1 Kings 19:1-15
Sach 12, 10-11; 13, 1
by Carolin Springer, Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg, Germany
Zech 12: 10-11; 13, 1
In our passage God promises that he will stand by his people and also Jerusalem. He will send his spirit over the inhabitants and the house of David and will let a fountain of cleansing flow over them. They will be empowered for compassion and supplication. This image holds my attention. What does it mean that we will be empowered for compassion and supplication? What does it mean that we will look upon him whom they have pierced, that when we look we will be moved by this?
Dorothee Sölle describes in her autobiography “Against the Wind” how she met Dorothy Day in a soup kitchen in Manhattan: “Dorothy Day, a distinguished, humorous, and reflected journalist, lived in a state of being without property, serving those who had been abandoned by society and who in most cases had also abandoned themselves. The other focus of her life was radical pacifism.”
Deeply moved by Day, Sölle writes how important it is to not grow weary of prayer for the gift of tears: “Like every person who is hungry and thirsty for justice and peace, Dorothy Day also falls into phases of absolute exhaustion, grieving, and pain (…) In these times, it was told to me that she would retire and cry. Cry for hours and days. No conversation, no food, just sitting there and crying. She did not retreat from her active life fighting for the poor, and also did not stop seeing war and preparation for war as a crime towards the most poor. But sometimes she cried bitterly for prolonged periods of time. When I heard this, I understood better what pacifism is; what God means in the middle of defeat; how the Spirit comforts and leads us to truth, whereas one does not cancel out the other and comfort cannot be bought by avoiding the truth. (…) When we learn to share pain and joy with others, then our everyday life will be healed: wishes and desires are illuminated.” (from: Dorothee Sölle, Gegenwind – Erinnerungen, München 2003, p. 164-166)
Compassion, praying with tears, letting ourselves be moved by the affliction of creation- this itself can be a cleansing activity. It is an important step in changing one’s self, our own interaction with nature, with animals and people. When we are moved, then the decision to no longer accept the suffering of creation grows. We receive power to scream for the silent and participate in the building of God’s kingdom.
Helpful questions for the sermon could be: What today causes tears in my eyes? What do I purposefully want to approach with my fellow congregation – or even where something has already caused us pain? As Christians we are asked: if God’s creation is suffering, we are not allowed to look away. In order to sustainably preserve God’s creation, we need God’s gift of compassion and supplication, just as we need courage, strength, and decisiveness.
The Magna Carta of Christian freedom – a common way to refer to the Epistle to the Galatians. In his epistle, Paul argues for an aggressive missions concept. Through baptism the community has been opened for gentiles. In our text it is made even more clear: through baptism we have put on Christ and therefore are a unity.
Christians back then attempted to live this out. All should have the same rights, all were involved in the life of the congregation, whether slave or lord, Jew or Greek, rich or poor, man or woman.
This idea of lived-out siblinghood was attractive and the church was able to enjoy continual growth. The churches were a place of freedom and stood in stark contrast to that which one normally experienced in society: significant differences between those of different backgrounds, nationalities, religions, and sex.
In the 21st century we live in a globalized world and experience in many places growing challenges. There is a difference between those who live in peace with a place to work and access to health and consumer services and those who are unemployed and destitute and in many places have to live in war-torn regions.
We experience violence between natives and foreigners, towards children and women, we experience racism and anti-semitism, we experience unequal opportunity and discrimination based on skin color, sex, religion, and nationality.
The pauline Magna Carta of Christian freedom must be lived out just as much today in order to create sustainable peace and justice between human beings.
Paul makes clear, what unites us is baptism. It is like a garment which unites all those under it. When God’s spiritual power begins to work then differences become meaningless. With this we also surely have the strength to look beyond our own horizon and take note of the needs of our siblings worldwide.
Are we able to make sure the Magna Carta of christian freedom is not only a document but rather a lived out faith?
Who am I? – Jesus asks. How would we answer this question today? He was an extraordinary person? God’s anointed one? The first thesis of the Barmen Declaration proclaims: “Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death.” – or with other words – he was and is the role-model as savior, Son of God, and the living Word. It is not an easy task to follow this role model. Can we take up our cross? It is often already difficult enough to follow the footsteps of another human, such as the footsteps of our parents. Not even to mention the footsteps of Mother Teresa or Dietrich Bonhoeffer. But in the footsteps of Christ? Aren’t they a few sizes too big for us?
Maybe we have to ask this differently: what are role-models for? To put it roughly: they help us to orient our own actions and thought after theirs. Especially for young people, they are influential figures. Good role-models represent the values of charity, tolerance, and moral courage which are absolutely necessary for a self-determined life and the social cohesion of a society. They give us orientation to survive the trends, the current zeitgeist, and some historical turning points – just like parents and grandparents who can also be role-models for a whole lifetime. Such role-models help us to find our way. They help us to be ourselves and continually reflect on our actions and our thoughts. They exemplify how to work with others to accomplish goals. God’s anointed, our savior, did this with all consistency, and entrusts his followers to imitate him in doing the same. To provide orientation and values to together make the world a better place.
What do we want to leave to the following generation? How can we act as role-models in shaping the world? Is it even possible to live sustainably without acting as a role-model? Don’t I need to in following Christ always consider the consequences of my lifestyle? If someone asks us: who are you? How do we answer? A cyclist, a car-lover, a vegan, or a meat-eater? Someone who loves strawberries even in December or who intentionally buys from an organic farmer? A throw-awayer or upcycler?
What will the following generations say about us?
by Carolin Springer, Germany (translated by Dr. Jared Wensyel)
1 Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15a
Elijah is accused, threatened, and doesn’t want to continue; an angel brings him food in the desert; natural forces on the mountain of Horeb (‘and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.’) … Help him and yourself: Find your own links from Elijah to Creation care and sustainability!