14. Oktober 2019

Sermon on June 16th, 2019

Sermon: Ute Frühwirth

Dear parishioners!

As I read the passage for the first time, I thought, „Well, wow! Romans! According to Luther – the Book of Books! „There are many sermons on this passage; I know that, because I’ve read some internet sites. Moreover, although I also know this text, and we have certainly preached it, there are words that were not very clear to me. What does the grace of God mean? If someone from my circle of friends had asked me, „What is the grace of God?“                 I could not give a spontaneous answer. In order to understand this text better, I first went in search of an explanation and I found conclusions by Walter Klaiber. He writes about grace as follows: „It is presented as a living space, as a salvific area into which a person can enter through the relationship with Jesus Christ and thus gain a secure foothold for his life.“ And to this living space we have free access through Jesus Christ, as it is said in verse 2.

Yet another thought about the grace of God: Grace is a gift from God, an appeal to us human beings. Therefore grace also expresses the attitude of God towards us. God is kind to us, he is gracious, he is merciful and he is not vindictive. Heart, what do you want more?
After I had clarified that for myself, a few words have emerged while reading this text several times. I call them the cornerstones, because I have built my further sermon on these cornerstones.

Corner number 1: fair

Romans 5 verse 1 says, „Now that we have been declared righteous by faith …“
The apostle Paul makes it clear to us that no man can be justified (that is, declared righteous) by virtue of his deeds, as he says in Romans 3 verse 22, „It is a righteousness based on faith in Jesus Christ and all benefit, who believe „. Theoretically, there would be the possibility of justifying people due to that what they did, theoretically that would be possible. But no one will ever do that, because we are sinners by nature. But God has found a way. The word justifies the word justification. In the legal sense, justification is an acquittal. As a judge, God has forgiven me my sins, he does not count them on me anymore, and there is no judgment. I am righteous before God – I have peace with God.

Corner number 1: Hope

Verse 2 „Moreover, we have a hope that fills us with pride.“

Hope is something wonderful. It makes life easy. It makes you think positively. Hope takes away the pressure that comes when a problem approaches. My faith gives me the hope that God will judge everything – he will turn everything for the better. The hope of participating in God’s glory fills us with pride!

Closely connected with hope is my third cornerstone: the hardship

Next in the text it says: „Because we know that need teaches us to persevere.“

We remember: Paul writes these lines to the Roman Christians from prison. That means he too was in an emergency. He was in great distress. Distress is an old word for distress. We know that. Each of us has been in distress before. Distress is a situation that feels bad. She makes us uncertain. An emergency can be life threatening. Then Paul writes: „Not teaches us to persevere“. That sounds a bit macabre to me.
Ronny and I chose the following slogan long ago for our wedding invitations: „Wonderfully sheltered by good powers, we confidently expect what will come. God is with us in the evening and in the morning, and certainly every new day. „This song has been with me all my life, and this very line has so much hope in it. I am not alone, no matter what comes, what misery I am exposed, the Lord is here, and I feel safe.

As a Sunday school principal, I once suggested this song as a monthly song in one session. And I remember Anna Streitfeld saying „no“. At first I was confused, but she immediately gave me the explanation. And after that explanation, I began to see the song with different eyes. Anna explained that the author or lyricist of this song was Dietrich Bonhoeffer. For many of us he is a household name. Moreover, the circumstances under which he wrote this song were so swamped by distress and distress. He was a Lutheran theologian, distinguished representative of the Confessing Church and involved in German resistance against National Socialism. On April 9, 1945, when the henchmen of Nazi terror led him to the gallows, his last words were: „This is the end – for me the beginning of life.“ Bonhoeffer died, born of a deep faith. An exceptional person? Far from us?

In such a situation, by which I mean imprisonment in the concentration camp to write these lines of the song, I was incredibly impressed and often thought to myself: „What kind of faith did this man – enviable!“ When I return to the song think „wonderfully well-protected by good powers“ I think, but we can also record these lines for us, even if we are not in such an exceptional situation as Dietrich Bonhoeffer was. Everyone has their own exceptional situations and everyone is allowed to feel safe from the good forces.
Still, I do not know about you, but I try to avoid difficult situations. That does not always happen to me, of course. But how do we deal with it? Let us lament, or say, „I can do it!“ At this stage, Christians can and should always positively support each other.

I come to the cornerstone number 4: the probation

Who does not know the times of probation, whether passed or voluntarily selected. Even our children are already exposed to trials at school or in dealing with their friends and girlfriends. They also have to learn to „persist“.

And that runs through our whole life. „Life is a single test,“ someone once said to me. That does not sound very positive. But how is it if he has passed the probation? If he or she has managed to persevere? Then that gives an incredibly good feeling!

Paul shatters this: „And whoever has learned to hold on, who is proved and proven consolidates hope. Probation brings hope. And hope that comes from the probation that trusts in God. We know that crises will come. But God will go with us.
I return once again to my rhetorical question from the beginning. If somebody from my circle of friends asks me in the future, „What is the grace of God,“ I would probably answer this way: „Grace is a gift! Through them God has absolved me of my sins. I have God’s approval and therefore the hope that I will be borne by him in all future needs and tribulations, and with his help, I can prove myself or endure it. „Hallelujah!

Amen