Death and War (Sermon on the Sunday of the Dead)

Divine Service (Sermon for the Sunday of the Dead), , , automatically translated , Evangelical Free Church congregation Leichlingen


Today is the so-called Sunday of the Dead, or as it is also called, Eternity Sunday. According to Wikipedia, this Sunday was 1816 by cabinet order of King Frederick William III of Prussia, "for the general church festival in memory of the of the deceased." It is not known exactly what the reason for this introduction was. Some assume it was to commemorate those who died in the wars of liberation against Napoleon, others think it was the king's mourning for Queen Luise, who died in 1810. Queen Luise, who died in 1810. In any case, the longing in the Protestant world for such a day of remembrance for the deceased was very great, so that it quickly spread. so that it quickly spread.

And the keyword "war" has already been mentioned, and because war and death are very much connected, I would like to reflect on war with you today. war with you today.

I'm always a bit cautious about this topic, because I spent my youth in the 80s and the so-called peace movement was very active: "Create peace without weapons". There were also big peace demonstrations back then and there were even calls for unilateral disarmament. I had never really found access to this peace movement, because it seemed naive to me at the time that if one side threw away its weapons, the other would leave you alone if it keep the weapons. We also dealt with the subject at school, in particular the NATO double decision, where it was about the deployment of Pershing II missiles in response to similar missiles, the SS20, in the Eastern Bloc.

So Eastern Bloc, for the younger people present: At that time, a border went right through the middle of Germany, actually through the whole of Europe. One side were under the control of the USSR, let's simplify it, Russia, and the other side was under the control of the USA. Whereas in the West it was more free and better in the West than in the East.

In any case, I was the only one in my class who was in favour of the NATO double decision, because we had learnt in SoWie lessons that the three times as many conventional weapons, i.e. tanks, cannons, etc., as NATO. So, as a naive youth, I had thought, you can't invade with missiles, so they're defensive weapons. Then they are not bad at all. Even today, I can't really judge whether I really had it all figured out in my youthful brain.

But many people were afraid at the time, afraid of nuclear war. And that's why they demonstrated.

There were also many church groups active in the peace movement and I was always very disturbed by the fact that Jesus somehow didn't seem to play a role for them. Jesus didn't seem to play a role. Conversion, forgiveness of sins, personal relationships somehow didn't come up. It was somehow all about demonstrations against NATO, although there were many more weapons in the Eastern Bloc. However, the American president at the time, Reagan, also changed the situation by Reagan also fuelled the situation with ideas of a limited European nuclear war, and he sometimes came across as a warmonger when, for example, he described the the USSR as an evil empire.

Well, those were my perceptions as a youth. Today we also want to deal with the subject of war, but we want to become wiser in the process. wiser. One way of doing this is by looking at the Bible, because God's Word, among many other things, also brings about wisdom and the topic of "war" and "death" should also touch us personally, because Psalm 90:12;LUTHER says:

Teach us to remember that we must die, that we may become wise.

War in the Old Testament: An Example

War was something normal at the time of the Old Testament. In some books in the Bible, war is described in almost every chapter. described. There were certainly a few years of peace, but war always returned.

There were certainly different motives for war and the most important motive was certainly the spoils of war.

There is a very interesting incident about this from 2 Chronicles 25:5-13;NL, where the war of King Amaziah of Judah was described:

5 Amaziah gathered the men of Judah, arranged them according to their clans, and gave each clan from Judah and Benjamin a leader. Then he took a census and found that he had 300,000 men for his army. The soldiers were all at least 20 years old and skilled in the use of spear and shield.

He has a large army. Why he wants to wage war, by the way, is not mentioned here or before. By the way, I find 20-year-old soldiers when I think about our youth.

6 Moreover, he had recruited 100,000 experienced soldiers from Israel, to whom he paid 100 talents of silver. 7 But a man of God came to the king and said, "My king, do not recruit troops from Israel, for the Lord is not on Israel's side. He will not help the people of Ephraim! 8 If you think you are strong with them, God can bring you down before the enemy. God has the power to help or to overthrow." 9 Amaziah asked the man of God, "But what about the 100 talents I paid for the army of Israel?" The man of God replied: "The Lord can give you much more than that!" 10 So Amaziah dismissed the hired troops and sent them back to Ephraim. But in doing so, he incurred their wrath, and they returned home very angry. 11 Then Amaziah mustered all his courage and led his army into the valley of salt, where they killed 10,000 men from Seir. 12 The Judeans captured another 10,000 men, took them up on a rock and threw them down from there, so that they died on impact. they died on impact. 13 Meanwhile, the hired mercenary troops that Amaziah had sent back home robbed several Judean towns between Samaria and Beth Horon. In the process they killed 3,000 men and made rich booty.

