Sermon for Sunday, August 13th, 2017

Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said “May we listen with the ears of God, so that we may speak the Word of God.”

This is among one of my favorite quotes from Bonhoeffer- because it speaks so well to our calling as followers of Christ- to hear the Word of God proclaimed, and then, in turn, to proclaim it in and to the world.

But in our world today- OH what a task we have before us. Right?

The lessons for today proclaim a God that not only speaks to God’s people- but who comes to them in the midst of life’s storms- whether on the sea or outside of a cave- and says “ Take heart, for it is I- do not be afraid” – and in Romans, Paul assures us that “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim).

But what are we to do with what God has spoken to us?

The Psalm begins with a plea for us to hear what God the Lord will speak, followed by the assurance that God will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.

Oh, let that be so, dear Lord.

We beg for peace in a violent, divided world.

I stand before you today, with my head barely above water- sinking in fear, anger, frustration. I’m so weary from all the noise in this world that distracts me from God’s Word. My plea, too, is for God to speak peace to God’s people.

As many of you may know by now, white supremacy, domestic terrorism, and racism have taken over in Charlottesville, Virginia.  White supremacists carrying torches gathered last night. Many people of color were trapped inside of a church Friday night as KKK members, self proclaimed Nazi’s and others shouted threats against them.  Yesterday, somebody drove their car into a crowd of people, killing 1 person and injuring 19 others.

In 2017, it is hard to believe that this kind of thing that I, a millennial, read about not all that long ago in history books, is now happening AGAIN.  And I’m weary because I know that I am complicit in this, too.

And look- I know it’s uncomfortable to hear- but it’s deadly for our siblings of color.  This is not solely their problem.  We play a role in this- and this kind of EVIL MUST. BE. CONDEMNED by the Church and by followers of Christ. Anything less is complicity, and that is NOT who or what we were created to be.

Especially by me, a white pastor, and by us, a primarily white congregation.  Pastor John Pavlovitz, a Christian blogger, said the following
White people especially need to name racism in this hour, because somewhere in that crowd…are our brothers and cousins and husbands and fathers and children; those we go to church with and see at Little League and in our neighborhoods. They need to be made accountable by those they deem their “own kind.” They need to know that this is not who we are, that we don’t bless or support or respect this. They need white faces speaking directly into their white faces, loudly on behalf of love.

Though all of us can eventually trace our lineage back to oneness, all carrying a varied blood in our veins—the surface level differences matter to these torch-bearers. They value white lives and white voices above anything else, and so we whose pigmentation matches theirs need to speak with unflinching clarity about this or we simply amen it.

So I’m saying it.

We are not with the, torch-bearers, in Charlottesville or anywhere.
We do not consent to this.
In fact we stand against this, alongside the very beautiful diversity that is so greatly feared.
We stand with people of every color and of all faiths, people of every orientation, nationality, and native tongue.

We are not going to have this. This is not the country we’ve built together and it will not become what racism and white supremacy intends it to become.

Racism and terrorism will not win the day.”

 With that, I’d like for you to join me in a litany against white supremacy, written by the Pastors Jennie Chrien and Elizabeth Rawlings.

Please join me-

Litany against white supremacy
Written by Pastor Jennie Chrien and Pastor Elizabeth Rawlings

Gracious and loving God,
In the beginning, you created humanity and declared us very good. We were made in Africa, came out of Egypt. Our beginnings, all of our beginnings, came out of darkness. We are all siblings. We are all related. We are all your children.
We are all siblings, we are all related, we are all your children.

 Violence entered creation through Cain and Abel. Born of jealousy, rooted in fear of scarcity, Brother turned against brother. The soil soaked with blood, Cain asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?
We are all siblings, we are all related, we are our siblings’ keeper.

When your people cried out in slavery, You heard them. You did not ignore their suffering. You raised up leaders who would speak truth to power. And you led your people into freedom. Let us hear your voice; grant us the courage to answer your call. Guide us towards justice and freedom for all people.
We are all siblings, we are all related, we all deserve to be free.

