"Jesus, Master, have mercy on us," the lepers cried out to Jesus. Necessity teaches to pray, says a proverb. The ten lepers were really in need. At that time they did not suffer only from skin complaints. Those who were lepers at that time had to leave the place, the family, they were isolated, they were practically condemned to die. These people had lost everything, simply everything. In desperation they cried out to Jesus.
They had only one wish: everything should become normal again. That is why they approached Jesus. The saying:"Necessity teaches to pray" still true today. Even today churches fill up in times of need and disaster. Even today, many people turn to talking to God when they have been hit by a personal stroke of fate.
If we look more closely, it becomes clear that it is not quite true. Necessity teaches to ask.
Pray but is more than a desperate plea. Jesus healed 10 lepers. He brought ten of them back to normal life. Only one of them was not enough. Only one was not satisfied with normality. Only one has learned from adversity. Only one wanted more. 10%, a ratio that is perhaps still true today. It seems to me that even today it is only one in ten who is not satisfied with the normal, who seeks more, who asks for the meaning of everything and wants access to the source of life himself.
One leper came back because he realized that whoever can relieve this distress can do even more. The gratitude of the one leper is more than an obligation. Gratitude is always a direction, an orientation, a goal that I set for myself. The sickness, the hardship had something good for one of the ten lepers. He has realized that there is a better way.Nine others continue on the old path, in the old rut. The biblical narrative explains so much that we also observe today.
Many people are in need. Many just get away with it, with a fatal illness, a car accident or something else. Most get back to normality, a nightmare that is over. But every nightmare has a cause and a meaning. Every need is also a chance and a sign. Some can understand and grasp it. They interpret their lives from God and discover a world that lives between the lines, a world behind the superficial things.
This discovery rarely goes without crisis. As a child, we learn from our parents to compare God to a father. If we are good, he does us good, he the almighty God. This picture is necessary in the religious education of children, because they cannot yet understand a more complicated picture. But if this image of God stops in adulthood and does not mature further, then we will go astray. It is simply not true that the good have it good and the bad have it bad. God is not the controller of all things in this world who orders everything justly. Again and again we ask ourselves: how can God allow this to happen?. Did God allow so many innocent victims to die, in the typhoon in the Caribbean, in bombings in Iraq, in the war in Syria in Halle and in so many other places in the world?. Did God allow or accept that Jesus dies here on the cross.
Many adults still have the image of God as a child, they have nurtured it but not allowed it to grow. If I am good, then God will help me. This faith falls short, it must grow. If it does not grow, then in my eyes God becomes a perpetrator in a world full of violent acts. I turn away from God or sacrifice my mind to obedience.
But God is different. I need a mature image of God that grows with my experiences. Crises of faith are very conducive to this growth. Through this I learn that God is unconditionally on the side of the victims. He is the one who hung on the cross as a sacrifice in Jesus Christ himself. He has humbled himself, he has not prevented the crucifixion. Since then, we must always look for him among the victims and not among the perpetrators. There with the victims we will find God. And we’ll find more than we were looking for. The emergency helper can do even more than relieve our distress, he can heal even more than leprosy. He shows us the source of everything.
Gratitude is a visible sign that we have found this source. Gratitude is only a word at first. Each of us imagines something different. But there is an emotion that changes our whole life for the better. He who is so filled with deep gratitude does not even ask about the meaning of life. He simply rejoices in everything. He is overflowing with love that he wants to give away. Everything about his life is joy. This gratitude is like a skill. It is like playing the piano. It must be practiced again and again, otherwise the mastery will be lost. The art of gratitude must be practiced and cultivated. It happens in prayer and worship. Gratitude turns our request into a prayer.
Necessity does not automatically teach us to pray. Need alone does not show us the way to salvation. But whoever really wants to pray, whoever seeks community and security in God’s world, can hardly avoid hardship and suffering. This is promised to us Christians. In every adversity, no matter how great, there is also an opportunity that would not exist without suffering. The message of Christ is a scandal, then as now. But one in ten changed his life. Jesus said to him: "Get up, walk on, your faith has saved you. (Amen.)
