Harvest / 16th Sunday after Trinitatis / 26th Sunday in the Year [by Steffen Glombitza]

 Evang. sermon text RC. 1. Reading RC. 2. Reading RC. Gospel
15th Sunday: Lam 3:22-26.31-32
Harvest: Isa 58:7-12
Ez 18:25-28 Phil 2:1-11 Mt 21:28-32

Isa 58: 7-12

1) Exegetical considerations

The date of the present text is generally estimated at 530 v. Christ and Trito-Isaiah. It is therefore younger than the first two parts of the Book of Isaiah. The last chapter presupposes the end of the exile and the return of the exiles to Israel. In this passage, Isaiah is concerned with the behaviour of those in the community who, with the example of fasting, are holding on to outer appearances and ignoring the social dimension of fasting. His criticism of fasting precedes this text. Fasting, correctly understood is an important feature for Isaiah in the rebuilding of the kingdom.

2) Sermon impulses

For Isaiah, fasting means much more than simply foregoing something and the observance of the rites of fasting. Isaiah connects fasting with social issues. What significance does fasting have in our society today? Are we not in danger of succombing to the same danger? Fasting has become a fad, a fad that everyone (conducts) sorts out for themselves.. Fasting is individualized and largely detached from any social context. At least some people may use the the season of Lent to engage with social projects. However fasting requires a change of heart and calls every one to practical acts of charity and compassion. Away from self-centredness and a turning towards care of one’s neighbour. In view of the situation of In the face of the present situation of refugees and displaced in the world, the word of Isaiah is still as relevant as it was after 1500 years ago.

3) References to sustainability

Where there is no peace, where war and hunger govern the country. Where oppression drives people to flight, where men and women wrong their fellow humans , a life in harmony with nature will never be possible. Sustainability requires peace. Social and environmental issues are inseparable. Pope Francis, in his encyclical “Laudato si”, has pointed out these connections very clearly. Alongside the social dimension of fasting the question of responsible involvement with creation is inevitably linked to fasting. Fasting is about a relationship with God, which takes into account, responsibility both for neighbour and for creation.

Ez 18:25-28

1) Exegetical considerations

Ezekiel is with many others of his people in Babylonian exile. These experiences form the background to the short passage, which is about the accusation that YHWH has not treated his people justly. It is a question of man’s repentance. It is in his power to renew himself morally from within. YHWH seeks repentance because this is his plan which does not want the death of his people, because he is God of life.

2) Sermon impulses

The classic connection between deeds and consequences, which we find in many places in the Old Testament, also appears here. Israel has acted wrongly and is suffering his punishment for this action. Hence the call for repentance is all the more urgent. YHWH, however, proves to be the God of life. It is about Israel aligning its life with YHWH. The path of men, who do not follow the covenant and the instructions of Yahweh, but think that they can lead their life without him, leads to the darkness of death. Where the path of people, who place themselves at the center of their actions leads, can be seen every day with just a look in the press reports. “Repent, create yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!” is the way to overlasting life in communion with God and calls us to action.

3) References to sustainability

Our time is marked by great environmental degradation, exploitation and social injustice. At the same time, as in no other time before, there is a high degree of sensitivity to the commitment to the preservation of creation. Conversion, return to life has, here particularly, a very deep meaning. It is only if we succeed in mastering the ever increasing problems and creating a world community which lives in harmony with nature and its resources and which recognises its limits, that this world will remain a place worth living in for future generations.
But until that time comes, a ‘turn around’ is also required. The ecumenical process of “Repentance to life – shape the change” is a good example from the many organizations that are concerned about this. (See: www.umkehr-zum-leben.de/en/startseite)

From Steffen Glombitza


  • Neue Jerusalemer Bibel
  • Stuttgarter Neues Testament
  • Stuttgarter Altes Testament
  • Novum Testamentum Graece, Ed. XXVII

15th Sunday after Trinity / 25th Sunday in the Year [by Dr. Karin Bassler and Antje Schneeweiss]

 Evang. sermon text RC. 1. Reading RC. 2. Reading RC. Gospel
Luke 18:28-30 Isa 55:6-9 Phil 1:20-24, Phil 1:27a Mt 20:1-16a