 Through the prophets you told us the worship you want is for us to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke; Yet we continue to serve our own interest, To oppress our workers, to crush our siblings by the neck because we are afraid. Because they don’t look like us, act like us, talk like us. Yet, they are us. And we are them.
We are all siblings, we are all related, we are not free unless all are free

 In great love you sent to us Jesus, your Son, Born in poverty, living under the rule of a foreign empire, Brown-skinned, dark-haired, middle-Eastern. They called him Yeshua, your Son, Who welcomed the unwelcome, accepted the unacceptable—The foreigners, the radicals, the illiterate, the poor, The agents of empire and the ones who sought to overthrow it, The men and women who were deemed unclean because of their maladies.
We are all siblings, we are all related, we are all disciples.

 The faith of Christ spread from region to region, culture to culture. You delight in the many voices, many languages, raised to you. You teach us that in Christ, “There is no Jew or Greek, there is no slave or free, there is no male and female.” In Christ, we are all one. Not in spite of our differences, but in them. Black, brown, and white; female, non-binary, and male; citizen and immigrant, In Christ we are all one.
We are all siblings, we are all related, we are all one in Christ.

Each week, we confess our sin to you and to one another. We know that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. We are captive to the sin of white supremacy, Which values some lives more than others, Which believes some skin tones are more perfect than others, Which commits violence against those who are different.
We confess our complicity in this sin.
We humbly repent.
We ask for the strength to face our sin, to dismantle it, and to be made anew
We trust in your compassion and rely on your mercy
Praying that you will give us your wisdom and guide us in your way of peace,That you will renew us as you renew all of creation In accordance with your will.
We ask this, we pray this, as your children, all siblings, all related, all beloved children of God. Amen.

This evil that is in our world today- it cannot be met with the sound of sheer silence that Elijah experienced after the earthquake, the wind, and the fire.

Friends- God IS SPEAKING TO US.

God is in the cries of those who have historically and presently been deemed unworthy through the sin of racism and discrimination; a sin which has violently affected our siblings of color, our LGBT siblings, and our Jewish and Muslim siblings.   

And along with those cries, God is calling us to do justice, to love kindness, to walk humbly alongside our siblings who need not another savior- because Christ has done that through the Cross and the resurrection- but, rather, we are called as companions to stand up to the evil that has rears its ugly head through violence and hate, racism and white supremacy. 

As followers of Jesus- who opened his arms to die on the Cross for ALL- we are called to not only listen with the ears of God, to speak the Word of God, but to do God’s work– of justice and radical love of neighbor –with our hands.

The sound of sheer silence is NOT. AN. OPTION.  Not a life giving option, anyway.

When God created humankind in God’s image, God did so for us to be companions with each other. And God called that good.

God did not create humankind so that they could run around with torches bellowing threats of death and boasting in a Divinely unintended yet human-claimed superiority complex based on white supremacy, throwing soda cans filled with cement at their fellow human kind and running them down with cars because they dared to remind black and brown people that THEIR GOD-GIVEN, IMAGE-BEARING BODIES- THEY MATTER.
This last week in Atlanta, The Rev. Dr. James Alexander Forbes, Junior was one of our keynote speaker. His speech was incredible, and he reminded us that if there is anything we have within our whiteness and privilege that can help the beloved community- then we should use it.

Speaking out against the evil of white supremacy, racism, and all the “isms” that threaten this precious life that God created… THAT. IS. ON. US.

And I get it…it’s daunting to be out in this world where this kind of stuff happens.  It’s UNACCEPTABLE that people are treated as anything less than a beloved child of God due to the color of their skin, or for any other reason that seeks to set certain people over and above others in this world.  We may feel like we are drowning in the weight of human suffering around us, but rest assured, people of God: Christ is there, grabbing our hands, reminding us that HE. HAS. US. He’s not letting go. He’s in the boat with us–ALL of us– as we brave the storms life throws our way.  Jesus offers the way of peace. Jesus calls for the storms to calm, for us to take courage, because God knows this is hard stuff.

And God takes our hand, climbs in the boat with us, and rows along as we navigate a stormy sea.  We, YOU, are never alone.

May God speak peace into our ears and hearts, so that we may speak peace into a broken and hurting world, in Christ’s name. Amen.

