Homily – Sunday, the 27th November 2022
Reading: Isaiah 2:1-5
Today is the 27th of November. It was on this day 79 years ago in 1944 Operation Tiger Fish, the Code name of the military operation on Freiburg ordered by General Eisenhower, devasted this beautiful city. Between 19:58 and 20:18 on that night bombs were rained on this city. 2797 people died and 9600 injured. The target was the railway line and the movement of troops. The provocation welcoming of refugees.
Tonight, we remember the pain of the devastation again at the Munster. The bell will toll for peace. But unfortunately, we do so in the shadow of the war in Ukraine, and conflicts in several parts of the world.
And on the first Sunday of Advent amidst these realities of brokenness and the possibilities of festivities after the Pandemic break we celebrate Hope.
What is it that gives me Hope?
One year into our ministry in Freiburg, several people asked us how would you see your mission here. My response was- I see a future of hope for ACF for sure.
Hope is a profound theme in our contexts of brokenness and shattered life realities.
What gives us hope?
It is not just “what is” with regard the House of the Lord, but the vision of “what is possible”- the “what will be”, the “what can be!!”
Isaiah 2 is about the vision for the future of the House of the Lord
The Context is one of disappointment and pain
Isaiah 1 sums up in a nutshell the reality
2 Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth;
for the Lord has spoken:
I reared children and brought them up,
but they have rebelled against me.
3 The ox knows its owner,
and the donkey its master’s crib;
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand.
When do people lose their connect with God?
There was surely a growing gap between God and the people of God. Naturally they would not have taken spirituality and morality seriously. The prophet’s anger at the sin of the people is clear in the text.
The House of the Lord lost its centrality in the lives of the people
It is in this context that the text that we read in Isaiah 2 : 1-5 gives us a few promises to look at. We could read those in the context of ACF and our lives today and I am sure at least one of these could ring a bell.
It is the future vision about the house of the Lord.
What would ACF look like tomorrow.
-1- Return to Prominence of the House of the Lord.
In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
The Profile of the House of the Lord would be lifted up!
What is the reality today
According to the German Bishops’ Conference, in 2019 only 9.1 percent of Catholics regularly attended a service. In the Protestant regional churches, the proportion of people attending church services was already a meagre 3.4 percent in 2017 and has probably hardly increased since then. The Pandemic has only deteriorated the situation.
In Germany, we can hardly speak of “lived religiousness” any longer: Today, 92.1 percent of people living in Germany frequently refrain from attending religious events. (“Forschungsgruppe Weltanschauungen in Deutschland” (fowid – Research Group on Worldviews in Germany).
What is the reality of ACF
We still talk of How Green Was My Valley. During those days we were so many people, so many programmes. We had good ministers.
And before the Pandemic people left
After the Pandemic they never came back
Will we have a future?
The prophets says- despite the low ebb of the House of the Lord, this situation will change. The House of the Lord will come back to prominence and the people will flock back to the same.
People will come back to religion and God. The Harare Assembly of the WCC had the focus on Turning to God and Rejoicing in Hope. Back to the Bible and Back to God. Back to Believing and Living by the Word.
A fresh beginning is possible
-2- Return to the Plurality of the House of the Lord
Nations shall stream to it
Many peoples shall come and say,
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
I would like to focus on the two words, nations and peoples- both plurals.
My English teacher told me the plural of people is people
My theology teacher told me that peoples is pastorally a correct word.
When there is more than one people groups- we use the word peoples.
The House of the Lord is the celebration of plurality of peoples. People from different nationalities and ethnicities will flock to the House of the Lord.
House of Jacob is another interesting usage. It is not called the house of Israel- the new identity but Jacob the old identity with all its frailties. It is not the company of saints. It is the company of saved sinners.
Return to the Mountain- We were contemplating a NESTING SUNDAY. Where all the birds that once found their nest in ACF and has since flown away for various reasons would be invited back to the warmth of the nest. It could be one off for some, some would refuse to come, some would come
But our hope is- the future we are building with God will have an inflow of people flocking to the House of the Lord.
-3- Return to the Pathways of the House of the Lord
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.’
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
It could be true that people and nations are walking away from God, from the ways of God, from the paths of God. It may be true that people are not interested in religious instruction or the word of the Lord.
But the prophet is confident that it would change.
Drifting away from God cannot be for too long
STORY- HOW FAR WILL YOU GO
A God who watches us closely as to how far we would go
STORY of the Chick and the Eagle
-4- Return to the Prophetic Engagement of the House of the Lord
The Judge and the Arbitration consciousness
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
As we discussed last week- accountability is an important aspect of the Christian faith
In 2025 we celebrate 1700 years of Nicean creed
He shall again to judge the quick and the dead- is an affirmation that continued to stay
In the 21st century scientific world the coming again- is easily laughed away
But for the question would we not be accountable for the precious lives we live, for all the facilities that we enjoy is an important one.
It is not the question of just reward or punishment
It is important to know that our acts of commission and omission are accountable.
The responsibility of the house of the Lord is to constantly remind people of this reality
They might laugh, they might scoff, they might call you outdated yet you will tell them- One Day We Will All be answerable.
I remember Bishop Chrisostom once at a meeting with prisoners telling them- there is only one difference between you and us. You were caught and we are not yet.
The judge and the arbitrator lives and you and I has a role to play.
-5- Return to the Pursuit of Peace triggered by the House of the Lord
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.
Friends, our energy can be used two ways- one creatively, building lives and the other destructively- devastating lives.
Here is a vision of radical transformation
Symbols of destruction- swords and spears will be turned into symbols of live sustenance ploughshares and pruning hooks.
To transform symbols of hatred into symbols of life.
I was given a book this week titled Amish Grace. How forgiveness transcended tragedy. In an Amish one room school house in Pensylvania in Oct 2006 gunman Charles Robert took ten girls hostage and shot five of them dead. The Amish community was hit hard by the tragedy yet their resolve to stand by the parents of the perpetrator gave the world a strong message, On the day of the shooting, a grandfather of one of the murdered Amish girls was heard warning some young relatives not to hate the killer, saying, “We must not think evil of this man” Another Amish father noted, “He had a mother and a wife and a soul and now he’s standing before a just God”. It is such a moving testimony. Hatred and vengeance turned into hope and forgiveness.
There are several war torn areas where they have made lamp posts from weapons, art pieces from bullets. Yet it is a tragedy when heads of states pump weapons into the war front.
The House of the Lord has a role to play in the public square. As a catalyst for peace and justice.
-6- Return to the Providence of the House of the Lord
O house of Jacob,
come, let us walk
in the light of the Lord!
Providence is a shield against penalties
The impact of darkness in the present world is far beyond what words can explain
Carl Jung said- Knowing your own darkness is the best way to know the darkness of others.
When you see darkness and only darkness around you remember the light is within you and not outside.
In the last few years I have noticed areas of engagement that young people found meaningful. I suggest three
The Dark Web and the hidden Hydra
The Dark Alleys and the Stealing of Futures- Tryst with Drugs
The Dark Psyche and the Destruction of Lives- Mental Trauma
What is that gives us Hope this Advent season as individuals, as families and congregations
There is surely healing for brokenness
May this Advent fill our lives with light and Hope
27th Nov 2022