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Blind faith or spiritual blindness?

June 3, 2018

lazarus

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.  At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores  and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.  In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.  So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.  And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family,  for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Luke 16:19-31

What do you think about hell? Surely you will answer me that if heaven exists, which is our goal in this life on earth, hell must also exist because that is also stated in the word of God.

Have you heard about those investigations about experiences that are supposed to happen beyond life? They are called near death experiences (NDE)? These are perceptions of the environment narrated by people who have been about to die or who have gone through a clinical death and have survived.
Such experiences may consist of a variety of feelings including disconnection from the body, feelings of levitation, total calmness, security, warmth, the experience of absolute dissolution, and the presence of a light.

Generally, everything starts with a blinding light. They leave their bodies, stand up and look at their lying corpse in a hospital bed or on the stretcher of an ambulance. Then, they cross a long, bright tunnel at breakneck speed, and on the other side a fascinating place awaits them. Embarrassed by the beauty, they claim to meet a person who radiates light: God, Jesus, the Father, a Guide … it depends. “Your time has not come yet, you have a mission to fulfill on Earth,” the shining entity tells them.
After this encounter, they perceive how their soul returns to Earth, abandoning the warmth and security of light to return to their lifeless bodies. People who have lived a near-death experience (NDE) claim that there is something beyond and, with a few exceptions, all agree that they have been able to see the same heavens.

There are, however, some who claim to have seen the dark side of the beyond, a dark place populated by creatures of the satanic imagination: demons, harpies and similar monsters. In 1975, the book “Life after Life” was published by Raymond Moody, the first book to collect the stories of people whose hearts stopped beating for a few seconds and who were then revived. The American pastor John W. Price has been studying near-death experiences since 1969 and published: “Revealing Heavens: The Christian Case for Near Death Experiences”. Almost all stories follow a similar pattern: separation from the body, tunnel, and luminous entity, peaceful place in which there is a division of some kind-a fence, a stream or a low wall-that symbolizes the irreversible transition to the beyond that the people never get to cross.

However, few researchers in this field deal with the “negative”, “opposite” or “infernal” types of NDE in their books. The people in the first category are those who go through the usual process, although in this case there is a component of suffering or resistance to leaving the body. In the second type, the person is trapped in a vacuum, in a dark space of absolute calm, sometimes full of geometric figures, seized by the feeling that everything is absurd, that nothing makes sense. In the third case, the person is in the true hell, surrounded by flames and demons, locked in a sordid space and with no possibility of escape. Around 5-10% of people with NDE experiences saw this.
Here is the testimony of a negative experience:
“I started to go down, everything was dark and there were people screaming, fire, everybody wanted to drink (…) It was more than a tunnel, it was a gigantic passage, I was floating down … I saw a lot of people screaming .. I would say that there were at least a million, they were miserable people and with a lot of hatred inside them that kept saying they wanted to drink, there was not a drop of water … Suddenly I saw it, in front of me, with little horns, and I recognized it immediately: it was the Devil himself! ”

Is this all really true? We do not know yet. What we do know is that the lives of all these people changed dramatically after these experiences.
Our reading for today tells this kind of story: “‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’”

If we analyze these contemporary stories with Jesus’ parable about the rich man and Lazarus, there seems to be no contradictions. Surely Jesus composed his parables with facts of reality, reality that living people don’t know about.
I am convinced that there is a heaven and a hell because the Bible affirms it. And that there is a place reserved for believers and another place for those who do not want to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of the one God. Although today’s sermon topic is not concretely about the reality of hell, our subject is about a reality even sadder than hell itself. It is the reality of those who are spiritually blind. Those who are not able to believe, those who are not able to entrust their lives to Christ, those who make fun of the word of God and who do not have the spiritual capacity to believe in this as God’s Word.
We always say in the church that Christ invites us to believe in his word, nobody is forced to be part of the church. Jesus says:
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”(Rev 3:20)

Christ invites us through his call. Every time we read his word he calls us. At this precise moment when we hear this message, Christ is also calling us, inviting us. It is our decision to accept believing, confide and put God first in our lives, (which is called trusting him) and regard his word as the true Word of God and not merely the words of men. When we are able to take that ‘leap of faith’, or to open the door to Christ, then our life begins to change radically and surely, like it does for those who have returned from a supposed encounter with death.

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” (Acts 16:31) There we have the certainty of salvation. That personal decision does not transform us into perfect people overnight. Rather, it is a process of change of our essence that is been built with the goal of daily obedience to the word of God. That decision does not make us perfect, but it does save us.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16) That’s Jesus’ invitation and that is the guarantee for everyone who decides to start believing in Jesus Christ: heaven, eternal life, and paradise await them, but not hell.

What was the sin of the rich? Being wealthy? No, the sin of the rich man was to not believe in God. The sin of the rich man was to not put God in the first place of his life. He made riches his priority, in such a way that he even forgot his neighbour at the front door of his very same house. The sin of the rich man was to worship the material with indifference to the will of God. The sin of the rich man was indifference to the church, the communion of saints. The sin of the rich man was the lack of respect for the things of God. The sin of the rich man was not taking God seriously. The sin of the rich man was, as the language of the Bible states, the lack of fear of God, and also godliness.

As I said earlier, this is sadder than hell itself. Being able to choose heaven or hell and because of a spiritual blindness not choosing knowingly. Not being able to choose for the good is already a curse and it is something very sad. When we speak of believing, we are not referring to merely believing with the lips, as many people used to say that they do “believe in God”. Truly believing in Christ means having a fear of God. As Martin Luther once said, there is a great difference in being able to say ‘Jesus is the Lord’ to saying ‘Jesus is my Lord’. The second can only be said by a true believer, one who fears God. And when we use the word “Lord”, we refer to someone we choose to obey.

