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Saturday Sermon: The divine gives us deeper-than-life confidence

By By Karl Biermann
Oct. 25, 2013 at 5:25 a.m.

Karl Bierman

My wife and I recently saw the movie "Gravity" in which Sandra Bullock portrays astronaut Ryan Stone. Stone ends up trapped alone in space after the International Space Station and the space shuttle are destroyed by satellite debris.

Attempting to return to Earth, Stone engages in a series of jaw-dropping space walks and escape capsule trips. Each time, Stone seems to be safe, but something explodes or catches fire and off Stone goes hurtling into space.

Stone relies upon her human determination to seek safety, but I got exhausted watching her. I wanted her to succeed, but the crises kept on coming. It seemed that her determination would have to run out at some point.

Perhaps many of us feel that we hurtle from crisis to crisis as we consider the bad news that just seems to keep coming or the endless challenges that arise in our hectic lives. It seems that our human determination would have to end, too.

I was then struck by a scene in which Stone finds peace and strength. She appears to have a moment of deeper-than-life realization from what some might call the spiritual, the divine, the eternal or God.

Stone, exhausted, reflects upon her young daughter who had died tragically years before. Seemingly talking to herself, she converses with a colleague who had just died. Stone - not particularly religious - draws comfort from the realization that somehow both her daughter and her colleague will be together in death.

The moment seems to change Stone. She still faces many disasters and scares in her attempt to return to Earth, but she navigates them with a confidence not apparent before. She seems to possess an acceptance that crisis and death are not the final answer. It is as if a supernatural or divine determination replaces Stone's human determination.

We, too, will still face crises in life, even after finding the peace offered by the divine, but we can face them in a transformed way - with a confidence not our own.

This Sunday, many Christians will observe the Reformation. Viewed beyond 16th century monk and religious reformer Martin Luther, perhaps the Reformation can be seen as acknowledging that humans are determined up to a point to connect to the divine, but that the divine is more determined to connect with us first and make that connection last.

This divine determination reaching out to us is a gift - grace - that we get to share with others out of gratitude as we go hurtling through life with a sense of confidence not our own. Reformation peace.

Karl Biermann serves as pastor at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Cuero, a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

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