What is heaven is it everywhere
"... as in heaven so on earth." - The heaven of God is "everywhere"
Sermon by Regional Bishop Dr. Ulrich Fischer on 1 Kings 8, 22ff
As the sermon text for this dedication service I have chosen words from the 8th chapter of the 1st book of Kings. We hear about the construction of the temple at the time of King Solomon, an event almost 3000 years ago. Centuries later, a chronicler reports from this event from the early days of Israeli history and has the king say a temple dedication prayer on the occasion of the dedication of the temple. In it it says:
“You God of Israel, there is no god like you, either up in heaven or down on earth. Should God really dwell on earth? When heaven and heaven cannot grasp you, let alone this house that I built? Turn to the prayer and supplication of your servant. My God, listen to your servant's pleading and prayer before you today. Let your eyes stand open over this house by night and by day, over the place of which you said: There shall be my name. "
God does not allow himself to be locked up
Strange! Somebody is building a temple with a huge amount of effort. And now, when the building is finally completed, he confesses in a prayer that God is too great to be able to live in an earthly house. But why building a house of God if God does not allow himself to be locked up in the walls of an earthly house? What if he does not let himself be committed to certain places that we build for him? Why building a house of God if our faith includes the basic knowledge that God, the creator and sustainer of life, is a God of earth and heaven? One who is very close to the people and yet at the same time completely different. A God who lives entirely on earth and yet is entirely in heaven at the same time.
"God cannot be possessed or even locked up like in a safe that can be opened from time to time."
We humans are in danger of wanting to capture God. To want to fix it to certain places, to certain ideas, to certain experiences, to certain teachings. But that is exactly the message of our faith: God lets himself be fully involved in this earth, but then he remains the completely different, the stranger, the distant. In the work and in the death of Jesus, God allows himself to be tied to something that can be experienced within the world. As the heavenly God, however, he eludes our grasp in the resurrection of Christ. God does not allow himself to be possessed or even locked up like in a safe that can be opened from time to time. Certainly: we humans need places where we can make sure of God's closeness. We need houses of God that radiate something of the holiness of God. And yet at the same time we should know that the God of heaven and earth does not allow himself to be locked up where we want to fix him.
Earthly house with a heavenly orientation
The construction of a meeting house expresses this basic trait of our faith: Because we believe in the God of heaven and earth, we live in such a house in a very earthly manner and yet at the same time oriented towards God's heaven. In heavenly alignment we are building an earthly house of God. And from this basic attitude of faith we look up to heaven in this earthly house to ask God when we are plagued by doubts about God's dwelling on our earth. Let us look up to heaven in prayer when we feel abandoned by God on this earth. Let us look up praying at the sky, whose ozone hole is getting frighteningly larger. Let us look up to the sky in prayer when the sky is torn apart by deadly bombs and missiles. When we look up to heaven in prayer, we are looking for a perspective into the vagueness of our life. Then we long for something beyond our limited experience. Then we long for heaven as the place of God.
"Heaven - that is the metaphor for the world of God, which breaks all our conceptions of space and time. Heaven of God is not" above ", but" everywhere "."
And we know very well that this sky does not at all - or not only - mean the celestial space above our earth. When we are in love, we feel we are in "seventh heaven". When we hear Schubert's 9th Symphony, we indulge in the “heavenly lengths” of this music. And when we listen to the concerts at the Schwetzingen Festival, we think we hear heavenly sounds. With our longing for heaven, we are expressing something that exceeds our limited possibilities. Something that is out of this world. We speak of heavenly things when we mean something that leads us beyond ourselves - into new, previously unknown dimensions. Heaven - that is the metaphor for the world of God, which breaks all our conceptions of space and time. The heaven of God is not “above” but “everywhere”. Heaven stands for the openness and infinity of God. Yes, God became completely earthly in Jesus Christ, became completely human. Comes to us in very earthly places, and at the same time, as the risen One, he breaks the bond with the earth, he proves himself to be God of earth and heaven. God does not allow himself to be restricted to the worldly, to the worldly. It cannot be restricted to our experiences, to our limited reality.
Unavailability of God
With Solomon, with the ancient people of Israel, we believe in the unavailability of God. Let us also believe that this unavailable God with his heaven will always come down to this earth. That this God gets involved in this earth. With Solomon we trust that the God of heaven and earth will come down to us by answering our prayer. When we look up to heaven in prayer, we open our gaze to the whole of heaven and earth. Then we practice trusting that God's will will prevail in all of heaven and all of earth. Then we learn to pray “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Then we learn to ask about God's will, which is to be done in heaven as on earth. Then we look to the sky and do not fix our heavenly gaze on the ozone hole, but we search for God's will to preserve creation. Then we don't stare at the murderous rockets over Afghanistan, but pray prayingly for ways out of the violence and the war.
"With our view of heaven we are reminded of God's will in heaven and on earth and thus of our responsibility for heaven and earth."
The praying gaze to heaven helps us to discover and endure what is threatening in this heaven and then also to ask about God's will in heaven and on earth and to ask for his will to be carried out. With our gaze towards heaven we are reminded of God's will in heaven and on earth and thus of our responsibility for heaven and earth.
This parish hall will now be used in very different ways in the following years - by secular associations and by parish groups in events without any heavenly orientation. Earth-connected and full of life will be celebrated here. Hopefully the social and political responsibility for this city will also be considered and discussed here. So: It will be very earthly in this house. And then in this house there is also singing and saying about God's heaven and God's heavenly salvation. There will be prayers and worship services in this house. So heavenly things will happen here. Yes, this Luther House should be a house in which everyone who goes in and out here can live in an earthly way and at the same time be fully oriented towards heaven. So it will be a "house of God". A house of which it is said: “There dwells the name of God”, the name of him who is God of heaven and earth. And with this orientation, this house also does its namesake all credit; for nothing was more important to Martin Luther than bringing heaven and earth together: for him, the heavenly Sunday service requires its continuation through the service in the earthly everyday life of the world. This Luther House should be a place where people experience God as a God of heaven and earth in a completely earthly and at the same time completely heavenly way. A place where you can celebrate earthly and at the same time pray full of trust to the heavenly God: “Let your eyes stand open over this place night and day. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. ”Amen.
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