A ‘Living wage’ here and there – preaching suggestions

The two pericopes Luke 18: 28-30 and Mt 20: 1-16a connect the subject of wages: Luke is concerned with the wages (‘rewards’) of Discipleship, while Matthew’s text concentrates with the wages (‘rewards’) to be paid in heaven. A wage should ensure a person a secure existence. Luke considers two other aspects also important for this secure existence, a house as a material basis and the social network of a large family. However, whoever does not belong to one of the few wealthy landowners’ families, in other words the great majority of the population – has to rely almost entirely on the sale of his own manpower and from the wage that he or she receives. [1]

Work, and thus also paid labour, is inherent to the human image of the Bible. It is life-long and sweaty toil (Gen 3: 17ff.), which ensures the upkeep of a family. The right to a living wage is therefore, neither in the Old Testament nor in the New Testament a mere marginal theme but rather, again and again, the litmus test of justice. The basic meaning of the Hebrew verb for remuneration is “to give tit for tat”. In Greek there are several terms, two of which are found only in Christian literature, and underline the importance of this subject in the New Testament.
Throughout the Bible, the principle formulated by Jesus in Luke 10: 7 for his disciples, is that the worker is worth their salary regardless of their relationship to the employer and the nature of the work. [2] Refusal to pay is contrary to God’s commandment and provokes judgement. [3] Particularly drastically in Ecclesiasticus: “Whoever does not give the labourer his reward is a bloodhound.” It is always clear that wages are for the upkeep and protection of livelihood. It is therefore expressly stipulated that those who are at the bottom of the wage pyramid and whose wages only just amount to the minimum subsistence level (that is ‘day labourers’) are to receive their wages on the same day on which the work was rendered. [4]

Because of the general anthropological importance of work, gainful employment and fair pay are of lasting importance as social ethical issues, despite the profound changes in the working society. Living wages are a basic pillar of equity and are, for example discussed in the EKD Memorandum”Gerechte Teilhabe” (“Just Participation”) of 2006. “There is a particular need to monitor on a permanent basis, the developments in the low-wage sector. The phenomenon of ‘working poor’, i.e., of working people, whose remuneration cannot lift them out of poverty, deserves more attention in the face of increasing pressure on wages, even in ecclesiastical institutions. A low-wage sector must not become an area where workers are exploited by a wage spiral that keeps moving downwards.” [5]

The right to a Living Wage is contained in the central documents of the Declaration and the Implementation of Human Rights, as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [6] and ILO Conventions Nos. 95 and 131. Not only, but especially in the textile industry is it a widespread worldwide practice for employees to pay a wage for a 48-hour working week, with which the workers cannot even meet their basic needs. This practice violates human rights.

In the textile industry, the problem of low wages in all countries, from China, India, Cambodia and the Central American countries to the countries of production in Eastern Europe, such as Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey, is almost the same. The wage situation can be well described by comparing the cost of living with the level of wage. Above all, low wages are the most pressing problem of the millions of women textile workers in Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe, whose lives are often characterized by working hours far beyond the permissible level and the constant concern for the care of their families. In terms of social policy, wages below the subsistence level mean that large parts of the population from these countries cannot escape from poverty, even though they have a formal employment relationship. [7]

The payment of living wages in the supply chain is therefore a central aspect of sustainability, which should be demanded and expected of textile companies both by a Christian-ethically motivated customer as well as by ecclesiastical investors. Can they ensure that the subcontractors in Indonesia and Myanmar receive a salary for their work to pay for a family, to pay school fees and uniforms for their children, as well as medical expenses, and still have enough money to put aside for unexpected emergencies?
This question arises for everyone when buying clothes and sneakers, as well as when buying stocks/shares such as Adidas, Puma, Gerry Weber or Hugo Boss. And if you are looking for answers, you will find it at the SÜDWIND Institute for Economics and Ecumenism [8]  or at Misereor [9].

Of the wages which assure existence, Jesus speaks both in Luke and in the St. Matthew pericope. His answer to the anxious question of the disciples in Luke is no more comprehensible than the parable of the day-labourers in the vineyard, without knowing what living wages have meant then and now. But for Jesus even more than that is at stake: economic and social contexts are significant as such – earthly righteousness is not irrelevant – but in the mouth of Jesus, they are always also signs and a reference to God’s dealings with mankind.
Indeed, it is God who secures their existence, here and there, on earth as well as in heaven. In contrast to the behaviour of earthly employers, who exercise their power to dictate conditions, to the detriment of the recipients of wages, God also pays an undeservedly high wage ‘reward’ to those who are at the very bottom, the very last,, which is much more than we would expect , “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways, saith the LORD, but as the heavens are higher than the earth, my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isa. 55

Karin Bassler with Antje Schneeweiß


[1] See the following: Jürgen Kegler / Ute E. Eisen: Art. “Lohn” in Crüsemann, Frank et al. (Eds.): Social History Dictionary of the Bible, p. 357-359, Gütersloh 2009.

