Sunday, April 26, 2009

Doubts / Sermon for 04/26/09

Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our risen Lord Jesus Christ.

Are you still doubting? Are you still at times unsure if Jesus really rose from the dead? Do you sometimes wonder if this was and is all real or if you are just believing in a big, huge nothing?

If so, welcome to the world of the disciples and apostles. They had seen Jesus die. They had also seen the empty tomb. Some of them had even seen the risen Lord. They had heard and met witnesses who told them about the resurrection. But they still could not believe. Even when they finally met Jesus, they were afraid, and they were not sure what or whom they were seeing. Dead people do not come back to life. That was as much true then as it is today.

They were doubting. And so are we.

We cannot see or meet Jesus in person. We only have the promises of God written down in the bible. And when we look around we might have a hard time seeing and experiencing God. We do not see the promises fulfilled in our lives or in the lives of those around us.

And so we start to doubt. Just watching the evening news for ten minutes is enough to make us doubt God’s promises. Where is God when children die of hunger? Where is God when people are killed by tornados, floods or earthquakes? Where is God in all the pain and suffering? Where is God in our pain and suffering? We doubt because we have lost sight of God’s work in this world. We search and search but we struggle finding God in this world. Or we might be angry with God. Because we cannot see or experience God’s promises for us.

If we cannot see or find God maybe we look for Him in the wrong places. I cannot see or find God in the dying of starving children. But I can see God’s work in those people who help the hungry. I cannot see God in the destruction of an earthquake. But I can see Him in the people who risk their lives in trying to safe others. I cannot see God in the death of a loved one. But I can see Him in the care others give the bereaved.

I cannot see God in the evil around me but I can see Him in the good that results from even the worst we can imagine. Those are the places where we can find God: in the good that happens around us.

But where can we turn to in our doubts and our anger? Where can we look for or even find Jesus when we struggle? When the disciples doubt Jesus sits down and eats with them. They share in a special meal together.

I am sure most of you have some deep and meaningful memories of past meals that happened around your table at home. Or around the table in your parent’s home. They might be memories of past Thanksgiving meals or Christmas meals. They might be happy memories, or uplifting or sometimes even challenging. Most of the time we remember those special meals because we were given something special during that meal. We might remember gifts of laughter, or the friendly back and forth between Aunt Edna and Uncle Gus. It might have been the gift of happy fellowship or maybe the gift of grieving together. Whatever it may be, we remember because something special happened.

Some of my dear and deep memories are about Thanksgiving Dinners around our table. Both Matthias’ and my family live far away in Germany. So there is no family to celebrate Thanksgiving with. Still we have never been alone on Thanksgiving. Most years since we moved to the US we celebrated Thanksgiving with strangers.

Foreign students from Cornell who had signed up to spent Thanksgiving with a family to see and experience what this holiday is all about. And so people came to our house. Some could hardly speak English, others felt uncomfortable about the candles on our table, others were surprised or maybe even disappointed by the food. But still we had wonderful conversations, sharing in the lives of one another. And after the meal they would leave something with us. Something I would like to share with you today: their thanksgiving. (Show table cloth) All that you see (or maybe not see because you sit like a good Lutheran in the last pew) are their prayers and words of Thanksgiving. They were able to share their thanksgiving with strangers. They were able to be thankful even though they were far away from home and loved ones. They were able to be thankful even though their time in this country might not have been as they had hoped for. Even as strangers they were able to see God’s promises.

Whenever I struggle and doubt I try to remember all those different faces and voices that have blessed our table over the years. I try to remember their willingness to be thankful in the midst of uncertainty.

And I try to find my own voice before God to give thanks for those gifts in my life. I try to go back to what they have left me.

Jesus also leaves something with His disciples. He leaves with them His words and teachings. He leaves with them His forgiveness and reconciliation. And He sends out His disciples to share this good news with all nations. We today can go back to this good news and to those witnesses. We can hear and read about the life and work of Jesus. And we can hear and learn about our forgiveness that has come to us through the death and resurrection of Christ.

But sometimes that is not enough for us. Sometimes no matter how hard we try we cannot get rid of our doubts and fears. All we can see is darkness and all we can hear is silence. Even coming to the table, yes even to that table at times becomes nothing more than routine.

Where can we go when this happens to us? What can we say or maybe even do when we not even have the voice to pray for faith?

In the second lesson this morning we heard about another witness of Jesus and His life. We were told that we are God’s children. And as that we have become brothers and sisters in Christ. We all are one family.

And as family we carry one another’s burden. We as family carry even one another’s doubts and fears. If you doubt today; if you feel frightened, angry or lost we as your church family are here for you. If you feel like you have lost your faith, we will believe for you. We will believe for you until you will be able to have faith again. We will pray for you when you have lost your voice for prayer. We will carry you because you are our sister or brother and we are all connected through God’s love. We are all united into the body of Christ and as that we will care for you as Jesus has called us to do. We are not alone in our doubts. Peter, the rock on whom Jesus would built the church has at times be more rocky in his witness than rock hard. And at his death even Jesus doubted and even became angry and called out to God: “Father, why have you forsaken me?” Our doubts and our anger towards God connect us as much with God and another as our love does.

But, might some of you say right now, but is doubting not sinning? And does not the same text that calls us children of God also tell us that those who are the children of God do not sin? Instead, so the text, the children of God are righteous. How can we be the children of God and still sin and doubt and be angry? How can that be?

It can be through the death and resurrection of Christ. Because with Christ our sins have died on the cross. And so we have indeed become righteous before God. Our sins have died once and for all. They are all blotted out, forgiven and erased.

But we also still live in the brokenness of this world and with our own brokenness. And so we sin. Yesterday, today, tomorrow. We stop trusting God and put ourselves in the middle of our lives instead. We turn away from God and try to proof that we can do it on our own. But God calls us back. He turns us around and brings us back to Him. No matter how far we run or how stubborn we are, God is even more persistent and brings us back to Him. Yesterday, today, tomorrow. He brings us back because we are His children and He loves us so much. He loves us so much that He even gave His only son Jesus to die for us.

It is this love that forms and transforms our lives. God loves us and cares for us. He is with us even when we doubt and cannot see or hear Him. He is with us and protects us every single step of our lives.

This sounds so wonderful. But where, if God really cares for us, is all the pain coming from? I have to admit, that I have no answer for that. I do not know where pain, suffering and evil are coming from. But I trust that God who loves us so much keeps His promises of love and care for our whole life. In the end it is not important for me to know where the evil is coming from but to know that God walks with me every day of my life. God is our loving Father and as that He would have no joy in our suffering. That is what I believe.

And on those days were we doubt all that and can only see the darkness around us and cannot see all the beauty that is also there? On those days we go back. We go back to the promises of God. We go back to Jesus and the good news of love and forgiveness. And we go back to you- all our brothers and sisters in Christ, knowing that together by the will and strength of God we will carry each other in need. And that I will never doubt!


The love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with us always. Amen.


Karen said...

Hab' ich dir eigentlich schon mal gesagt, dass ich deine Predigten sehr mag? :-)

Anetaki said...

Ich mag deine Predigten auch sehr und sie geben mir gerade im Moment, wo ich mit Glauben viel aber mit Gottesdienst wenig anfangen kann, sehr viel.
Liebe Gruesse

Ringelstruempfe said...

Danke, Ihr Zwei! Das bedeutet mir sehr viel. Euch grosses Lob dafuer, dass Ihr Euch immer durch die endlos langen Texte quaelt.