 

 

 

Adoption!

After 5 long years of infertility and a failed fertility treatment, Mike and I decided that our dream of parenthood can be achieved through adoption.  We are SO excited.

We had our first home visit in July and we are set up for our second one in August!

We’re also having our adoption profile put together professionally.  We hope that after our 3rd home visit that our profile will be ready to begin applying to different agencies!

We’ve set up an adoption fundraiser through You Caring- below is the link if you’re so inclined to donate!

https://www.youcaring.com/fundraiser-widget.aspx?frid=892198

Creeper in Chief

I’ve seen many shares of that disturbing video of Trump sexually harassing Macron’s wife and aggressively shaking/holding her hand.
It makes my freaking skin crawl.
 
I’ve also seen far too many people defending him.
STOP.
JUST. STOP.
There’s no excuse for it.
I’ve been on the receiving end of creepy comments from older men who think they’re adorable, harmless, and charming.  It’s nauseating.
Before I left my former call, a member that had other issues with me as his pastor made it a point to say his “goodbye” to me by way of criticizing my preaching (because I still use a manuscript).  He went on, telling me that I was “too young” for this gig, but that I was “beautiful to look at from the neck up,” as if having a pretty face and NOTHING ELSE GOOD ABOUT ME was supposed to be a f&%$@#* compliment.
It was said in the SANCTUARY of the church, of all places.
I’ve mentioned this comment before, and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I will KEEP bringing it up because it is one of the most offensive things that has ever been said to me.  I speak about it to lessen its power.  To assert my own voice
I wish someone else had heard that comment.  I wish someone else had heard it, told him how awful and inappropriate it was.
I wish those words weren’t ingrained in my memory as a stain on my former parish, even though it was one of the parting shots from an abusive parishoner.
I wish the president of the United States wasn’t an absolute creeper with no respect for anybody but himself.
And no, he doesn’t deserve a “fair chance.” He’s used up any chances he had to begin with. He’s a bully, he’s abusive, he’s a liar, and he’s dangerous.  He bragged about assaulting women in the past, and still, people ignored his comments and MADE HIM PRESIDENT. 
He is the worst kind of predator- the kind who is powerful and privileged enough to GET AWAY WITH IT because people defend him and refuse to believe he’s as bad as everyone says he is.
Please stop defending this creeper in chief.  He is NOT presidential in the least.
The longer he is in office, the worse things will be for us in the long run.  Our reputation, our legitimacy, our honor is at stake.  
Wake up, USA. We’re better than this; or at least, I thought we were. 

A reflection for 2nd Sunday of Pentecost Gospel lesson- Matthew 9:35-10:23

 I’m not preaching this weekend because I’m on a continuing education trip in Germany.

If I was, the following might be something along the lines of what I’d hope to say.

Upon the news that the officer who shot and killed Philado Castille in Minnesota was acquitted, and upon the 2 year Anniversary of the mass shooting of 9 black people studying their Bibles in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, and upon the 1 year anniversary of the Pulse shooting in Orlando, and upon the shooting of a congressmen in Virgina this week- boy, oh boy, do we EVER need the Spirit’s guidance to know what to say.  Our words, our bullshit “thoughts and prayers,” – THEY’RE. NOT. ENOUGH.

When Jesus says “Brother will betray brother to death”- THAT’S NOT A COMMANDMENT!!! It’s acknowledgement of human sin and the capacity for evil.

WE HAVE GOT TO STOP BETRAYING ONE ANOTHER TO DEATH. It is not our job to sentence death to those deemed deserving by our ridiculous human standards.

We have been given LIFE. Freely we have received this life; and in return, we are asked to freely give to others to help them enhance the lives that THEY have been given.

Why is this so damn difficult to understand?

The other day, I was on a tour of Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar, Germany.

It’s a harrowing but necessary experience to learn about the evil that took place there.

It’s gruesome to think about how so many people were treated with absolute disregard for their humanity.  They were shipped in on trains, stripped down, shaved, sanitized, given a number as their new identity and had their personhood ignored and boiled down to ethnic or racial attributes.  They were worked to the bone, starved, humiliated, beaten, tortured, and either killed intentionally or as the result of neglect and mistreatment.

