~Written by Thomas Cogdell....photos by Ryan and Noleen Thurman
This year’s Wittenberg 2017 gathering was our first meeting held in the town of Wittenberg - the epicenter of the Reformation. More than 100 people participated from June 14-18 in the Leucorea (shown on the right), which is the same building in which Martin Luther likely formulated many of the 95 Theses, since in 1517 it housed the University of Wittenberg where Luther taught. Our meeting room was on the first floor, and with the windows open passers-by on the main street of Wittenberg could easily hear the worship & teachings.
Naturally, we had many German Lutherans in attendance. There were representatives from Argentina, Austria, Poland, Holland, Israel, Italy, Uganda and the USA . There was beautiful unity among the many Catholics and mainline Protestant Christians, non-denominational and free church representatives, Anglicans, and our largest contingent yet of Messianic Jews. This gathering was uniquely blessed with participation from every generation, from the joy of children leading us in worship to the rich wisdom of our elders expressed in teaching.
Our two previous gatherings in Italy were more focused on the woes of the Roman Catholic Church which led to the Reformation. This meeting explored the “Light and Shadow of the Lutheran Reformation” -- both the blessings and burdens of Luther’s legacy.
In retrospect, perhaps the major theme that developed during this meeting was working to break through obstacles that we believe stand in the way of God’s purposes for the 500th anniversary in 2017.
One significant obstacle that was addressed was: “Can Roman Catholics truly join in a celebration of the 500th anniversary?” Fr. Peter Hocken, a Roman Catholic priest, historian and theologian, spoke powerfully about celebrating together, whole-heartedly, what the Holy Spirit did in the Reformation – while also looking at the new things the Holy Spirit is doing now. Listen to his teaching here.
Another obstacle we confronted was: “How can Messianic Jews participate when there is an offensive Jew-Pig sculpture on the wall of Luther’s church, put there by Catholics, endorsed by Luther himself with a blasphemous inscription?” Dr. Richard Harvey, a Messianic Jewish historian and theologian, opened himself up with a passionate, painful, and ultimately forgiving talk on the Judensau. Listen to his teaching here.
A third obstacle that was addressed was a lack of understanding for how to grieve appropriately. Grieving together is a core principle of Wittenberg 2017. Yet our Western culture does not give us permission to grieve, and instead teaches us to remove or numb pain, or become unfeeling and cynical. But the Bible teaches us that God grieves, and we are invited to join His grief. Amy & Thomas Cogdell spoke from both the Old and New Testament on the subject of grieving and how it leads to intimacy with God. Listen to their teaching here.
friendships went deeper as we shared meals together and went on walks together and
encountering God during the powerful times of worshipping together formed the foundation of all that was accomplished.
Summary of some of the other key events.
On the first day, George Miley, an Anglican priest, spoke on the topic of “Christian Unity: A Fruit of Christlikeness.” That afternoon, Sr. Joela Krüger addressed the first division in the Church between Jews and Gentiles which set the stage for Christian anti-Semitism. The second day included an important talk from a father Messianic Jews, Benjamin Berger. Benjamin spoke on the topic of “Israel as a Sacramental Sign” which was a glorious reflection on God’s great story, from beginning of this age to the beginning of the next.
The third day was given to German Lutheran pastors to directly address Luther, the Reformation, and the current state of the German Lutheran church. Three precious brothers spoke about the blessings of their Lutheran heritage, while warning of the dangers of liberal theology eroding the foundations of their tradition. And the nobility reminded us, in an earlier talk, of the enormous political and social upheaval caused by the Reformation. One third of the population of Europe was killed in the Thirty Years’ War.
Door of the Day
Door of the Day is the primary way we are encouraging daily prayer & study from now until the gathering in 2017. It is a daily reminder of God's call for and work towards reconciliation. It is delivered via Facebook and Instagram, and can also be subscribed to via email.
For example, here is the Door of the Day for today, July 17, which is Day #30 of the 500:
What might be the effect on your spirit if you were to receive and meditate on this quote? It reminds us that Jesus calls us to bless the places that we enter with his peace. You might feel encouraged by the Holy Spirit to take time this week to visit a church in a tradition other than your own, and simply pray "Peace to this house" as you enter it. Or, even better, to speak to one of the parishioners and "pass the peace" from your denomination to theirs!
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