Ranging from the familiar to the controversial

The divine service themes in the month of July are filled with contrast: they range from God’s loving grace to His strict law, from the hallowed Sabbath to the prohibition against killing.

Opening the treasure chest

Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider compares the hope of the faithful in eternal life with a marvellous treasure. And then goes on to say: “Jesus Christ brings salvation to both the living and the dead.” Hope and joy are the focus of the sermon on the Sunday service for the departed, which is based on 1 Thessalonians 4: 13–14. This conviction of faith is not only related to the future, however. It is also related to the present: already today, the dead in Christ dwell in a realm where security and peace prevail. And the rest of the dead find themselves in a state of more or less pronounced spiritual deprivation, depending on their relative nearness to, or distance from, God. “Jesus desires to save them all, just as He also wanted to save the contemporaries of Noah,” explains the Chief Apostle.

Keeping the name of God holy

Not even speaking the name of God out of respect—this is a familiar practice in devout Judaic circles. But abusing the name of God as a basis for war, violence, or discrimination—that is the infamous reality of church history. But we should “not be too quick to ‘let ourselves off the hook’ here either! At times there are even tendencies in our own ranks to abuse the name of God for the sake of personal gain. For example, someone might make an impressive outward show of piety, but in reality only harbour the desire for acknowledgment, honour, or power.” Such is the message for us today. However, the Second Commandment not only forbids the abuse of God’s name, but also of anything that could be associated with God or His name. On the second Sunday in July, the Second Commandment (Exodus 20: 7) will serve as the basis for the sermon as well as some very personal orientation.

Promoting life

Rejecting the death penalty and euthanasia, assessing the differences between premeditated murder and manslaughter—the commandment not only centres on the unthinkable prospect of murder, but also offers a comprehensive view of the divine will and one’s own conscious personal approach to the commandments in daily life. And the article for the third Sunday in July goes even further: in the sermon on Exodus 2: 13, the prohibition against killing is also presented as a commandment to promote life. The article also gets very practical when it states: “We reject all forms of violence, be it in society, marriage, or family. We avoid discord, and strive to make peace. This applies to our deeds as well as to our words—whether they exist in thought, speech, or writing”—the message could hardly be any more current.

Respecting property

The fourth Sunday focuses on the prohibition against stealing: “Stealing can also take the form of fraud, tax evasion, or even robbing someone of his or her honour, reputation, or dignity. Ultimately, the commandment expresses that one is not to do harm to others for one’s own personal gain.” So it is that many everyday situations of life give us an opportunity to reflect: copyright infringement, petty theft, “every form of property belonging to others”. What does the Bible tell us? What does Jesus have to say on the subject? In the sermon on Exodus 20: 15 on the fourth Sunday in July, many things will become clearer.

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Oliver Rütten
Divine service