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Christmas - Not Yet Christmas

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 As I prepared to lead Bible studies and preach this past Advent season, the Scripture passages I was studying drew my attention to a particular image, one I had not paid much attention to before – the process of giving birth, of labor pains.

Biblical authors in both Testaments used this dramatic metaphor to underline the struggle that occurs while God's Reign is breaking in. In this image the physical and spiritual are closely tied together - God working in and through human vulnerability and giving strength to bring new life.

Having been present for the birth of Matvey, Martin and Lukas, I know that it can be difficult to see someone you love hurting, especially when you feel mostly powerless to do anything about it. You know that this is the way it should be and you have reason to hope that in the end everything will turn out alright. But in the meantime it's not easy to witness suffering...and you wonder what it must be like for those directly impacted by the pain.

As I write this on the evening of Christmas Day, I am once again feeling pain for those whom I care about. While I was not personally acquainted with the victims of yesterday's plane crash, this loss is particularly disheartening. The Alexandrov Ensemble (one of two groups to use the title “Red Army Choir”) represented the Russian musical tradition both at home and abroad; it's numbers were cut by more than 1/3 in a blink of an eye. And on that plane to Syria was Dr. Elizaveta Glinka, “Dr. Liza” to everyone here. She was an American citizen as well as a Russian citizen, and I hope that with her death more will be informed about her life. Dr. Liza felt like an ally...or, to be more precise, she made you feel like you wanted her to consider you her ally. She was incredibly dedicated to bringing medical care to those who needed it desperately; she started in the field of palliative medicine (doing much in the 2000s to, for the first time, bring hospice care to people's attention) and then, over the past few years, concentrated on those in need in the war zones of eastern Ukraine (“Donbas”) and Syria. She was one of literally two or three people in the country who have fought for human rights successfully and without compromise in a way that draws public attention on a national scale, including the attention of the country's leaders. Just a few weeks ago she received a government award for her work and in her speech used the opportunity to acknowledge that it is risky work, but ultimately we have no other real choice than to believe that the power of good will overcome.

Here in Russia, where the majority of the country's Christians follow the Gregorian calendar, many people are still waiting for Christmas. Even if Christmas Day is behind us, though, to one degree or another we are still all living in the midst of labor pains. The church's tradition reflects this – marking the massacre of the innocents just days after Christ's birth. The hard truth of this and every season is that a full-throated celebration of Christmas is almost impossible while the labor pains continue. Our faith calls us to trust that new life will come. In the meantime, though, our call is not only to witness the suffering, but to do all in our power to ease it, whether that be by singing as a member of a choir, healing and advocating as a doctor / human rights advocate, or in whatever way God has called each of us to be instruments of the Kingdom. Every day that we are given.

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Бюркле Брэдн

Брэдн Бюркле, миссионер из Евангелическо-Лютеранской Церкви Америки, служит в России с 2001 года.

Родился в Плевне, штат Монтана, США. В 1998 году он закончил колледж Св. Олафа в Нортфилде, штат Миннесота, получив диплом бакалавра с отличием. Его специализация - русский язык, изучение России и английская литература. В 2002 году он закончил лютеранскую теологическую семинарию Пэсифик в Беркли, штат Калифорния, получив диплом магистра богословия.

В России  провел в Великом Новгороде, где он служил викарием лютеранской церкви Св. Николая. Примерно два года Брэдн нес пасторскую ответственность за эту маленькую общину.

В 2003 году Брэдн стал преподавать в Теологической Семинарии в Новосаратовке. С 2003 по 2005 г. на Брэдена была полная ответственность за занятия в области церковной истории, этики и систематической теологии.

Академические интересы Брэдна охватывают русскую религиозную философию конца 19/нач. 20 вв. (в общем), в частности, этические аспекты софиологии, развитые православными мыслителями отцом Павлом Флоренским и отцом Сергием Булгаковым.

Другие материалы в этой категории: « Learning in the Northern Caucasus
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