The saddest thing is spiritual blindness. Jesus says: “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”(Jn 9:39)
And so the parable continues: “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Being able to believe in God, as Christ, Lord and Saviour, and to fear God is a blessing that not everyone can show. It is the same thing we read last Sunday when Jesus tells Nicodemus: “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again”. (Jn 3:3) Today, God invites us again. Like every Sunday, He invites us to believe or to reinforce our faith. Not everyone can believe; it’s a gift of the Holy Spirit. The Bible says:
“But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” (2 Cor 3:16)

People who choose to work in the church for God, as is the case today with the installation of the new church council, should be very aware of all this. The task they assume is of great importance. If we really do it with fear of God, it will be a great blessing for this church and an abundance of blessings for every one of you. When we begin to work and give our talent to God with true faith, even if we can only do little, that little will be miraculously multiplied and magnified because we will be doing it for God. This is so for it involves the action of a faith that is addressed in the first place to God.

God does not look for people who can do great things; God only seeks for us to surrender to Him. He is the one who performs miracles not us, but for His miracles to take place we must be His instruments, we must remain in true faith, in surrender and in the fear of God. I read a great phrase of the well-known missionary to China, Hudson Taylor: “God uses people who are weak and feeble enough to lean on Him.”

Let’s show God that the faith we confess is not a mere tradition but a living faith, instilled with fear of God. Let us show Him that we want to give him the first place of importance. That way God will not only intervene in the believers’ life, but He will also give us eternal life.
Amen.

E. P.

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The Day of Rest

April 14, 2018

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.
Genesis 2:1-4
—–
Every time an artist or an artisan finishes his (or her) work, after many final touches, the moment comes where he washes his hands, and even takes off his work clothes and dedicates himself—including his collaborators or close friends, to contemplating the work in silence. He looks at it and admires it and possibly, if the work has been done with perfection, it is very likely that both the artist and the other people contemplate it in silence. After that silence, there follow the words, the comments and even praises and exclamations for having done a good job. The same happens with music, for example, concluding a concert. Everyone remains silent for a while until the music is extinguished and then they begin to applaud.
The silent pause at the end of a wonderful work of art or music is like the end point at the end of a sentence and is part of the perfect enjoyment of what has been achieved.

God’s creation can be compared to a wonderful piece of art or music. God himself realized that what he had created in six days was very good. Now, the only thing that was missing was the silent rest at the end, the seventh day, the day of rest. The account of Creation says:
“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.”
Rest at the end brings the work of creation to perfection. It is not that God has been inactive since. His creative work continues, with each flower, each butterfly and each baby. However, the Creator after the day of rest remains as active as before the day of rest: Before the day of rest that created the world from nothing, and with it created the natural laws by which all things must work together. After the day of rest, His creation continues through these natural laws or within the framework of these natural laws (unless He performs a miracle, as an exception).
God’s day of rest represents a break in his work; the “work of art” of the first Creation has faded. Of course, this general pause is still part of the rhythm of the work of creation; it is counted as the seventh day. Of course, God could have made the world slower, or faster, with a snap of his fingers. But He has created a great rhythm for our world and especially for us humans with these seven days: the rhythm of the week.

This rhythm is not only wonderful in itself as a great work of art, but it is also good and useful for us humans. When it is said that God “rested” on the seventh day after the six days of creation, the Hebrew word “Shabbat” means “rest” in its original text. Or in English, “Sabbath” means nothing other than “day of rest” – a day of rest; a “celebration” in the original sense of the word. By the way, this type of celebration is also expressed in the English word “Holidays” (Holy Day); God has also created this: with the rhythm of day and night, he created half a day to work and another to rest; In connection with this, he has also created our human need to sleep. Just as a person should stop working and rest at night, after six working days, we are supposed to have a day of rest.

This order in creation was later confirmed in the third commandment of God and Martin Luther summed it up in the following way in the Small Catechism:
“We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.”
The original text was presented to Moses by God on Mount Sinai and it is longer:
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20: 8-11).

We see that even in the third commandment, the Sabbath is not spoken as such, but rather as part of the rhythm of the week: Six days of work, one day for rest. God gave us an example for establishing this day as a day of rest, the seventh day of creation. And the two words “bless” and “sanctify” are not missing: “God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it (or made it holy).” “To bless” means “Give away, or grant.” The day of rest after six work days is a gift from God; we are happy and grateful that we do not have to behave like machines all the time, but that we can enjoy the tranquility of the seventh day.
We are grateful for this heavenly and wise schedule, for the daily rest and the night of sleep.
If God had not given us the blessing of rest, many hard-working people would feel compelled to work for seven days, and employers would not see why they should release their employees over the weekend. But from God’s gift also come from God’s command: He not only blessed the seventh day for us, but also sanctified it, that is, set it apart. He has done it with the purpose of remembering his ingenious and wise weekly rhythm and, on our part, to sanctify the seventh day, to separate it, and to spend it in a different way than the working days. By the way, God’s blessing and sanctification apply to all the commandments: because God’s instructions are beneficial to us, he expects us to abide by them. The same applies to prayer and participation in Holy Communion. These are also gifts from God that we should not despise and disrespect; rather, we must remember them and use them advantageously and properly.

Back to the subject of the Sabbath: What does it mean in practice, to sanctify the day of rest? Should we lie in bed all day? Or are we allowed to go on trips and play sports? Or do we have to go to church? Is it possible to do light work if it is not a way to make a living, but rather a hobby? What did God Himself do when He finished creation? Or did he really do nothing? Please, do not expect from me for a concrete answer!
We would misunderstand God and his day of rest if we thought that it was about observing certain exact rules of the Sabbath. Jesus explained what it is all about and summarized it. He said:
“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27).
We should not ask: what is allowed and what is not allowed? But we should ask: What would be good for us, what would be best for us and our fellow people for the improvement of body and soul on that day?
It has been clear to believers of all times that communion with the Word of God, prayer and worship is an excellent means of rest for the soul or the spirit; therefore, Sunday service should not be neglected without a serious reason; not simply to please God or the pastor, but above all, as a favour to oneself. God blessed the day of rest and sanctified it, and we sanctify it (make it holy) by following God’s example and resting from daily work and giving our soul the greatest blessing that exists: the Word of God and Holy Communion.

