June 28, 2019: I Want a God Who Loves Me by John Wiecking

by John Wiecking

Last month, I had the pleasure of hiking in the stunning Italian Dolomite mountains near the Austrian border and then listening to glorious music at the Bach festival in Leipzig, Germany.

My time in Leipzig included concerts and Lutheran music-and-prayer services in churches—some that Bach knew during his decades in that city, and also the University Church, a radiant contemporary take on Gothic architecture with light-filled glass columns seeming to support the arches.

In his younger days, my traveling companion, James, spent a year at a conservative Lutheran seminary in Germany.  One of his seminary friends now heads a remarkable church in a Leipzig suburb largely populated by immigrants.  After a postwar history as a focus for Christian witness against the socialist government of East Germany, the congregation now reflects the community’s diversity, with services basically in German but Scripture readings also offered in Farsi, as many members are Iranian converts from Islam. A Farsi-speaking assistant pastor helps lead their refugee mission, called “Die Brücke” (The Bridge).

Over beers one evening, I asked Markus Fischer, the head pastor, about the challenge of addressing two such different cultures and traditions. What about the Trinity, long a stumbling-block to understanding between the two religions? His answer went to the heart of the Christian witness in all times and places, from first-century Jerusalem to Imperial Roman slums to twenty-first century Washington:  “The version of Islam in which they were brought up reflected a vengeful God of rules, and they reject that—in part because many see Islam as a foreign (Arab) import in any case.  These people are looking for an assurance that God loves them and will be with them, and I have heard many stories of dreams in which Jesus appeared to them with exactly that message.”

In his July 14 sermon, Father Jadon reminded us of the importance of serving and loving our neighbors, even (or especially) when they seem different from ourselves. I’ve experienced open-minded welcome myself, when I used to sing at a Missouri Synod church in Maryland. I wasn’t sure their conservative theology would be so friendly to a gay man, but I was met with a very generous spirit. I am pleased to have learned about “Die Brücke,” another example of the best kind of Christian hospitality.

-John Wiecking

(To hear the Nunc Dimittis sung in Persian as it’s heard in Leipzig, click here.)
Last Published: July 25, 2019 9:03 AM
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