This is what happens when fear, ignorance, and hatred guide our judgments.

This is what happens when we let ourselves think that we/I are more worthy than them. This is what happens when we live in an us vs. them society.

When Jesus is instructing his disciples to go out and continue ministry, he says, “Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave.12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting.”

Because of Jesus’s death on the Cross and resurrection from the grave, we have all been made worthy through Christ.  This world is the only home we’ve got for the time being. Can we please start greeting one another with peace and not suspicion?

It is not okay that people live in fear that they or their loved ones could be killed simply for existing at a particular place and time.

It is not okay that wrongful actions among those in authority have no consequences at the expense of others’ livelihood.

It is not okay that people look at those different from them and decide that those differences warrant the death penalty.

The prophetic Decolonize Lutheranism movement posted the following statement on their Facebook page, and I repeat it here because it bears repeating.

“In the Heidelburg Disputation, Luther says that a theologian of the cross “calls a thing what it actually is,” or if the original German is translated literally, “calls things by their true names.”
Therefore, #decolonizeLutheranism calls the acquittal of Officer Jeronimo Yanez what it is – evil based on the sin of white supremacy, and calls Philando Castile by his true name – a beloved, and murdered, child of God.
And as is our prophetic duty, we are calling on all Lutheran communities and all baptized Lutherans to mourn, rage, heal, and begin to move. We will not call “peace peace” where there is no peace (Jeremiah 6:14), nor “justice justice” where there is no justice.
We cry out “Jesus save us!” “

May God not only give us the words we need to speak in and to this world, but also the courage, the strength, and the passion to work for the day when peace may be called peace and justice may truly be justice for ALL.  

Amen.

 

 

 

 

Eisleben, Weimar, and Buchenwald Concentration Camp

It has been a few days since I’ve blogged- we’ve been busy and tired!

We’ve done a lot since my last entry!

On our way to Erfurt, we stopped at a place called Stotternheim.  This is where Luther was caught in a thunderstorm and prayed to St. Anne that if he survived the storm, he would become a monk.  There is a monument there, but it’s pretty much out in the middle of nowhere.  It was still really cool to see the place that started Luther’s journey to the Reformation.

After that, we went to Erfurt where we got a tour of the town as well as a tour of the Augustinian monastery where Luther became a monk. His life as a monk was very ordered and structured, as he worshiped 6 times a day, studied the Bible in its entirety for the first time (but only at prescribed times) and constantly worried about his eternal fate. He was grieved with guilt over his sins and went to confession incessantly.

We saw what many believe was Luther’s cell as a monk.  He eventually took vows and became a priest, and continued to live at the monastery as a priest.  We saw the chapel that he did his first mass in.

It is also here in the chapel where Luther spent a lot of time as a monk where many think that the stain glass windows in the chapel inspired his design for the Luther Rose symbol.

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Also interesting to note was that some of the scenes from the Luther movie staring Joseph Finnes as Luther were filmed at the Monastery in Erfurt. Our guide said she had been there when they were filming the movie, but after filming the same scene multiple times, she and the others they were with got bored and left.

The next day we traveled to Weimar, which is a cultural center in Germany.  Many writers, artists, and poets lived there.   Luther was there a few times, and throughout the city there were “Luther shadows” on the ground, signifying that the places we were at had some significance to Luther.  I wasn’t quite clear as to how they were related.  By that time, I was tired and it was a little hard to hear our guide with such a big group.

In the afternoon, we traveled to Buchenwald concentration camp for a tour.  This is an intense place to visit, as it is such an ugly part of history.  But it is important to see these sites and remember the absolute evil that humanity is capable of, and learn from it so that we don’t continue the cycle of hate and violence towards our fellow humans.

I hadn’t realized that Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer spent some time at Buchenwald before he was transferred to Flossenberg, where he was killed.  There was a separate part of the camp where they kept high profile prisoners.  Bonhoeffer had been part of a movement called “The Confessing Church,” and they actively opposed Hitler and the Nazis.  Bonhoeffer had been part of an assassination plot against Hitler, and he was captured and brought to Buchenwald for a few months. They made this part into a memorial to Bonhoeffer.

