Randy and Katy Smelser

Americans living in Germany but citizens of heaven

Newspaper - Words for Sunday 9 July 2023

Eine Antwort auf die Frage: Warum?

An Answer to the Question: Why?

Randall Smelser, Preacher
Christusgemeinde Peine-Stederdorf

Small children love to ask “why”. This question is actually a good question for adults also but quite often we do not ask it anymore and just accept everything that we constantly hear. Sometimes that can be positive and sometimes negative. Racism and intolerance are a world-wide problem. One could say that they are the norm for humanity world-wide. Thus one could ask, “why should we be against racism and intolerance?” Or maybe “Why more than apathetic and passive?”
If someone follows Jesus, one has the answer to this “Why?”. In John 4 we read a story about an encounter between Jesus and a woman. She was socially ostracized and from a hated people-group. And no good Jew would talk with a strange woman. Then there was the question of morality. She had been married 5 times and was at that moment living with another man, who she was not married to. On top of that, she was from the wrong religion. Common sense would have been screaming: “NO, NO, NO, stay away from that woman!” Jesus spoke with her and showed her a way out of her problematic lifestyle. He was not apathetic. He did neither simply accepted nor agreed with everything she believed. Tolerance does not mean apathy nor think everything is just fine; instead it is to approach people, who are problematic, with love.
Why should I listen to someone who thinks differently than I or not just reject them? Because Jesus met these people with love – and I follow Him. Why should I be tolerant and at the same time maintain my own beliefs? Because Jesus did that! Why should I not ignore or overlook people? Because Jesus cherished people! When others are racist, why should I act differently? Because Jesus loved even the hated Samarians! Jesus is my role model and my teacher. He gives me basic principles and the answer to the “Why?”.

Newspaper - Thoughts for Sunday 3 Feb. 2023

PAZartikel 04Feb23

Döstädning = Death Cleaning = Todesputz

A couple of months ago my wife started with Döstädning (Death Cleaning = Todesputz). It is a special Swedish system to rid your household of things and after living 33 years in the same house, we have quite a bit to declutter. In November there was a challenge to throw out 1000 things. It had to be 1000 decisions made, not 1000 things. That meant that a draw of music cassettes counted only as one because we had decided to quit bunkering cassettes. We did not make in November but last week Number 1000 was in the rubbish bin. It gave us a very good feeling. Now we want to start anew with another 1000 things in three months.
Our souls also should be mucked out. “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” (from the letter from Paul to the Hebrews 12:15 – ESV). How much poison and bitterness is lodging in our soul? Our attics are overflowing with wounds, misunderstanding, and hurts. We hoard them and won’t let them go. The roots have gone deep. It is no wonder then that we have a screw loose. Through God’s grace and with His help we can declutter. It is so pleasant let go of the hurt because someone forgot your birthday a month or 30 years ago. It is liberating to give up our mistakes from when we were 18 years-old. As we have often prayed in the Lord’s Prayer: “and forgive us our trespasses, as we have forgiven those who trespass against us” (Matthew 6:12). It is good to do some “death cleaning” before it is too late.
Randall Smelser
Preacher of the Christusgemeinde (Christ Church) Peine-Stederdorf

Newspaper - Thoughts for Sunday 2 Feb. 2022

PAZ 12-2-22
From Randall Smelser
Preacher of the Christusgemeinde Peine-Stederdorf

How can a loving God allow such a thing?

A three-year-old in a car seat is not always happy. Recently I drove to Berlin with my grand-daughter. At the start everything was great but then she wanted out of her car seat. I could have explained all the laws and security rules but it would not have helped. She wanted what she WANTED – no matter what. I was the evil grandfather because my NO was unyielding. From her viewpoint it was cruelty to a child, inhuman, wrongful deprivation of personal liberty. I was cramping the free self-development of her personality and ignoring her rights as a child. How can a loving grandfather do that?! From my viewpoint I only wanted to bring her safely to our destination, follow the laws, be reasonable – in fact doing everything for her best interests.

