18. Januar 2020

Sermon on January 5th, 2020

Sermon: Frank Moritz-Jauk

Falling into God’s arms

Dear congregation, today we celebrate our covenant renewal with God. At this point, we are in the middle of the service. What has happened so far?

I would like to ask those who have intensely studied this service and who have perhaps also been celebrating it for decades to forgive me this question. However, for those who are here in the service today without much preparation, this question should be allowed. 

Such a liturgy is very, very dense and I know that it will become much denser, so I would like to point out a few basic things. Maybe then, it will be easier for some people to choose to renew their covenant with God. 

We started this celebration by asking for a pure heart. That was, in a way, the “reset” button. You probably know this from your mobile phones and computers. Reset means recovery. It is possible to restore the original intent of the manufacturer of the device. This can sometimes be the easier way after downloading all kinds of viruses onto the device. And in the same way we can also understand the request for a pure heart. Back to the start. We start anew, and in such a way as our Creator, i.e. our manufacturer thought of us in his original plan. Pure, in harmony with him, our God, full of the Holy Spirit and thus full of genuine love. This is what we express with our request for a pure heart: Let us have a good start, God. 

The prayer of thanksgiving that follows deals with our fundamental salvation. The revival of faith in us, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. With gratitude we remember this event, which comes from God. Which we cannot accomplish ourselves, but which we accept in gratitude. In our prayer of thanksgiving, we also remember the guidance up to this point in our lives and the reliability of God who followed us when we moved away from him. For me, the core of the prayer of thanksgiving is the thanks for the miracle of faith. After all, we all notice how hard it is for the people we know, appreciate and love to relate to the Christian faith. So I recognise gratefully in the prayer of thanksgiving that God looked for me and found me, so that I believe in him. 

The confession of sin then describes our most common transgressions fairly accurately. How we are always thrown back on ourselves. How forgetful we are. How other things or our own concerns are more important to us than discipleship, and so on. I think the confession is pretty self-explanatory. I think it is more important here to point out the liberating character of every confession of sin. Especially in our liturgy of the Lord’s Supper 775, this is described very well: God does not want to expose or humiliate us. Look at how bad you are, no! Through the confession of sin, God frees us from the burden of all open and hidden guilt, so that we can breathe freely again. Guilt that has been confessed and identified can be forgiven. Guilt that we do not confess is not gone or hidden from God. God sees everything, but he sees it with loving eyes and wants to free us from the burden of guilt. 

Therefore, he forgives us our sins and we have heard this promise. Hopefully we have heard it as a real promise. It is true because God himself says it: you are cleansed – I no longer see your guilt – it is done, it is all good again. All good, not just a little good. But totally and completely good. 

In the Proclamation, we have learned about two very fundamental statements from the two readings. The message of the first reading is: the days are coming when every person of the chosen people of Israel will know the Lord. This is first of all really a promise for Israel and not for us. Then why is it written in this important “Christian” liturgy? Because they are at least double consolation. Consolation for Israel also means consolation for Christians, who have so often held Judaism in such low esteem. That is one consolation. The other consolation is this: What God can do with Israel could be possible for the rest of the world too. There is hope that at some point God will act in every one of his creatures. 

The message of the second reading is directly addressed to us: Remain in me, says Christ. Without me you can do nothing. One could defiantly object and say, why, I can walk, I can talk, I can do this or that. But with regard to faith and its proclamation, my experience tells me: as a witness of faith it is as Christ has said. Our credibility is exclusively based on the connection to Christ. 

And with that, we have now returned to the sermon. A short review of what has happened so far. What is yet to come? 

The introduction to the covenant renewal says why we should make this covenant: Because Christ died for us. Because we were thereby called to serve him, and therefore God. Not because we have to, but because we want to, by our own free decision. Out of love and gratitude.  

As we renew the covenant, we unconditionally let ourselves fall into God’s arms. 

I admit that the formulations adopted therein present a serious challenge. I also admit that in some years I was not able to speak this part. I acknowledge that they invoke our trust – and indeed a very strong trust in God.

But this is exactly what I have come to see as a great opportunity: it is really true that I let myself fall into God’s arms and thus express my trust, my faith, in his care and in his work. Every trial is also an opportunity to grow. And how long each phase of our life lasts is not revealed by this promise. I promise not to suffer forever, to be sick or unemployed forever, to mourn forever. I promise to make myself available to the work of God. To let myself be imbued by God. 

And despite all the efforts and troubles I experience, this as a great enrichment for my life. I am allowed to be in touch with God. Travel together with him. And this in a loving and liberating relationship.