Today is a special Sunday called Israel-Sunday. Although we often don’t think about it: our Christian belief and our worship are deeply connected with Judaism! This Sunday we want to show this. During the service we light a candle seven times to show our fellowship with our Jewish sisters and brothers in faith. The seven candles remind of the Menora a candlestick with seven arms which stood in the Temple in Jerusalem. Up to now it is an important symbol for Judaism and stands in many synagogues all over the world. The first candle we light now at the beginning of this service. We thank our Jewish sisters and brothers in faith that we celebrate like them a worship service.
Sermon on Romans 9,1–8.14–16
Ho god and how sad, that God has so many human children!
We rejoice that we are God’s children. But like in many human families the children in God’s family comprising of Christians and Jews – and I think Muslims as well – argue about who is most loved by the parents. In former times this was a bloody fight. Jews persecuted the first Christians for decades. But after that Christians persecuted Jews for centuries up to the middle of last century.
Today we emphasize what we have in common, that is why we light these seven candles. But still the Jews are so much hurt and sensitive that they feel disregarded as Jews if anyone criticizes their government especially in dealing with the Palestinians. Up to today Jews are not just members of a religious community but they are remotely related to each other as members of a biological people. For every Jew has a Jewish mother, this is their sign besides the custom of circumcising the boys. Faith as attitude of the heart plays a minor role. Jews are God’s people through the covenant with their common ancestor Abraham and his son Isaac and his son Jacob.
But we here are often not related to each other in a biological way; even centuries back we find that our ancestors came from different countries without any relations to each other. We are God’s people through our baptism and through our faith in Jesus Christ who was a Jew. This is a very different way of belonging to God.
Many theologians say: there is a first people of God and there is a second people of God. This sounds like: God has an elder child and a younger child.
Since Mohammed received God’s history with the Jews and the story of Jesus Christ positively but in a very different into the Koran, we could say: there is a third child of God.
Well, the eldest child gave us God’s covenant with the Ten Commandments and especially the Day of Rest, which we use today to worship God in peace. It is understandable if it says: “I am the true people of God; Jesus was just part of us.” Paul the Jew who became a Christian could hardly stand this kind of talks. We just heard that he wrote to the Romans:
My heart is full of sorrow. My sadness never ends. I am so concerned about my people, who are members of my own race. I am ready to be cursed, if that would help them. I am even willing to be separated from Christ.
Well, our dealing with Jesus Christ decides who can live on God’s grace and rejoice. Clearly now we younger children say: “ we are the true people God.”
But even human parents see that their elder and their younger children are different but they don’t want any difference in their love to them. If human Parents can say: “You are my beloved child in this way and you are my beloved child in that way”, then God can say that even better. Paul writes: They are the people of Israel. They have been adopted as God’s children. … The founders of our nation belong to them. Christ comes from their family line. … Their condition does not mean that God’s word has failed.
As far as God is concerned, the Jews and we Christians are both parts of God’s people.
We have to bear this even when we think that the Jew lack something bringing salvation. Paul fought for this in many letters and in several chapters of this letter to the Romans. He really would have loved to see that the Jews relate to God via the Jew Jesus Christ not via God’s Word and especially the Ten Commandments. But at the same time Paul had found in Abraham’s story how God chooses God’s descendants. So he writes: Scripture says, “Your family line will continue through Isaac.” In other words, God’s children are not just Abraham’s natural children. Instead, they are the children God promised to him. They are the ones considered to be Abraham’s children.
God’s promise is most important and God’s promise applies to Jews and Christians as God’s children.
Mohammed also has gotten God’s promise for all who follow the Koran.
Only Jews, Christians and Muslims count on such a promise of God; no other religion in the world does this. God has spoken to all three, to the Jews and to us Christians and to the Muslims, and God has made people write down God’s revelations.
So I think, that God see the Muslims as the third child in God’s family. Only that in these times this child is even surer to be in the right than all the others.
But how shall we Christians deal with these relationships and with these vast differences? Firstly we should concentrate on the same thing on which Paul concentrated. I read again: God said to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy. I will show love to those I love.” So it doesn’t depend on what we want or do. It depends on God’s mercy.
So we can know for ourselves that Jesus God as Man has brought us in God’s arms. We can rejoice that through His death and His resurrection Jesus Christ has made possible for us to have a new life with God and with others. We can rejoice for ourselves and we can let this joy shine to others around us.
But we don’t know what God’s love does to others and what ways God will lead them in friendship. Even if we worry a lot about this, God’s mercy is there as much for the others as for us. God has mercy on them in God’s way not in our way.
It is so sad that so many people can’t stand God free mercy with the others! It is so sad that so many fight each other in their relationship to God with words or actions – even murderous! It is so sad that we people love to put our power and our goods through with religion!
Jesus God as man is crucified again and again in our living together as children of God I think. Thanks to God, God does not leave love in death! Thanks to God, Jesus God a man rises again and again in our hearts and gives new opportunities for help and fellowship through the Holy Spirit! “He is God over all. May he always be praised!”