Don’t we do that quite often too? We say: How can a loving God allow something, or forbid something, or not do anything, etc.? We know exactly what we want. And when God doesn’t go along with it, He is evil and we don’t believe in Him anymore. Often we stand there like a three-year-old, with our arms crossed and stamp our foot and scream: But I want to!

In Psalm 119 a king said: “God, You are good, and what You do is good: teach me Your decrees” (NIV). We presume to know everything, understand everything, and always have the right to self-determination. Could it be, though, that our understanding of life is like a 3-year-old in a child seat. Sometimes it is good to have a God who tells us how to live – even if we do not want to hear it.

Newspaper - Thoughts for Sunday PN 2021

Peine has two newspapers, PAZ and PN. One is for those looking west towards Hanover (PAZ) and the other is for those looking east towards Brunswick (PN). In January I wrote and article for PAZ and in March for PN.

PN -13.3.21
A Word for Sunday
Randall Smelser, Peine-Stederdorf

The Longing for Peace

In front of the UN Headquarters in New York City stands a sculpture from Jewgeni Wutchetitsch. The man in the sculpture is beating his sword and making a plowshare out of it. This symbol from “from Swords into Plowshares“ was also used by the East German Peace Movement and later also in the West Germany. We hear this phrase in many hymns, Spirituals and even Michael Jackson. The phrase comes originally from the Bible – the prophets Micha and Isaiah used it. “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore” (Is.2:4 NIV).
This thought is so beautiful and in theory, a wish from the entire world. But there is a catch. This Bible text is used as human ideology from both atheists and believers although many atheists try to blame believers for all wars. Richard Dawkins maintains that without the „virus of Religion“ there would be no great world wide violence. Apparently he has not read a world history for the 20th Century. Violence is not a problem of religion, but of humans. Humans without religion – Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao – killed millions. Even though the wish remains that the UN, a human organization, can stop war or can create peace. In theory the UN is wonderful but practically is hugely lacking.
The problem is that the beginning of Isaiah 2:4 is always left out: “He (God) will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.” Without God, and I do not mean „religion,“ this wish for peace is impossible. Without God as Judge there is no standard, no rules for the entire mankind. Peace consequentially starts where God is admitted. Peace has to start in your heart.

Newspaper - Thoughts for Sunday PAZ 2021

Below is a scan of the newspaper and the English translations of the January 31 „Thoughts for Sunday“ for the PAZ.

I was surprised to open the paper and see that the editors had added a picture and a very fitting subtitle. The subtitle reads: "A surgeon holds a scalpel in the had in an operating room. Plastic surgery is not the proper way to reach contentment." I had not expected this and I have never seen them do this with any devotional in the paper. Maybe it struck a cord with the editor?

PAZ Gedanken zum Sonntag 31-1-21

Thoughts for Sunday
By Randall Smelser
Preacher of the Christ Church Peine-Stederdorf

God is with you

Self-contentment is big on the wish list of many people, maybe even of most people. Somehow we are never content with ourselves. Cosmetic surgery is big business with 400,000 operations in Germany every year. Most of the operations are not necessary and on women. Many men work out but never reach a point where they are content with their bodies. A “six pack” remains allusive. There are numerous books, workshops and advisers to somehow arrive at “self-contentment.”
One of the greatest figures in world history was Moses. He had the best education one could have at his time. He was a leader and was gifted. But even so, when God gave him the assignment to lead the children out of Egypt, he hesitated. His excuse: Who am I to do this? And later he added: I am not one who can speak well. Recently I read this Bible story and was surprised how God responded to his objections. God did not use the current Psycho-Tips. God did not try to make understand how good he was in different things. God’s answer was: I am with you.
We will never be good enough, never beautiful enough, never popular enough, nor healthy enough, nor strong enough, nor faultless enough, nor sharp enough, never emotionally stable enough, nor sexy enough, etc. There will always be something about which we feel bad. Or something that we do not like, a weakness in our bodies, in our lives, in our pasts or something in our psyche. I am never good enough but I can go forwards and tackle the tasks of life because God is with me. Not in me lies the power and contentedness but in God. Moses learned and lived that – and thitherto ought we go.