Jews and Seventh-day Adventists always celebrate their weekly day of rest on Saturdays. There is nothing wrong with that, because that is what corresponds to the ancient Jewish tradition. Traditionally, our days of the week were also counted in the same way: Sunday was the first day of the week. Saturday was the seventh or last day of the week, and therefore served as a day of rest according to the example set by God in creation. But because the week is a cycle, you can start counting on any day. We could agree and say: let’s always start the week on Tuesday; then Monday would be our seventh day or day of rest or Sabbath; for God it would be just as right. The Colossians clearly say:
“Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day” (Col. 2:16).
Modern society allows the week to start on Monday with the first business day, then Sunday is the seventh day, our Christian day of rest.

However, our Sunday tradition is much older than the modern working week. Nor is it a coincidence or an arbitrary decision that Sunday has become popular in Christianity as a sacred day. As early as the fourth century, the Roman emperor Constantine declared Sunday as a national holy-day in his empire, and in New Testament times, Christians gathered for worship services on Sunday, the first day of the week according to traditional Jewish customs. The reason for the change: Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week — since then Christians celebrate this great event every Sunday: Jesus, the light of the world, has overcome the power of death and enlightens us with the eternal light of God. Exactly a week later he appeared to the Apostle Thomas, also on a Sunday; we heard it in today’s Gospel. And exactly seven weeks, or fifty days after Christ’s resurrection, the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles, at Pentecost; that also happened on a Sunday. Isn’t this a reason to celebrate, the weekly celebration of the new covenant that Christ has given us!

We Christians no longer celebrate the seventh day like Judaism, the Sabbath (for us Saturday now), but the first day of the week, Sunday. On this day we think of the resurrection of our Lord; because according to the Gospel report the women came to the tomb of Jesus on the first day of the week and found it empty (Mk 16: 2) That is why the ancient church named this day “The Lord’s Day” (Dominus Dei). Each Sunday is a small festival of Easter. Some see in this change a great meaning: in the Resurrection of Christ a new creation begins and we do not celebrate the conclusion of the old creation but of the new one. Like for the people of Israel the rest from work and confession to God shaped the Sabbath, these two main points still remain on our Sunday: “Rest from work and Worship to God”. During the worship service the congregation thinks of God’s great works. If for the Old Testament the Sabbath was the liberation from bondage of slavery in Egypt, in the New Testament it is liberation from sin and death. That is why we announce in every service to Christ and His Church as a reason for joy, hope and new life. Amen

The Lord makes alive

April 3, 2018

Resurrection Sunday

“My heart rejoices in the Lord;
in the Lord my horn is lifted high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies,
for I delight in your deliverance.

“There is no one holy like the Lord;
there is no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.
“The Lord brings death and makes alive;
he brings down to the grave and raises up.
The Lord sends poverty and wealth;
he humbles and he exalts.
He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap.

1Sa 2:1-2.6-8a

For sure, some of us will have already gone up some of those high buildings. Last year, I had the opportunity to visit the city of New York, and I went to the top of the Empire State Building with its 102 floors. When going up with the elevator people do not realize the acceleration and the great vertical speed that these elevators reach. It is an impressive movement: it is perceived a little in the stomach, or it is felt in the ears and when the elevator brakes, the body seems to be a little lighter than normal. The person who is interested in technical characteristics will realize that there is a very powerful electric motor hidden there.

If you allow me the comparison, this elevator can be compared to the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Despite the “force of gravity” of death, Jesus returns to life and rises from the grave on the third day. Today, we can say that we are celebrating it in real time. The day before yesterday, Good Friday, had a sober service with less happy melodies, as well as our custom of putting black paraments and not placing flowers on the altar. And today, everything is white and the songs and lyrics are happy; we had a festive Easter breakfast and today a service where spirits are more encouraged. The saddest day and the happiest day of the church year are very close to each other. If we observe the mood difference that they evoke in us, we can compare it with a mood that rises, like the speed of one of those elevators: from the underground of sadness to the viewpoint of joy. Our Lord has risen, alleluia! He is no longer dead; he is no longer in the grave, but lives! What a great upwards movement!

“The Lord brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up” reads our preaching text. This word of the Old Testament has been confirmed and fulfilled with the Easter miracle. In this way, we can realize what the above and below would be: the deceased are deposited in the ground; his world is therefore ‘below’, there one can say there is the kingdom of the dead; there is where the darkness is, there is night. Above, on the contrary, it is day, there is the light, above is the life, and above is God. The Passover is, so to speak, the miraculous elevator of Jesus that goes up, towards the light. We call the “resurrection” the mightiest powerful miracle that pulls up.

But the Bible does not speak only of the resurrection by itself, but also that Jesus was raised. Not only is it that “Jesus is risen”, but also: “God raised him up”. This is how it is formulated in our text, of the Paschal promise of the Old Testament: “The Lord brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up”.
There we are, so to speak, with that huge and powerful elevator engine. It is the Father in the heavens who has taken his Son from the grave and death, he with his great power of life, with his creative power, with his all-powerfulness. Easter allows us to be amazed at what God is capable of doing.

That is why, and we should take note, His power acts in both directions. In other words, it not only goes up but also down. And the same goes for the elevator engine: it pulls up and it drives down. And our preaching text does not omit it:
“The Lord brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up”.
Some do not realize this. The resurrection is a miracle of God, but death, is it not something natural? To go up, you need strength, but to go down, doesn’t the law of gravity take car of that? But let’s think about the death of Jesus: Who allowed Jesus to die? The Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus? or Pontius Pilate who condemned Jesus? or the Pharisees who, filled with hatred, planned to kill him? or Judas who betrayed him? or he himself who, despite the danger, nevertheless preferred to enter Jerusalem? Behind all those earthly reasons is the ultimate reason and this is God Himself. The Heavenly Father had determined that his Son should die, that is why he sent him into the world. That is to say: “The Lord brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up”.

