Whilst in my previous parishes there was a prayer group which did a great deal for the spiritual life of the parish, and it was a place where I always felt it was necessary to uphold. This evening I came and prayed with some of the men of the parish in Freiburg and it felt like home. I was really looking forward to being with the group and I was not disappointed. There is a lot of potential for growth in this area, as faithful men realized that they too need a place to gather for prayer that perhaps is a little bit different in style than the women’s prayer groups. Along with thanksgivings and intercessions we prayed for specific areas in our own lives, and the lives of others. There was a short Bible reading from a Psalm as well as some singing. I even braved the teaching of a new song that was one of my favourites at the previous prayer group meetings in a former parish. Truly a welcoming place where one can feel at ease with brothers in Christ.
As I prepare for entry into my new position I’ve learned that in the busy calendar scheduling that there has been a double booking between a Bible Study and a meeting to discuss the churches involvement with the refugees in Freiburg. We have chosen to meet about the refugees and to have the Bible study in two weeks. However, I wonder if both could be possible, just in a different format. Perhaps this is a chance read scripture into the current situation, a “both / and” opportunity. While the meeting happens maybe others might look at what is here as a form of Bible study.
The reading for the Sunday coming are:
Philippians 1. 3-11 and Luke 3. 1-6
I would like to look first at the gospel reading. Keep in mind that we read this in Advent which is a season of expectation. We experience two paths of expectation, one being the birth of Jesus; the other being the return of Christ. I suggest reading the passage a few times to yourself and finding something that sticks out either because it interests you, or it is something that really challenges your faith. Also, as background it is important to look at what takes place before and after this short reading, as this helps set things in context.
You might want to look at particular names, such as those who are listed in the first couple verses. What do you know about them? Who are they, and what roles did they have in society?
How about John? If you picture in your mind the passage playing out like a movie, where would you be? What would you experience? When John speaks of “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” what does this mean for you? How do you and your family prepare for Christmas? Is this preparation a preparation for Jesus, or is it something else all together?
In verse 6, what do you think it means to “see salvation”? What does that look like, or how do you experience it?
Remember that Bible study is not purely academic, but that it is part of our growing in relationship with Jesus; therefore, verse 10 has an excellent question for all of us when the crowd asks, “then what should we do?” Ask yourself this, but don’t stay there, why not ask this question with your family, or your church community? What should we do to prepare for the Lord? Reflect on your day, and pray that what you have read and studied might be to God’s use, and that in your study you would be moved closer in relationship to Jesus.
If you would like to go further and look at the reading from the Epistle the questions below might be a jumping off point for more discussion and thought.
Paul is thankful in this first part of the letter, where do you find it easy to foster a thankful spirit in your life? Where is it a challenge to be thankful? Paul also offers prayer to those for whom he writes. How is this short prayer useful in your own life? Do you pray like this, or is do you pray in a different way? What is unique about this prayer from Paul? What does he mention, and what does he omit? Equally, what do you mention, and what do you omit in your own prayers?
Now after having some time to look at both of these passages from the Bible, how do you think the readings might shape your interactions with others? Where is the church called to ministry in Freiburg especially in the light of the refugee meeting? How will we prepare and pray during these situations?
Words can hardly express the warm welcome that was given to me today at Anglican Church Freiburg. There is a dynamic that plays between pastor and the congregation and when starting a new role it seems like the beginning of a dance where each person needs to find out how things will all work out. I don’t think I stepped on anyones toes today in the ‘dance’. Rather, I felt very much at home and incredibly blessed to be part of this new community. It was overwhelming how many new faces and new names there are to get to know, yet in time I shall learn them all and become more and more their pastor. As well as numbers of new faces, is the diversity in ages with young ones comfortable in the crowd to run around, volunteers who work hard to provide Christian education to children and youth. So to is there a vast array of ethnicities and languages. There is, despite all the newness and diversity, a deep recognition and knowledge that we are one in the Lord.
With some time following the service to reflect and pray in a brisk walk with the dog; I came across this carved stone out
side a small chapel on the hillside. The chapel is surrounded by forest and vineyards. It is a tad difficult to see given my poor photography skills, but the inscription on the dove is Veni Sancte Spiritus, Come Holy Spirit. Ancient words chanted from long ago, and also a reminder that they were sung at my own ordination to the priesthood.
I am making all sorts of discoveries, and will likely disappoint German readers with my findings of all things German; however, for my Canadian friends it should give some insight.
