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by Wolfgang Huber
Sunday, Dec. 26, 2004 at 4:43 PM
We are saved but in hope. The hopoe that one sees is not hope since one cannot hope for what one sees.. Hope is as vital as the air we breathe.. Hope even if is only as weak as a straw keeps alive our longing for freedom.
HOPE AND DISAPPOINTMENT
By Wolfgang Huber
[This sermon delivered on November 14, 2004 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.ekd.de. Wolfgang Huber is chairperson of the Evangelical Church in Germany.]
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the community of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Whoever doesn’t know any music may think he or she doesn’t miss anything without it. Whoever has a liking for music cannot live without it any more.
Music lends wings to people and gives voice to their feelings. The Libertas choir is a choir that has freedom in its name and sings passionately – out of thanks for gained freedom while animated at the same time by the permanent longing for freedom. This choir was called into being on the way to the formation of a free South Africa. Its destiny was very clear when it sang the new South African national hymn in 1994 during the independence celebration in Pretoria.
Today, November 14, dear brothers and sisters, you singers help our church service in this Berlin church. In these days the citizens of our country remember the epochal significance of November 9, 1989. Life in the once fragmented city of Berlin, in the formerly divided Europe and in the world marked by the Cold War has changed in an incredible way through November 9, 1989. The greatest historical gift since the end of the Second World War was given to us in the heart of Europe this day fifteen years ago. Freedom, democracy and human rights mark the lives of many people today who were exposed to the arbitrariness of dictatorships before the velvet revolution of 1989. I set our experience with one another in relation to this day, your experience in South Africa and our experience in Germany.
The sermon text for this Sunday is the hope that came into the world with Jesus Christ. This hope is boundless and embraces humans, culture and nature, the whole creation. The hope established in Christ knows about the suffering of this age. It knows what people do to themselves, others and the creation. We hear the signs of creation subject to transitoriness. However amid the distresses of the present, it is certain through Jesus Christ that the freedom of the children of God will be revealed and our bodies will be redeemed.
Still I am convinced that the sufferings of this time cannot be compared with the glory to be revealed in us. The creation waits longingly for the revealing of the children of God. The creation is subject to transitoriness – without its will but in hope – by the one who subjected it. The creation will be free from the captivity of transitoriness in the glorious liberty of God’s children.
A few days ago the catholic bishop of Limburg, Franz Kamphaus, described how some people imagine eternal life and redemption of the body. He told of firms “that offer to freeze the bodies of their customers after their death. This costs a tidy sum of money. The customer becomes a member in the circle of the like-minded. Immediately after his death, a team of doctors connected with the firm skillfully conserves the body and stores it in a container filled with liquid helium – safe from nuclear bombs! As soon as the state of science and technology allows it, he will be revived. Many are dismissed as crackpots that have no other cares and enough money to afford this. They always pursue their desires with pious earnestness. Understandably, the very ancient dream of eternal life is hidden behind their desires.” (Frankfurter Allgemeiner Zeitung, 11/11/2004).
We know that the whole creation sighs and worries with us to this moment. We ourselves who have the spirit as the first fruits sighing in us and longing for childlikeness and redemption of our bodies. We are saved but in hope. The hope that one sees is not hope because one cannot hope for what one sees.
How can one spend all one’s money for conserving one’s old body at the end of life and find all hope to that? People voluntarily extend themselves and with sinister earnestness prolong their bondage of transitoriness in their idea of eternity.
We are saved but in hope. The hope that one sees is not hope since one cannot hope for what one sees. But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it in patience.
The Apostle Paul described the challenges of human existence very correctly. Embedded in the sighing and waiting of the whole creation, we depend on a hope that supports us in the depth of our being. Hope is as vital as the air to breathe. In the psalms, God reveals himself as our counterpart. God knows our deepest anxieties. “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Ps 50,15)
Even today, people reach out for a hope that they cannot understand themselves. Even today, people torment themselves under a suffering from which they don’t know a way out. The longing for God’s future marks many people today, many Christians on our globe. Their relation to God and their conflict with the injustices of our world appear in this longing. They know their suffering is limited and trust that God has a future for them. They hold to hope even if it is only as weak as a straw. A straw of hope strengthens their patience and keeps alive their longing for freedom.
In Germany, the hope of faith is not really onerous. No one disputes our right to freedom of religion. No one hinders us from confessing our faith together with others and expressing our hope. Nevertheless despite all freedom, we are in danger of foundering or suffering shipwreck. We lose delight in hope after the breakdown of a marriage or the death of a beloved person, after the loss of a job or disappointment over social changes. Out of disappointment, we don’t venture anything new any more. The attempt to repress fear and suffering leads to paralysis. We feel subjected to a blind fate. The desperate death in installments begins long before death. Whoever loses heart and forgets he or she is God’s child depends on assistance. When a person abandons hope, he or she loses life energy. Singing vanishes. Then we need fellow human beings who stand up with us, who help us in singing and dancing. Then we need witnesses of hope. The singers from Stellenbosch who bring us their music today are such witnesses of hope. My desire is that we may be set on fire by them.
Whoever doesn’t know music may think nothing is lacking without it. Whoever once develops a liking for music cannot live without it any more. Whoever doesn’t know the freedom of the children of God may think nothing is lacking. Once seized by the longing for the liberty of God’s children, the person is not subject to the bondage of transitoriness. Faith in eternal life doesn’t corrupt the taste for life but strengthens it. Christians do not despise what exists. However their longing and their delight in life go far beyond what exists. Christians discern with all their senses the signals with which God calls us to freedom. There are moments of faith that are like the prelude to eternal life whispered in the midst of life.
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