(08.06.2014) The sun is shining down brightly from a clear blue sky as Jean-Luc Schneider, spiritual leader of the New Apostolic Church (NAC), begins the divine service at 10 a.m. in the well-filled Olympic Stadium in Munich. Around 47,000 attendees nevertheless brave the heat by wearing straw hats, scarves and other head coverings. Right at the beginning of the service, the Chief Apostle surprises everyone by not reading a special greeting word this year as is traditionally the case at Pentecost. Instead, this year's motto "Labour in love" shall continue to be the focal point in the life of faith of New Apostolic Christians.
The sermon is based on the Bible text from Romans 5: 5: "Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." A central point of the Chief Apostle's discourse are the words of Jesus which Apostle Paul passed on in his exhortation to the Elders in Ephesus: "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20: 35). God is always the giver because He is love, explains Schneider. Those who have received God's Spirit have therefore also received His love. Consequently, the commandment of giving applies to all Christians.
In the meantime, the sun has moved southwards and is now also shining on the front rows which were initially in the shade of the altar platform. A few listeners leave the stadium, but the majority remains unperturbed by the hot sunshine and the temperature of about 30 degrees and enjoy listening to the further contributions to the sermon brought by Rainer Storck, District Apostle of the District Church North Rhine-Westphalia since February 2014, Leonard Kolb, District Apostle for the USA, and Urs Hebeisen, District Apostle in Southeast Asia.
The musical contributions in the divine service are brought by a youth project choir from the South Munich, North Munich, Kempten and Ravensburg Church districts under the direction of Yvonne Keck and David Zenker as well as a wind ensemble under the direction of Burkhard Schmitt.
Prior to celebration of Holy Communion, the Church leader calls upon all participants to consciously bring thanks for God's gifts. Beyond this, he is sure that also the deceased increasingly look back to that which God had given them. One chair in the first row in front of the altar platform remains empty. On the seat there is a obituary notice with the words: "Thanks for everything You gave me". It appears to be a confirmation of the sermon. "It was his last wish to be here today", says a friend.
The silence in the Olympic Stadium following the solo at the end of celebration of Holy Communion takes one's breath away. For a moment it appears as if nobody is present in the stadium. It feels as if it would be possible to hear a feather dropping to the ground. At the end of the divine service, the retired Chief Apostle Wilhelm Leber, the predecessor in ministry of Jean-Luc Schneider, steps to the altar and address a few words to the participants. The congregation applauds and rises from their seats. While the Chief Apostle and the ten District Apostles present leave the stadium, everyone sings again the ICC song "Sing praises to God". And later, one can still hear many of them whistling the melody outside the stadium …