Such a biblical text raises many questions for me. Let's look at the most difficult one first: Why does God take part in this war? After all, he promises victory to King Amaziah. Perhaps some experienced Bible readers will think to themselves, I have read something like this so often in the Bible. so many times in the Bible, I don't even wonder any more. But we have to deal over and over again with familiar contents in the Bible. again and again, and let ourselves be questioned by the text, because if you don't do that, you can stop reading the Bible, because then you know everything. because then you know everything.

So why is God involved in this war (and in many others)? I will try to answer that.

  1. In general: In the Old Testament, God wants to show us whether and how we can cope with life in our own strength.
  2. That applies personally and that also applies as a society. He has given good and correct commandments for the people of Israel to follow by their own strength. And part of this society at that time was also the political instability that constantly brought about wars. If the people wanted, he helped them, even in war. But most of the time the people did not want to. And following through on their own ultimately didn't work either, which is one of the main messages of the Old Testament.
  3. Building on this first point, God has used the history of Israel to serve as a picture book for legalities in our lives as Christians.
  4. life as Christians. The soldier at war, for example, is taken up as a comparison in Ephesians 6:12:
    For our struggle is not against creatures of flesh and blood, but against the powers and authorities of darkness, which have dominion over the earth.
And then the spiritual armour is described, where the right way of life is compared to a soldier's equipment.

My explanation is not quite enough myself, but it would be strange if I could explain God's actions completely.

Let us look at the other questions from the text just now and put ourselves in the perspective that war was normal at that time. We have an army from Judah that is well equipped and ready for war. You would think that would be enough. But the king thinks: Let's play it safe and recruit another 100,000 mercenaries.

What is the difference between a soldier and a mercenary? Ideally, the ordinary soldier is behind the goal of the war. He may have already lost relatives to attacks by this foreign power and thinks to himself, this war will protect my family. Judah is fighting against soldiers from Seir, who are Edomites, and these Edomites have attacked Judah often enough. I do not want to evaluate this war ethical evaluation of this war, but just to look at it naively. So King Amaziah says that the soldiers from Seir are being attacked now, so that they won't be a threat to Judah in the future. It is possible, of course, that Amaziah has other motives. from the text.

It seems to me that he was afraid of these soldiers from Seir and that is why he recruited mercenaries. Besides, afterwards, in v.11, he gathered his courage and went to war. So he was a little bit afraid, which is not a bad thing. Then one is cautious.

But now he hired mercenaries and mercenaries usually don't care about the aim of the war. They fight for wages and they get them, without having to fight. But apparently they also wanted a bonus, spoils of war, and were therefore very angry that Amaziah sent them sent them back home. They then got their bonus themselves, against Judah, that is, against the people for whom they were for whom they were originally supposed to fight.

The mercenaries in general seem to be like the ghosts in the fairy tale of the sorcerer's apprentice: "The spirits I have called, I can never get rid of." This can also be seen in world politics. Warlords, terrorist gangs and dubious groups are financed and supplied with arms and supplied with weapons to harm a certain enemy. Then the enemy is gone, and then what? The best example of this is Osama bin Laden, who used to be funded and armed by the US to fight the Russian army in Afghanistan. Then the Russians were gone, and then?

What do these mercenaries symbolise for our personal faith?

Is there anything in your life that you should and could expect from God, but which you prefer to buy elsewhere? I know this is a very vague question, but you can only answer it for yourself.

One example I can think of for the congregation is that we hire a professional speaker for the sermons, for example. We explain to him what the sermons should be about, i.e. Jesus Christ, forgiveness of sins, resurrection, and he then delivers sermons on these topics. and they are very exciting because he is very well trained in rhetoric and has a pleasant voice that is a pleasure to listen to. He himself does not stand behind what he says, but that is not important.

That would be such a mercenary. I don't think that would work, because God has something to say about it and we won't do that either. do that either.

But sometimes it's not so easy to separate. For example, we would have no problem giving a job within the community to a craftsman who does not believe. within the community, e.g. replacing the ceiling tiles. But if we wanted to redo the wall behind me now, for example, because the brick slips are no longer holding and we want to depict a biblical scene: Would we let a non-believing professional painter do that, or would that be more the task for a Christian painter who stands behind what he paints? behind what he paints? It is not easy to decide.

