This is the last post from our 2003 interview with Rev. Ferenc Visky. I can say that at the heart of his long interview was his constant trust in God no matter the circumstances in which he found himself. As in the worldwide Reformed church today, the Hungarian Reformed Church contained many different responses to their life under communist tyranny. Some, like Visky, relied on God’s Spirit to carry them through. Some, including pastors, were blackmailed into submission. Others, overwhelmed with holocaust guilt and shaken by enlightenment doubt, immersed themselves in a theology of compromise with communist authorities. In this post, Visky alludes to these troubles, but ends with final words of hope and trust.
Psalm 68: 1
God shall arise and by his might put all his enemies to flight.
“I have a note here about Psalm 68. The Huguenots sang it on the battlefield. The rhythm of this psalm is so vivid that you cannot fall asleep while it is being sung. We sang this psalm many times during the communist era. However, the church made a compromise, or it’s better to say that the non-church within the church made the compromise with the authorities to leave out psalms like Psalm 68. It is a shame, but when they published a revision of the psalm book, they left out those politically risky psalms and published an incomplete version. This was done by pastors and Reformed bishops. This is how it was in Romania.”
“In 1983, at the beginning of the year, sometime after my years in prison, a committee of church judges sat together. This “court” included some who were informers of the secret police. The purpose of the court was to kill my work by not allowing me to continue as a pastor anymore. So, the committee sat together, considered, and arrived at the conclusion that I was not obeying the leaders of the church. I was labeled a dissident. They argued that our church confessions state that all spirits have to obey the church leaders, and since I was disobedient, they forced me to retire. I also received this sentence in written form, and so they ended any possibility for further service in the church.
God is not an ordinary merchant who buys and sells just anything. There is a word in the Bible that refers to a merchant who buys and sells anything, whether diseases or shoelaces. God is not like that. The church ought not to be such a merchant either, one that would sell and serve up any kind of spiritual, ideological, economic or political movement.
So, what is interesting about the end of my official service in the church? God is the God of revenge, but his revenge is different from ours. His is a saving revenge, and in this kind of revenge one can discover a new world. Here’s how it happened to me. God took revenge on the head of the court that defrocked me. It began when his wife began a new and blessed life. This pastor is now attending every Bible study class we hold in our congregation, and when we meet each other, we hug with affection. This is how God makes his revenge.
God took his revenge another time. There was a deputy bishop, a person of great authority, who greatly opposed me during the past system and also signed the anathema paper forbidding me to continue as a pastor. Now in these days, we pray together, and I have never asked whether he remembers the decision once taken against me, and I never will. Who could wish for better revenge than this?”
To Be Young
Psalm 136 Give thanks to the Lord, for he his good. His love endures forever.
“You asked whether I know today’s young generation. I can say that I know them just the way I know myself. I myself am a man of three 20-year-old men; three 20 year old men are hidden in me – let’s say not more than four, for I am 85. This is not a pagan perspective just to say that Uncle Feri is a sort of 20-year-old instead of an eighty year old.
I think that we can be together and understand each other because the young generation knows exactly when you are being honest and when you are not. They can feel it, especially if you walk among them with an open mind, and at the same time your life is an open book that is widely known and read by many. They visit us frequently. Yesterday, for example, several visited us and we discussed many things: the love of men and women, divorce, dancing, sport, this and that. At the same time, I recognize the years behind me, the distance between us, and I wish I could get closer to this younger generation because I am willing to listen and understand them and their situations.
You asked whether, according to my understanding, the younger generation can relate to the message of the Book of Psalms. If we sing the psalms within the spirit of the psalms, we find that they remain real and vivid. The message to youth is to have the courage of David and the ability to bend while standing in your place. Young David was brought to Saul’s room when Saul was behaving as a madman. Then came David with his music therapy; we could also call it psalm therapy here. The world, just as Saul, is mad, fanatic. The church, too, is full of fanatic people, but we cannot tell anyone he is mad and then ignore him. We should, as David, begin to play on the lyre, and then we can see that a change begins. It is the symphony that heals. The prodigal son also heard such a symphony when he returned to the Father’s house. He even heard this symphony when he was still outside. I wish the church could play this kind of music."
Words to Remember
"I think that we are not in the position to decide whether our lives or even a moment in our lives is useful or not. The question instead is into whose hands do I put my life? With whom do I find my rhythm? It is sure that what God plans for me, he does. Of course, it makes a difference whether I am in harmony with him or I am protesting. His being gives sense to my being. Otherwise there is no meaning in life.
Luther liked the Psalms very much and called them the tools of gnotis aouton, meaning know yourself. He said that we can find the true knowledge of ourselves in the book of Psalms. The question is then, who am I? I am a lost and suffering person. Augustine liked the psalm that said, ‘Sing new songs to the Lord.’ What is new? The answer is, nothing but the love of Jesus renewed each day. So, sing the psalms of your fathers with such renewed love each day.”