Tradition for 1000 years
Dear sisters and brothers,
In times like these, when we are all worried about many things, I am reminded more often than usual of the evening song that my good grandmother used to sing with me when we went to bed. "Good evening, good night!" it begins, and then a few lines later it says: "Tomorrow morning, God willing, you will be woken again." An evening song, a lullaby, also a prayer. The children's fears of the dark of night should give way and I should sleep well and wake up cheerfully in the morning. "Tomorrow morning, if God wills..."
If God wills it? As a child, I didn't perceive this "if God wills" as threatening. I didn't ask myself "what if he doesn't want to?" Perhaps it was because of the lovely melody by Brahms. Or the cosy atmosphere at home. "Tomorrow morning, if God wills..." For me, that was an expression of the comprehensive security that God wants for me and for all people. And doesn't want.
I later encountered the same formula again in different words. My training pastor, who taught me my first steps in preaching during my vicariate, always wrote and still writes "scj" under her letters with agreements and reunion wishes at the age of 90. An abbreviation for "sub conditione jacobea". This means "under the condition of James" and refers to the biblical passage James 4:15, where it says: "You should say: If the Lord wills, if we live and do this or that". Today the formula scj has gone out of fashion, most of my students don't even know it, I always have to explain it first. But I am happy to explain it, because the attitude behind it is more in demand and required today than ever before. In humility, the letter of James makes it clear how provisional all our plans are. He entrusts God with how things will be and become in the future. This doesn't need a lot of words, it can be expressed in one sentence or - abbreviated - in three letters: scj. And that means: we don't have everything under control. There are limits to what we can say and do, and they are narrower than we would like. We notice this in the grey darkness of November, when death, finiteness and eternity are the themes of the church year. And we feel it in view of the news of war and catastrophes from all over the world, to which we are helplessly exposed. We don't have things under control. That can be unsettling, it can make some people despair. But then I suddenly remember that song from my childhood: "Tomorrow morning, if God wills, you'll be woken again", and I remember that back then I didn't ask myself anxiously "what if he won't?", but assumed with a certain matter-of-factness that things would continue the next day. It does exist, this security that God wants for us humans. And doesn't want. Falling asleep with such a feeling and getting back to work the next morning can be described as childish naivety - or as trust in God or, as far as I'm concerned, as faith.
Dear sisters and brothers, may God preserve this childlike, naive trust in his goodness and power. May He preserve our trust in Him in times like these. I wish us good deliberations and results today, and I hope that we will meet again happily and confidently during Advent (keyword: Triegel Altar) or in the New Year at the meetings of our cathedral chapter - sub conditione jacobea ...