[2] Genesis 29:15: ‘Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what should your wages be?’. Ex 2, 9: Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will reward you; Num 18: 31: It is your reward for your work in the tabernacle of meeting;

[3] Jer 22:13; Woe to him who … makes his neighbour work for nothing, and does not give him his reward; James 5: 4: Behold, the wages of the labourers who have reaped your land, which ye have withheld from them, cry out, and the rebuke of the reapers has come to the ears of the Lord of hosts.

[4] Lev 19: 13: Thou shalt not cheat or rob thy neighbour. The wages of him who is hired shall not remain with you all night until morning; Dtn 24,14 f.: Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns. Pay them their wages each day before sunset, because they are poor and are counting on it. Otherwise they may cry to the Lord against you, and you will be guilty of sin.

[6]  Article 23, 3: Everyone who works has the right to a just and satisfactory remuneration, which assures him and his family a life corresponding to human dignity, if necessary supplemented by other social protection measures. www.un.org/depts/german/menschenrechte/aemr.pdf

3rd Sunday of Advent [thoughts for the day by Stefan Herok]

On the advent path towards Christmas the Sundays are special stations. In former times, they were strongly characterized by family life and folk traditions, in crafting, making music and being together, they are often found today in shopping Sundays, “Christmas markets” or simply in the progressive loss of tradition. Advent 3 is, in the Catholic tradition, the  “gaudete” – “be happy!” Sunday. The classical chorus (introit) makes this clear in the recourse to Philippians 4: 4-6. Previously, the liturgical-fast-time purple of the vestments softened on this day to gentle-joyful pink. The evangelical church celebrates “Gaudete” on the 4th Advent. The question of the preservation and revival of advent traditions is for me also a question of “sustainability” in the wider sense. Certainly when one considers, peace, justice and the care of creation in their public and social dimensions and perspectives. The stabilizing power of rooted rituals and abundantly filled traditions thus becomes a sustainability issue. However, today one can not just blindly romanticise about the past. Where can we, in our worship services during Advent, clarify and strengthen those  traditions which are forward-looking, ie sustainable, and  which traditions should we part from. After all, we are specialists for “funerals”.

Both for evangelicals and catholics, the third advent biblical texts focus on John the Baptist: the prophetically oriented forerunner of Jesus. The narrative is dominated by images which, in the first place, use natural metaphors between the desert and “worn-down mountains”,  secondly use the motif of “repentance” and thirdly the “Kingdom promises of God”. I would like to demonstrate how much these images touch onsustainability aspects.

The calendar date of the third advent on December 11, 2016 also provides three possible sustainability aspects which I do not want to go into detail but will quickly explain.

On 11 December 1997 the so-called Kyoto Protocol of the United Nations was signed in Japan. It set binding targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions for the period up to 2012. It was regarded as an extraordinary breakthrough for an internationally binding climate policy. In the meantime there has been a  follow-up protocol until 2020, but of course there are always problems with the application and implementation of such protocols.

On December 11, 1946, the United Nations founded its UNICEF children’s aid organization. This is celebrated in different ways just like a Birthday!  On the 3rd Advent 2016 it is exactly 70 years old!

The 11th of December is also an international day of action the “World Day of the Mountains”! In its justification for the creation of this day, the UN explicitly said that climate change is a threat to many mountains (not just the glaciers) and their habitat.

How and whether with this background, Luke 3.5 (evangelical), based on Isaiah 40: 3, can have a completely new tone, I do not know exactly: every ravine shall be filled, every mountain and hill shall be lowered? Do we have to be more careful in the application of biblical images that faith can “move mountains” in the face of natural disasters caused by man?

Luke 3: 1-14

In the tradition of the Old Testament prophets John the Baptist preaches  repentance. This gives eschatological seriousness and a messianic perspective to advent, which, however, a reality in life and action.

