FOOTSTEPS TO FOLLOW
Greetings to my dear friends in Lycoming and Tioga County, especially to the people of St. Michael’s in Quiggleville.
About a little over half a year ago I started my ministry in Tribsees, a small city that has endured for centuries at the margins of Pomerania in the northeastern corner of Germany. Tribsees never has been a rich city, yet the sanctuary of St. Thomas Lutheran Church contains a famous treasure: a sacramental-mill-altar skillfully handcrafted in the early 15th century. The sacramental mill is an image for the Word made flesh in Christ available in the sacrament of Holy Communion. It depicts the four evangelists who dump the Word of God into the mouth of a mill, the place of transformation, to receive Christ in the hands of the church: the Christ child in a chalice greets the faithful with a gesture of a blessing.
We consider it a miracle that over centuries the altar has kept preaching the gospel and that the mill has kept running, lifting up Christ incarnate to congregants and visitors alike.
In the 16th century, following the Reformation, many churches were stripped of their artifacts. Pictures or statues of the saints as well as altars were removed or destroyed, especially when they did not match Protestant theology, as clearly was the case in Tribsees. The altar survived despite the fact that it depicts the chalice as being reserved to the clergy only.
In the 17th century, when Tribsees was besieged by the Emperor’s Catholic League, all other chapels and churches in the city had been destroyed by looting soldiers, yet the altar in St. Thomas survived.
In the 18th century, when Tribsees was under Swedish rule, some Swedish soldiers had a bar fight. An oil lamp broke and started a fire that burned down the whole city, including the whole harvest of the year. Only two huts are reported to have remained standing. Also, the church burned down: steeple, organ and interior. And again faithful people managed to save the altar from the flames by moving it into a corner and covering it with cloth.
In the 19th century, Napoleon’s army used the church as a stable for its horses on its campaign against Russia. (Rev. Schultz, the famous founding pastor of St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Quiggleville, once was part of said army.) The altar survived.
When Napoleon was defeated, Tribsees fell under Prussian rule. Their border garrison and toll booth, as well as their investment in higher education, generated enough money to give the church a total makeover. The altar was deemed old fashioned and was replaced to give the church’s interior a uniform modern design. Luckily, the artistic and historic value was acknowledged in those days, and the altar was saved.
In the 20th century the altar was moved back to its current place, and saw a quite large congregation, as Tribsees was swamped with refugees following WWII. Yet under socialist rule the worshipping congregation dwindled away, the church roof fell into disrepair, the old pipe organ failed and the remaining faithful worshipped in the parsonage.
Today, a small Protestant group of about 20 faithfully gathers every Sunday for worship. Also a smaller number of Roman Catholic Christians use the sanctuary after having had to give up their own building. The mighty 700-year-old brick cathedral still stands as a witness to God’s good will for his people, the organ sounds beautiful, the roof is only half a million away from completion, and the altar has been restored to its old beauty, with Jesus Christ still blessing the people of the world.
– Huckfeldt is the pastor at St. Thomas Lutheran Church, Tribsees, Germany, and the former pastor at St. Michael Lutheran Church in Quiggleville.
FOOTSTEPS TO FOLLOW
In Jeremiah 31, the Lord says he is going to make a new covenant with his people. It will not be like the old one in that it won’t be written on Stone Tablets like the Ten Commandments or relating how to cleanse sins as explained in Leviticus. All people will come to know the Lord, not just the Jews or a particular nation, but all people will come to know the Lord. At that time the Lord will write the law on their hearts. He states that our sins will be remembered no more.
Many people will say that when the Lord writes the Law on our hearts, we are referring to our conscience. But I propose to you it is more than that. I believe that our conscience is not based on just what the Lord teaches us is right or wrong but on what we have been taught is right throughout our life. That means it is not based on God’s desires as much as it is based on what we as humans learned from others to be right and wrong. It is based on what our culture teaches us and what we have reasoned out or filtered through our own experiences.