And to this day it is like that. The last cause of a person’s death is not senile weakness, or terminal illness, or the incompetence of doctors, or the miscalculation when passing a car, or the deadly bullet of the murderer – the last cause is always God who has determined death as a consequence of sin in our world. Again: “The Lord brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up”.

But he also brings life back; he causes us to rise from the dead. He did this with Jesus and in this way he showed that he will also do it with all of believing humanity. Whoever belongs to Jesus must once “descend into hell” (as our Apostle’s Creed states), that is, to the place of the dead, but God will raise them up to have them in his celestial glory. That is the precious Easter message for us today. Just like that wonderful event that happened two thousand years ago, it is the Gospel message of life for today. And it does not wait for our death to begin acting. No. If we believe in Jesus, the resurrection force of God begins to work in our lives right now. That is very clear, when we are aware of the words of the Old Testament that we are sharing today:
“The Lord brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up”.
There was once a woman who had not fared so well in life. Certainly, she had a good husband, but they could not have children. This made her get sick every so often. She also had an enemy who, thoughtlessly, mocked her infertility. The woman prayed to God, and finally God answered her and granted her a son. She was so happy that she composed a psalm of praise. The psalm speaks of how God, through his power, can change the things that we consider to be ‘impossible’ to change. ‘The barren women have children, the rich become poor, the poor become rich, the dispossessed take on power, the princes or rulers are overthrown’. And it is precisely in this context that the word of the prophet is applicable to what we are reflecting on today, the resurrection of Christ:
“The Lord brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up”.
By the way, the woman who had prayed was called Hannah and her son was called Samuel. Our reading comes from the book that was named after him. So, this relates in a very personal way to us, to our life. Maybe we have similarities with Hannah’s life, in terms of waiting for an answer to our prayer. Perhaps more than one of us today has the spirit of Good Friday rather than of Easter Sunday. You may find yourself very down, in terms of spirit, you are beaten, depressed, lying on the floor. You hear the word from deep down, from down there. But, today is Easter and our Lord has been raised for two thousand years. And God is almighty, like a powerful engine that wants to lift you up, carry you up. That’s what he wants to do with you today. That is what the Lord wants to do with us as a Christian congregation, as a Pilgrim church. This is what Hannah’s testimony shows, and what she wants to show most of all is the resurrection of Christ. God wants you back up; he wants to raise you, to put you on high so that you have another spirit, to put your sight on the horizon again. Ask him, trust him and be patient. And do not forget that Easter means that your Lord has already risen!
It is true that we have to cross the valley of darkness. No matter how much encouragement God has given you in this life, the day will come when he will take you down to the place of the dead; but not because he wants to leave you there. No, it’s for another reason. For the same reason that it took place on Good Friday and Jesus had to die on a cross: because that belongs to God’s plan. And after Easter we realize it. It is only for that reason that you will have to go downwards once so that God can then lift you definitively upwards, upwards, to heaven where the risen Lord will also be waiting for you. “The Lord brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up”. Amen.

Rev. E. Pellini

A Savior born to us

December 27, 2017

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace
Isaiah 9:6

Today, Christmas is considered a family holiday. We enjoy meals in common, we sing Christmas hymns and we are happy for the many gifts! For people who don’t have family, parties are often difficult to pass.
But it doesn’t matter, whether in a family or not, during Christmas Christians celebrate that God allows us to belong to his family. Although we often ignore God or even reject him and his church, he sent his Son Jesus so that we can once again have a relationship with him.

A child has been born. So what? Every day around 300,000 children are born in our world. Why do we celebrate the birth of a single child? In addition, this child came to the world under very special circumstances, but that was a very long time—two thousand years. Why do we celebrate the birth of this child in such a special way on this day? The answer is given by the little word: “us.” In the book of the prophet Isaiah it reads: “a child was born to us”. It is nevertheless thus: when a child is born somewhere, one hardly reacts. But when a baby is born within one’s family, it is an event of great joy. Then there is no other topic of conversation: a child has been born to us, a person has been born and it touches every family personally. And the same thing happens with the child in the manger: it is not simply that he comes to the world but that he comes to the world for us, for each of us personally, “A child was born to us”. It was born not only in our midst, but for us. The Christmas story is not a beautiful story of distant times, but an event that has to do with all the families of the world and that is related to each and every one in particular. This “us” is decidedly important. Luther highlighted it in the Small Catechism in part of the Holy Communion:
“Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins”.

When a child is born, many ask: What’s his name? Yes, what is the name of the child that was born? His name is Jesus and to us the name means: “saviour”, “redeemer”, “healer”. God, through this child, wants to save, redeem and heal us. He wants to get us out of the swamp of guilt and pain in which we are more or less stuck. He wants to free us from all the evil bonds that prevent us from living a good life. He wants to heal that which is destroyed and more than anything, heal our relationship with God. From there everything else can be healed.

