It´s good to have friends and family – even at church, you know. And hey, at the Old Latin School we´ve got plenty of both. Faithful friends and loving family spread all over the world – but especially here in Germany, back in Africa and the United States of America, but even beyond that: A truly global bunch it is the International Lutheran Society of
“Thanksgiving” has found its home in the USA, but it´s an integral part of the Church, wherever it settles in. It´s a celebration of the enduring command of our triune God: “O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever!” (Ps.136).
God´s good and gracious gifts, which he showers over us – good and bad – without any merit or worthiness on my part describe perfectly, what it means to confess “by grace alone” – and that in all areas of life: Creation and preservation, delivery and forgiveness, healing and yes, eventually completion too. It is He, who is the beginning and end of all goodness. His grace, goodness and mercy are even better than life. Think about that! The King James Version translates that verse from Psalm 63,4: “Because Thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise Thee.”
This – his lovingkindness – favor, goodwill (CHESED) – he has shown us in his son Jesus Christ. That is God´s love for you and for me – even this day, just short of the Last Sunday in the Churchyear, where we are reminded that we are called to live forever – in the heavely kingdom of God´s grace, goodness and love, which has no end – together with all saints and martyrs, apostles and prophets, angels and archangels – seeing God as he is and was and will be: All in all! Talk about a great future!
There´s a student right here in Wittenberg now, who flew all the way from Italy, where she´s doing some foreign studies. She´s Lutheran and Missourian (LCMS). She wanted to celebrate “Thanksgiving” in the most meaningful way. So, because she just can´t go back to the US right now for just a weekend – she has asked for God´s good gifts of the Gospel in his divine service here in Lutherstadt Wittenberg. She´s counting her blessings and knows it´s first and foremost the precious treasure of the gospel in God´s holy promise of forgiveness and gracious favor.
This reminds me a bit of us troops flying in from the border or by train from some barren outpost for a short spell with the family back home. A main part of that weekend would be going to church together. There was always a confession & absolution service before the main service – and a personal meeting with the pastor in the vestry too. What a welcome blessing that was!
And then the whole program would follow with listening to God´s delightful Word in Law and Gospel, kneeling in prayer before God´s Altar together, singing, thanking and praising him for all his goodness and mercy, which is new every morning – and then having heaven´s door
open up, the angels going up and down like at Jacob´s stairway and God himself sharing the most precious gifts in the Lord´s Supper – the very body and blood of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ – given and shed for us and our salvation!
And thus we´d be fit for battle again, blessed in the name of the triune God, to do the peacekeeping work, we had been called to do under arms. It was farewell – and right back to work and answer the call of duty: “For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him” (Dr. Martin Luther).
Not much different here with Rachel Gebhard from Texas studying out in Rome at some catholic institution. What a blessing it is to have such faithful friends and family – and them visiting us right in Lutherstadt Wittenberg. Great time visiting with this young girl from out west with her catholic friends from Colorado and Wisconsin – not just at the Lord´s table, but also for lunch afterwards. Hey, young people love the liturgy, the Lord´s word and institution, his ways and means… and we love the young people.
Another visitor dropped in from Schwerin up north. Pastor Hans-Hermann Holst, who serves a congregation of the SELK (Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church, which is in altar and pulpit fellowship with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod) with his dear wife Maria. They have donated their weighty, hard-cover and blue bound “Theologische Realenzyklopädie” (TRE) to the Old Latin School. Besides our chapel and it´s treasures, that surely is one of our most prized books – with all its 40 volumes. Now its up to President Harrison to beat that with the hard copy of the WA. We´re ready!
Last but not least, we also had a family here from Hong Kong. A pastor Frank Liu, who together with his wife Sylvia are bringing their son Thomas to Berlin to study German. Thank God we can communicate in English and share the joy of our Christian faith here in Lutherstadt Wittenberg. They are very happy to have found some friends in Germany and I´m sure, our Lutheran siblings in Berlin will be just as pleased to welcome him there as we were here.
So, even when it´s pretty dreary outside, the temperatures are around freezing, and everybody is hoping for snow, we´ve got plenty reason to be grateful and sing the praises of our Lord. He sure is gracious and full of mercy – showering us with his goodness – and we´ve got friends to help us sing his praises and thanksgivings and even play the organ: Lars Unruh and colleague from Theater Phoenix right here in Lutherstadt Wittenberg in our chapel: Hallelujah!