Sermon 24th April 1983 Wartau-Gretschins

As introduction to this series of sermons about our works and the resulting fruits I have chosen our catchphrase "Labor for the length of day because night will arrive when no-one can labor". Since childhood I have been familiar with the slogan "Labor for the length of day" because I heard my father cite it repeatedly  -  that was his lifelong motto. These powerful and impressive words make the ideal central leitmotif for a entire lifetime from its beginning to its end! Our first art exhibitor, Hans Eggenberger, has also felt the fascination held in these words from John's epistle and has created a painting to this theme. Before we look at this work as appreciative audience, we will hear the words from the ninth chapter of the Gospel according to St John as said by Jesus: "We must labor for the length of day because night will arrive when no-one can labor."
The artist has let himself be permeated by these words and this painting is the mark left. We will now consider his resulting work.
At first glance I was glad to see that the artist does not make a shrill distinction between day and night. He does not depict a situation in terms of black and white. Even when life is made up of contradictions, there will always be a period of transition, a connecting force and, in the life of a believer, day and night somehow appear to belong together. We will have to admit that life consists of contrasts; top and bottom, male and female, hot and cold. In our painting, day and night are separated distinctly by a flash of lightning but the choice of colors softens the distinction. There is a bond between this particular day and night, a connection which may indicate that we belong to the Lord in life and in death. We do not fall into a cleft, an unhealthy unstable state where we would be lost.
The lifelines which are present in both halves of the painting confirm this impression. In the day section of the picture the lifelines are green, the color of hope. Life and activity, growth and blossoming are represented. There is opportunity and movement. However the lifelines grow into the night section of the picture and become red are they symbolic for love, lasting love?
Red is also the background color for the day section of the painting a deep, dark blood-red. This the decisive point. This is opportunity which can be packed or squandered. This is life which can be a success or a failure. At the same time, the artist has drawn two red circles in the day section. The theme here is You and I, the communal experience, what I can mean to you. What can I give to you or which debts must remain unpaid? The interest presented has nothing to do with self-centeredness, the central point of interest is not you, rather you are defined by what you may mean to others.
The work also displays blue bars, large ones and small ones, verticals and horizontals. Now and again these bars merge to form crosses. The are all blue, the color of faithfulness, the love of God for mankind - the color of faithfulness, the love of mankind for God. The vertical bars indicate the path from God to us and the path from us back to God. The horizontal bars indicate the path from fellow man to us and the path from us to fellow man. I see, in these bars, ultimately the cross, the works. Initially God influences and motivates us and subsequently we respond with our works. Our work resembles the work of God. It is made up of our love to Him and to fellow man. That is the entire Bible. We can identify hesitant beginnings in the painting but there are also sturdy crosses, greater successes with the power of love. We do not succeed everywhere but some successes will result from our endeavors and, even if it is only one success, it will continue to exist when its source is the true love.
Then, in the night section of the painting, these crosses are absent; the crosses which often make life tedious but which give it significance. There is no labor during the night. In the ancient Orient, human work was bound to daylight. During the night it was impossible to do anything. Death also puts an end to our laboring. The crosses disappear; small, yellow moons are drawn and stars, round in the dark blue night which only know and recognize one large central focus. This is fulfillment and eternal life.
Isn't it interesting to see how the artist understands the crosses, the sign of death but also the sign of Christ, as being part of life and our fulfillment as being in death. Through our Lord Jesus Christ it is essential to die during life, to take up the cross, to be here for others. The first human dies his death here. We relinquish our life and labor for God and our fellow man. In a strange and mysterious way, Christian life takes its course in the opposite direction: first we let our own will die, we let go in order to live the right way, to enjoy life to the full with others, to be open for new situations, to reach fulfillment. That is re-evaluation of values, the crazy life for God and fellow man as Christ taught us.
Young people were asked what they would do if they discovered that they only had one more day to live. What if I only had one more day to live?
An 18 old year wrote: "In point of fact we are continuously confronted with this situation. We are just not aware of the fact. One never can tell what the next minute will bring. One should live each day with awareness, more intensively and put more trust in Jesus." This young woman understood the question. We should also think this way. Or would be react like a 15 year old boy who expressed himself as follows: "I would take a pistol, listen to Beethoven's 5th symphony and shoot myself during the first movement".
Desperation or a sense of meaning, that is the focal question here. Life or death, that is a distinction. There is a difference in dying first, in relinquishing oneself in order to live again and to champion for a cause. "I live, but no longer in myself, but through Christ who lives in me". In this way it is possible to labor for the length of day because night will arrive when no-one can labor.

Jakob Vetsch
 

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