Together in Christ

Greetings from Wittenberg, Germany! The past twenty four hours have been a time of introduction and recuperation from Jet Lag! The group of Lutheran pastors from around the world (18 countries, four continents) have all arrived. With our leaders and hosts, we number 25. It has been a joy to meet colleagues from all corners of the world – in the next couple of weeks, I hope to introduce them all to you.

We all arrived on Saturday, November 3. After lunch and a nap, I took a stroll around the city and got gelato (in honor of my wife!). Dinner and introductions followed, then off to bed!
Sunday breakfast, then we walked five minutes up the street to the Castle Church for worship. This church was built by Frederick the Wise, and known best for its door! This is the place the 95 Theses were posted on October 31, 1517. The original door was destroyed in a fire over 100 years ago. The new door has the theses written in bronze, with a painting of Luther and Philip Melanchthon above it. This church is where Luther took the oath of the Doctor of Theology in 1512. The church was used as an academic chapel and auditorium. It also became the burial place for princes and professors, including Frederick, Luther (close to the pulpit) and Melanchthon (near the 95 Theses door).
The worship service was primarily in German, but with some sermon notes and a German/English worship cheat sheet, we followed along quite well. The Lord’s Prayer spoken in so many different languages was quite moving and powerful. Communion together with all gathered was as well.
After lunch, we took a tour around Wittenberg. Our first stop was outside the Town Church, where Luther preached over 2000 times, even though he wasn’t called to be the pastor there. Johannes Bugenhagen served there and was a good friend and colleague of Luther.
We made our way back to the Castle Church, then out to the Luthergarten, where 500 trees are planted (in this location, and two other areas around Wittenberg) to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Eleven denominations and more than 100 countries are represented in that garden.
In the center of the garden stands a sculpture called “The Heaven’s Cross.” Three crosses rising to heaven, and Luther’s Rose make up the artistic offering.
I found the tree given by Epiphany Lutheran Church, planted by Pastor Larry Hoffsis several years ago on behalf of Epiphany. I am happy to share that it is growing well!

We stopped by the courtyard outside the home of the artist Lucas Cranach, a contemporary of Luther and instrumental in the Reformation movement. His most famous artwork can be found in the Town Church, especially the altar piece, depicting Lutheran worship – baptism, communion, confession and forgiveness, and the preaching of the Gospel. I have a print of this work in my office!  We went back to the Town Church for a chance to see these paintings up close, and explained to us by a local tour guide.

The evening gathering was one more chance for us to get to know each other as a group. We shared some more about our families, our fluency in languages (we Americans were put to shame as the ones with the least training in languages other than ours). Our colleagues from India are fluent in several languages, with the ability to speak to the various tribes that make up their community. We worshipped together to end the night with singing a simple song, “Ubi Caritas, et amor. Ubi Caritas, Deus ibi est” which loosely translated is, “Where there is charity and love, there God is.”
Tomorrow we begin our seminar classes. I look forward to sharing with you what I glean from our time together.

Peace, Pastor Charlie

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