FRIDAY THE FIFTH OF JANUARY 2018
* Kaj Munk *
Father in heaven, when the thought of you wakes in our hearts, let it not wake like a frightened bird that flies about in dismay, but like a child waking from its sleep with a heavenly smile. Amen.
( Søren Kierkegaard )
All hail, thou night, than day more bright,
through whose mysterious shade,
in wondrous birth, arose on earth,
from bosom of pure maid,
the sun new-born, a star of morn,
filling all the world with light!
He who alone, from heaven’s high throne,
rules all, and doth restore
to God’s embrace, man’s fallen race,
lies on a cottage floor,
like him that we, save poverty,
have nought to call our own.
While o’er their sheep close watch they keep,
those shepherds first receive
the heavenly call, that doth to all
great joy and gladness give;
the call from heaven to watchmen given
that wake and never sleep.
( Marc Antoine Muretus )
MEDITATION by Tim Madsen
Kaj Munk: playwright, pastor, martyr
On this date in 1944, a body was found in a ditch alongside a road. This was Kaj Munk, a playwright and faithful parish pastor in Denmark; shot in the head by the Nazis who were occupying his country. His killers honoured Munk’s outspoken resistance to the Nazi occupation by their ruthless but futile determination to silence him. For Munk had never ceased to summon his people to act from their faith whether in support of the Norwegian church, the beleaguered Scandinavian Jews, or for their own freedom. The people heard his message. Despite the danger from the Nazis who had killed Munk, four thousand Danes came to his funeral. They commemorated him with a lively courage and faith like his own, both then and throughout the war.
Kai Munk was born in 1898. Both his parents died before he was six. He was adopted into his cousin’s family and early on expressed skill in poetry and literature. He combined that love for the arts with skill in pastoring. He was ordained in 1924, and became pastor at Vederso, one of the smallest parishes in Denmark. It was his only parish.
Munk wrote stage plays. Three of his best were “Herod the King” in 1928; “The Word” in 1932; and “He Sits at the Melting Pot” in 1938, which was an out and out attack on Hitler’s Germany, the Nazi Party, and the persecution of the Jews. After Germany occupied Denmark during World War II, his powerful sermons drew masses into the resistance, and his own resistance became so outspoken, that the Nazis banned all performances of his plays.
In 1942 Munk wrote a play about Niels Ebbesen, one of the great heroes of medieval Danish history; the "tyrant slayer" who, in 1340, was known for his killing of Count Gerhard III, a German whose forces occupied Denmark at the time. It was a very thinly veiled swipe at Nazism. Despite friends who urged Munk to go underground, he continued to preach against Danes who collaborated with the Nazis, which led to his murder on the fifth of January, 1944.
Quote. “You say you have doubts and questions that spoil your Christmas joy. Well, who promised you joy? True Christmas joy, no matter how much or how little of it you may comprehend, means that you have Christ and that you go where he wants you to go.”
Scripture. In the eighth chapter of "Mark," at verses thirty-four to thirty-six, we find these words of Jesus:
"If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?"
... for peace in the world.
... for all who resist and speak out against tyranny; for an end to all tyrannies in our world.
... for those who campaign against oppression in the art they create.
... for the falsely accused and the wrongly imprisoned.
... for the homeless, especially those living outside in harsh weather.
... for those who have died recently and for those who mourn their passing.
... for those who are unwell and for those caring for them.
... for those, both close to us and far off, who we hold in our personal prayers.
... for ourselves.
THE LORD'S PRAYER
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
From "Commemorating Kaj Munk" by Sarah Heinrich:
Who is Jesus? What is it about Jesus that calls a Christian, even to die? We can catch a glimpse of Munk’s belief in his sermons.
Munk declares to us as he once did to his own congregation: "God comes to us and says: ‘You may call me Jesus.’ Jesus shows us the heart of God, God’s goodness and holiness. So great is that heart, so deep, so high God’s love, that God came as the Good Shepherd, to save everyone from the wolves."
All this sounds familiar, safe, gentle. Why would anyone be shot in the head for this kind of theology?
He was, you know, shot for his theology. Kaj Munk was dangerous because he believed that "who Jesus is" has everything to do with how his people are to follow.
Good shepherds protect the sheep from the wolves.
Munk insisted: "Jesus’ fight against the wolves continues through the church which will allow itself to be torn to pieces rather than let robber or wolf gain entrance to the fold."
In 1941, in his twenty-seventh year at a church in Vederso, Pastor Munk preached on the Good Samaritan.
In his sermon he acknowledged: "There are some who say it is humanity that lies fallen in the ditch while Jesus the, Good Samaritan, stoops to save us in our wretched helplessness. This interpretation is not wrong; it is comforting, but it is only half the story. We are not only helpless, as Christians we are also called to be the Good Samaritan. Christians follow Jesus by loving their neighbours as themselves. This is the truth that the Good Samaritan tale puts before us; it calls its hearers to face up to the needs of a flesh and blood neighbour."
"To have a flesh and blood neighbour," says Munk, "puts you in an either/or position. Either you may be a help to your neighbour or a burden."
Either you protect the sheep or you are one of the wolves. Munk insisted on, and showed unflinching honesty about, what is helpful. To discern what is truly needed by your neighbour, a child of God and to tell the truth about what hurts the people of God and what injustice is being done them is to help your neighbour in Jesus’ name. To name the wolves so that the flock can protect itself better helps the neighbour in Jesus’ name. The wolves must be resisted for the sheep’s sake, and for their own sakes.
Munk says: "It was not the task of the Good Samaritan to look up the robbers afterwards and compliment them for work well done. The goodness of God as we see it in Jesus is meek and long-suffering, but never compromises with evil."
And so, those called to be Good Samaritans, dare not walk by the needy neighbour, colluding with those who would name him or her unworthy of help. Kaj Munk himself was such a helper. Utterly convinced that the ordination vow is a charge to proclaim that God has come among us and "We can call him Jesus," Munk called for mercy for the Jews, striking workers, hungry in city and on farms, and for confused children in an unstable world. He named all kinds of wolves: capitalism, materialism, power lust, the national church, Nazi oppressors. And as the good Samaritan, he himself ended up in a roadside ditch.
In his body we see his faith in "who Jesus is." He died trusting that our Lord is also the Good Samaritan who cares for and will restore every wounded one.
Gracious God, in every age you have sent men and women who have given their lives in witness to your love and truth. Inspire us with the memory of Kaj Munk, whose faithfulness led him to resist tyranny, leading to his death. Give us courage in the face of tyranny today, and help us bear witness to Jesus’ victory over sin and death, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
NOW LIGHT A CANDLE
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