2023-11-26 - Ewigkeitssonntag - (EN) - Pfarrerin Nicole Otte-Kempf

( Psalm 139:7-14 ) - [ Deutsch ]

In one lifetime, what a variety of worlds a person travels through? Of ups and downs, joy and sorrow, light and darkness. Of excitement and disappointment, new discoveries and losses. Victories and defeats. We experience it ourselves. We also see and hear what happens to people in our immediate surroundings. Newspapers and the news broaden those circles even further. This is how we find out how people live elsewhere. And many of you have relatives abroad. And some of you have travelled a long way yourselves and most of you come from a place other than Pretoria. And sometimes you might think to yourself that others in faraway places are better off than I am. After all, isn't this or that country greener and more beautiful? 

No matter where you are, the beautiful appearance can quickly fade and illness can leave such a deep and lasting impact on anyone. People lose their lives in this country as well as in others: too soon, too unexpectedly or after enduring far too much suffering. 

How many different worlds does one person have to pass through in their lifetime? 

"All the world's a stage", William Shakespeare wrote as early as 1599, by which he meant that life swings back and forth, up and down, like a ship on the high seas: in the clash of different characters, in the exuberance of emotions or monotonous repetitions, in almost incomprehensible happiness or in an inextricable web of strokes of fate or intrigue. Is life tragic or comic? does it end in contentment, gratitude or happiness? 

Peer Gynt, the legendary hero from the far north, has another experience: in the end, he sits by his mother's grave and searches for what holds life together at its core. In the process, he peels an onion. He pulls it apart and searches for the core of the onion - but in essence of his life. He peels and peels off one skin after another. We know: he won't find a core, because an onion doesn't have one... 

We find a completely different view of the world in Psalm 139. Here, too, someone is travelling. Here, too, one goes to the ends of the earth.  But this person praying the Psalm is not left behind alone. He sings a song. His song. A song of the distant God who is very close by. 

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.

The great theologian Eberhard Jüngel called these verses the ' song of God's omnipresent closeness'. And it is of course reminiscent of the Song of Songs, in which the core statements of our faith about love are formulated. In this case, these are key phrases about the closeness of God. He takes the wings of the dawn and moves to the farthest sea. And he sees: God is already there. In his flight, the person praying imagines: what would happen in the darkness? What if it were night around me? What if there was no light and I could no longer see anything? In that case, the prayer says:  even darkness would not be dark with you, and the night would shine like the day. Darkness is like light. 

For thousands of years, people - regardless of where they are travelling - have been accompanied by the words of this Psalm, in which it says: God surrounds us. 

There are also two verses from Psalm 139 in this picture, because today they relate to this Sunday. If I take the wings of the dawn and remain at the farthest sea, even there your hand will guide me and your right hand will hold me. 

I believe that especially on a day like today, when we remember the people who have died this year and also remember those who were important in our lives but are no longer here, we need a text like this that transcends our imagination. 

The psalmist passes on to us the experience he has had in life.  That's why he starts talking about the wings of dawn, because he probably knows that it can sometimes be difficult to get up again. He speaks of light because he knows that God no longer wanted darkness to cover the earth on the first day of creation and therefore said: let there be light. The words of the psalmist sound like a distant memory of this: and the night shone like the day. Darkness is like light. Wonderful are your works, this my soul recognises. Wherever someone is struggling and wondering what to do next, the psalm wants to give us wings. Look here and see what I see, I have seen it with my own eyes. "The night shone like the day. The darkness is like the light." The Psalm is a wake-up call against the night. A contradiction against everything that makes your life difficult. It sets the lightness of the wings against the forces that pull you down. It sets the vastness of the horizon against everything that pushes you into a corner and robs you of the air you need to breathe. It provides a piece of eternal light for all those who feel that night is perhaps closer than day. The Psalm is a burning declaration in favour of life. Moreover, it does not first ask whether God exists, but assumes that God is there and active.

Anyone who is grieving knows how far down the pain can drag you. Grief cannot be talked away, it has to be endured, but then it also becomes less over time and loses its dark power. Grieving is a long and lonely journey at times, but I wish those of you, who are grieving, that you meet people and hear the right words, so that you may open your doors again and lift your gaze upwards. 

Perhaps these words from Psalm 139 can be a comfort to you today. Let them be a light on your path. They have become a guide for many people throughout the ages. It is this overwhelming experience of God that he wants to pass on to us so that we too can rise up. On the wings of dawn.


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