Fr. Gerald Warmuth
Sermon to the 1.Advent 2019 (Matthew 24:29-44)
"God visits us often, but most of the time we are not at home". I have been amazed by this African proverb lately. At some point I suddenly saw one of my old school classes in front of me, the little ones, and the cheeky three-year-old in the first pew calls out: "He could have called beforehand!"
Somewhere the child is right, and if we look at the Gospel texts of the Sundays of Advent, we find there even a lot of calls, wake-up calls. "Be vigilant," they say today, for example. This can be irritating at first; most of us, when we go to church, don’t expect alarm and alarming tones there, but a place and a moment to come to rest. Even a beautifully intoned "Wake up, the voice is calling us" does not worry us. When we close the church door behind us, we want to rejoice that we have escaped the hustle and bustle at least for a little while and are left alone.
Instead, in Matthew, we hear Jesus speak of catastrophes of apocalyptic proportions that make one’s blood run cold. The sun goes dark, the moon loses its light, stars fall from the sky. That is really intense. Greta Thunberg’s climate scenarios: the polar ice caps are melting, sea levels will rise by two meters in the next hundred years, Europe is threatened by drought – this seems like child’s play in comparison. I also feel a certain uneasiness when I think of the history of interpretation of this text. Gospel means ‘good news’ or a bit more sober still ‘good news’. Unfortunately, Jesus’ speeches about the Last Judgment have all too often been turned into a threatening message."Be on the alert" has been shortened to "fear". I have creepy memories myself: I was still sitting in the front of the children’s pew when the priest hurled this "You know neither the day nor the hour" as a thundering word from the pulpit. That was even more frightening than the "The good Lord sees everything"!"because even as a child we knew about the Grim Reaper, who can surprise us unawares. Dies irae "Alas, what will I poor say . "
As you can see, there are a lot of things to clean up and put in perspective. Let’s give it a try, rather than turning away from this disturbing gospel and preferring the much kinder readings of Isaiah or Paul. I have to backtrack a little.
When Matthew writes his Gospel, about two generations after the death of Jesus, the temple in Jerusalem has also been destroyed to its foundations. For Matthew’s church it was hard to grasp; they suffered from the fact that Jesus had not yet appeared to rebuild the temple. Instead, the dispersion of the Jewish people had continued. Many now asked themselves: Is this our tragic fate?? Or is there still hope for the Messiah? Matthew therefore collects and delivers Jesus’ words about the kingdom of God, which he condenses into a message: Do not give up! Waiting for the coming of Jesus! We don’t know when it will be, but it is right to wait and pray for it. For example, in the Lord’s Prayer, where the petition ‘Thy kingdom come’ occupies a prominent place. So we still pray today and hope that the earth will not be destroyed by man-made chaos. Countless experiences of immense suffering, oppression and powerlessness were reflected in the thinking of the time. A just world was then only possible with a radical new beginning. It would be best, so one thought, God makes an end of this whole world and creates again a new one. It was called apocalypse, when God openly shows what he can destroy and bring forth anew.
We can perhaps compare it with an old house, where it rains through the roof, the ceilings come loose, there is a draught through the windows, the plaster is crumbling, the water pipe is leaking, the beams are broken; there you will not fix the facade or wallpaper it anew. It is better to tear down the old house and build a new one". And looks forward to it. Of course it is something terrible when a world collapses, or only when a house is destroyed ( this only in brackets: that’s why the architects euphemistically speak of "deconstruction"; the newspaper, however, writes "demolition" and thus aims at the ugly side, because that usually has something reliably fascinating about it. Just like the apocalyptic in cinema). The words of Jesus, as Matthew records them, are thus something quite different from a guide to nightmares, namely an encouragement to believe in a better future, to live toward God’s world. Not a threat, but – quite free of irony – a promise.