After the Bonhoeffer Memorial, we approached the gates to inside the camp.

The gate at Buchenwald had a message inscribed on it, which translated means “To each their own,” or “You get what you deserve.” It was a taunting message that was meant to be read from inside the camp- a “subtle” message to the prisoners that they “belonged” there.

The stories that were told there, as well as the pictures and things that we saw were devastating.  One of the most sobering rooms there was the crematorium.  The way in which the deceased were disposed of via ovens as if they were nothing is just so gruesome to contemplate.  There was also a room with several urns in it filled with ashes from many of the victims.  Certain families, after learning that their loved ones had been cremated there, had requested the ashes from the camp but there was no way to know whose ashes were whose, so for a fee, families were sent the supposed ashes of their loved ones, which in all likelihood, wasn’t them at all.

There was a room in the basement of the crematorium where they would keep the bodies, and then they’d shove them all in an elevator to the top floor, where there were 6 ovens in which they would be disposed of.

The last thing we saw was a memorial stone toward the front of the gate.  The stone commemorates the last “roll call” at the camp, which happened on April 19th, 1945 with the survivors of the camp.  Here, they took what is called the “Buchenwald Oath,” which was an oath that they would dedicate their lives to creating a better world for all to live in- one of freedom and peace.  In 1999, the artist of the stone wanted to write the word “life” in all the languages that the inhabitants of the camp spoke.  Instead, they named the countries where people were from.  The artist didn’t like that, as it was once again separating people by their nationalities, so he wanted something to signify the oneness of humans.  Below this stone is a heating mechanism that heats this stone to a constant 98.6 degrees- the human body temperature.  When I was here 10 years ago, it was cold, rainy, and windy so the heat of the stone was quite impressive.  Yesterday, however, it was incredibly hot outside, so the stone was actually hotter than 98.6 degrees!  It was a beautiful way to end a tour at such a devastating place.

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Germany trip- Melanchthon Haus, Luther Haus, Torgau, and Katarina Von Bora

It’s been a busy couple of days!

Yesterday we attended worship at the Castle Church in the morning.  Most of the service was in German but luckily the bulletin had the pieces of the service labeled in English so visitors could follow along! 😊

After worship we walked around the festival a little more. The day before, our guide had told me that he liked my Luther Rose butterfly tattoo and (correctly) assumed that I must like butterflies.  He told us that there was a butterfly park a little ways away from where we were, so Mike and I wanted to try to go over there. We initially wanted to rent bikes to ride over there as it’ about four miles away, but none were available for us to rent.  So, we walked.  It was a little hot out, but we made it.  We saw some pretty butterflies there, some even posed. 😊

After we walked back, we stopped at the Bible exhibit.  There were several really cool Bibles there, and we even got to use a printing press to make a sheet with a Bible verse on it in German!  Very cool!  We also saw the world’s largest and smallest bibles, along with Elvis Presley’s Bible!

After we left the Bible exhibit, it was time to meet our group to head over to the Melancthon House and the Luther house.

First, we toured the Melanchthon house. Phillip Melanchthon was an important part of the Reformation. He wrote the Augsburg Confession and supported Luther in his beliefs and movement toward reform. He taught Greek at the University and he and his wife, also named Katarina, housed students in their home.

After the Melanchthon house, we went over to the Luther house, where Martin, Katarina, and their children lived in Wittenberg.

Because of the wedding celebration over the weekend, it is pertinent to talk about how Martin, a former priest, and Katarina, a former nun, ended up married to each other.

One of the things that annoyed Luther was this idea that priests and monks were somehow closer to God because they were priests and monks.  He firmly believed that people could be called to be married and still be godly people, and that being a spouse could be a perfectly valid station in life.

On Easter night in 1523, Luther had enlisted the help of a rich merchant friend of his to help 12 nuns from Torgau escape their convent.  They had somehow read about Luther’s thoughts and work and decided to leave the convent.  So, on Easter night, they were hid on a covered wagon and brought to Wittenberg (though legend has it that they were hid in herring barrels- but many have said it’s just a legend, but it’s more likely that they were hidden among merchandise on a covered wagon).

