Sermons from the Berlin Years, 1971-1975
I will be scanning typed sermons from the Berlin Years into this site.
Check out all the Christmas sermons, letters, and songs in the posts below. I believe I’ve entered over thirty items.
img081 Click on this image. Sermon Title: Die Sonderbare Sendung
This is a special sermon that I preached in St. Philip’s Church in Berlin – Friedenau (in der Philippusgemeinde). Preached for St. Michael and All the Angels, it is really about angels, demons, and the spirit world. Angels are sent by God to love and serve us, demons come to destroy us and God’s creation. We can send invisible radio waves that carry our voices, and even pictures for television. From God’s heaven, God sends a living broadcast that we know as our existence in this creation. The word “Sendung” in German works better than “broadcast” in English, because it can refer to a broadcast and God’s sending angels to help us at one and the same time.
This sermon begins the theme of the experience of baptism, which is dying to oneself and rising up with Christ to live out of the strength of God. It also commemorates the men of the resistance, Graf Schenk von Staufenberg, Generals Beck and Olbricht, Pastors Bonhoeffer and Schneider, and all the others, who tried unsuccessfully to assassinate Hitler on July 20, 1944, all of them sacrificing their lives in the process. Bonhoeffer’s life places a witness all around his theology. How many theologians have lives that make a more forceful witness than their works? St. Paul’s life was like that, too. We are invited to suffer with Christ for the sake of righteousness, so that we can also be raised up in a resurrection like his. But God is altogether gracious. This sermon was preached in the Ernst-Moritz-Arndt Church and St. Ann’s in Dahlem. A picture of St. Ann’s is on the last page.
These pages were white 35 years ago. Now they are quite brown, especially around the edges. This sermon is all about the baptism experience: dying to oneself and being raised up with Christ to live out of God’s strength. I had left Hamma Theological Seminary three years earlier without a degree, without certification, and with no prospects to show for all my investment into ministry. Then I had something like a dying experience. Perhaps my therapist Alexander McCurdy and I had broken off our sessions badly, but he said one thing that was now helpful. “The resurrection is our business.” All the existential pain I was enduring came to a head and I felt like I was dying. But with the resurrection words in my ear, I stood up and said to God, “Now the fire in my oven went out. I have come to my end. I will now get up and all that I do I will only be able to do out of your strength.” I took a train to Switzerland and met with one of my professors there and started the process again: passed my ministry exam, became re-certified, and then was ordained by Bischof Kurt Scharf in the Church of Berlin-Brandenburg on behalf of the Ohio Synod in the Sanct Anne Kirche in Dahlem. The basic idea for this sermon came from St. Paul, but its existential experience comes from the baptism experience just described.
img014 This sermon was delivered in St. Anne’s Church in Dahlem-Berlin (in der Sanct Annen Kirche). I was an interim pastor there for the pulpit and district that Martin Niemoeller had in World War II. He still came back from West Germany and preached at the Jesus Christ Church, the other church of our parish. Helmut Gollwitzer also preached there and he would read my sermons and politely advise me to simplify them.
On page two there is a short presentation of the contents. (Maybe it is more like a lecture!)
1. The words of St. Paul wait for us and want to rework the new creation.
2. To live out of God means to die to oneself and rise up anew with Christ and to live out of a new strength.
3. When we leave St. Paul, we ask, is his analysis of the human condition helpful?
4. Bultmann’s understanding of sin.
5. I then oppose flesh and spirit as two different dimensions of existence.
6. A misunderstanding has to be clarified. The whole person dies and the whole person rises in renewal, with sensual passion, moral, and religious striving.
7. Those whom the Spirit of God drives are the children of God. Driven by angels or demons personally or in a dynamic social movement, somewhat like Pentecostalism. There is a need for ecstacy otherwise attained by alcohol or drugs, etc.
This is a brief funeral sermon for a Johanna Halfter, delivered on the 28th of February 1974. During my ministry in Dahlem I officiated at about 55 funerals. Sometimes I had to to have two or three at the crematorium in one day. A very important funeral was the one for Frieda Frischbutter. When I locate it I will enter it here. On the last page for filler I copied Matthias Claudius’ beloved song, “Der Mond ist Aufgegangen.” We did not sing it at the funeral.