How does such a gospel fit into our present time?? This is certainly not light fare. To open Matthew from the end at the beginning of the church year is a bit strange, as the youth would say. You may know the saying "it is Matthew at the last!", when things get awfully tight.
But I think it makes sense to remember during Advent such images of the future full of fear that have entered our faith tradition. They direct our gaze back to the present, to images of threats of war, poverty, fear for the homeland, division and alienation of peoples, families, partnerships. We should not and cannot close our eyes to the catastrophes of the world, both large and small.
Advent means So: being watchful and waiting for the Lord also means being on the alert – when the Lord comes, he wants to find a living world, not an idle one.
Advent is Retreat, reflection, finding rest, in which the voice of God becomes audible.
Advent is, To let God into our world, our cities, our homes. To perceive its traces in the glow of candles, to taste in the scents of our childhood, to see in the beauty of nature and art, to hear in the harmony of music.
You cannot forget the world, nor should you as a Christian – it is the world into which God wants to come.
Yes – the memory of God may make us see the world anew.
And let us be certain:
God will come – when and where and how he wills.
Pushing does not work. Braking does not work either.
But to hold the door open – we can do that!
Sermon on the Ascension of Christ
This festival today lives from the images, lives from the amazement. I do not want to explain this amazing event. The mystery of this biblical account cannot be resolved. I only want to interpret this astonishing event as something that gives us guidance and support. When something rises, it speaks to our longing. Everything pushes upwards. Above is salvation and below is misery. An archetype that runs through all mythologies and stories. In our dreams, in our fairy tales, everywhere we seek to fly, we seek to ascend, for we find the good at the top, on the mountain or even higher. There are many myths in which people ascend to Olympus, are elevated to gods. It corresponds to a deep longing in us.
But what happens at the Ascension is quite different. Ascension we can understand only in the context of Christmas and Easter. The one who ascends is the one who descended. He who has given up his power, has emptied himself. We have never heard of this before. No one dreams that someone descends voluntarily. For us humans it is only a nightmare when we fall, fall down, fall down. Ascension shows us that heaven and earth are united. That Christ is the mediator, the bridge between God and man. And if there is this bridge, then heaven is open to us, to each one of us. Heaven has nothing to do with a plane ride. The word heaven describes the goal of our longing, the place where everything is good. Let us ask children: Where does God live: They answer: In heaven. The answer is wrong because the question is wrong. We must ask: Where is heaven: And the answer is: Heaven is in God. Every bridge that brings us closer to God brings us closer to heaven. – and this heaven is not only above, but also around us, in the midst of us. – This heaven is not only in the future, it has always been there and it also fills our present when we take hold of it. – This heaven is not only a spiritual thing, it can be sensually experienced and experienced, it was created for us human beings, even if we cannot grasp and understand it.
Ascension, these are many images that suggest an indescribable thing. We should not be satisfied with less than this heaven. With less than this heaven, which is greater than anything we can imagine. Jesus descended to return home. His ascent to heaven was like a homecoming. In the homecoming there is perfection. This is true for Christ. This is also true for us. "You see me" – is the slogan of the Protestant Church Congress in Berlin and Wittenberg, which began yesterday. "You are a God who sees me" The words come from the 16th century. Chapter of the Book of Genesis. Hagar, the Egyptian slave of Sarai, the childless wife of Abraham, lets herself be impregnated by Abraham at the latter’s behest and is subsequently so humiliated by her that she flees. At a spring of water in the desert, she meets an angel who sends her back, but promises her two things: her descendants will be numerous – something otherwise only granted to men in the Bible – and her son Ishmael will dwell in the land as a free man. "And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou art a God that seeth me".
