discussion om gudstjenesten i folkekirken.
Bogens forord indledes med at fastslå, at CPCE først og fremmest er et gudstjenestefejrende fællsskab. Denne forståelse præger naturligvis også denne generalforsamling, hvor der hver morgen, middag og aften er en kort andagt eller gudstjeneste. Til det formål er der udgivet en “Worship Book” med liturgier for hver gudstjeneste/andagt, lige som vi også har fået udleveret en salmebog, “Frei Töne”, der blev udgivet i forbindelse med de tyske kirkedage i 2017. Hver af refleksionerne/prædikenerne er baseret på en historie fra Apostlenes Gerninger med det formal “that we will hear how these old stories from the dawn of Christianity sound in our different modern-day contexts, and at what points they can motivate us.”
Her til morgen var det min opgave at dele mine refleksioner – over ApG 26,8-18:
“The text for today is taken from Paul’s speech to king Agrippa in Caesarea. A couple of years earlier Paul was attacked by the mob in Jerusalem, and the Jewish leaders conspired to kill him, because of his bold witness to Jesus as the Messiah. Paul was taken to Caesarea and kept in prison there for a couple of years, awaiting to be sent on to Rome to be judged by Caesar. While he was in Caesarea, king Agrippa came to visit Festus, the governor, and Agrippa expressed his wish to meet Paul and hear his story. What we have read is actually Paul’s life story or faith story.
Paul’s life- and faith story is very fascinating – like the life- and faith stories of other Christians. And if we had the time for it, it would be worthwhile for us to sit down two and two and listen to each other’s life and faith stories. Now, however we will focus on Paul’s story, which I feel has great relevance for us today. I will reflect briefly on three aspects of the story.
First of all, the story of Paul is a story of a person in the Middle East, whose faith motivated him to persecute people with a different faith. But at the same time it is a story of the same person, who after having come to faith in Christ, heeded his call to witness to Christ and serve him. Paul learned the hard way that witnessing – which in Greek is martureo – may lead to suffering and even martyrdom. If we are willing to listen to the life- and faith stories of brothers and sisters in the Middle East (and other parts of the world), we will find out that the story of Paul, the witness and the martyr, is is sometimes repeated today. We may take freedom of religion for granted here in Europe, but in the Middle East, Africa and Asia a number of Christians are suffering for their faith even today. But as Paul said to the Corinthian Christians: “If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it.” In our safe space in Europe we need to listen to the life- and faith stories of today’s Pauls, listen to their sufferings, empathise with them, pray for them and support them as well as we can – and be challenged by their boldness.
Secondly, the story of Paul is a story of mission, the mission of the triune God. Christ met Paul on his way to Damascus to persecute the Christians there. It is difficult to imagine a more unlikely convert than Paul, who –by the way – may remind us of today’s religious extremists. But this was actually what happened: Paul’s encounter with Christ became a life transforming experience and the persecutor of Christ became Christ’s missionary to the gentiles. Paul’s conversion was the work of God. But as archbishop Rowan Williams has said, “Mission is finding out what God is doing and joining in”. In his mission God used Stephen – during his stoning in Jerusalem – to witness about Christ, also to Paul. God called Ananias in Damascus to overcome his fear of this persecutor of the church and receive and baptize Paul. And God used Barnabas to follow-up on Paul and bring him into the fellowship of the disciples in Jerusalem, and work together with him in mission. The story of Paul may be a lesson for us in Europe today, where we once again find ourselves in a missionary situation and are called to work together with God in his mission.
In the 80’s I was a missionary in the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria among Muslims, and later I did my doctoral research on conversion of Muslim Fulanis to Christianity. Here I met several former Muslims, who had visions and dreams in which they felt that Christ called them – and they responded in faith although the price might be persecution. But Christ is also encountering people in Europe today. In Denmark and other parts of Europe today, some people – who had been alienated from Christianity and the Church – experience the call of Christ. In exceptional cases it takes place in dramatic ways, but more often in more ordinary ways. But we must listen to their life- and faith stories and welcome them and make room for them in our congregations and encourage them in their newfound faith.
Thirdly, the story of Paul is a story of a man, who was lost, but was found by Christ. He thought that he was serving God, but actually he was opposing God. It is a story of a person, whom Christ encountered in the midst of his busy and important activities. Christ stopped him and called him to turn around and go a new way. It is a story of a person, who was called by Christ to become his disciple and witness to him and to serve him. As such this is a story that we may identify with. It is a reminder to all of us that we are constantly dependent on Christ, that He finds us, when we stray away from his will. He encounters us and calls us to repentance and calls us to become His disciples.
I doubt many of us here have experienced a dramatic call to repentance and service like that of Paul, but I think that we in our personal life and faith stories can point to significant moments in our lives, where we perceived the call of Christ. Our baptism was the gift of becoming Children of God, but it was also a call to become Christ’s disciples. In our confirmation this call of Christ was again addressed to us, for us to respond to it. In our youth or young adulthood some of us may have experienced Christ’s call in a special way that may have influenced the course of our entire life. And probably again later in life there were times when we were stopped by Christ’s call. And on the last day of our life, we will hear Christ’s call to come to him and always be together with him.
Our life- and faith stories are not yet completed, and let us continue to expect that Christ will also today and tomorrow call us to repentance and faith, and call us to witness and service. Let us heed Christ’s call to get involved in God’s mission in the world and find out what He is doing.”
Inden min refleksion havde arrangørerne valgt, at vi skulle synge (ganske vist kun de første tre vers) af Holger Lissners reformationsjubilæumssalme, der vandt CPCEs salme-konkurrence.
Wenn du willst brechen Worte hervor
am Rissen un Ritzan in bröchelden Mauern,
und wir sehn, dass du unter uns bist.
Dein Reich is gekommen
Alles wird neu, wir singen.
Münster-katedralen, Basel, fredag, den 14. september 2018
Mogens S. Mogensen