Tag Archive: Germany


The sermon from last Sunday at Community Lutheran in Sterling, VA!

On January 12 of this year, Jeff and I found ourselves standing with approximately 40 others around Jacob’s well. We had driven into the West Bank that morning, leaving Israel behind for a time and entering the Palestinian Territories. We were driving through the crowded city of Nablus, thought to be Biblical city of Shechem or Sychar as it’s called in the Gospel. Our bus driver pulled over to the side of the road for us to get out, and looking up, I noticed that we were at a walled monastery. Upon entering, we saw gardens and cats – there are lots of cats in the Holy Land – and a fairly large church, with statues and mosaics. We entered the church, gazing at the gorgeous iconography and proceeded to the front of the sanctuary. From there, we headed down stairs, toward the crypt, where Jacob’s well is.

Once at the well, being a good tourist, I took out my camera, but was promptly told that we weren’t allowed to take photos there. As we squished in the room, located beneath an altar in the church, our guide lowered a bucket into the well. When it reached the end of the rope, he began the task of cranking it back up, bit by bit, creaking, creaking, creaking, until it reached the top, some 135 feet later. At that time, one of our fellow travelers, a pastor from Maryland read the passage of the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman.

As she read, those closest to the bucket, grabbed some of the tin cups sitting nearby and ladled out water. They drank and passed the cups around our group, some drinking out of the cups, others cupping their hands to receive the water. We each drank, listening to the story, feeling the cold water against our lips, refreshing us and quenching our thirst in a dry land. And even more than that, it felt like communion – none of us took the water for ourselves, but rather received it from others, sharing what was given to us by passing it along to the next person.

The story of the Samaritan woman and Jesus at the well is a wonderful one. A woman makes her way to the well at noon, hoping to draw enough water for her needs and she ends up getting way more than she bargained for. But who is this woman? She is clearly not integrated into her town social network because she’s coming to the well at the hottest part of the day – at high noon – to draw water. The well was the hang out spot for women, but this woman comes alone. So she’s isolated and outcast, living on the margins and hoping for life-giving water so she can just make it through her day-to-day life.

But she arrives at the well to find a Jew there. She must have been thinking, “oh give me a break! I just wanted my water and now I have to deal with this guy?!” And what’s worse is that Jesus asks for a drink. He breaks the silence and steps across the barrier between Samaritans and Jews, asking for some water. This, of course, sparks the now famous conversation at the well. It’s two thousand year-old water cooler chat!

But what I find most intriguing is how this conversation ends. There is a turning point in which they discuss the woman’s marital history and current living arrangement. And I’d like to point out that Jesus does not pass any kind of judgment upon this woman, but rather shows that he knows her. He knows about her life and he knows why people in town whisper about her. He reveals that he understands her deeply – far more deeply than anyone in her village. And then they begin to talk theology. They talk about who God is, and when the Messiah will come, and then Jesus reveals that he is the Messiah.

Enter the disciples. They come traipsing to the well and they see their teacher chit-chatting with a Samaritan. And not just any Samaritan, but a woman! “I mean, come on, Teacher, we all know Isaac and Moses met their wives at wells, what’s going on here?!” But they don’t say anything, and the woman runs back to the village, leaving her water jar by the well.

Back in the village, this woman who no one liked – whom everyone regarded as separate – as an outsider – bursts onto the scene shouting about her encounter with this strange Jewish man at the well. “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”This exchange is shocking to me because why does she think that all of a sudden these people who have so disregarded her would listen? And yet, she goes. Becoming vulnerable with this group of people in order to invite them to “come and see” and to share the experience she has had.

And what’s even more shocking is that they respond. Not by mocking her or telling her she’s out of her mind, but by listening and suspending their disbelief. They, too, become vulnerable, dropping their guard and heading to the well in order to share in the encounter with this bizarre interloper. John’s Gospel tells us that “Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony…” And that, “when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word.” This woman’s story caused some to believe and brought many people, quite literally, to Jesus. And from there, they were able to have their own personal interactions with the Messiah. After two days, these villagers are able to say to this bold woman, “‘it is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.’” We don’t believe just because of what you’ve said, but also because we’ve had our own face-to-face interactions and experiences with this person. What started as a conversation between two people at a well, became a movement in the Samaritan village.