When we are seen, it changes our whole life. Life is no longer private. Our life becomes a life on stage. For some this is frightening. They would rather be isolated in insignificance. They would rather be able to devote themselves to their consumption and their addictions without being bothered. But we humans are designed to be loved. And part of this is to be seen. You can’t love a person with a mask on or a suit of armor with nothing sticking out of it. An open heaven is the condition for our whole world, God’s creation to be held in love. You see me, that is heaven is our audience, this view changes our behavior decisively, every day and every hour we live. If I act in view of heaven, then I preserve the creation that was made from heaven. When I act in the face of heaven, I don’t care if I get caught when I harm a person, by lying or stealing. In the end there is righteous judgment. When I act in view of heaven, I do not think only of the time of performance in this human life. In view of heaven I think of the life that goes beyond my human time. And yet the scriptural word applies to us: Do not look to the heavens. It is the admonition in the Gospel of the Ascension. Look at the people around you and act. Let us take this admonition seriously in our congregations that are now gathered for worship..
Rev. Gerald Warmuth
Sermon for the SE feast service on 8.12.2019
In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a virgin in a town in Galilee called Nazareth. She was betrothed to a man named Joseph, who was of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
28 The angel came to her and said: Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you.
29 They were startled by the greeting and wondered what it meant.
30 Then said the angel unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God.
31 Behold, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.
32 He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David.
33 He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever and ever, and his dominion will have no end.
34 Mary said to the angel, How shall this be done, seeing I know no man??
35 The angel answered her: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore also the child will be called holy and Son of God.
36 Behold, even Elizabeth your kinswoman conceived a son while still in her old age; although she is considered barren, she is already in her sixth month.
37 For nothing is impossible for God.
38 Then said Mary, Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to thy word. Then the angel left her.
"Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with thee"
Dear sisters and brothers from our pastoral unit – How do you feel when this greeting is addressed to you today?? "Don’t talk so gschwolla drher!"would probably be the first spontaneous answer, at least from the Swabian side. "Greetings, you blessed one, you blessed one, the Lord is with you!" Maybe the person who speaks to me like this wants something from me? First you butter up – and then you want something – we know that!
This is exactly how it continued in the story of the Annunciation, which we heard today on the occasion of our patron saint’s day. First such an angel bursts in completely unexpectedly – visitation in the truest sense of the word, then this reverend address, and – as suspected, then he actually wants something.
It is understandable that Mary was frightened at first. In the middle of her home, in the middle of everyday life, the word of God is proclaimed to her – three announcements are made to her by the angel – she will conceive a child – she will give birth to a son – she will give him the name Jesus. Then the angel points out the special meaning, the nature and the task of the child.
Mary is confused and asks: How is this to happen? The angel Gabriel – also this name has a heavy meaning: he – means: "God makes himself strong for his people" this angel lives up to his name and speaks courage to Mary: "Do not be afraid"! Because where God comes into play, our fear is dispelled, with him nothing is impossible. Where God comes into play, great things happen! We are still unable to grasp much of this with our limited possibilities, and perhaps never will be able to fully grasp it. And so Luke does not explain the great mystery of the encounter between God and Mary – but he marvels at the event between God and man.
Luke uses well-known images from the biblical tradition: God’s presence is often described with the motif of the shadow. The shadow falls on Mary: the power of the Most High does not put Mary in the shadow, but creates new life in her. The power of the Holy Spirit and the power of the Word of God bring about new life, change, transformation and a new beginning. "For nothing is impossible for God" should actually be translated literally as: "No word from God is without power" – the angel reminds Mary of the creation story: where it is said again and again and God spoke – and it became. (z.Ex: light…) God’s word does what it says! With her "Yes, let it be done to me as you have said", Mary consents to God’s Word becoming effective in her and on her. Mary gives her yes out of her trust in the mystery that comes to her through the love of God – The Lord is with you – for Mary this promise was sufficient to agree to become the mother of the Messiah. To this she will then also give the name Jesus: which means: "God helps" or also: "God redeems". In this way, the whole of God’s plan of salvation becomes visible in Mary’s election.