For example, there was a time that committing adultery was a sin. People in the Bible were stoned for committing the act. In Pennsylvania divorces were filed on people because they broke the law by committing adultery. But as it became more common and people became more accepting of it, the courts were getting backed up. They created a “no fault.” Today people get divorces all the time, not because they are God’s will or in God’s plan but because society has accepted them. I am not saying those who are divorced are going to hell. I am saying that it was not God who changed the rule; it was we.
In our society today, we have created loopholes to the law, which God never intended. Our consciences when we commit these sins are accepting of sin, not because it is right and what God desires but because our culture has accepted it. Therefore, we don’t feel guilt or pain when we do it. After all, everyone does it. People argue that we need to interpret the Bible in the culture of the people in our day, just as people did in Jesus’ day.
The Bible is the best tool we have to know the desires of God. When we read it and seek out what the Lord wants through his Spirit, we should desire to live it. The Bible does not just tell us what the Law is; it also speaks to us about grace, forgiveness and how much God loves us by letting his son die for our sins. He redeems us not by what we do but what we come to believe in our hearts.
When we allow the Spirit of God to help lead us and guide us as we read his Holy Word, we have our Spirits and Souls renewed through the forgiveness of our sins. Our burdens of guilt are lifted away. We are motivated not by the law but by the love of God in a relationship we share. The sins we have committed are taken away, and they are remembered no more.
– Behrens is the pastor at the Loyalsock-Wallis Run United Methodist Charge
FOOTSTEPS TO FOLLOW
By the Rev. KENNETH E.
Special to the Sun-Gazette
Tomorrow, many in our community of all faiths will be walking the CROP walk. My children at Schick Elementary School just handed in their annual “Sock Walk” donations to raise money for their school to provide enrichment to their education. Just about every charitable organization now has a walk or run in their annual listing of fundraising activities. But CROP walk is unique in that “we walk because they walk.”
While there has been improvement over the last decades in how many people around the world die because of the lack of clean water and food, until we have no one dying of malnutrition, we must be in prayer and action to answer the call “Walk with Me!”
As CROP walkers, we will walk whether there is sunshine or rain because it helps us understand how much effort people in poor areas of the world have to put in each day to just get the basics of food, shelter and clothing. We are so used to running to the grocery store, corner store, one of our food pantries or “soup kitchens” for food. God is calling us to come on a journey of walking with others because if we share with one another, there will be enough for all.
In scripture, people always are walking – from the Garden of Eden to the resurrected Jesus walking on the Road to Emmaus. In our culture we walk to get exercise or take a hike to see beautiful fall foliage, but for most of history our feet were the main source of getting from one place to another and also of procuring food, water and shelter.
If you can’t join in the walk tomorrow and don’t have the funds to join in filling the plates and cups of others who have nothing, please take time to reflect on some walking in scripture and be with us in prayer from 1-4 p.m. From the beloved 23rd Psalm to Deuteronomy 10:12: “Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” The second letter of John 1:6 tells us. “As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. Finally in Mark 10:21 when Jesus was with a man of much means, “Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'”
We of course need some things to function, but tomorrow is about taking at least a few steps of freeing ourselves of the idol of money and giving to those who have less, as a thankful offering of everything that God has given us.
Before each person goes on the walk, we will ask the individuals and groups to say this prayer. I humbly ask you to pray it now:
With each step, we dare to imagine a world where hunger has no chance to show its face.
With each step, we dare to dream of a world where war and terror are afraid to leave their mark.
With each step, we long to believe in a world of hope unchained and lives unfettered.
With each step, we dare to share in the creation of a world where your people break free.
Dare we open our minds to difference?
Dare we open our lives to change?
Your Kingdom come, O God.
Your will be done. Amen.
Jesus is calling: “Walk with Me!”
– Wagner-Pizza is canon and provost of Trinity Episcopal Pro-Cathedral in Williamsport.