But let's get personal again: Where do you get help from other places that you should actually expect from God? I would like to give you some crisp examples, but I'm a bit stuck here.

A Christian who bases his life on a horoscope is putting his trust in a mercenary. But I don't think anyone here does that, I think. But it's not always that clear-cut.

Let's take money. Do I rely completely on my money, my financial provision, or do I rely on Jesus Christ and make sensible decisions about money and financial provision? do I trust in Jesus Christ and make sensible decisions about money and financial provision?

From the outside, you often can't tell the difference, only the person personally knows.

War in the Old Testament: Reasons

Let us return to the subject of war. There are already passages in the Old Testament where one can see that war is not only seen neutrally or even positively. seen in a positive light.

At the beginning of the time of the kings we find an interesting warning in 1 Samuel 8:11, after the people demanded a king:

10 Samuel passed on the Lord's warning to the people, who demanded a king from him. 11 "So a king will rule over you," he said. "He will gather your sons into his army and make them run before his chariots. 12 Some will become commanders in his army, others will be put to work ploughing his fields and bringing in his crops and some will make his weapons and equipment for his chariots. 13 The king will take your daughters to cook, bake and make ointments for him. 14 He will take away your best fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his servants. 15 He will take a tenth of your harvest and distribute it among his courtiers and servants. 16 He will claim your menservants and maidservants for himself and seize your best young men and your donkeys for himself. 17 He will claim a tenth of your small livestock, and you will be his servants. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for help because of your king, for whom you have asked, but the Lord will not hear you then." 19 But the people would not listen to Samuel's warning. "Even if it is so, we still want a king," they said. 20 "We want to be like the nations around us. Let our king rule over us and fight our battles."

The king can deal with inhabitants as he pleases. If he wants to wage war, he will take your sons to do it, and you can do nothing.

That has hardly changed. If you look at our history, there was the offence of desertion in war. Young men who refused to fight young men who refused to fight were persecuted as deserters. At least the two world wars were not defensive wars. In the First World War there was still a certain enthusiasm for war at the beginning, which was beautifully described in the classic "Nothing New in the West". in the classic "Nothing New in the West". This then disappeared rather quickly in the bomb craters on the Western Front.

Unfortunately, the ordinary soldier rarely has a choice.

Why was war waged? The main motive was probably the spoils of war. It's quicker to take something from others than to build something for yourself. something for yourself. Then there were certainly many preventive wars against possible enemies. You never knew whether the future ruler of the neighbouring country of the neighbouring country would be peaceful or not.

War also has consequences, of course. The fields were insufficiently cultivated, children grew up without fathers and those returning home from the war did not have it easy either. did not have it easy either. Some were really psychologically damaged afterwards.

Some people at that time also had a longing for peace, which flashes up in various verses.

David, actually a general, writes in Psalm 68:31;NL

Scatter the nations that delight in war.

Also interesting in this context is an incident from Jeremiah 42, 13-16; NL, where the Jews had to live in exile, were afraid and so they consulted the prophet Jeremiah. And he answered:

10 `Stay here in this land. Then I will build you up and never tear you down again; I will plant you and never uproot you. For I am sorry that I have done you so much harm. 11 You shall no longer be afraid of the Babylonian king, says the Lord. Yes, you shall not be afraid of him! For I am with you, that I may help you and deliver you from his power. 12 I will make him have mercy on you and let you dwell here, in your land. For I mean well by you. 13 But if you refuse to obey the Lord your God, and say, But we will not stay in this land! 14 No, we will flee to Egypt, for there we will be safe from war or other terrors. There we will also not have to starve - that is why we will settle in Egypt! 15 then hear what the Lord has to say to you who are left as a small remnant of Judah: The Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: If you persist in going to Egypt, if you really go to Egypt, on foreign soil, to settle there, 16 the hostilities from which you seek to escape will reach you there. And the hunger of which you are so afraid.., will take hold of your heels there, in Egypt, and you will die in that land.

You can hear the longing for peace here. No more war, no more suffering and no more hunger at last, but Egypt was in this case the wrong way for the Jews, a way that leads to ruin.

And God? What does God actually say about war?

King David wanted to build a house for God and God's response was this (1 Chronicles 22:8,9; NL):

8 `You have destroyed many lives in the great battles in which you have fought. Because you have shed so much blood before me, it shall not be you who builds a house in honour of my name. 9 But you will have a son who will live in rest and peace. I will see to it that he has rest from all his enemies. His name shall be Solomon. And during his reign I will give Israel rest and peace.