Luke begins his Gospel with stories in which "little" people experience great attention, because God acts on them. According to Luke, God always has such surprises in store. and his visitations arrive completely unexpectedly. Unpredictable is this God who makes the small great and the great small. Every word of this God is powerful. Whoever receives it, accepts it and lets it work on him, great things happen to him, for the salvation of many people.
So Mary is also today the model for us and for our church. Her courage is admirable, her trust is worthy of imitation, both cause miracles. Mary listens actively and she receives, because she opens herself to the great mystery of the Word of God.
Being struck by God’s powerful word? Counting on God’s surprises? This is not always easy, especially when God wants to go completely different ways with us, when His will does not fit into our life plans at all, when His will is so contrary to my wishes that I almost despair of the question – why exactly this has to happen to me!
A look at Mary can be comforting and strengthening in this respect. Mary believed against all odds and placed herself completely in the hands of God. She walked the path of the "yes", she persevered until the end! Even in the situations in which she did not understand her son or he seemed to distance himself from her. In the end she went with him under the cross.
Faithfulness and steadfastness, these qualities are also important for us when we commit ourselves to God. Of course, Mary was especially gifted, but we are also gifted by God – each one differently, but in a very special way. Even though in the history of the Church Mary has always been elevated to higher levels and showered with special qualities, she can be an encouragement and incentive for us. Mary also wants to encourage us to accept and live our own vocation.
God also has a plan with us! Do we know this plan? Do we want to know Him at all, or are we so caught up in our own desires and plans that there is no room at all for God’s surprises?? In the texts of the Holy. Scriptures show again and again how open and ready Mary was for God. Not as a virgin and sweet goddess, but as a human being. Thus Mary, through her willingness to give herself to God, has become the archetype of the Church.
And that must have an impact on our understanding of the Church: For this, today on the patron saint’s day of our church and on the Sunday when our pastoral unit celebrates worship together, I would like to share a few points for reflection, since the future of our church concerns us all!
If we see our Church from Mary, then our Church should above all be able to listen, trust, believe and love, as Mary did. She should live more from the Spirit of God. A church that reveres Mary as a model must not orient its pastoral care and pastoral plan primarily to success, but to the essence of the Gospel. Jesus came to all people, he spoke to men and women and trusted them to help build the kingdom of God. He has called everyone to follow in his footsteps, to proclaim the good news to people, to heal and to stand up for peace and justice. Pope Francis pointed this out very clearly when he regretted that for centuries the "church" had been more like a courtroom and should be more like a field hospital where people with all their fractures and wounds find healing.
A church that not only venerates Mary as a heavenly and sweet virgin, but takes her as a model, should have more confidence in the future and in the effects of the Holy Spirit, than to continue to be petrified in the actual state. Nothing is impossible with God! I believe that today it is not enough just to open the windows, the doors must also be opened so that so-called "lay people" can also have access to the synods, councils and ministries of our Church.
At the moment when the angel enters Mary’s house, she is depicted in many pictures as praying. Since last Sunday, the German bishops have begun the "synodal way". Translated, this means "common path! Important topics and questions of our time are to be discussed. Lay people are also invited to participate, everyone can even take part in the discussions and votes via the Internet. For me, this is a long overdue step, which was already initiated in the Second Vatican Council.
I cordially invite you to pray for the success of this "common way". If you want, you can write a card to our bishop in the back. Maybe you write on it the same sentence with which the angel Gabriel encouraged Mary: Do not be afraid! The life of Mary is the proof that God does not leave his world alone, but always finds new ways to come to the world. However, even today he needs people who let themselves be addressed by him and who are also willing to help build his kingdom. –
Be greeted – you gifted ones! –
Sermon at Pentecost (4.6.2017)
Pentecost is imprinted on us as a miracle of languages. A great show, a great spectacle. It is impressive when people speak in all languages and tongues of fire fly through the air. Something else impresses me more today. Spectacles are no longer rare in our multimedia world. For me Pentecost is also a listening miracle. The disciples perceived a message. In our time I find this much more important. When a message is spoken very softly in silence, it is difficult to understand it. But it is more difficult to understand a message when there is noise all around, when thousands of messages are coming in at once. This is how I experience myself and my surroundings. It’s hard to hear what God is trying to tell me now.
