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Kazanie w niedzielę po zabójstwie Osamy bin Ladena

Sermon preached at Center Church UCC, New Haven

On 8th May 2011,

By Kazimierz Bem

Luke 24:13-35


I was walking down Whitney Avenue the other day and noticed that the Peabody Museum has a special exhibit on “Black Holes” that’s on right now. In case you don’t know this, and I am sure I am making a very sophisticated problem very, very simple – a black whole is a phenomenon, when a star implodes on itself. Instead of radiating light, it starts consuming it, and everything around it, destroying everything on its way. The gravitational force is so strong and powerful, that even light is unable to escape, it is sucked in and smothered, and there is nothing there but darkness. Just think about it: no light, no escape, nothing else, but a something that once was a star, now endlessly consuming and devouring everything else, and itself too. It is literally, hell.


There was a lot of talk about hell this past week. As the news of Osama bin Laden’s capture and death was released to the world – coincidentally on the same day that 66 years ago it was announced that Adolf Hitler was dead – there were many reactions. Commentators, politicians, theologians, ministers and priests as well as common folk all gave their reactions to the news. The mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks was finally was caught and as president Barak Obama said, “Justice was served.” Apparently thousands of people came down in spontaneity to Ground Zero or in front of the White House and chanted “America” or “USA” and celebrated the death of Osama Bin Laden. Leaders of the free world expressed relief and satisfaction at the news of his death. And in these past days many people asked me what I thought of the news and if I was happy that he was dead?

And so, I have to tell you in all honesty – the moment I received the news, I thought of the words of Jesus from Maundy Thursday to Peter: “Put away the sword. For he who uses the sword, will perish from the sword.” Later during the week another quote came into my mind, from the book of Samuel: “As your sword bereaved women, so will your mother be bereaved among women.” (1 Samuel 15:33) It is very, very hard not to feel that for someone who once gloated in an interview that he “loves death.”

But as I watched the crowd cheer and yell, I have to you that I din not celebrate his death.

Let me try to explain why.

Today’s passage is one of the best-known passages of the New Testament, and has been the source of inspiration for many artists, including the famous Caravaggio. The passage is in fact so known unto many of us, yours truly including, that we tend to overlook some of the minor details in it. Two disciples of Christ are on their way to Emmaus – they have been discouraged by what happened with Jesus, and so they take leave, presumably for home. As they are talking, a man joins them, and as you tend to do with strangers you meet on the road, they start talking theology. He is so interesting, that they invite him to stay – and it is only when he starts breaking the bread, do they recognize him as the Risen Christ. We all know the story right?

Well, maybe not so. Until this year, for example, I never noticed that the fact that the two disciples actually did hear of the Risen Christ – I assumed they haven’t. But they have. They are disappointed that he did not become their liberation and revolution hero, but the interesting fact is that even though they hear of Christ rising from the dead, it does nothing to change their mind. They wanted something else. They expected something else. And this resurrected Jesus appearing to women – well, that’s weird, they will give you that, but it does not cut it for them. They want what they want – fighting the Romans, taking revenge – and this new thing just does not work. So they are on their way home, on their way back.

And it is on this way back to their previous life, that Jesus intercepts them, and explains how because of his life, death, and now the Resurrection, there will be no way back to the old. There will be new ways, new life, and new missions. They must recognize him in the breaking of the bread – and this recognition should and must push us to new life.


You see, I think you all as much as I can sympathize with these two disciples. How can we not? For if we look at the world around us, how can we not feel some kind of disappointment with this God of ours?

When we look at people like Osama or Kaddafi or any other dictator, how can we not feel anger and disdain, and a need for revenge? It is only so very human to want to exact revenge! We know from history, that revenge had missed so many other tyrants, and we would like to make sure this does not happen again. How can we not celebrate the death of man who turned thousands into orphans, widows, scarred them for life, traumatized, someone who gloated in killing innocent people, and calculated in cold blood just how to make the carnage even bigger? How can we not?!

So let me be very honest, that I do understand the very human reaction to celebrate the death of an evil man, a man so evil like Osama bin Laden.

But still, I think that the Gospel asks us today to do something else – as my wise friend Phil said: instead of celebrating his death, let us mourn his life.

Let us mourn how this person, created in God’s image, decided to tarnish and crook that same image every day, with every act of hate and terrorism he condoned, praised, or inspired.  This was the man, who was blessed with money, family, and position, which he could have used to do good, peace and justice, yet he devoted his life into seeking death, destruction, and hatred. This was a man who though beloved by God, turned in on himself, and chose to respond to God and fellow human beings with hatred. His horrid life reminds us, that one day we will all be held accountable for our actions, for all the things we did, and those things we left undone.

As the Vatican wisely said: “In the face of a man’s death, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibilities of each person before God and before humankind and hopes and works so that every event may be the occasion for the further growth of peace and not of hatred.”

 So when we look at his wasted and barren life, let us mourn how he chose to make it desolate and hell like. But we as Christians, also have something to add to that story.

Well, my Sisters and Brothers we are in the season of Easter. A season when we celebrate not just the death, but also the Raising from the dead of our God. We celebrate that day when death, and hatred, and sin, and all that is not right was defeated by a risen Savior. We remember all that was humanly possible was done to thwart God: a rock was rolled, an army stood guard, and a seal of power were used – and they were all futile! The Lord, the Giver of Life, vanquished them all, and came back to life, so that we all might have life too.

And this is what we should celebrate!

But we do not end our celebration there. For as today’s Gospel tell us, we as disciples must turn back from our old ways, from despair – and choose life. We have a mission, and a message to proclaim – and we have people around us that need our love, support and prayer. When Christ returned from the dead – he did not waste time on haunting those who killed or crucified him, but rather went to his dispels and sent them out. There is so much work to be done – and we have our talents and only one lifetime – so let us not waste it on futile hate, or revenge. That is not the new life, that is given to us in Christ.


I don’t know if you know this, but Sandra jokingly suspects me of being a secret Roman Catholic, for having a high view of Communion. I admit – I am a high church Calvinist, and I do think whatever happens at this table is a very Holy, Holy Mystery.

So let me invite you today – after the reading the Gospel where we knew Christ in the breaking of the bread – come to this table. Come to this special table. Come and think of someone who might need your prayer – someone bereaved, someone lonely, someone hurt, a child being bullied, a friend who needs help. If you are able, come and pray for your enemy if you have any. Come and pray for the victims of 9/11, their families, friends, and victims of atrocities and terrorism around the world – the ones we know, and the ones no one remembers their names. Come and pray for those still thinking that violence is the answer – they need our prayers.

Come to this table with hope, love, and compassion. Come broken, wounded, and hurting. Come for yourselves, come for others. Come! Leave the old world, the old solutions,  the old hatred – just come!

Come and experience in this Holy Sacrament the essence of our faith: that God is stronger, and more powerful than any black hole the human condition might devise.

Come and celebrate THAT!

In you Lord we trust – we will never be confounded.


poniedziałek, 09 maja 2011, kdebem

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