The Samaritan woman’s life was changed by an encounter she had with Jesus. And once she had that encounter, she wanted to share it with people – even those who didn’t normally want anything to do with her. She went and invited others to “come and see” and to be in conversation with her about who this man was and whether or not he could be the Messiah.

We, too, have had encounters with Jesus. Or, if we haven’t, maybe we are looking to have one. Maybe we’re wondering what such an encounter with God would look like. Or maybe we’re struggling to figure out how God is speaking to us. These are the things that keep us coming back week after week, listening to God’s Word, receiving forgiveness, and tasting bread and wine.

But we, like the Samaritan woman, cannot remain at the well, but we are called to go and tell others what we’ve experienced. We’re called to invite others to “come and see,” but how often do we remain silent, keeping our faith neatly hidden away?

Many of you know that I did not grow up going to church. I became a Christian in middle school, and for many years, my faith was something that I kept to myself. I became even more quiet about it after having a negative experience with a very conservative evangelical church in high school where the emphasis was largely on converting people.

And yet, I knew that followers of Christ were called to speak about Christ with others. But what would people say? Would they think me foolish or childish for believing in God or miracles? I’m sorry to say it, but I was ashamed of my faith and nervous, really, really nervous, about sharing it in a public sphere. That began to change, however, when I went to church in Germany and spoke with Pastor Christof Schorling.

When I talked with him about the struggle I was having, he told me this which has stuck with me, and shaped my views on evangelism. He said: “Our never-ending task is this: to seek ways to ‘really’ witness to our faith.  By ‘really’ I mean that we remain true to ourselves – that we do not disguise ourselves or simply repeat something we’ve learned by rote.  That we learn to say what God means to us, where He is important, and how He helps us.  When we practice that, we will notice that we are not laughed at.”

There was so much grace in his words. They showed me that it wasn’t so much about having the right words, or the most articulate theology, or even being able to answer all the questions someone might ask of us. It was about sharing our experiences of God by being our authentic selves. By bearing witness to God’s action in our lives by being the people we were created to be and trusting that the Holy Spirit was at work in the midst of it all.

Sharing our faith with others means being honest about who God is and what God means to us. It means listening to others’ experiences and questions about God and life, and being open to what they have to say. It means being able to say “come and see” and leaving people free to respond to the invitation. We cannot control how people respond, but when we can speak truthfully and humbly about what God means to us, and maybe that will speak to them.

And maybe they’ll be like the Samaritan villagers, accepting the invitation only to have their own encounters with the Jewish man at the well. The one who is not so fond of societal barriers. Faith is deeply personal. That’s true. But it is also public. We gather in community. We confess together belief in a God who lived, taught and was crucified in the public sphere. A God who was also raised from the dead, appeared to many, and is at work in the church – the body of Christ.

As we have our thirst quenched here week after week, how can we invite others to the well to encounter the living God? To come and receive living water? Who else is thirsty and might be longing to receive a drink? How can we be so filled with excitement about what God is doing in our lives and here at Community that we want to run and tell others about it?

At Jacob’s well in January, our tour group shared water together in community. And what began as a conversation between Jesus and one woman in that place has become an experience and an encounter that affects many. There’s no longer one marginalized outsider at the well, but a global community drawn together by living water. Thanks be to God! Amen.

© 2014. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

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Hi friends!  So, I’ve been writing more reflective posts about my time here, but now it’s time for my random thoughts and things I’ve noticed in the past nine and a half weeks here in Munich.  I report on these in no particular order and with a great deal of love for Germany 🙂