“A child is born” is nothing other than the message of the angel: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you”. (Lk 2:11) But Jesus is not the only name of the child; He has other names. We hear from the prophet Isaiah:
“Wonderful Adviser or Counselor and Mighty God.
He will also be called Father Who Lives Forever
and Prince Who Brings Peace”
What powerful names for a baby! But this is what it is about: with these names we are going to experience that this apparently helpless child is very powerful—powerful enough to be our Saviour, redeemer and Healer. This child is almighty, is also called eternal Father, and is the only begotten Son of God the Father, the Almighty. With Jesus it is different from all the other “heroes” of the world we know: They have a great mouth and a certain attitude, but they cannot really help and do something sensible. Jesus Child, on the other hand, seems to be small, weak and helpless, but He is really the Saviour, Redeemer, Admirable Advisor, Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. The child also has more names: He is called Christ, Messiah, the Anointed, the Son of God, the Son of Man, Son of David, Son of Mary and Emmanuel, which means: “God with us”. And there we meet again this little word “us” that touches each one of us. “A child has been born to us”
Some hymns say: “We sing to you Emanuel, Prince of Peace and source of Grace / Flower of the sky and morning star / you are the Son of the Virgin, Lord over all the lords”.

There is a German saying and song which goes: “Everything has an end, only the sausage has two.” Today, some may want this preaching to come to an end, and I won’t disappoint you, I’ll finish in a moment. Yet for a couple of days we will continue to remember Christmas and then everything will be over. In one week the year will end. All human life also comes to an end and finally, even this world as we know it. But what has started with the birth of this child will never end.
Isaiah prophesied:
“Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.”(Is 9: 7)
Even though Jesus later died on the cross, he rose from the dead, lives and reigns for eternity. And he is always here among us and with those who believe in him.

God wants to have us in his family again, even though we may be deserving of punishment for not wanting to know anything about Him. His invitation is clear: From being enemies we can become his friends and family—now and for all eternity. This is a good reason to celebrate Christmas and to tell it to friends and the whole family. The decision of whether you accept God’s gift of a new life with Jesus is up to you. If you want to know and experience more about what Jesus has done for you and what it means to give your own life to Him, we will gladly help you in this church.

Whoever trusts in Him and accepts Him as his Lord and Saviour can be led through death and inherit wonderful, eternal life in heaven. Everything has an end, this message also, this Christmas, this year and the entire world, but the lordship of Jesus Christ has no end and we too will not have an end because he has come for us as our Saviour and because we want to belong to Him. Amen.

I wish you all a very merry Christmas!
Rev. E. Pellini

Returning to the Gospels

October 22, 2017

Commemoration of the 500 years of the Reformation

“So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

Matthew 10:26-33

“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.
What a challenging verse, especially in our time, when there are so many martyrs in the world who are still preaching about the living God of the Bible, and while at the same time there are even also many churches and Christian institutions that water down the message of the Word of God, the Bible!
Luther knew very well what this word for today meant. He discovered it when he read the Bible for the first time. And he felt that all the plain and simple truths of the Bible had to be said in his church. Luther’s courage was to free the power of the clear and simple truth of the Bible with the intention of it being understandable by everyone. This Word came to change the world at that time.
And that word also challenges us today to continue proclaiming the only truth of the Bible in a clear, simple but challenging way.
In the history of the church, every time that there was a real revival movement and a strong presence of the Holy Spirit was when the believers started to once again read and believe the word of God, the Bible, above the wisdom of the world.
And that is unfortunately happening in our society today where many believers dilute the message of the Bible to adapt it to the whims of the world. And Martin Luther was known to precisely lead himself according to the Holy Scriptures and not the teachings of the societies that have often contradicted themselves.
Everyone of us as believers and each of our churches will receive God’s blessing and receive the presence (this we call anointing of God) as long as we return again and again to give sole authority to the Holy Scriptures and so confess Jesus Christ before people. As the Bible says: “God has given the Spirit to those who obey him”. (Acts 5:32)
Luther, when he began to read the Bible, returned to the sources of the Gospel, felt relieved and loved by God and free of the demands of a church that dictated what had to be fulfilled in order to “earn heaven.” He realized that true good works are those that come from a grateful heart, which is a product of faith in Jesus Christ. (Just as he said, “Faith in Christ is the beginning of good works.”) They are works of love for one’s neighbour and they are not a competition for salvation. The sacrifices imposed by religion and all demands (fasting, celibacy, renunciations, personal sacrifices, processions) lead to nothing. Rather than heaven, they often produce boasting because those who practice them believe they are better than others. In others, they lead to despair because nobody can fulfill everything to perfection.
That is why one of the greatest re-discoveries that Luther made was to read the Bible and to confirm the truth that, up until that moment, had been hidden. He summed it up in four fundamental notions for our salvation:
Only by faith
In Luther’s time, people were practicing religion for fear of going to hell. People did everything they could to secure forgiveness while on this earth.
Today, it is very unlikely that people run after forgiveness and are interested in life beyond death. But almost everyone runs after being recognized and pursues what the society in which they live deems of worth.
What Luther rediscovered was that recognition and worth in this life can be received instantly and freely from God. No study or career, no sacrifice, no effort or willpower, nor richness can make us perfect. No strict observance of religion guarantees eternal life. No good deed or any volunteering of any kind in society will bring us closer to God or forgive us our sins. Only by faith we are able to approach God, obtain his forgiveness and live as true Christians. And what is faith? It is not a mere acceptance or observance of some doctrine, but a deep trust in God and our decision to surrender our life to Him. It is the confidence that by the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross my guilt for my sin has already been paid for and that God transforms me into a new person. It is to know that I am unworthy, but that God gives me worthiness. It is trusting that God loves me and invites me to his Kingdom.
Religion is often a bag of inherited traditions and ceremonies from the past while faith is an experience of forgiveness of sin and a new life in community. It is to know that we are accepted by God and invited to live in fellowship with other people of the same faith. God loves you, God forgives you for the work of Christ, and God changes your life. God puts you in a church. God creates with you and with other believers in Jesus Christ a new family that lives in a different way and that is often opposed to mainstream society’s way of living. With believers, God creates an alternative to the world.
How does this faith take place? Through the preaching, teaching and, of course, hearing of the Word of God, which is accepted precisely with faith, in the midst of a congregation in which all members help each other. In order to achieve its growth in faith and love, a church needs minimal organization: meeting places for worship, teaching, Bible study, preaching, and celebration of the sacraments.
“We know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ” (Gal 2:16).
Grace alone
It means that God forgives the sinner freely and mercifully, not because he has done things. Five hundred years ago people did not know how to earn God’s favour. They believed that as greater was the sacrifice or work, as greater was the merit. Some even punished themselves to the extreme for this reason. The Reformation insisted that salvation is a gift of God. God does not have to reward anyone. What he does, he does simply because he wants to. Such is the nature of true love; is not sold or bought, but is given, accepted and lived. It must be highlighted that there is only one condition for God to give us that salvation and that condition is to repent our sins and decide to believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour and to commit our life to God by faith. That’s the first step.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God (Eph. 2: 8).
Only the Word
That is the Holy Scriptures, or the Bible. Where did these ancient teachings about the punishments of purgatory, indulgences, personal sacrifices or the need for good works come from? Where did the commercialization of divine forgiveness come from? Where did the business of selling the grace of God come from? From the Bible? No, not at all.
For many centuries there had grown within the church a tangle of human teachings, speculations, popular traditions, church decisions, beliefs and customs. That jungle had covered up the biblical message. –In the same way as many philosophies and new age teachings are covering the true message of Christ today—
The Reformation again maintained that only the Bible is the source and standard for Christian faith and life. Therefore, he rejected everything that was not found in the Bible. Among these rejected beliefs are works that grant merit, indulgences and purgatory. This was the only way to re-emphasize the teachings of Christ. The Reformation placed clear and simple preaching at the center of worship and promoted the Bible among all the faithful. All believers must know the Word of God, feed their faith with it and lead their lives according to it. Without the reading of the Scripture there can be no Christian faith.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16).

