How can we best serve humanity

Sermon on June 1st, 2014 in Ratzeburg Cathedral

Dear Congregation,

Today I would like to talk about a difficult, a misunderstanding sentence that is so personal that basically only everyone can say about themselves - or can not say it. And yet there is a big "we" in Paul in the 8th chapter of Romans. And this “we” also has a deep meaning.

That sounds complicated - and I think it is too. But the path that Paul wants to take us on leads to nothing less than the salvation of the world. So for the salvation of our souls, for our faith and for our testimony. That is why I cannot simply ignore this text. I will try to trace with you this morning a series of thoughts that Paul sent to the church in Rome as a kind of quintessence of his faith.

The central sentence of his argument is: "But we know that those who love God, all things serve for the best."

I would like to start a survey at this point and ask for your consent - or ask for negative votes.

I'm pretty sure we'd hear both. Because there are these opposing voices in me too. “Who knows what it's good for.” And “It could have been worse.” But also: “Why me of all people?” And with a view to the fate of others: “As if this woman, this man couldn't bear enough would have."

"But we know that those who love God, all things serve the best."

No! Dear Congregation, I sometimes don't know. And I could now start a large list of situations and events that leave me at a loss. Which occasionally lead me to the edge of despair. And that's why I prefer not to look so closely, not to let the fate of others get so close to me.

But what does that help? It won't be any different for you. And Paul - I hope, because for me the whole persuasive power of his creed depends on it - neither. All of our ambivalences are also present in him. But he does not spread them out in front of us so that they do not gain power over us, rather he claims quite the opposite. A paradoxical intervention!

"But we know that those who love God, all things serve the best."

Yes! Dear congregation, sometimes I need people who vouch for the truth of this sentence with their lives so that I can bear my fate. Sometimes I need people who have such a charisma: "But we know that those who love God, all things serve the best."

And when such people experience suffering and are tested by fate, then this makes their testimony all the more credible.

I am very happy that I know such people whose beliefs I can stand up for. And I'm sure: “You are too. Such people. Who - without being able to answer all our human questions - still testify: But we know that those who love God, all things serve for the best. "

Because we believe that nothing can separate us from the love of God.
Because this is how we assure one another: That this love is visible in Christ Jesus.
Because we hope not only for ourselves but for the whole world, for all people on this earth: That in the end God will turn everything for the best.

Who else, if not us, should testify: "We know, however, that all things serve the best for those who love God."

Dear Congregation,

it is not superficial if our faith, hope, and prayer do not begin with the great questions of humanity, but with the little happiness that we have experienced, that we experience. In the moments of fulfilled being, meaningful action and life. With experiences of security and trust, of joie de vivre and fulfillment.

Yes! Of course, we associate our happiness with God, so we don't need to feel guilty because not everyone in this world is as good as we are at the same time.

No, we don't need to be ashamed of our happiness, we can gratefully remember those moments of self-forgetfulness and being one with oneself, which children and lovers in particular know.

There are moments like this in other parts of life too, they also exist in our everyday lives. Some people enjoy the awakening nature, the flowers and the lush green. In the chirping of the birds, which are enlivening this wonderful piece of earth in and around Ratzeburg right now. Some people can get lost in the sounds of music or get intoxicated by it - or both. In listening, in singing, in making music. The music from Ascension Day still resonates in me, especially Arvo Pärt's piece with Dietrich Hempel's violin and Christian Skobowsky on the organ.

I also think of other things that someone is particularly good at. The joy of being creative, which can be reflected in a particularly beautifully landscaped garden without realizing special artistic demands.
To do one's work well and to find satisfaction in it - that too can be lucky, a confirmation of this confession: "But we know that those who love God, all things serve the best."

That something succeeds, that something succeeds - that is also an earthly experience that we want to respect. An earthly experience that at the same time awakens a foretaste of heavenly happiness. God crowns what we do and what we do not do, the matter becomes round, and we are satisfied. Yes, we learn that for those who love God, all things are for the best.

Who should talk about it if we don't?

Dear Congregation,

after experiences of happiness are named and evoked, we also look to the other. To what we don't understand. On what or what we suffer from. To what makes us at a loss.

At this point I would like to single out a second sentence from Paul's letter, just as comforting, full of faith and hope. Paul writes: "The Spirit helps our weakness!"

The spirit helps up! We need this help when we reach our limits, when we are at the end of our game.

The spirit helps up! People who have suffered great suffering report that despite all the misery there was still a small island of hope that enabled them to persevere and live on. The spirit helps up!

People who are marked by weakness and illness can still radiate comfort and encouragement, because even in suffering there can still be the experience of meaning. Nobody can prescribe that, it is not simply a question of will, but the spirit helps up!

Because it is not we ourselves who have to turn things around for the better, that is why people have the experience of being held and carried, especially when falling. "The Spirit helps our weaknesses!"

Dear Congregation,

This is exactly how I understand the prayer of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane: “Father, if possible, let this cup pass me by. But not my will, but your will be done. "

In this way we too can pray when we are looking for a way out but cannot see the way forward.
Not my will, but God's will! - Entrusting oneself to God's guidance does not mean premature surrender, giving up, doing nothing.
Jesus - this is how I understand his request - did not give up and send himself in, but prayed for insight and protection. Niece without hope that everything will turn around, but in the trust that God will hold him and carry him on whichever way.

But we know that for those who love God, all things serve the best.

I want to say:
We believe that God means well with us.
We believe that God will turn all things for the best for us - even if we don't see it now.
We believe others need this message.


Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote down in his prison cell:

"I believe,
that God from everything, even from the worst,
Can and wants to create something good.
For that he needs people
who allow all things to be served for the best.

I believe,
that God can help us in every emergency
want to give as much resistance,
as we need.
But he does not give it in advance
so that we don't care about ourselves,
but rely on him alone.
In such faith all fear of the future should be overcome.

I believe,
that even our mistakes and errors are not in vain,
and that it is no harder for God to deal with them,
than with our supposed good deeds. (not part of the sermon)

I believe,
that God is not a timeless fate,
but that he should ask for sincere prayers
and responsible action waits and answers. "