So God's house and war somehow don't go together. Even more beautiful is the passage from Isaiah 2, 2-5; NL

2 In the last days the mountain on which the house of the Lord stands will become the most important peak and will rise above all other mountains. All the nations will flock to it. 3 They will come in droves and say, "Come, let us go to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Israel. There he will teach us his ways, that we may walk in his paths." For then the Lord's teaching will go out from Zion and his word from Jerusalem. 4 The Lord will judge between the nations and pronounce justice among many peoples. Swords will become ploughshares and spearheads into pruning knives. No nation will go against another, and they will no longer learn to make war. to wage war. 5 Come, people of Israel, let us live a life in the light of the Lord!

They will no longer learn to wage war. Peace is actually God's goal, but when man wants to realise his goals by his own strength, it his own strength, then unfortunately it often leads to war.

War today?

And what does that have to do with us today? So apart from what we can learn symbolically from the Old Testament for us: Is war still an issue for us today?

Let's now go to the New Testament and look at what Jesus answered to the question about the end (Matthew 24:3-14; NGÜ)?

3 Later, when Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives and was alone with his disciples, they turned to him and asked: "Tell us, then, when will these things take place, and what sign will herald your return and the end of the world?" 4 "Take heed that no one misleads you!" replied Jesus. 5 "For many will appear under my name; they will claim to be the Messiah and will mislead many. 6 You will hear of wars; you will hear that there is danger of war. Do not be frightened by this. It must come to this, but it is not yet the end. 7 One nation will rise against another and one empire against another. Famines and earthquakes will strike this region this region and soon that one. 8 But all this is only the beginning, it is like the beginning of birth pangs. 9 You will be betrayed, persecuted and killed. For my name's sake you will be hated by all nations. 10 Many will fall away from the faith; they will betray one another, they will hate one another. 11 False prophets will appear in great numbers and mislead many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, love will grow cold among most. 13 But those who stand firm to the end will be saved. 14 The message of the kingdom of God will be proclaimed in the whole world so that all nations will hear it. Only then will the end come.

So, among many other bad things, wars are part of the end times.

I would like to show you a few pictures (post-war pictures from Sarajevo; briefly tell you something about it).

That was in 1995, 19 years ago, about 1200 km from here, and today you can fly there on a cheap plane for 40 euros.

How is that? Does it have anything to do with us today, or is it just a bad memory?

A few months ago, when the Ukraine crisis started, I lay in bed one evening and couldn't fall asleep because I was afraid of a possible war. of a possible war. After the dissolution of the USSR, Ukraine came into possession of nuclear weapons and the USA, Great Britain and Russia have guaranteed Ukraine's existing borders in exchange for a renunciation of nuclear weapons. There is this foreign word of "territorial integrity".

Now Russia has annexed Crimea and violated that territorial integrity. What happens now? It actually occurred to me, that there could be a war. I was thinking about my boys.

In John 16, Jesus Christ explains what will happen after He leaves the earth, and this chapter ends with v.33;LUTHER

These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye are afraid; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.

Other translations also write "affliction" instead of "fear", but affliction usually also produces fear. We can be afraid for We can be afraid for different reasons: Fear of illness, fear of our death, fear of persecution, of hostile people, Fear of failure, in relationships or economically, and many other things, and also fear of war.

Since today is Totensonntag and we have been dealing with the topic of war, I would like to show you a few other pictures at the end. We were on holiday in the west of France in the summer and and on our way back we visited some memorials around Verdun. Verdun was one of the most famous battles of the First World War. and the beginning of the murderous war of position. It is not known exactly how many casualties there were, but some historians estimate that around 800,000 soldiers died on both sides together.

Nearby, there is the Douaumont Ossuary (see 1st picture), where the remains of 130,000 soldiers are stored. soldiers are stored. You can look into these chambers from the outside (show 2nd picture).

In front of this charnel house is the well-known mass cemetery, which you may have seen on television (broadcast film). You can see a bit of the size of this mass cemetery here, but you can't see everything.

But these dead were mostly young guys (1st picture guys, in front of the graves), like mine. The last picture (2nd picture guys, saluting the graves) is what I wanted. At first glance it looks silly, maybe even inappropriate, but many of these dead were not much older or even the same age and they reported for duty in this way, to go to their deaths.

I don't know if the fear of war is justified in our country, I don't know if you are afraid of it or of death. But I do know one thing for sure: If you belong to Jesus Christ, then this statement from before also applies to you:

In the world you are afraid, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
Jesus is greater than your fear and mine, and he is always with you and me.


I summarise once again.

We have been thinking about death and war today because of the Sunday of the Dead or Eternity.