Only Christ
The Middle Ages saw the acceptance of a great number of mediators between God and human beings: virgins, saints, angels and patrons of all kinds, even priests themselves, the sacrificial works of the faithful, indulgences and relics (especially bones and the remains of saints).
Once the incomparable value of the work of Christ was rediscovered, the Reformation insisted that only Christ is the mediator and saviour of those who believe. Salvation is only his work. All other help or intermediation is unnecessary and also contrary to the Bible. The reformation rediscovered that every believer can and should have a living relationship with their Lord. That relationship is maintained through prayer, Biblical study and active participation in the congregation.
For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim 2: 5)
Many of the mistaken practices of that time have already been overcome or at least “softened”. It is not necessary to maintain hostility towards the faithful of other churches, as was done in the past. But what we must do is affirm our own faith in the gospel. We must know in what and in whom we believe, know why we believe, have the personal certainty that we live from God’s forgiveness, and participate with conviction in the congregation of believers.
If we believe, feel and know this, and if we remain joined to our church and actively participate in its mission, true and renewed faith in Christ will grow in us just as Luther wanted to teach to the church of his time.
May the Lord, give us the faith that it is nothing other than a miracle of God, –for not everyone can believe, only those touched by the Holy Spirit– but also the decision to trust our life to God, because there are many who know that God is real but they do not decide to entrust their life to him yet.
May God give us courage to be believers but also to be witnesses of Jesus Christ and to speak about what the Bible alone says about Christ to those who do not know Him yet; a courage that before God will be transformed into blessings and joy for our lives and our churches. Amen.

Thanksgiving for the Harvest

October 8, 2017

Is it not to share your food with the hungry

and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—

when you see the naked, to clothe them,

and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn,

and your healing will quickly appear;

then your righteousness will go before you,

and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;

you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,

with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry

and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,

then your light will rise in the darkness,

and your night will become like the noonday.

The Lord will guide you always;

he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land

and will strengthen your frame.

You will be like a well-watered garden,

like a spring whose waters never fail.

Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins

and will raise up the age-old foundations;

you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,

Isaiah 58:7-12

 

 

We are doing really well in this country. If you could now see how other people in the world are living, maybe you’d have a different point of view of your life here. We are so sated that we don’t need to, for instance, use the harvest fruits that we have around the altar today as food. We are sated every day – not only with bread, but also with meat and with cakes. When we are thirsty, we find enough to drink – not only clean water, but also more refined drinks. We don’t need to freeze, because we have enough clothes – not just warm clothes, but chic things! We all have a roof over our head, a warm house, a bed to sleep on. We have free health insurance, doctors, teachers, friends and people who protect us. Yes, we’re fine. And all this, we owe to God. In the true sense of the word! We would be foolish if we took all that we have for granted. No, we want to thank God, especially today, during ‘Thanksgiving for the Harvest’ .

 

But how do you do it – thank God? An old Church hymn summarizes this well: “Now thank you all our God with heart, and hand and voices!

 

First, we want to thank God with the heart. The heart stands for our inner attitude. A grateful heart realizes that God means good to us. Therefore, a thankful heart cannot be angry with other people. Our preaching tells us what pleases God:

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression”

A grateful heart doesn’t oppress fellow human beings, but loves and does well to them, just as God does to us humans. A grateful heart gives others a better chance instead of taking away something from them. A grateful heart recognizes where others are lacking. Again, our text tells us what pleases God: “And if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry” Not just from your fridge and your wallet, but with your heart! Yes, this way you can say thank you to God, with the heart: If you love your neighbour from the heart, if you care that they are not oppressed, but if you help them in distress and help with the best of your wealth.

 

Secondly, let us thank God with our hands. For this purpose, too, the text tells us the opposite of what pleases God: “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger” This is not so easy to understand. You can show someone something with a finger! But here it means something else: We shouldn’t threaten anyone with our finger and offend anybody. If the prophet Isaiah would live today, he would perhaps say: Show no one that hard obscene gesture with the finger! We can say thanks with our hands as long as we don’t use them to hurt and offend. In other words, as in the preaching text, it is said, “If you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry.” Grateful hands are working not only for their own wellbeing, but also for the wellbeing of their neighbour, especially when he needs help. If you are employed, you will not only earn your own net income, but also the money for taxes and social contributions. Grateful hands like to do this; they will not get involved in labour under the table labour, because they know that taxes and social contributions are to a large extent benefiting people who also need it.

