The Lord moves his people in marvellous ways…

It´s a gloomy day today. Finally, April lives up to its German reputation: “April, April, der weiß nicht, was er will!” For the past 29 days it´s been sunny skies all the way – and hardly a hint of a cloud anywhere. Now, at last, we´ve had some raindrops overnight. Not that the dust has really settled yet, but there were some hints of moisture on the rubbish bins and I could just make out a faint grey coloring on the cobble stones on our church yard up front. I wish, that it would really rain for a change – and not just a thundershower, but a good drenching of a few days or weeks even – for all those forests, tilled fields and meadows. We could all do with some serious dousing for a change.

Growing older gives You time to look back at this and that, but it also provides the opportunity to get to know the fate of so many other people. Every time I get to know somebody else, it is as if a new world opens up and once again so much wonderful providence and divine wisdom is revealed, that one can hardly stop being amazed at His goodness and mercy, which is new every morning. There´s not only my own history, but also that of my fathers and forefathers – overflowing with miracles and wonders. Just as Psalm 4 teaches us: “Realize that the Lord shows the godly special favor!” (v.3) or better still as Dr. Martin Luther translates this: “Erkennet doch, dass der HERR seine Heiligen wunderbar führt!” (v.4).

Back home in the old days – far, far away and long, long ago – there were not many outside my family, who shared my name. However, in Germany that is quite different. There are literally thousands of Webers and quite a number of those bear my first name too. Mostly old people – and those belonging to previous generations. The name is slowly passing away, but there was a time – back in the days of the German empire – when it was popular. No small wonder then, that even our new hometown out here in the East has a street “Wilhelm Weber Straße” named after one of the famous sons of this Lutherstadt Wittenberg. Some years back a well-travelled member of my congregation then, was convinced that this was named after me – or my fathers at least. As a South African, he didn´t realize, just how common that name was here… You´ll find those Wilhelm Weber-streets in Münster, Göttingen, Chemnitz and other places too, I´m sure.  

Well, here in Lutherstadt Wittenberg everybody knows the real Wilhelm Weber behind the story here. It is the famous all-rounder, who became famous because of his academic cooperation with Professor Gaus in Göttingen and their joint discovery of the telegraphic transmission – practically the forerunner of the iPhone. He actually went to school in the Old Latin School for two years: 1816-1817 before moving with his father to Halle after his mother had passed away during the French occupation – Napoleon was here too… So, there really is lots of history and fascinating biography wherever you go. You just need to scratch a bit on the surface – and the underlying treasures and precious stories starts to shine – brighter than most stars in the night: “Erkennet doch, dass der HERR seine Heiligen wunderbar führt!”

Looking up this name did not just bring up long lists of corresponding persons, but also streets and even “Stolpersteine” commemorating people, who share this name. In just a short time, I found three very different ones from different places and ages – a truly mixed bag of beans – a catholic priest, a communist and a Nazi defector and dentist.

1. Hanover: This stone was laid on September 30, 2016. The inscription reads (literal translation): “Here lived Wilhelm Weber born 1883 arrested 1943 for (the treasonable offense WW) of “Wehrkraftzersetzung” (undermining military force)  und “Feindbegünstigung” (aiding the enemy).  The death sentence (proclaimed on) 15.9.1943 (and) executed on the 21.9.1943 Berlin-Plötzensee. This “Stolperstein“ for the dentist WW was moved to the Große Barlinge Street Nr. 4 on 25th September 2016. This was some form of reparation for his widow, who had previously been denied this due to his initial participation in the NSDAP.  

2. Lemgo: Here lived Wilhelm Weber *1889 a member of the Communist Party (Germany) and part of the resistance. Therefore, he was imprisoned in 1933. Eleven years later, on the 21st March 1944 he was moved to Hanover to be tried for high treason. Was killed during a bomb attack on the 26th October 1944.

3. Münster: The catholic priest Wilhelm Weber *1889 was part of the resistance and therefore arrested in 1943 and brought to the concentration camp Dachau. He survived and subsequently continued to serve as priest in his home town Bockum-Hövel, where he oversaw the renovation of the church St. Pancratius.

Coming from afar and going on in the name of our Lord, we trust and sing with Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676):

1 If God Himself be for me,
I may a host defy;
For when I pray, before me
My foes, confounded, fly.
If Christ, the head and master,
Befriend me from above,
What foe or what disaster
Can drive me from His love?

2 I build on this foundation,
That Jesus and his blood
Alone are my salvation,
My true, eternal good.
Without Him all that pleases
Is valueless on earth;
The gifts I have from Jesus 
Alone have priceless worth.

3 Christ Jesus is my splendor,
My sun, my light, alone;
Were He not my defender
Before God’s judgment throne,
I never should find favor
And mercy in His sight
But be destroyed forever
As darkness by the light. 

4 He canceled my offenses,
Delivered me from death;
He is the Lord who cleanses
My soul from sin through faith.
In Him I can be cheerful,
Courageous on my way;
In Him I am not fearful
Of God’s great Judgment Day.

5 For no one can condemn me
Or set my hope aside;
Now hell no more can claim me;
Its fury I deride.
No sentence now reproves me,
No guilt destroys my peace;
For Christ, my Savior, loves me
And shields me with His grace.

6 Who clings with resolution
To Him whom Satan hates
Must look for persecution;
For him the burden waits
Of mock’ry, shame, and losses
Heaped on his blameless head;
A thousand plagues and crosses
Will be his daily bread.

7 From me this is not hidden,
Yet am I not afraid;
I leave my cares, as bidden,
To whom my vows were paid.
Though life from me be taken
And ev’rything I own,
I trust in You unshaken
And cleave to You alone.

8 No danger, thirst, or hunger,
No pain or poverty,
No earthly tyrant’s anger
Shall ever vanquish me.
Though earth should break asunder,
My fortress You shall be;
No fire or sword or thunder
Shall sever You from me.

9 No angel and no gladness,
No throne, no pomp, no show,
No love, no hate, no sadness,
No pain, no depth of woe,
No scheming, no contrivance,
No subtle thing or great
Shall draw me from Your guidance
Nor from You separate.

10 My heart with joy is springing;
I am no longer sad.
My soul is filled with singing;
Your sunshine makes me glad.
The sun that cheers my spirit
Is Jesus Christ, my King;
The heav’n I shall inherit
Makes me rejoice and sing.

About Wilhelm Weber

Pastor at the Old Latin School in the Lutherstadt Wittenberg
This entry was posted in biographies and other stories, Paul Gerhardt and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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