- The Washington Times - Monday, November 26, 2001

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Arthur F. Hebbeler III at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Abiding Presence in Beltsville, Md.


Where is God? How can God let all of the evil of the past several months happen? Why has God let all this suffering happen? We've been good. We've worked hard to be "good Christians." Why has all this happened to us?
These questions, dear friends, are the questions of those who are theologians of glory. Theologians of glory are those looking for simple answers. Theologians of glory explain away evil and suffering as things that show where God isn't. Theologians of glory think they can see through creation and the acts of God and into the realm of glory behind it. As Gerhard Forde, a professor at one of our Lutheran seminaries, writes, theologians of glory "think this because for the system to work there must be a 'glory road,' a way of law, which the fallen creature can traverse by willing and working and thus gain[ing] the necessary merit eventually to arrive at glory."
The theologian of glory sees through the cross. To the theologian of glory, the cross is not really there. Rather, it makes up for the weaknesses and omissions in the theology of glory. The theologian of glory calls that which is good evil and that which is evil good. To the theologian of glory, God would not could not "dirty His hands" on the cross. The theologian of glory believes that he or she has the ability to be saved by doing what is expected of him or her by works of his or her own ability.
Jesus Christ died on the cross. He was nailed to the wooden crossbeam and raised on Golgotha the Place of the Skull and hung between two common criminals to die a painful and ignoble death. The cross extinguishes the desire to do it on our own. Rather, as Luther reminds us, it is the death of sin and the sinner. The cross forces us to convict ourselves for our sins. The cross, dear sisters and brothers, forces us to speak the truth, even when it hurts.
Today, the church celebrates the festival of Christ the King. While its name might vary from denomination to denomination, this day marks the end of the church year. Today, our lessons and prayers point us to the reign of Christ and His coming again to judge the living and the dead.When we think of kings and royalty, we so often think of crowns of gold, jeweled scepters, and flowing robes. We think of glorious pageantry and pomp and circumstance. But in the context of Christ the King, we would be thinking incorrectly.
St. Paul is quite clear, as we have heard so frequently, that the law of God convicts us of our sins, and at the same time, sends us running for the love of God for the good news found in Christ Jesus. In Christ the King, we have, as the Colossians were told in our reading this morning, been rescued from the power of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of God's Son, in Whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sin.
And so, dear friends, we don't need to wonder "Where is God?" God is exactly where we didn't expect to find Him. God is nailed before us on the cross, where "all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell." Through God the Son, God showed His love for all creation, and we have been reconciled with God.
This is the scandal of the cross. In the cross, where the King of all was crucified, we have been set free. The cross that which is evil is good. Go forth, theologians of the cross. Don't look through it, but look at it. Don't brush the cross aside, but lift it high.

Next week: A sermon given by the Rev. Dennis Kleinmann of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Alexandria.


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