Martha asked me, whether I can tell you something about my trip around the world and using the sermon for it. It's hard for me to tell you in 15 minutes what happened in the last months of my life. Who could give a report about the last 10 months of someone's life in 15 min? I guess none could, except Martha…
I will now focus on Psalm 86 and share my thoughts with you based on the experience I made under the way. “Lord, let's lift up our hearts to YOU and let your word dwell in us.”
Psalm 86, 1‐13 - A Prayer of David.
Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.
Preserve my life, for I am godly;
save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God.
Be gracious to me, O Lord,
for to you do I cry all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
listen to my plea for grace.
In the day of my trouble I call upon you,
for you answer me.
There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
nor are there any works like yours.
All the nations you have made shall come 2.
and worship before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name.
For you are great and do wondrous things;
you alone are God.
Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever.
For great is your steadfast love toward me;
you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
This psalm is an individual prayer. The psalmist is in a situation of plight and asks God for help. The question I was dealing with by reading the psalm is: what's the power of plight which makes us pray? Or even sharper: do we need the plight to pray? The Situation in which the psalmist finds himself is and was a typical and familiar situation during my travel. It's the situation of plight and predicament "In the day of my trouble I call on you, for you will answer me"(vs 7)
The human needs on the way get more existential. Often I didn't know where I would sleep at night. I left a familiar place in the morning for an unknown place in the evening. Will I be well provided? Sometimes I was lonely and longed for a person who would listen to me and my sufferings. Sometimes it was even worse. I was not only lonely but ill, too. The doctor spoke another language, nobody could understand me. There was nobody who could have taken my hand and might have consoled me. These were extreme situations. The bigger the fear got the more I felt how small and lost I was in this world. And the words of the psalmist came up to me "Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy." (Vs 1) The feeling of loneliness and fear always brought me back to The Lord as the Psalm describes it "for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul" (Vs 4).
On my way I learnt that there is nothing what you can really plan, every time things keep on changing. Daily. Every day is a new day. Every day I need to speak a new prayer, because there are always new circumstances.
Apparently there is more plight on the way than at home. You cannot make any plans and you will find yourself in unexpected situations. Traveling is a radical way of leaving the everyday life. You quit with all provided security and go straight into the arms of God. The travel around the world is actually less a coming to the world but more a departing from the world. You let go all what you love ( like your family and friends) and rely to God and his mercy. It's like an act of faith. The only thing I could count on was to believe that I am 3. blessed because I am with God: As the psalm says "preserve my life for I am godly; safe your servant who trust in you"(Vers 2) " I am holy (ḥā‐sîḏ חָסִ֪יד [am] holy)" or I am godly in the sense of "I am yours".
The everyday life in comparison to the travel seems to be constant and regular. You can make plans. You know which time you have to get up and which things need to be done. Appointments are made and waiting for you. The question I want to ask you now is: is the everyday life safer than traveling? Does the security of an everyday life really exist? The security of an everyday life is just apparent. We know mourning in our everyday life as well. We lose our job or money, we need to say good bye to beloved people, we get ill. There are the tornados in Nebraska which changed people's life within seconds. We go through deep human changes and we cannot protect us from them. The point is: we live in this world and can never live safe on it.
I would like to come back to my initial question: what is the power of plight which makes us pray. The plight is so powerful because we move through it into a new dimension and can see the finite nature of this world. Every plight is a religious sign which makes us see the finiteness of this world and let us see it's need for praying and salvation. I would like to explain that.
The plight makes us aware to look at the world in which we live with different eyes. The plight‐ however it looks like‐ is a change of our everyday life. We don't live safely in this world. We can hold tight whatever we want; it will come to an end in this world. It's sounds sadly but who understand it may live happy and peacefully.
We think that the situation of plight is unusual and need to get fixed. Therefore we try to put things straight again, so we can come back to normal life. We do that as if there are no changes in our life allowed. When we say "oh the poor people who lost their houses by the storm" it sounds as if we separate us from them. The poor people are there and the lucky ones are here. But we need to understand that their plight is our plight as well.
The plight teaches us that we cannot feel us home in this world. It teaches us that everything what exist in this world is not forever. All that we have is given us temporary. We ‐like Christians‐ are all travelers in this world. We come into it and we have to leave it.
To live safely in this world can never be the final aim of a Christian in that world. Our plight or the plight of others should make us understand that this is a part of our life. We need to let the plight come into our life.
We need to declare it to be something usual, before we try to go back to handle the usual everyday life. We need to say: "Come plight and enter my house, because you are a part of my life here". Who does not want the plight coming into his life and keeps on telling "In my house is everything nice and fine" is gliding down to banality.
Henning Luther a German theologian of the last century who died of cancer at the age of 50 put it like that: "We need to experience the social death to come to life. We need to die the death life" We need to die the death life. He understood that the plight can be a chance to see the world from a critical point of view.
We need plight to understand that this world is a world with a finite nature, where the death lives. Our human being is limited on earth. The whole New Testament is dealing with exactly that interaction between death and life: first we need to die before we come to live, before we were born again. That's why plight is so powerful because it can lead to a religious moment: it lifts up our mind above the everyday life an let you see another world. This other world makes our world we are living in relative. This other world is God and to see this other world can make us feel relaxed "for great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol" ( Vs 13)
My travel gives me a good lesson for my travel of life. I learnt that there are always changes in my life, which I cannot control. I cannot hold on things and need to let things happen to me. Saying good bye was and is one of the hardest part of my journey, but it will always be an essential part of traveling. When you depart from one place, at the same time there always is the coming of new places. I learnt that plight is in the world, but through the plight, I learnt that God also is there. This was one of the best experiences I could make. I prayed many times, and although he helped me every time, tomorrow I will pray for help again. Because the world we are living in is not perfect and needs salvation " Be gracious to me, o Lord, for to you do I cry all day long" (Vs 3) Amen!
Note about ULRIKE BISCHOFF: Our associations with Uli are the privilege of Trinity Church’s partnership with the Anhalt District Church, Germany. As turns are taken hosting one another we rejoice to say, “Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love.”