On Easter Sunday evening, Dr. Robert Rayburn of Faith Presbyterian Church in Tacoma, Washington preached a remarkable sermon about a Lutheran minister named Henry Gerecke who served as a Army chaplain during World War II. Before the war, he served as a pastor in St. Louis and then became the director of the St. Louis Lutheran City Mission. After the war, he served as a pastor in Chester, Illinois and ministered at the nearby Menard State Penitentiary. He died in 1961.
Could men like that be forgiven by God? Could there be a place in heaven for them? Questions such as these put one’s theology to the ultimate test. Most of us are comfortable with the notion that the thief on the cross was forgiven at the last second, but that happened 2000 years ago. Could there be forgiveness for those who enslaved and then murdered millions of people? Should there be forgiveness? It is one thing to say that God loves sinners, but it is something else to say it when the sinner in question is a Nazi war criminal.
I will not give away the end of the story. I urge you to read Dr. Rayburn’s gripping sermon and decide for yourself.
As I write these words, a jury is determining the fate of Zacarias Moussaoui, one of the architects of the 9/11 hijackings that killed almost 3000 people. As he left the court during a recess yesterday, he said, “There is more than one way to skin an American pig.” No wonder people want him dead.
Could he be saved? Should he be saved?
Is grace amazing enough to pardon the worst of sinners?