The house has mechanical blinds (which I have tried to spell by my English autocorrect does not like German words) and it makes the house very quiet as well as very dark. I woke up very late as I had no sunlight to prompt me, but I do feel very refreshed. The dog and I went for a long walk into Freiburg as I was curious about how long it will take if I decide to walk there. The way there was a good example of wandering in the wilderness – I am sure that if Moses had asked for directions to the promised land it wouldn’t have taken 40 years. Equally, if I had bothered to consult my map I would have been much faster at getting to the Munster (Cathedral), but the exploration was fun.
I managed to take a few photos of the obvious sights that tourists typically show, but I wanted to point out that I will be participating in an Ecumenical church service at the Munster as the city residents remember the bombing of Freiburg. One of the gates to the ‘old’ part of the city is St Martin’s Tor, and I have discovered that it is sometimes referred to by locals as McMartin’s because of the McDonalds that is at the base of the tower (there’s a Starbucks on the other side too).
The Christmas Market is up and running now, but it much more popular at night. The streets are decorated with lights, ribbons, stars and swags of evergreen branches. It feels cool in the air with some snow showing on the hilltops.
The Munster certainly towers over the city, and was for the most part, the beacon which I used to orient myself in the city. I discovered that like new people to the world of hiking in the mountains on the West Coast of Canada that have been told the helpful advice that ‘moss grows on the south side of the tree’ soon discover that in the damp and wet that moss grows on every side of the tree. The same is true for Freiburg, as I wandered down streets only to discover yet another church spire. I probably have managed to do a small pilgrimage to all the local parishes on my first venture into Freiburg. In the end, I took the more direct way back by following the map and managed to return in under an hour.
Have spent the day driving to Freiburg and Bad Krozingen to see the apartment that we will be living in and wished that I’d had a hand free to snap a few pictures of the landscape. Fortunately, or unfortunately, my hands were full as we weaved our way through the crowds surrounding the Munster as they bought fresh produce and local crafts at the farmers market. One of my hands held Skippy’s leash, the other held my delicious bratwurst on a bun. Skippy was very well behaved as he sat and drooled eyeing up the meat that hung tantalisingly above his head. We stood at the front steps of the Munster and listened to part of an organ recital.
Later we met Judith and the landlady in Bad Krozingen to discover the new flat. Very exciting and feeling so very blessed to have had the help finding such a place. I am sure there will be lots to explore in both Freiburg and Bad Krozingen.
Heading back up to Stuttgart area for the evening we watched a beautiful golden sunset over Kaiser Stule (no wonder the vineyards grow well here). After supper we went to an event that is somehow connected with the garden club of my father in law. The dark field roads had interesting markers to show us the way to the garden centre where beautiful oil paintings hung beside floral creations. The ‘markers’ along the road were upright logs cut in a way that allowed them to burn from the inside out. That made me think of Advent candles as the season quickly approaches, but if we tried such a thing the Advent wreath would have to be outside! Nonetheless, the path of glowing lights certainly lit the way for us as I’m sure our own family tradition of lighting a candle each Sunday in Advent lights the path of Christ more brightly each week.
It has been a long voyage from Victoria, Canada to Germany. I was worried that the day I left the island there were a few cancelled ferry sailings to the mainland to catch my flight the following day. It looked like not many people were willing to brave the 90 – 100 km/hr winds as the ferry was far less than full. My view was constrained to the dog area in the centre of the ferry where tiny electric heaters buzz and gale force winds play havoc with the heavy iron door. Skippy and I were alone for the ride and kept each other out of boredom. Having to travel as a ‘walk on passenger’ has its perks in that you walk on board ship at the lowest level and get to see the expanse of sea on your horizon. There are also set backs especially if you are taking two large suitcases, a dog kennel, a carry on bag and a dog who really dislikes walking over grated metal to a thundering ferry churning foaming water below you the scene made me think of Jesus calming the storm and my being linked to the nervous disciples.
Beside the occasional jolt and shudder from a large wave we passed over to the mainland with relative ease and I was so grateful for the ride from my father as we packed up the car.
With a quick stop along the way to visit my sister it ended up to be a long and weary day.
Before dawn of the following day I was up repacking some items so that I would not be overweight in my luggage requirements. Finally satisfied that the weight was within the guidelines I set off for Vancouver International Airport and another short stop to visit my grandparents.
Skippy was soon crated and ready to be packed away in the heated cargo hold after airline personnel checked his paperwork and confirmed that he could stand, turn around and lay down in his kennel. I seriously think these requirements should be made for human passengers as well!
The flight was uneventful, but the landing was spectacular with sharp banking turns and stomach groaning drops. Once safely on the ground and with all my belongings we set off in the car with my father in law and uncle in law to Stuttgart. On the evening walk with Skippy I snapped the photo below of a glowing Zeppelin on the city street, thankful to God that we arrived safely and we’re upheld in prayer and helped by so many on this long voyage to a new home.