Randy and Katy Smelser

Americans living in Germany but citizens of heaven

Newspaper - Thoughts for Sunday, 18 Feb.2024

PAZartikel 17-2-24

World Champions in Playing the Blame Game
If there is one thing that we humans are good at, then it is putting the blame on others. The world was still young when it started. The forbidden fruit had not yet been digested and Eve pointed at the snake and Adam pointed at Eve. Children do the same thing starting at a young age. A popular target is of course the parents. All my problems come from their wrong way of rearing me. Or maybe it because of society or teachers. The modern psychology does away with guilt and renames Evil as Good. And for the last 50 years we know that our genes are to blame for everything. Politicians have it down to a fine art. Some of them even start wars and claim that they were “forced” into it. The buck gets passed around a lot.
It used to be easier – we put the blame on the devil or God. But nowadays that is more difficult because so many people don’t believe in either one of them. Nevertheless, it can be heard from non-believers and atheist that God is to blame for all the misery of the world or that God made us like we are.
Actually, we should look deep in the mirror to see that we are fault ourselves. James, the brother of Jesus, wrote: Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (ESV James 1:13-15)
No question about it: we all have weak points which we are born with or which have developed over time. The question is rather what are we going to do with it. As humans we have the possibility to grow and to say “No” to evil. We can give our guilt to God and with His help, we can become more and more like the people He intended us to be, before Adam and Eve started playing the blame game.
Randall Smelser
Preacher of the Christusgemeinde (Christ Church) Peine-Stederdorf

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.