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Predigtreihe: Reformationsfest - Reformationens dag - Reformation Day - Día de la Reforma - Dzieñ reformacji , 2017

1.Corinthians 1,10-18, verfasst von Wolfgang Schmidt

500 Years of Reformation

  1. Corinthians 1,10-18

 

Honorable guests, visitors and friends,

dear brothers and sisters in Christ!

 

It was on October 31st in 1898 when this church was inaugurated during the famous visit of Emperor Wilhelm II to the Holy Land. Since this day we are celebrating the message of Reformation year after year in our service on Reformation Day: the message of Christ, our Redeemer. This church is not named after Wilhelm II nor is it named after Martin Luther. But it is named after Christ: the Church of the Redeemer.

 

We are celebrating this day year after year - but this year there is something special. With our service today we are commemorating 500 years of Reformation. What happened on 31st of October 1517? As most of you know Dr. Martin Luther, a professor of theology and Augustine monk published on the Eve of All Saints Day his famous 95 sentences, die 95 Thesen, which were considered very much provocative by the time and later on caused a kind of theological revolution in the medieval western Church. Finally the division of the Church could no longer be avoided.

 

“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”

 

Martin Luther didn’t work deliberately for division. He didn’t want the Church to be divided. He worked for renewal. The purpose of his efforts was Christ, Christ Jesus to put him back in the center of Christian faith. But during the controversies the parties distanced from each other more and more and finally caused so much harm to each other, that at the end the other became an enemy instead of being a beloved brother in Christ. From that time on celebrating Reformation was for Protestants always a demonstration of triumph, of pride and debasing the other, especially in the years of a jubilee. But during the last decades things changed slowly. Until today we are as Protestants still thankful to the inspiration of faith that came out of Reformation. Our Redeemer is in the Center of all. But at the same time we are aware, that Reformation also created a situation that stands against God’s will - according to 1st Corinthians: “For it has been reported to me that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Martin Luther” or “I follow the Pope” or “I follow Calvin” or “I follow Zwingli” Is Christ divided? Was Martin Luther crucified for you in Wittenberg? Or were you baptized in the name of the Pope in Rome? “

 

500 Years after Martin Luther’s disputes we do no longer focus on the inspiration only but also on our guilt – our guilt on both sides that caused the division of the Church in the West. So this year’s jubilee, half a millennium later, is also a time to confess our sins and to pray for reconciliation. This is the spirit that united Pope Francis and the LWF President Munib Younan to join for a common worship service in Lund. And this was the spirit that guided the highest ranking joint delegation of bishops and church leaders ever from the catholic and protestant churches of Germany, who came for a pilgrimage to the holy Land last October. Many of you witnessed the spirit of understanding and reconciliation that could be felt among the pilgrims that were on their way to the common roots of Christian faith in this country. And they were overwhelmed by their experience. Reformation day will unite German Protestants and Catholics to “be united in the same mind and the same judgment” as St. Paul puts it. In 2017 they celebrated together the “Feast of Christ” – ein Christusfest – and catholic and protestant congregations are busy to join the celebrations on the local level of their towns and villages.

 

Dear brothers and sisters of Jerusalem! What comes to your mind if you hear St. Paul saying: “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” Are we following Martin Luther, instead of Christ Jesus? Are we following the Pope, instead of Jesus Christ? Are we following Maron of Belt instead of Jesus Christ? Are we following Gregory the Illuminator instead of Jesus Christ? Yes we do, dear brothers and sisters! Yes, we do follow our famous preachers and spiritual leaders of the past – but not on its own purpose, not instead of following Jesus Christ but we are following them in their spiritual guidance that leads us to Jesus Christ. Our famous preachers and spiritual leaders of the past are our guides on the way to a deep understanding and a faithful worship towards Jesus Christ our Savior and Redeemer. Following them means following them on their way to Christ as our ultimate goal.

 

You all may find a small picture in your hands, that was distributed at the entrance.

It’s taken from an altar in the very east of France, Colmar, close to river Rhine, not far from where I come from. It was placed in a Chapel of a Hospice for palliative care in the middle Ages. The Hospice doesn’t exist anymore. But the Altar survived in the Museum of Unterlinden. To the right of the Cross the painting shows John the Baptist remarkably raising his forefinger and pointing to Jesus on the cross. This is, what John the Baptist does: bringing all our awareness to the man on the Cross, Jesus Christ. In his hands we find the open Scripture. In John 3,30 we read: “He must increase, but I must decrease. He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all.”

 

“Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

 

With the open Scripture in his hands, the gospel on his lips St. John the Baptist points to the crucified. This is, what Martin Luther does. And in this I follow him. This is, what the Pope does and in this we may follow him. This is, what Gregory the Illuminator does and what Jakob Baradeus does and Maron and all our Church fathers did whom to mention all by name is impossible in this sermon. And each and every one of them does it in his own language, in his own theological thinking, in his own tradition and even political framework of a certain time. “He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way.” The Holy Scripture never criticizes diversity. The gospel is full of diverse concepts and traditions. Just remember when the Holy Spirit was poured out and each and everyone preached in his own language. Do you think, they did it all the same way? Most probably they didn’t! The Holy Scripture never criticizes diversity. But it criticizes division. And division comes when we mix up the function of our spiritual leaders in the past and in the present with Christ himself. That’s what happens in Corinth. Quotation: “What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Christ is never on the same level as Paul or Apollos or Cephas or Martin Luther or any of our spiritual leaders in the past and in the present. We are different in our ways to reach out to Jesus. We are different in traditions and theological understanding. But in the center of our belief is the triune God himself, whoever we are and from which angle we ever start our devotion. And this is also nice and helpful and it’s adequate to the glory of God. Because he in himself is to such an extent rich that it really needs the richness of all our theological and liturgical and pastoral traditions to reflect only a minimum of it through our existence as the Church of Christ.

 

Diversity should be recognized to overcome division.

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

 



Propst Wolfgang Schmidt
Jerusalem
E-Mail: propst.schmidt@redeemer-jerusalem.com

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