Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Person of Courage

Gerhard von Raad – an Old Testament professor at Jena, Germany during the terrible years of WW 2 - an opponent of Hitler, when most of the faculty signed on the dotted line, with medical students being trained in pathology at Buchenwald.

His colleagues quickly became Nazi sympathizers – aiding and abetting the effort to “nationalize” the Christian faith, to make it an instrument of the state, and most pointedly, to deny the Jewish ancestry of Jesus and eliminate Hebrew words like “hosannah” and “halleluja” from creeds and hymns – thus ridding the church of everything Un-German.

Jena became the first to eliminate the study of Hebrew for theology students.

When key colleagues “retired,” von Raad stood alone. He taught and wrote, but with fewer student – his Psalms course, only four.

The Confessing Church (author of the Barmen Declaration in our Book of Confessions) responded by sending students to Jena to make certain von Raad would have a classroom audience.

He survived the war and went on to finish a distinguished career, leaving a permanent mark on Old Testament studies and a witness to courage.

Over the years, I’ve met the quietly courageous.

A husband who visits his wife in a nursing home every day for years … a mother caring for a brain-damaged child. A corporate executive who leaves a high-paying position because of disagreement with corporate policy … a pastor who loses his pulpit because he addressed issues of racism in his deep-south church.

History will never record their stories, but they’re written in the annals of heaven, and if not influential for the many, then maybe just for you or for me.

Your story, too.

The daily courage to get up and get going, to keep on loving, to be prayerful and faithful, loving and kind.

The courage:
To face yourself and try to change.
To think long and hard about life, political issues, our nation and the candidates.
To forgive someone who’s hurt you deeply.
To read widely and ponder much.
To live with questions rather than settle for shoddy answers.
To believe that life is sacred and all creatures are of God.
To dream large and imagine a better world for all.
To embrace peace rather than war.
Love rather than suspicion.
Openness rather than fear.

No one is courageous all the time, but everyone I’ve known has been courageous some of the time, and mostly at just the right time – such is the human heart!

Remember, you are a person of courage!

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