Divided by a war, Germans paid special attention to Easter sermons

Christian preachers used Germany’s “turning point” toward Russia to focus on the resurrection as a turning point in how to deal with fear and death.

Women sing at a church in Schleife, eastern Germany, on April 17.

In the midst of an intense national debate over how their country should help Ukraine, many German churches used their Easter services on Sunday to apply an Easter message about the war. For Christian theologian Georgios Vlantis in Bavaria, preaching reconciliation, peace, and love in the face of brutal Russian attacks on a weak neighbor was a near-impossible task.

“I hope that Easter and the behavior of Christians here will bring comfort and hope to Ukrainians,” he told the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. “It is precisely in this situation that the existential importance of the message of the resurrection becomes apparent.”

That message, Pastor Otto Gäng of the Fürstenfeldbruck parish told the same newspaper, is the “certainty and hope that death will not have the last word.”

For some churches in Duisburg, the debate over Germany’s policy stance toward Russia is secondary to individuals simply taking practical steps. They have turned down the heat in their buildings to reduce Germany’s payments for Russian fuels that help fund the war. Many churches have turned up their humanitarian efforts to welcome Ukrainian refugees, offering them homes and counseling.

Yet a striking number of Germans “are now asking us questions about the Christian message,” Elisabeth Hann von Weyhern, a church bishop in Nuremberg, told the local paper. Easter in 2022 is “not a harmless spring festival for cheerful times,” she said. “Never before” has the “meaning of Good Friday and Easter become so clear.”

The most vexing issue for Germans – one that divides churches – is whether Germany should send heavy weapons to Ukraine, such as battle tanks and combat helicopters.

Polls indicate Germans are about evenly divided on the question. In their Easter sermons, some preachers said that sending big guns would escalate the war. Others said aggression must be contained by force of arms. Still others claimed such decisions can only be known in retrospect.

As different as they were, the Easter sermons may nonetheless be helpful in resolving political tensions with the three-party governing coalition of Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Three days after the Russian invasion on Feb. 24, Mr. Scholz said the country is at a “turning point” in its long-held approach toward Russia, one that has relied on trade and Germany’s pacifism after World War II in hopes of creating a benign Kremlin.

So far, that turning point has led Mr. Scholz to cancel a gas pipeline from Russia, beef up spending on the German military, and send both money and nonoffensive weapons to Ukraine, such as surface-to-air missiles. Facing divisions in his coalition, however, he has not yet decided on sending bigger weapons.

In their Easter services, many churches equated Germany’s turning point to the resurrection of Jesus as a turning point in history. The overcoming of death in the resurrection, said Bishop Friedrich Kramer, was a “miracle of love” that revealed that “no violence in this world can separate us from this love.”

“Let’s rely on it,” he added, as it can change people and entire systems. Such messages in Sunday’s sermons are now part of Germany’s big debate on its role in a war determining Europe’s future.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Divided by a war, Germans paid special attention to Easter sermons
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today