Thursday, January 1, 2009

In Wittenberg, Germany

I arrived in Gross Gerau, Germany at around 10:00 P.M. on Nov. 2, 2006. Because I would be staying with them for only a week, my Tito Friedrich and Tita Glen planned ahead of time our itinerary. On top of the list was a trip to Wittenberg.

Even before coming to Germany, Tito Friedrich telephoned overseas to ask me what places in Germany I would like to visit. Wittenberg quickly came to my mind. I learned from church history class that it was in a church in Wittenberg that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses against the granting of indulgences. I had no idea that Wittenberg was in central East Germany, but my dear German uncle, who live on the west side, was too willing to accommodate me. He also happens to have a niece who lives right in Lutherstadt, the city of Luther in Wittenberg.

Inside the high speed train ICE with a stewardess

From the south west side of Germany where my aunt and uncle are based, we took the Inter- City Express (ICE), Germany's network of trains that travels at a speed of 200 miles per hour. We went to Leipzig Main Station first and from there we took another train to get to Lutherstadt. On the way, I saw spotted cows grazing on rolling hills, barns, and giant wind mills in wind parks. The pastoral landscape changed into quiet towns with old brick buildings, some obviously abandoned, perhaps waiting demolition. The sight before me caused an eerie feeling and I remembered scenes from Hollywood movies and TV series set in the period of the Holocaust. Add to this, we also passed by what used to be the border of East Germany and West Germany from Second World War until September 1989.

The cobbled streets of Lutherstadt

It was windy, showering, and about 12C when we reached Lutherstadt, Wittenberg. Tito Friedrich's niece, Beata and her husband Roland, took us to town. I thought it strange that the streets were empty and that the stores were closed. At one time, it was only my aunt, uncle, my uncle’s niece and her husband, and myself, who were on the street. The next people we saw came far and few in between. When I asked why it was so, they told me it was a Sunday and so shops are closed and people are usually at home. It was a completely different sight from the land where I came from where people come in throngs to the malls on weekends!

The Rathaus (Cityhall); Right in front is Luther's monument

Martin Luther's monument

In front of the city hall (Rathaus) was a monument of Luther. Nearby is the Schlosskirche (Castle Church) on the door of which Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses against the granting of the indulgences. I quickly took a picture of the theses now etched in metal, one at the door, and another inside the church. It was here also that Luther and another German religious reformer Philip Melanchton was laid to rest. Then we went to another church dating from 14th century where Luther preached.

Luther's 95 theses

I am at a loss for words to describe how I felt as I walked through these great historical places. It was a rare opportunity to be in the very place where God moved at a critical time in the development of the church. It was here in Wittenburg, Germany in the 16th century where God stirred up Martin Luther with the revelation that salvation is by grace through faith alone. I was grateful and privileged, but beyond this, I know I have to keep in mind of the danger of building monuments while refusing to flow with the movement of the Spirit of God.

When I saw the pulpit from where Martin Luther preached his sermons on Sundays, I asked our local tour guides Beata and Roland to pose with me under the pulpit. I wanted to be reminded by this picture of the call of God—of the Great Commission Jesus gave to His disciples: to go to all nations, baptize them, and teach them to obey all that Jesus commanded.

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