Come to Me and Rest

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.   — Matthew 11:28-30 (NRSV)

Being yoked together with Jesus – placing a bar across our shoulders for plowing the field or pulling the cart – doesn’t sound very restful. But that idea of being yoked with Jesus is the promise of Jesus being with us, every step of the way, to face whatever today or tomorrow may bring.

We often would prefer a God who takes away our problems rather than helps us cope with them, who eliminates challenges rather than equips us for them, and who vanquishes our opponents rather than enables us to make peace with them. It’s not usually what we want, but pretty much exactly what we need.

For you see, dependence on God, being fitted for that yoke, knowing the burden is no longer carried alone are all ways in which Jesus is telling us that it all about relationship with God.  For God loves the world so much, he sent his son, and on the wooden bar of the cross, he gave his life, so that our sins, our burdens, our selfish desires are put to death.  The burden is taken on his shoulders, and we, like him, are lifted up to new life!


Thank God

voters-why-cant-we-all-jsut-get-alongWell, it is finally here – Election Day. Thank God.

Thank God that we live in a country in which we all have the right to vote for the candidates and issues we choose.

Thank God that we can do this in a peaceful manner, respecting each other, standing in line with each other, no matter our differences.

Thank God that tomorrow, like today, it is in God that we trust.

Romans 12:14-21 (The Message)
14-16: Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.

17-19: Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

20-21: Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

Don’t forget to Thank God!

The Rest of the Story

The remainder of our trip saw a shift from historical Lutheran sites to more tourist type attractions. Here are a few highlights from the last four days.


This is the birthplace of Bach – we visited a Bach museum and were given a mini concert with some of the keyboard instruments at the museum.

Wartburg Castle
Wartburg Castle
Built in 1067 by Ludwig, who had a vision of the castle and cried out, “Wait, Mountain – you will become a castle!” The first two words in German roughly translate to “wart- burg.” This is where Luther fled and hid after he was stripped of all of his human rights for refusing to recant his writings against the church. It was here he translated the Greek New Testament to English in just 10 weeks’ time. It is a beautiful castle that holds over 900 years of German history.


Wittenberg and Eisenach

Church of Luther's Baptism

Church of Luther’s Baptism

July 24 and 25, 2016  

Today we worshiped in the Town Church in Wittenberg. This is where Luther preached for many years. While the service was completely in German, the bulletin had both German and English to follow along. We were greeted at the beginning of the service as well as bishops from the Congo and a couple other tour groups. We sang the hymns as best we could, communed with those gathered and were filled with the presence of God knowing that where two or three are gathered in God’s name, God is present – no matter the language you use. I also enjoyed worshiping with my wife next to me in the pew.  



St Thomas Kirche

St Thomas Kirche

July 23, 2016

Today we traveled to Leipzig, a fast-growing city that has offices for Porsche and BMW, DHL and Amazon. The train station serves about 140,000 passengers every day – 90,000 for traveling and 50,000 for shopping in the attached mall. 

This is a cIty of music, with an opera house and concert hall. This is the home of Bach, Schumann and Mendelssohn. The orchestra began over 200 years ago – the first civic orchestra in the world. Today it is the largest in the world with 180 instrumentalists. The current conductor also serves Boston Philharmonic.  



Wittenberg Town Square

Wittenberg Town Square

July 22, 2016
We are staying at the Colleg Wittenberg – a spot for travelers and students to stay. There are private rooms and baths, a community dining room and meeting room, and a courtyard where we gather each night for reflections.
Today began with a visit from an old friend of Epiphany Lutheran Church – Pastor Hans Kasch. Hans served the Lutheran Church in Pritzier. Hans and Pastor Larry Hoffsis began a relationship 31 years ago when Larry came with several other pastors from the US to East Germany to establish relationships. Hans said a member of his congregation felt it was like a window being opened and fresh air pouring in.



Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

July 21, 2016
The day began with sunshine and blue skies. Breakfast outside in the courtyard of the hotel made for a lovely beginning to another great day in Germany. 
After breakfast and packing up, it took some time to get everyone down to the lobby on the very small elevator. At 9:30 our bus arrived and our driver, Herbert, loaded us on board. Two more from our group arrived late in the previous evening, and now it was time to pick up the rest. Through text messages, we knew some of the group had arrived and others would soon be landing at the airport. By the grace of God, everyone was loaded on the bus by 11:15 and we were on our way. 


Step Two Ends, Step Three Begins

Church in Vellahn

Church in Vellahn

July 20, 2016

Our final day with our sister congregation began with a beautiful devotion and communion service in the church in Vellahn. Pastor Christian Lange led us in our worship, and I was blessed to serve communion with him. At the end of the service, we were each given a yellow ribbon to wear on our wrists. The ribbon has a blessing written on it. We took a tour of the church, built in 1885. The church has been under renovation for several years. The steeple has been replaced and the stones and bricks are being renovated.




Tuesday, July 19

Today was a day to remember and celebrate our partnerships with our German brothers and sisters and plant seeds for opportunities in the years to come.

We journeyed from Villahn to Dabel in the morning. Dabel is the church served by Hansherbert Lange when Pastor Larry Hoffsis was invited to partner with that congregation back in 1985. Hansherbert is Christian Lange’s father and Christian was 5 years old when Larry first came.

When we arrived at the church we were greeted by members of the congregation outside the church as the church bells rang. These five huge bells were dedicated on Easter Monday. On the front lawn there is a life-sized bronze statue of a handbell ringer. It was through the efforts of Epiphany that the Dabel started their bell choirs.


Good Bye and Hello


Monday, July 18

An early morning today – the alarm went off at 4:30 a.m.  We packed up our things, said good-bye to the Will Family and headed down the road to Hamburg. Claus-Peter drove us to the airport – a one hour drive when there is no traffic, but in the morning we needed to plan on two hours. 

We arrived at the Hamburg airport at 7:30 a.m., just in time to greet our first group of travelers to join us from Ohio. Ed and Shirley Wasser and Tom and Sue Rutherford were in the first flight. Soon we were joined by Pastor Christian and Melanie Lange and members of their church who are hosting us the next three days. 


German Hospitality

Day 2 Picture

Sunday, July 17

After a great night of sleep, Lisa and were treated to a wonderful breakfast   at our host’s home. Rolls and croissants delivered to the house by the neighborhood baker, fresh honey, preserves, cheeses, salmon, sausages, hard boiled eggs, coffee and juice. It was delicious. The meals are much slower and relaxed here. The conversation around the table is as appetizing as the food. We felt welcomed and made comfortable by our hosts.

We noticed that napkins are not a common item on the table so you have to be careful with your food.


The First Step 

image1So the journey has begun…
Lisa and I made our flights and connections from Detroit to Frankfurt and the on to Hamburg. We both struggle to sleep on the plane but our enthusiasm for the trip outweighed our exhausted state when we arrived. 

The Will Family was there to greet us when we arrived. Oliver Will was our exchange student son for a year from August 2005 to July 2006. He is now 28 years old, working as a consultant for a large international company in finance. These kids grow up! 

Together with Oliver were his parents Claus-Peter and Eva and his younger sister Maike. We had met Maike a few years ago as she was also an exchange student in Ohio a couple years after Oliver. She came to spend Easter with us that year. She now works in human resources for a company in Frankfurt. 

Claus-Peter and Eva work for the family business – agricultural supplies and equipment.


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