LinkedIn reminds me, that I´ve been here in Lutherstadt Wittenberg for three years already. That´s about as long as our good Lord´s public ministry lasted back in His days. For me it feels like a lifetime, but for others here, I´m still much of a stranger. No wonder, the book of Ruth resonates so strongly with me now that I worked on that last week and preached on this short story yesterday. Reminds me a lot of Job – and the prodigal son (Lk.15).
Well, this morning was very much like every other morning. Same procedure as always. After taking a look out of our bedroom towards Bugenhagen and his parsonage to check if there´s fresh snow, I slowly get into gear before I collect the daily paper downstairs, switch on the lights in the chapel, get the sweeping robot moving, brew coffee, open up the curtains in the bookstore and open up the front door to check out the weather above St. Mary´s two steeples. Nothing to write home about.
This morning one of my neighbors addressed me. That´s a first. Normally I greet her, when she walks her dog and try some small talk. Casual stuff. She sees the lights go on in our chapel, when she strolls around the old oak tree or walks past on the church square. We meet on “Bürgermeisterstraße”, when I´m off towards our parking lot or so. Or we just see each other from afar.
This morning was different. It was like meeting an old friend. No, that´s not quite right. It was rather like her introducing herself to a newcomer. Like always, her dog wanted to get into the house, but she held him back on the leash. This time, however, she didn´t linger on the issues of her dog, but told her story growing up in Wittenberg.
First in “Lutherstraße” and now close by in “Jüdenstraße”. Last born in a family of 10 children. That´s another story all on its own. We might get to that yet. She mostly worked shifts in the local bakery. Used to getting up early. Yes, she complained, that she just can´t sleep in – even though she has the time now.
After taking care of her aging parents for a good 20 years, she´s got her rent, which takes those two decades into account too. Now, both parents have passed away and she and her husband are left with the dog. The last years were tough, because of dementia. Her befuddled father liked to smoke, but couldn´t handle matches. They were afraid, he´d torch the place.
And so, she went on and I got to know one of my neighbors a little better – after walking by each other for three years. Standing out in the cold – it´s still freezing outside – and without coffee but feeling happy about this open door, meeting a stranger, making a new acquaintance and who knows, perhaps a new friend. It´s good to have friends – especially in this lockdown – amidst a deserted city. “Geisterstadt” as she calls it.
We know that the Lord himself is here – and abides with us, where two or three are gathered in His name – even to the end of the age. It is He, who accompanies us on the way, speaking words of wisdom, kindness, joy and consolation. Making our hearts burn with love, hope and faith – even in the coldest winter and the last days.
1 Within the Father’s house
The Son has found his home,
And to his temple suddenly
The Lord of life has come.
2 The secret of the Lord
Escapes each human eye,
And faithful, pond’ring hearts await
The full epiphany.
3 Lord, enter now our souls
And teach us by your grace
Each dim revealing of yourself
With loving awe to trace.
4 Till we behold your faceJames R. Woodford (1820-1885)
And know, as we are known
You, Holy Spirit, Father, Son,
Co-equal Three in One.