 

Yes, and then let us thank God with the mouth or with our voice. This doesn’t mean that we take the delicious things that we have harvested into our mouths and eat. No, it is mainly the words that come out of our mouths. There is a whole lot coming out every day, good and sometimes less good, wise words and foolish words; words of faith and words of fear and lack of confidence. Again, our preaching text says what pleases God: don’t have “malicious talk.” A grateful mouth does not mock and curse. A grateful mouth says “thank you” to God and gives credit to God, not human beings, and hope for God firstly, and sometimes he sings to Him out of gratitude. A grateful mouth speaks daily thanksgiving and sings praises. For the people of the ancient Israelites and the Christians of past generations, it was taken for granted that no meal was ever served without thanksgiving. Unfortunately, I notice that saying grace before meals is no longer customary in many families. If there is someone here who does not say grace, I recommend to you for your own good: Get used to it quickly! Let us thank God with our mouth!

 

 

Let us therefore thank God with heart, and hands and voices. God made know to us what pleases Him through the prophet Isaiah. Perhaps you find it a bit odd that for the above-mentioned prophet Isaiah, everything begins with “if”: “If you do away with the yoke of oppression,   with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness… “What follows this” if “? There will be something wonderful, a wonderful “then”, a divine promise:

“Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer”

So God says: If you are grateful with the heart, and hands and voices then God will let all go well in your life. Or, in short, live well, and then you’ll be fine!

And this is not said to an individual, but to a whole people; God speaks here to the people of Israel by means of the prophet Isaiah as if he were a single man. And so we can relate it to our own current church members, and to our entire society:

When we say thank you with heart, and hands and voices, then we will be all right, then we will see a blessing everywhere! But if we are complaining or being disrespectful, then God will remind us that all good gifts come only from him. He can then allow poverty, distress and economic crises to happen in our lives, but it won’t be His fault.

With this, He shows us:

‘Hey, you logical, self-sufficient and smart people, you cannot make your own prosperity, it is still a gift from me!’ Do not forget this, but learn to give thanks every day anew – with heart, and hands and voices. So the advice for today:

Live well, and then you will be fine! Say thanks to God and learn how good he means it with you. Live right, then you will be all right – but it cannot be the other way around. You cannot say that: You are doing well because you have worked hard and well. We would be foolish and arrogant if we thought we deserved this whole harvest, because we are such a decent people. Some think so. And some are even so proud and self-sufficient to suppose, that when they have died once, and stand before God’s judgment, then they might proclaim and say, ‘God, I have lived decently, now let me into heaven!’ No, no one is good enough as to be able to earn heaven by himself. No one has earned anything from God, not satiety in this world, nor eternal life in the other world; it is all mercy and grace. This grace is connected with the Lord Jesus Christ. It is true that Isaiah spoke the words, which we are considering, seven hundred years before Jesus’ birth. But because he was God’s prophet, the name of Jesus is already flashing in his sermon:

“your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday” it says. It is the light of the Lord Jesus Christ that has come into the darkness of the world. It is the light of the Lord Jesus Christ which is reflected in the lives of Christians so that they can be the light of the world. It is the light of the Lord Jesus Christ that enlightens us with true faith and makes us able to express our thanks to God – not only for the harvest and for the things of this world, but also for eternal life. Yes, Christ, is the Light, and makes us able to say thank you with heart, and hands and voices.

Amen.

 

A Transformed World

September 3, 2017

In a very short time, will not Lebanon be turned into a fertile field
and the fertile field seem like a forest?
In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll,
and out of gloom and darkness
the eyes of the blind will see.
Once more the humble will rejoice in the Lord;
the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
The ruthless will vanish,
the mockers will disappear,
and all who have an eye for evil will be cut down—
those who with a word make someone out to be guilty,
who ensnare the defender in court
and with false testimony deprive the innocent of justice.
Therefore this is what the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, says to the descendants of Jacob:
“No longer will Jacob be ashamed;
no longer will their faces grow pale.
When they see among them their children,
the work of my hands,
they will keep my name holy;
they will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob,
and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.
Those who are wayward in spirit will gain understanding;
those who complain will accept instruction.”

Isaiah 29:17-24

For those people who like to be informed or ‘connected’ with today’s events in the world, there are many possibilities. We have at our disposal the most modern forms of communication the world has ever known. It’s hard to imagine what will come next.
But at the same time we are in serious danger. The danger comes from not having control over that huge stream of information that surrounds us every day. And many times that technology is used by the powerful to influence the masses and change the way they think and see the things that really happen. Thus it is good advice to not believe everything we see and hear in the media as absolute truth. Rather, it is a relative, exaggerated, manipulated and often distorted truth. That’s why it’s also good advice to take more time for reading the Bible and for interaction with human beings of our society than for media and social networks. There we will see ‘in truth’, the facts of our world.
If we spend more time paying attention to the media and social networks than on reading the Word of God and attending to the needs of our neighbours, then, as Christians, we are not leading a wise life.

In the media everything seems to be wrong. For a whole month I have tried to analyze the morning news that came to me. I noticed that 90% of it was negative news. And of this, 90% of it was news that had little and nothing to do with my everyday life and the community in which I am living. And most of this news was viewed from a partial and doubtful point of view, or was even biased.
But do bad things not happen? Yes, of course bad things happen. But the good things also happen. Yet they are not published. And maybe the good things could even surpass the amount of bad things that happen daily, but not according to the media. Regardless of this, what I discovered that month, was that every morning when I went to the media to “see what was going on in the world”, I ended up discouraged, negative, almost sad and gloomy. This, over time, affects not only the mental health of a person but also their way of observing and considering the world, and it undermines their faith and trust in God. And the worst thing for many –even Christians– it seems to only be the main source of “spiritual food” they receive every day.

