18. Januar 2020

Sermon on January 12th, 2020

Sermon: Frank Moritz-Jauk

I believe, help my out of my unbelief – Mark 9, 14-26a

Dear congregation, today we have heard the whole text of this year’s motto. How a father comes to Jesus with his sick son, whom the disciples could not help and how Jesus heals this son. 

Jesus heals the Son, but he shows his feelings in an unusual, violent way. Today we would perhaps say that Jesus is annoyed. Or even, a little bit angry. What do you mean „if you can“ he’s confronting the father. „To him who believes, anything is possible.“

You almost hear a „if you don’t believe that I can help you, why did you come to me then“ out of it. And the father seems to sense that. He senses that things are getting tight and that Jesus could also turn around and walk away, because he calls out, loudly and probably already quite desperately: „I believe! Help me out of my unbelief!“

This is our annual slogan for 2020: „I believe! Help me out of my unbelief!“

Actually, it should be „I want to believe, but I can’t.“

Actually, a belief is addressed here that cannot completely let go.

A belief that does not trust.

But that, dear congregation, does not go together. It is not for nothing that faith and trust are used as two very related, very similar words. I believe, means I trust.

When I stand here on this table, there are only two possibilities: I let myself fall because I trust that I will be caught or I don’t trust and then I don’t let myself fall. 

The moment gravity starts to work, I am pulled towards the floor and without the catching hands it becomes a very painful experience for the back of my head. But I can also trust my catchers. And make the experience of being caught. But I only have this experience when I let myself fall. If I do not let myself fall, I will also not have the experience of being caught. It is the same with faith. I cannot have an experience with God, if I do not trust God.

Most of the time anyway. Of course there is also a Moses, whom God meets in the burning bush. But as a rule, it takes a commitment to God’s work.

And that’s the way I hear the cry of the Father: I’m desperate to believe! Help me, God, to believe, to really trust.

In very concrete terms, this could mean:

I believe that God accepts and loves me for who I am. I have read that or heard that or both and I would like to believe that. 

But my unbelief mixes this wonderful promise with human standards: Does God really love me as I am? Am I pious enough, do I pray often enough, do I go to church often enough? What about my evil thoughts, can God love someone who is also sometimes wicked? Vile and mean? God cannot love someone like that, can he?

Help my unbelief here could mean: I God, distinguish between sin and sinner. I distinguish between evil deeds and the person standing in front of me. God says I created you and love you unconditionally even if you do things I don’t like. But bring these things to me in prayer and let yourself be set free from their destructive power that questions my love. Because if you repent, that is if you are sorry, then I forgive you.

Or another example:

I believe that all our prayers have an effect. No prayer is in vain, no prayer has no effect. I believe that God always does something because he hears our requests. Ask and it will be given to you – God has promised this.

Help my unbelief, could mean that I do not see only one, single answer to prayer. For example, when I pray for healing from a certain disease. Then it is often the case that I believe that only when the person for whom I prayed gets well, only then has my prayer been answered by God. 

But this is only one out of many possibilities.

Can’t one effect of my prayer be that I myself am comforted? Or that the person I pray for gets hope again? Or that he or she was saved from worse pain? Or that he or she could die in peace?

Why should I reduce the creator of the universe to a single way of dealing with my prayer?

And one last example:

I believe that it is good to connect oneself with God. To do all tasks together with God. To pray and thus to say: God is here. „He who abides in me and I in him bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing“ says Jesus. To put it more simply: it is good to be united with Jesus. Then you don’t get angry so quickly. Or one does not become unjust so quickly. Or one can act differently.

Help my unbelief can keep me from thinking that it doesn’t matter if I pray. To think God doesn’t hear me anyway. To think that God isn’t always there, but only sometimes or only in church. 

That we cannot always feel God in the same way or with the same intensity – that, I would say, is normal. Faith in God is not always the same. But when God helps us to believe, then our faith gets more security. We rely on God, we trust him. We know, not guess or wonder, that God is there.

When I look at our yearly slogan like this, it is really very concrete:

I want to believe, God! 

Help me to trust you more and more! 

To be able to let myself fall into your catching, supporting hands.

Amen