Predigt am 17. Sonntag nach Trinitatis (8. Oktober 2006 9.30 Uhr) zur Einweihung des Milic von Kremsir Gemeindezentrums in Prag-Chodov. Dr Friedhelm Borggrefe, Pfalz, Germany
Theme: Church - a cover for the soul
Dear congregation, gathered in the name of Jesus Christ
The church is a cover for the soul. I was born into it. Always, when something bad happens, when we lose a dear person, when we experience a terrible illness, or after catastrophes, after the terrorist attack on 9/11, for example, many remember again that: yes, there is a place where we can meet and tell one another how naked and unprotected we feel, not only in highly private matters but as a community. Church is a cover for the soul of the nation.
Because God lives in the church, the rules are different from those in other public buildings. The church provides refugees with asylum; nobody can enter wielding a weapon. "How sweet, Lord of hosts, is your dwelling, oh my God," we sing in a hymn. Now we have a Church, God's house, also here in Prague Chodov.
It would be irresponsible if here, on the outskirts of Prague, in the Southern City, where there are 30 thousand flats - dormitories for the inhabitants, we could not find a house of God. It could not have stayed that way.
God wants to live among us. We need a God's house, a house where God has his name. We need a house where we can experience God's grace, where we can be comforted, and where our soul can hide. We need a house of freedom where our faith can grow, a house of sounds and music, where we can sing from our hearts about our hope for a new world, a world where justice lives.
I have a question: Where else can we find a public building where people come together, where they tell one another how vulnerable they feel. Where else can we find a place where we can speak about guilt and admit it publicly and ask God to give us yet another chance?
We do need a God's house here.
We will read from the Book of Chronicles. We will hear how David had prepared the building of the Temple in Jerusalem. It also reflects the history of our building here long before we started to build it. Let us hear from the 1st Book of Chronicles.
Reading: 1. Chronicles 29, 1,6-10a und 13-16: David's prayer of thanksgiving could also be our prayer today.
Of course, we have not built a Temple. But right here, next to the church, there is a home for homeless families. It bears a nice name: "Walking Together". It exists only on gifts. It is a fact and it will stay so. We also have painful experiences of various kinds: we are foreigners and guests before you as our fathers had been. Our lives here on earth are like a shadow and do not last. At this moment we remember those who have died although they would have liked to see the completion of the building. (Silence)
But something astonishing has happened: Christians from the whole of Europe, from the congregations in the Czech Republic, from Germany, Switzerland, England, Scotland and the USA, people who have never met and will never get to know one another, have given money generously, so that this house would stand here. The long list of donors and sponsors will be read today with gratefulness.
All have given freely from their sincere hearts, because they have experienced that God gives us life and it is a gift. We can receive this gift only if we pass it on. To live means to live with an open hand. This building is the story of this house right from the beginning. "All the good we have got, all the good we receive, comes from you oh God, accept our song of praise."
This house with the spire and the bells, with the small organ and the Lord's Table demonstrates that God's name will live among us. This is God's living room. God will not be anonymous here in Prague Chodov. He will speak, he will address us. He will bring people here and he will speak to us through his word.
This house says: a talk about God is a public procedure. Therefore the bells ring out.
There is enough room in the house. It welcomes people and says: Come in, everything is ready, look and taste how kind God is. God is a mystery and we can explore it together, pray together and celebrate.
There is even an interpreter in this house who can explain everything: It is the minister. He is a person who should keep questions about God open. Here, fully integrated, separated only by a door, is the minister's flat. We, as ministers, have the word of God, which has been entrusted to us all, so that people can read and interpret it here, in this place. And we have to act as pastors and teachers. That is our life task.
There is room in this house. This is important: in a small church there is room for all who come and want to hear what God will tell us. The door is open. There is no difference between the holy and the profane here. The curtain to the sanctum, to the heart of God is completely open. I remember how Jiri Vesely, our architect who has died, showed me there, at the entrance, the concrete sculpture saying: Those who enter this way go through the open curtain.
We do not have a temple here, but we have a place where God's grace has a throne at this table. When we as Christians speak about grace, we have to speak about Jesus Christ. We can feel grace in him and through him. We can celebrate it in the Lord's Supper often and without limits. And by baptising our children we commit them into God's Grace.
Milic von Kremsir, whose name this house bears, was a man who found Christ. He saw him in the poor. He had a special gift to see people in need. The point was that he discovered the Gospel always anew. He knew: This is how God puts questions to us. He calls us to love.
In Prague the Southern City where there are rectangular blocks of flats. This building with its interesting shape is like a question mark. This building radiates something, it asks about the mystery of God's love. God's love will be present here, pure and clear.
However, already King David knew that God's love does not reside in the house which has been built by hands. It atrophies when we live only among ourselves.
God's love revives, grows, blossoms and thrives in meeting. This house will be a meeting place. There are no barriers. The healthy and the ill. The poor and the rich. The young and the old. All have access. Here, through God's word, all people can experience something from his love and practice it. Yes, this house wants to be a cover for the soul.
Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Israel and our Fathers, preserve for ever this meaning and these thoughts in our hearts and point our hearts toward you. Amen
(Preacher: Dr Friedhelm Borggrefe, Pfalz, Germany)