Monday into the country

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

After Monday’s class we headed out away from Wittenberg to visit a rural parish, Seyda. Such friendly people, so welcoming. It reminded me of my own early pastoral service at congregations in South Texas — can you say Nordheim, Runge, Westhoff, Lindenau? This church was actually in existence in the time of Martin Luther, and was one visited prior to the introduction of the Small Catechism.

Even inside furnishings were so antique and yet so full of Gospel proclamation.

Sunday Go to Meeting then Go to Torgau

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

On Sunday, I worshiped for the second time in the main town church, where Luther preached most often in his lifetime. And what an amazing altar to view and receive communion before.

Then after lunch we headed for Torgau, assisting a local church in copying the whole Bible a sentence a person for 2013. The old castle stands firm, and here is where Luther’s wife, Katie died. The women in our group gathered around her ancient grave marker.

Weekend to Wartburg and elsewhere

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

For the weekend, we took a break from classes and Wittenberg to explore other Luther sites.
So, it was off to the Wartburg Castle. On the way we stopped for a real German meal.

The Chilean told me I was not really trying!

Now we had the energy to climb up to the Wartburg!

Great display of artifacts.

Slippery going down hill as the ice began forming again, but I purchased some beautiful hand-painted eggs, depicting the castle and Luther’s seal.

Luther in the Library

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Wittenberg is undergoing renewal in preparation for the culmination of celebrations. And I hope more follow. In the midst of that, changes are occurring. the university has moved to nearby Halle, while the pastor’s seminary will stay in Wartburg. The prized library is in transition but apparently will be relocated to the Castle Church at the edge of the old city of Wittenberg. In the meantime, we got to visit and view some of their rare books.

I particularly enjoyed seeing books that Martin Luther used, loaned, or took marginal notes on the pages.

Just a sampling

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Classes, yes

Exchanging our stories and listening to the experiences of others.

We even rotated responsibility of meals by preparing one from our own cultures, enjoying Lutheran flavors from around the world. I decided to offer Tex-Mex fare! No pictures of that as I was hustling to feed twenty. And who knew that actually had avocados in Germany?

Start in a Luther Chapel

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Right off the bat, I was informed that I volunteered for the first worship service to be led by participants.
Here I am in the small, VERY cold chapel where Luther frequently preached, preparing for my service. Although held in Germany the primary language for worship and the classes was English because of the international nature of the group — Europeans, Asians, Africans, Americans (North and South).

Russell in Lutherland

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

I landed in Berlin, where I was met by representatives of the Luther Study event.
This event is funded by the Lutheran World Federation to foster celebration of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation by Lutherans around the world. I was one of three Americans, a Canadian, two Swedes, and then one pastor from each of Argentina, Chile, Denmark, Latvia, Ethiopia, Liberia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Palestine, India, and Hong Kong. Two others were not able to make it.
We were hosted by a helpful German pastor and his assistant. Classes were led by three Lutheran professors — two Germans and a Zimbabwean.

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

As I write this, I am anticipating my Wittenberg, Germany Seminar routine — arriving in Berlin, traveling to Lutherstadt Wittenberg, being assigned a room, attending Worship on Sunday, and starting the classes. I can almost visualize that sequence of events even though it has yet to occur because I have experienced such seminars previously. Though, to be sure, none have offered the excitement of being held in the place where the Lutheran Reformation began almost 500 years ago.
The Wittenberg study also holds the prospect of surprises – who will join the group that gathers and what are their homelands, what different foods will be shared by the participants, what alternative Lutheran practices will be discussed, where will we go outside the city to discover more about the life of Luther, how has appreciation for Luther changed over the years, and how does it compare to the United States Lutherans?
Stay tuned!

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Month of February

Four “secular” holidays occur this month – Ground Hog Day (a day for repetition and anticipation), the Super Bowl (a clash between two major powers), Valentine’s Day (a day for love), and Presidents’ Day (honoring our tradition of leaders). In addition, we churchy folks plunk another day right in the middle of this month with Ash Wednesday.

I believe Ash Wednesday is marked not only by the smudge of ashes on foreheads at worship, but Ash Wednesday is a day which includes repetition and anticipation, recognizes a clash between two powers, is a day for love, and honors our leaders.

Certainly the ancient Rite on Ash Wednesday of marking the sign of the cross dominates the day. But why mark this day? Is it merely going through the motions of an ancient practice, a repetition of the past? Or is this a repetition that recognizes that sin repeatedly enters our world, that we repeatedly remember its presence and persistence? And do we not anticipate our death and Christ’s triumph? That black cross admits death exists, but then proclaims the cross of Christ is greater and overcomes the threat of death.
This Ash Wednesday indeed marks the clash between two great powers – the fullness of God, demonstrated in Christ’s triumph, versus the opposing team of sin, death, and the devil. The best thing is that unlike the Super Bowl, we can already bet on a winner, count on Christ. Give us a “J;” give us a “E;” give us a “S;” give us a “U;” give us a “S.” What’s that spell? “Jesus” What’s that spell? The ultimate end of sin, death, and the devil.
And there is the ultimate expression of love. Instead of giving up on humans because of our shortcomings or failures, instead of just randomly firing at a special few with arrows of love, “God so loved the world that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Love indeed!
And we are not left alone to figure this out by ourselves. We have a leader – that Jesus, whose cross marks our foreheads on Ash Wednesday, leads us from the worship service by sending the Holy Spirit into the world – teaching us, directing us, demonstrating the fullness of life, leading us now and into life eternal. Sure there are other leaders along the way – family, teachers, supervisors, presidents. But ultimately all, ALL, pale in comparison to Christ.