Back then, it was not possible for a single woman to survive on her own.  She either had to live with her family, get married, or go into a convent.  Since Katarina and the other nuns had escaped their convent, their options at that point were to go back and live with their family or get married.  Husbands were found for most of the nuns.  A few went back to live with their families, and at the end- one remained: Katarina Von Bora.

Katarina had fallen in love with a student of Melanchthon’s.  She wanted to marry him, and he went back to Nuremburg and was never heard from again.  It is believed that when this man’s parents found out that he wanted to marry a runaway nun, they forbid it from happening because she had no dowry.

They offered another pastor for her to marry, and she refused him as well.  She then said that she would marry Luther himself or no one at all.

So, on June 13th, 1525, Martin Luther and Katarina Von Bora were married in Wittenberg at the city church. They had six children- two of whom died.  Their daughters Elizabeth died at 10 months old and Magdalena died when she was 13 years old.

Today, we visited Torgau to visit Katarina Von Bora’s house, her grave at St. Mary’s Church, the first chapel that was built to be specifically Lutheran and had input from Luther himself, and the ruins of the convent from which Katarina escaped.

Some information we got about Katie Luther today- her mother died when Katarina was very young.  Her father placed her in the Augustinian cloister of Brehna before she was 6 years old. She then went to the Marienthron in Nimbschen and was consecreated as a nun at the age of 16 years old.

I mentioned above her arrival in Wittenberg, marriage to Luther, and their home together with their children.  Because of Katarina’s education, she was quite good at taking care of the home and managing the Luthers’ finances. She brewed their own beer, helped Luther serve their many frequent guests in their home, raised vegetables, took care of animals such as cows, pigs, goats, and chickens. She was a remarkable woman!

Luther had great respect for her as well, as he violated the law in his will by making Katarina his sole heir after his death.  Luther could have named his eldest son as his heir, but he named Katarina.  This was not allowed to happen at that time, however, and a guardian was chosen for Katarina.

In 1552, Katarina had to leave Wittenberg because of the plague. On her way to Torgau, she was thrown from her coach she was traveling in and sustained injuries which led to her death a few months later.  She is buried in St. Mary’s Church in Torgau. 19030491_1000592977728_3618918542976065703_n

One of my favorite parts of today was getting the chance to stand in a pulpit where Luther himself preached- in a church that was meant to be a Lutheran chapel that Luther gave input on decorating. I also greatly enjoyed seeing the ruins of the cloister where Katarina Von Bora was a (runaway) nun.19024941_10109948701185010_1648016326155118119_o

Oh, and the bears.  The adorable, (from a safe distance away) ADORABLE bears at the castle. ❤

After we got back to Wittenberg, we ate supper at the colleg and then headed to a park that the Lutheran World Federation helped set up in honor of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  They have the Luther garden in the middle of this park.  The park is shaped like the Lutheran Rose symbol, and they planted 500 trees sprawling out from the center.  In the middle of the park, are 5 trees planted by other denominations- a symbol of ecumenism that made my heart sing for joy! ❤  One of those trees planted in the center is the Roman Catholic Church, and I’d have to ask again about the others.  The planting of the trees around the Cross in the center was very intentional- they didn’t want the center to be focused on Lutherans, but on the Cross.

The other trees planted have been and can be adopted by various other people and organizations for 500 euro.  The plan is to have a tree planted there in Wittenberg and then to have another tree planted at the donating organization’s home- so that there are sister trees in Wittenberg and the site of the donors.  I saw the ELCA’s tree, the Luther College Tree, the Wartburg College Tree and the Wartburg Seminary tree. 🙂  That park was absolutely amazing- so glad we got to see it!

Another good day- this is most certainly true!

 

Wittenberg, Post #1

Whew! I’ve finally had a chance to blog about our trip thus far!
We’ve been in Wittenberg since Thursday. Wittenberg is one of my favorite cities, mostly because it is “the cradle of the Reformation.” This is where Luther started it all, from the moment he decided to act on his calling to #resist what the Church of his day was teaching and doing.