And the question today may be: But is it not necessary to listen to what the media and the news say? Yes, of course you can, but today more than ever you have to be extremely observant and careful. All of the information we receive must be taken with a grain of salt, and weighed against the teachings of the Holy Scriptures. And we have to keep in mind where we spend most of our time: listening to the news or meditating on the word of God? What is the foundation for our mood? What makes us sad or happy? What gives us the strength to live? What is the greatest influence in our daily lives, everything that comes from God, our fellowship with God or what the media “preaches” to us? This is an urgent question for today’s Christian.

But let’s look at the whole paragraph of the Bible reading for this Sunday’s sermon. If we do, we see: it speaks of a powerful transformation of our society, beyond the distortion or trend of the media. It is a reality that our world is permeated with evil, but also with very good things. The text says that here nothing will be as it was again. But it is a global change towards the good that no one other than God in person can carry out. The message of this transformation into the good is very important. We will do well to listen carefully and trust him, especially in these times of terrorism, distortion of news, wars, economic crises and other shortcomings.

The prophet Isaiah announces this message of salvation in three phases and with each of them is even clearer. It’s like when you adjust the lenses of binoculars, the visual sharpness changes: every time we adjust the lenses, something things become clearer. There are three levels of sharpness with which Isaiah shows us the great transformation of God and His salvation that is to come.

First, Isaiah paints a somewhat blurred landscape. He says: imagine the mountains of Lebanon. These are actually rugged wooded mountains full of rocks, large tree roots and scrub. No one can even think of planting grain there or of intending to harvest fruit. But after a while everything will be different: instead of rocky land, there will be fertile land for farmland, a lovely garden, a paradise, more beautiful than anything you have seen. What grows in the gardens will appear in the thicket of the bush and mountains.

Yes, it means that God will start to act. Just as he once created the Garden of Eden for Adam and Eve with their spectacular trees and fruits, so God will transform the sin-covered land and heal it and make it fertile, tillable land again. That’s God’s promise; we can already be happy for this! But we can better recognize the wonderful change with the image of the garden in the following sentences; Isaiah describes to us even more brightly what God will do.
He no longer speaks of an unclear landscape, but rather of people. Suddenly the deaf will hear, the blind will see, the poor will rejoice in the Lord, the needy will rejoice over what they receive from God. This text tells about the ruthless and mockers that will be exterminated. It should be noted that: it is not that there will be revenge and satisfaction because our enemies were eliminated, but it is that the oppressed and suffering will breathe with relief.

With this announcement of salvation we can know God’s heart. God only has in mind what is good for us. God wants to help all who suffer and promises that the shortcomings will come to an end. Illnesses and hopelessness will end, suffering and misery will be transformed into joy. We will do well if we stand up to these promises of God’s salvation and not worry about everything in our world as presented by the aggravated and distorted media.

More than anything when you are sick or discouraged or poor or sad or oppressed or burdened by anything: keep in mind that God announces a great change, a 180º turn for the better and that he will take care of it himself.

Let us continue looking in more detail. Isaiah prophesied: “In that day the deaf may hear the reading of the scroll.” What ‘scroll’ do you mean? There is only one scroll, or book, that is simply called ‘the book.’ It is the Bible. There we see that, first of all, it is not a question of a physical deafness, but of a spiritual deafness that God wants to heal. Here it is said that the people who until now have not attended to the Bible, suddenly will recognize the spiritual riches of the word of God that is found in the Bible.
So also God heals spiritual blindness; it is the time for the Gospel: “and out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see.”
And in the end for the oppressed and sad they are not only prophesied a little joy, but Isaiah promises them:
“Once more the humble will rejoice in the Lord; the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.”
The ruthless will vanish, the mockers will disappear, and that sheds light on us: there is no talk of ISIS terrorists or even any other kind of ruthless hidden by a mantle of democracy, but of ruthless who are not flesh and blood. God will overcome Satan and all his demons that keep us from God and lead us to perdition, condemnation.

We have almost reached the third level, with the clear image of God according Isaiah’s prophecy. But there is more to see. Isaiah rejoices over the message of God’s joy:
“Therefore this is what the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, says …”
When we speak of redemption, it is the deliverance that has come into the world through Jesus Christ. Isaiah prophesied that the descendants of his contemporaries will already see the deeds of God. Yes, 700 years later the descendants of Israel experienced Jesus’ mighty preaching, His incredible miracles, how He redeemed humanity from the power of the devil on the cross and rose up as victor over all evil in His resurrection. There the new covenant was established, there the great turning took place, and this is the magnificent good news and new era of the kingdom of God. Now humanity is able to come to repentance, now the Holy Spirit allow them to believe from the heart, now they can recognize God’s love, now they are led from their wrong and sinful ways to the good paths of God, as Isaiah prophesied:
“They will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob, and will stand in awe of the God of Israel. Those who are wayward in spirit will gain understanding; those who complain will accept instruction.”

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we now see more clearly: the transformation of God has already taken place, for Jesus has risen from the dead and we live with him and through him in the kingdom of God. We know that the devil no longer has power over us believers, and we believe that with God we are safe and secure. He can still frighten us, but we do not need to be worried, even if the world around us goes crazy and is evil, God has redeemed us and will give us the promised eternal life. We are baptized, and if anyone is baptized and has truly understood what this baptism is all about, which is to say, that they have also had the opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, then from there on in their life ‘nothing will be as before’- everything has been transformed through the joyful light of the gospel. Death cannot separate us from God’s hand – even if we die young or old, in a violent or natural way. God will lead us there, where, in the end, our natural eyes will be able to see with total clearness and accuracy the love that he does have. Amen

12th Sunday of the Holy Trinity