A healthy spirituality today needs almost a listening miracle and a practice that encourages listening. And I don’t mean external, acoustic hearing, but inner perception and understanding. An acoustically silent place is not enough, because the thoughts and impressions resonate. I had an experience of active listening three weeks ago. I was on a foot pilgrimage. Step by step I came out of the noise inside me. For hours, for days, just walking, singing, praying. Until I was all the way to my feet. And when I was all foot, I was all ear. It is a secret of Christian meditation. To do one thing so intensely that I forget everything else about it. Not to be diverse ..become simple-minded. And when I am all simple-minded, when I do only one thing–and all of it–and when I let that thing slip from my consciousness as well.. be it singing, running or working – if I can let go of that as well – then there is silence in me and into this silence the message can penetrate like into an open auricle. Only when I have passed through this gate of silence, only then can I speak with enthusiasm. All those who have not yet passed through this gate, all those are even dangerous, because their message does not carry, because it disappoints and leaves disappointment in the end.
Rolling up your arms is no use to prepare a new Pentecost for our church. Only when we are infected with flaming health, when we are inflamed with a passion that comes from another world, can we face the slow burial of our church. As it was 50 days after the resurrection, the Church today is at the beginning, because it is always at the beginning. No generation is spared to begin, but no generation is spared the spirit that ignites us when we prepare for it. Seek the encounter and let ourselves be addressed by that which we call holy. Holy Spirit. Mistrust is the greatest enemy of life. Trust is an irreplaceable treasure. And we cannot create this treasure. He must be given to us. Trust is necessary for survival. Without trust, the human community disintegrates. The sociologists have noticed this and the business leaders know about this necessity.
But how can trust be created among people?? I am always in the Czech Republic. The post-communist societies of Europe in particular recognize that materialism tends to destroy this trust, not to build it up. A society cannot live like this. Things were better even under communism, although the trust there was also only an illusion. As Christians we know. All trust from person to person ultimately springs from trust in God. Holy Spirit – this inconceivable word – means first of all what we call trust. A trust that our society needs to live, like nature needs the sun. And yet there is a great obstacle for us. We are oversaturated with substitutes, so we cannot absorb the Holy Spirit. Jesus said to the disciples: Peace be with you. The people who ring at the rectory tell me: You can keep the peace, I need money, I can’t buy anything for peace. Or they tell me. I need a place to live. I would be helped if my marriage could be straightened out. Peace, what is that?. But Jesus did not say, I give you strength or I give you victory. He did not say: "Success be with you". Peace he said.
In a more or less contented society Jesus can no longer land with his peace. So must there be war first? So first the discontent must grow, that it can become Pentecost among us. I really believe that Pentecost begins where people are dissatisfied. Where they live in fear. And I believe that "we" are only satisfied because we are anesthetized. Stunned by a cushion on the bank account. Stunned by the confidence of a secure pension. Stunned by so much convenience. We have forgotten our hunger for life in the midst of anesthesia. Life however is more than survival. Pentecost shows us a way out of this situation. The disciples were afraid, they hid themselves. The spirit broke into their bunker and lured them out. The situation of our church is often lamented. We are just a small bunch, ridiculed by many. We are not satisfied. We are hungry. But is that bad? Isn’t that just the requirement? All narcotics are discontinued. Complacency, triumphalism, vanity, none of that slows us down anymore. We are hungry. What a runway for the Holy Spirit. More can often come out of small contrite groups than large ones. This is what Pentecost shows us. Only one thing is a prerequisite. Boundless openness to foreign languages and foreign people. Open people and open churches are the best runway for the Holy Spirit, the Spirit that creates peace and trust – through us -. Amen