2023-03-12 - Okuli - (EN) - Pfarrerin Nicole Otte-Kempf

( Luke 22,47-53 ) - [ Deutsch ]


Sermon theme: Where is God in the darkness?

This Sunday is called Oculi. It's about eyes. I am invited to see. Those who look to God will shine with joy. The biblical text for the sermon, however, irritates me rather than giving me joy. With this text, on the 3rd Sunday of Passion, we are thrust into the middle of the Passion story.

A dark scene. It is night, the evening of the arrest, the scene in the garden. From the banqueting hall Jesus and his disciples set out together after their last meal and some mysterious conversations. All come along – and all can hardly keep their eyes open. Then they witness the arrest. The worst thing they can imagine happens.

I imagine being there with my friends and letting the events unfold before my eyes and ears – taking everything to heart.

This is what Luke reports in the 22nd chapter of his Gospel:

While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.”

What the friends see frightens them – and me too. We already suspected that it would not end well.

But isn't it also consistent? Jesus had announced that it would happen, that he would be handed over, taken captive and die. He goes his way to the end, consistently and with conviction; he showed us that with his behaviour.

Putting their hand on the plough and keeping an eye on the field that they have to work - that is what he also expects from his friends. From us. From our congregation. From all those who place themselves in his service.

Not to look back, not to mourn the old, the past, but to look towards the goal, not to lose sight of the path. Those who look to God will shine with joy.

Radiant with joy - the friends were able to experience many beautiful moments with him on the way. Moments in which God was present, perceptible, tangible.

But there are also other images. The angry Jesus in the temple, overturning the tables. The angry scribes who do not like that he turns to Zacchaeus. Those who want to press him to finally act on their behalf. He remains true to himself and his way. His eyes are fixed on the goal. He asks for strength, and he does not evade. He does not look back and does not turn. Until the inevitable happens. His eyes rest on God, cling to God, seek Him even as darkness falls.

And now: What do I, what do his friends have to wirness in this scene? There's the kiss. Judas, Jesus' friend. What might have driven him? What does he look at? I imagine that Judas is at a loss. He expected something different, felt challenged by what Jesus says and does, turning to the lost and supporting the poor and weak.  He had expected a strong man to take action. He cannot embark on this path, looks back on his own wishes and needs and decides for himself that this cannot be the master he wants to follow. Perhaps too weak, too vulnerable, too non-violent. He approaches Jesus, kisses him and at that moment actually betrays love. It shows those who want to arrest Jesus who the one is they are looking for.

Horrified, the friends open their eyes and watch what is happening. When they see that their friend is being arrested, they become active: should we take the sword, they ask, and one of them already reaches for it and cuts off one of the soldiers' ears.

Jesus, however, remains the calm one until the end of the scene. He even heals the wounded servant, as he has healed so many people before. He hands himself over to those who want to capture him and gives the situation a heading: now is the hour of the persecutors - now the power of darkness shows itself. And he disappears from my field of vision and the field of vision of his friends. Others will now look at him, assessing and judging. I look after him.

What is put before me, what is put before us on this Passion Sunday, Oculi? I see Jesus walking with great clarity on the path of which he is convinced. I see the friends who are afraid. I see the soldiers who follow their mission, but perhaps do not even know what they are doing and what role they play in this drama. I see the gloom of the night and the inevitability of a violent death. A terrible, a depressing scene that will go on horribly and depressingly, as we all know.

Those who look to God will shine with joy.
Did Jesus beam with joy that night when he fixed his gaze on God in prayer? After all, he obviously received the strength to continue on his way and to surrender. Upright he delivers himself.
But - where is God this evening? And where is God when it is dark within me? Where is God when it is dark in the world?
Sometimes it feels like he is not there. My eyes can't find him. On days when I feel him, life seems bright and light. And when I don't feel him, life seems dark. I can't look at him and shine with joy. Joy is gone from me, as it is from many people in the war and crisis zones, in the ICUs or in their lonely nights.

Once more I look. Look at the scene. Before the arrest scene, Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane. And this prayer has strengthened and sustained the despondent Jesus. Even if he is not radiant with joy: at least he finds the strength to stand upright. That is a lot.
Standing upright, he can face the inevitable, continues on his way. Through the darkness. Perhaps he already suspects or hopes for the light at the end.

I have to go through some darkness. And not only me. You, too. And also, our world. I am comforted by the image in the garden: God is there, even in the darkness, just as he was there then, also in the darkness. Look. You don't see his light, but you see people holding on and going their way, feeling his light. Upright and sovereign. Even in your darkness, he is there to guide you through, to strengthen you and give you the strength to go on. Stand up, have courage.


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