Farewell to Wittenberg

Our study of Luther’s words continues. On Wednesday we focused on Luther’s Large Catechism section on Baptism. We had a very helpful discussion on the understanding of signs in worship and our relationship with God. For Luther there are two kinds of signs.  

The first is a sign that is philosophical. This is a sign that is present because of something that is not there. But the sign gives direction that points us to it. In this, the sign is a symbol or a reminder. An example of this is my wedding ring –  even when my spouse is not present here with me, there is a reminder and a sign that I am married. The key here is that the sign represents something that is absent.  

The second is a sign that is theological. In this understanding, the sign is something that is present. For Luther, this is what happens in the sacraments – God is truly present IN the sign. In the waters of baptism, together with God’s word, God is present. In communion, we believe Jesus is truly present in, with and under the bread and wine.

On Wednesday, we traveled to three small congregations in the Wittenberg area. Pastor Jacob introduced us to a Senior Group, who blessed us with INCREDIBLE homemade cakes and coffee. Joachim, who has been our group’s host and leader while here told me that there is an unofficial competition to see whose cakes were the most popular, which can be seen by how many pieces are left over. At this church, built in 1953, the crucifix in the church has no arms. It is a reminder of the brokenness from World War II. There was discussion about repairing this, but they decided this reminder was important to keep in front of them. 

The other churches we visited are over 800 years old. Can you even imagine?        

Thursday’s lesson focused on the Sacrament of the Altar or communion. The promise of forgiveness and the strength to enter into the world to serve the Lord are wrapped up in this meal. We talked at length about our different communion practices, and learned we have much in common with others around the world.  

Our final lessons of Martin Luther included letters he wrote to family members and colleagues, as well as several of the hymns that he wrote for church worship.

Our last two days in the Wittenberg were given to shopping and more sightseeing. The town is beginning to decorate for Christmas, so that is fun to see. I climbed up the 293 steps to the top of the steeple at the Castle Church to get some pictures. It was worth the climb and the new hip worked just fine.

Our final evening here will include closing worship and communion, and the festive reformation dinner. The group will depart on Saturday heading to different parts of the world.  

I cannot begin to tell you how meaningful this conference has been for me. I am thankful for the many opportunities we have had:

  • The opportunity to study Luther’s works.
  • The opportunity for discussion and reflection with colleagues from around the world.
  • The opportunity to laugh together.
  • The opportunity for a devotion and worship.
  • The opportunity to walk the path of the Reformation.
  • The opportunity to learn and grow.
  • The opportunity to share our stories and ideas.

Thank you to Epiphany Lutheran Church for your support, which has given me these opportunities.


Pastor Charlie

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