Today I am in Germany. I am part of a church trip to Germany and to England to study the Reformation. We made the trip this year because of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing the “95 Theses” to the church door in Wittenberg (10/31/1517). It was one of the pivotal moments in the history of the church. On Sunday morning, three days ago, we attended worship at a Lutheran church service in Erfurt, Germany. Even though the service was almost entirely in German, we felt very connected to God. Though we did not understand the words to the hymns or the sermon, we were able to sense God’s message of love. There was something very special about praying the Lord’s Prayer with the worldwide family of faith. The pastor of the church invited our Senior Pastor, Dr. Bob Long to read one of the Scripture lessons in the service. For a brief moment, we were fully connected to the worship, but even as the service returned to the German language, we felt God’s Spirit speaking to us from deep within our souls. It reminded me of the miracle of Pentecost in the Bible, where people who spoke languages from all over the world were unified in spirit because God helped them to hear the words of the others in their own native tongue. We were part of a worship service that was in a different language, yet it seemed like God helped us to understand. We definitely felt the presence of God in the beauty of the sanctuary, the rich heritage of the church, and the hospitality of the pastor and congregation.
Yesterday we took part in a small worship service in the sacristy of City Church, Wittenberg, Germany. We sang familiar hymns in English and the sermon was delivered by an American pastor from Arizona! It meant so much to our group to have a service in the very church where Martin Luther preached. It was a simple room, not nearly as beautiful as the sanctuary of the church we had been at on Sunday, but we understood the words in our own language. The intimacy of the small space served to bring us closer together.
We experienced God in each service, though we certainly felt more connected in the second one. We went from a service where God spoke to us in spite of the language differences to one where God spoke through the language itself. It was a reminder of what we are celebrating on this trip. God used people like Martin Luther, to translate the Bible into the people’s own language. It helped connect people to God. People could now access the Bible for themselves. But, it wasn’t the beginning of God connecting with the ones called “Christians”. For the centuries leading up to the Reformation, God was present with the people whether or not they could read or understand the language. God has always been present.
There may be moments that we feel alone or disconnected. Even when we feel like a stranger – God is with us. And we certainly need to make the most of those moments that we hear things in ways that make sense – God is with us. We can count on the presence of God to be with us in all the moments we face.