I was thrilled to see that our room has a view of BOTH churches in Lutherstadt, Wittenberg- the Castle Church (where Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door on October 31st, 1517) and the City Church (St. Mary’s, which is where Luther preached, was married, and had his children baptized).

Castle Church

St. Mary’s Church (City Church)

Me in front of the 95 Theses door

We began our stay in Wittenberg with a brief walk through of the area we would be staying in and then had dinner at Colleg Wittenberg, where we are staying. It’s an awesome retreat center that is right in the heart of where many of the Luther sites are.
Friday morning we ate breakfast at the colleg and then did a tour of the Castle Church and the City Church (St. Mary’s). Martin Luther and Phillip Melancthon are both buried in the Castle Church. Luther’s grave is right under the magnificent pulpit.
We then moved on to the city church. One of the aspects of the city church that is important to point out is an anti-Jewish sentiment that is engraved up on the side of the building.


It portrays a man looking into the anus of a pig, and children feeding off of the pig from underneath. Due to the purity laws of the Jewish people, pigs are considered unclean animals. To portray Jewish people in such intimate positions with pigs is a huge insult.
Our guide said that there are many who wish to see it taken off the side of the church and put in a museum, but some disagree with that. I happen to disagree with it being put in a museum as well, mostly because when things like this are taken down and put in a museum, it is often “out of sight, out of mind.” People don’t always go to museums to see these kinds of things, so they’re not faced with the harsh reality that this kind of stuff STILL happens in our world today. Having this kept in place on a church building gets people’s attention, gets them talking about it, and reminds everyone of the kind of mistakes we need to NOT make again. Luckily, there is a memorial plate in the ground to the bottom left of this symbol. It is a memorial to the 6 million who were killed during the Holocaust. I couldn’t hear what the guide was saying when he was talking about the memorial so I’m not 100% sure what he said about it. You can see the sign of the Cross on it and what looks like something bubbling up underneath it, and that’s about all I got from it.
Today, I also saw on Facebook and talked to some friends who had been at some Anti-Muslim protests that are happening. (To be clear, these friends are part of a counter protest- with signs that support and show love to our Muslim siblings.) It’s so upsetting to me that there is still so much fear out there that only feeds hate and ignorance toward others. There are many contributing factors to this…but I’m just not going there right now.
After our tour of the churches, we were free to roam around and enjoy the festivities that are happening right now in Wittenberg. We happen to be here for Wittenberg’s City festival, which is a celebration of Martin and Katie Luther’s wedding! There are street vendors ALL along both sides of the streets selling crafts, wine, beer, amazing food. So many people are dressed up in medieval clothing. It’s really cool to see and experience!!
Today we had the whole day free to explore the city, but there was an optional tour of a special exhibit at a museum. The exhibit was called 95 Treasures, 95 People. Both were excellent! Due to the nature of the exhibit, there were no pictures allowed. The 95 Treasures exhibit had several different artifacts and symbols that related to the Reformation history. The other one, 95 People, portrayed quotes, pictures, stories, and items from several different people who had a special tie to Luther in some way. Some of the people included in this exhibit were Martin Luther King Jr. (his name, Martin Luther, was named after the reformer himself!) as well as Dr. Seuss, who was raised in a Lutheran home and whose stories were very much about how we treat our neighbor, which is a pretty major tenant of the Lutheran tradition.

At 2:00 we gathered back at the colleg and watched the parade, which concluded with Martin and Katie Luther walking at the end of the parade.

Martin and Katie Luther

At 5:00 some of us went to St. Mary’s for a worship service in English that is put on by visiting pastors. Because of the city festival, after the service they were offering a renewal of vows service.
However…they made it clear that this service was for “traditional” marriages of one man and one woman. I was furious that they made those distinctions. This kind of service, especially during such a milestone year and festival, should be made available to all. That was a huge disappointment.

Oh, Church.
Thanks for reminding me that, despite excellent theology and an inspiring history, we still have a LONG way to go in terms of diversity and inclusion within the Body of Christ.

More to come in the next few days- stay tuned!