The Luther500 group is having a great experience so far. Yesterday was spent exploring Wittenberg, our adopted home for the week. There was morning prayer, a city tour, a workshop on modern Germany and reunification, dinner and evening prayer.
Today was the first of our two “travel days.” Seven members of our group visited the town of Torgau, the home town of Katherine Von Bora Luther (Luther’s wife, Katie), and an important place in German history. Then they went to Leipzig to get a tour and hear stories of the city and to visit St. Thomas Church, where Johann Sebastian Bach was choirmaster and organist.
The other 13 of us took a longer day trip to visit first The Wartburg Castle. It was built in the 1100’s, and has a long and storied history, most famously as the home of St. Elizabeth. But it also served as a refuge for Martin Luther, who was in exile after he was excommunicated. It was there that he translated the Bible into German, the language of the people.
After touring the castle, we made our way to Erfurt, a large city, where Luther took his priestly vows at the Augustinian Monastary, studied and then was ordained. It is incredible to walk in the footsteps of all of these great reformers; people we’ve only read or heard about.
Our group was dropped off in front of the Church of St. Mary, a giant cathedral in the middle of town. Oktoberfest is going on in the plaza in front of the church. Oktoberfest is a big deal here. Think of it as a 3-week Steele County Free Fair on steroids, with a really giant beer tent in the middle of it.
We had a little less than 2 hours to look around Erfurt, knowing that we had to be at the monastery at 6pm for our evening prayer service. We had only our wits and a map.
Navigating any strange city is a challenge. Finding your way around one when the primary language is not yours ratchets that challenge up significantly.
We stared at our map…pointed…stared…pointed…walked…stared at our map…and then got directions. We did all of this a few times.
We found our way to dinner (amazing bratwurst) at a 500-year-old bierstub, where we met our good friend, Scott Moore, last spring’s “Theologian-in-Residence” at Trinity. He joined us for dinner, which was really fun.
Then we worked our way over to the Augustinian Monastery for evening worship. It was all amazing.
As we were navigating our way through Erfurt, I was reminded that my life often feels this way. Sometimes it just seems like life doesn’t follow a straight line…and while we may have a plan, or a map, we can wander, looking for street signs, and wondering why we can’t seem to understand the language going on around us. We start…we pause…we look around…we read scripture…we seek advice…and we start again. Occasionally we run into someone who gives us some form of directions.
Eventually we get where we’re going. Because God does give us marks along the way. And because God speaks to us through the people around us who give us directions. And because God continues to call to us. We find our way. It is one of the promises that God makes, and we can always trust in God’s promises.
This trip that 20 of us are experiencing together is a great adventure. We are wandering, but not lost. We are exploring, learning things we never expected. And we are discovering what it is to listen to God in the world around us.
That’s what Martin Luther did. And it changed the world.
May God speak to us in the same way.
Peace my friends, from Wittenberg!