I see two sustainability aspects in this text:

I have already pointed out the perhaps necessary linguistic sensitisation in the context of biblical natural metaphor: What is crooked, shall be straight, every ravine shall be filled, every mountain shall be brought low. Of course, we understand what is meant by the picture: heart and soul are meant, the “stones” we put into each other’s path, the “mountain” of problems, the “chasms” of our divisioins etc.

But let’s pause for a moment, and consider whether, perhaps, in the practical dealings with nature, our familiarity with these  biblical images and language  hasn’t mislead us: when rivers were straightened, and their courses denatured when mountains and hills were brought low because the raw materials that they “hide”, are removed …, that seems to me today as useful as iit is necessary.

The return from the “desert” into life, to which the forerunner John calls us Advent people, is not simply to be baptized, to follow a fashion, and then to collectively be lulled into a false sense of security, just because one belongs socially to particular, relevant and leading and leading group for which the Church has no longer any real relevance…. True repentance should bring real fruit: solidarity, deaconry, sharing and participation, proportionality, fairness, professional ethos. And so this Bible text brings political explosiveness into the third Sunday in Advent and frees it from  the cheap and merry romance and all the rest of the kitsch in the “Waiting for the Christ-child”! Drama is announced: The “tree”, which does not bring fruit here, lands in the fire! If the “true, higher meaning of Advent” is not about “sustainability,” then what is?: Whoever has two robes, give one to the one who has none, and he who has to eat, should do likewise. And no tax collector may demand more than the fixed amount. And no soldier is allowed to abuse anyone.

Isaiah 35: 1-6 Here in the first reading one can clearly hear the  “Gaudete”. “Bliss and joy arise” Sunday  (verse 10) when the Messiah comes. Again, it is the great and final Advent which  is meant, which in our familiar and childlike way of preparing for Christmas actually does not occur. Certainly not in  the social reflex “bourgeois” Christmas. No chance for sustainability?  The promises of the Messianic kingdom of God are packed into splendid poetic Creation and Nature images. Salvation and healing, the salvation (verse 9) of man can not be expressed and described in any other way than in images of a restored world, nature, creation: flowering steppe, springs in the desert, juicy grass. And then therein the restored, whole human, with open eyes and ears; No robber, like no predator; Delivered and redeemed in eternal joy. The whole, indeed, as a gift of heaven and deed of God, but not without our involvement: restore the weakened hands and the wavering knees again! Tell the despairing: Have courage, do not be afraid! Behold, here is your God! (Verse 3) That would be our Advent contribution to “Fling open the door … and prepare your heart to be a temple.” To tell the story of this coming of God and to participate in this Advent in real and meaningful  way, by helping to bring our “inner and outer nature” into this restored state. “Along this path, only the redeemed ones go!” (Verse 9) What  strong language, what a beautiful picture! I would like to be a part of this!

Letter to James 5, 7-10 In the second reading the same motif. But more encouragement to patience and perseverance, less joyful. But not a bit less “sustainable”. And again in the natural and creation metaphor: How the farmer patiently waits for the harvest … Nature, again, as a picture for social, human responsibility: make your heart strong and exercise your brotherly/sisterly affection(verse 9)

Matthew 11: 2 Now in the Gospel,quite clearly and direct- the prophetic forerunner John  motif of Advent 3. With one of the most famous short formulas and condensed phrases of all Christianity in one sentence: “Blind see again and lame leap; Lepers will be clean and the deaf hear. The dead stand up, and the gospel is proclaimed to the poor. “(Verse 5) This  precedes Jesus (in John),  the entire life and ministry of Jesus; that is the lasting sign and the task for those who follow him, as it is expressed in many Easter-Pentecost mission formulas .For me personally most beautifully in the secondary ending of Mark’s Gospel: “Then he said to them,” Go out into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to all creatures! He who believes and is baptized is saved; But whoever does not believe will be condemned. And by those who came to faith, the following signs shall come: In my name they will cast out demons; They will speak in new languages; If they touch serpents or drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them; And the sick, on whom they lay their hands, shall be healed. “(Mark 16: 15-18) This is Advent, Christmas and Easter. This must therefore also be the Advent of the Christians, are serious in their mission. In the Gospel, creative metaphors appear only in the margins, when the “Naturburschen” John is spoken of (from verse 7). He is presented to us as an “anti-bourgeois” ideal Prophet (verse 8). To this day for me a prototype of “Creations active’ members for sustainability .

From Stefan Herok, Wiesbaden