  1. Tracht (traditional garb) – Children in Lederhosen and Dirndls are super adorable!
  2. Milchkaffee – This frothy coffee made with lots of milk is one of my favorite things and I could seriously drink it every day.
  3. Escalators – There are really cool escalators here that are capable of going either direction, depending upon whether or not people are standing at the top or bottom.  Sadly, you can’t change directions once the escalator has started moving – that would really mess with people, after all!  Overall, these escalators in the subway (U-Bahn) work really well, but sometimes they’re out of order.  That’s to be expected – nothing bizarre there.  However, on several occasions, I have witnessed people begin to walk up the escalator, realize that it’s not working, turn around, and then go up the stairs.  Was?!  And the funny thing is, I’ve started to do it, too! All of this reminds me of a stand-up bit by dear Mitch Hedberg, a comedian who left us far too soon (it’s the second half of the skit).
  4. International Relations – A goofy grin, a laugh or a kind word go a long way in international relations 😀  So many times, a smile or even saying Gesundheit to someone on the U-Bahn have brought awesome cross-cultural moments.
  5. Der Lehrturm –  If your class is held in a building called the Lehrturm or “Teaching Tower,” you may be excited because it sounds like something from Harry Potter.  Oooohhh, maybe it’s like the Astronomy Tower!  But, alas, Professor Dumbledore is not coming.  Nor will there be enchanting moving pictures hanging on the walls.  Instead you will find that, like the Astronomy Tower, there are only stairs…seemingly endless stairs to your classroom which is located at the very top of the tower.  And like the Astronomy Tower, I don’t believe there’s an elevator…
  6. Early Starts – Classes for Hebrew and Greek begin at 8:00 am.  That’s just mean… I can barely think in any language at all at that point in time, let alone a Biblical one!
  7. Breads/Pastries/Sweets– The world is missing out because I don’t think people know that Germany has some amazing baking skills.  One of the things I miss most when I’m not here are the delicious breads, rolls and pastries.  Frankly, even if the world knows about the bread, I think Germany’s sweets and pastries are seriously underrated.  Amazing cakes and tortes, sweet rolls with nuts or apples, flaky Strudel and all manner of other treats with delicious fruits and/or sauces.  Just writing about it makes me want to go find something! *mouth waters*

    Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte

  8. Libraries – Each university department has it’s own library; I, for example, use the theological/philosophical library.  The resources here in Munich are really incredible, but within the departmental libraries you are not allowed to check out books.  There is a university library, but if you want to check out a book there, you need a library card.  To obtain said library card, you need a student ID and a personal ID.  And this is where it gets a wee bit ridiculous… When I presented my student ID and driver’s license, I was informed that that would not work because I was not a citizen of the EU.  She would need to see my passport and proof that I had a place to stay here.  For a library card.  Please bear in mind that my student ID was obtained by showing my passport and proof that I had a place to stay.  Yes, the same student ID that was needed to get the library card.  *Face palm*  Oh, and if you want to borrow a book from the library, you have to order it on a computer and wait for it to arrive (3 days!), not because it’s coming from a different location in Germany or Europe, but because they need to get it from one of the libraries in Munich.
  9. Dogs – We discussed this in my language course: Germans love dogs.  And there are tons here!  They travel with their people on the U-Bahn, on buses, and sit with them in restaurants.  But the interesting thing is that they are far better behaved (for the most part!) than dogs I’ve seen back home.  Walking through the Englischer Garten (English Garden), you see tons of people with their dogs and many aren’t on leashes.  However, it’s fascinating to watch because they stay pretty close to their owners, don’t harass others, and most of them return quickly when called.
  10. Mülltrennung (trash separation) – This is something I have continued to be in awe of since I first studied abroad in Germany in college.  While we may complain about having recycling bins and trash cans, there are 5 different containers here!  One is for biodegradable things, one is for paper, one is for glass of various types, one is for packaging and cartons, and the last is for the rest.  Talk about taking your time to try to figure out where everything goes!  But I think it’s a good system because it really forces me to not be lazy about thinking about where my trash/items go.  I find that it makes me more conscious of trying to not waste things and to reuse/recycle as much as possible.
  11. Staying Active! – I have been walking so much since I’ve been here and while sometimes it’d be great to just get to where I’m going quickly by using a car, I have really been loving the walks.  Fresh air, time to move and to think, and being able to experience changing leaves, bright sun or even gentle rain is wonderful.  It makes me feel alive.  Besides, I think it’s saving me from the breads, sweets and pastries from number 7 😉  People use bikes here as well – lots of bikes – which can be intimidating and/or life-threatening if you are standing in a bike lane and miss the ring of the bell that singles you are about to be run down! I would expect that a lot of young people would walk or bike, but older people do too, which always makes me super happy.  It’s great to see 70+ year-old people walking or biking and staying active.  I hope that I can remain this active when I go back and as I become older!

As I said these are just some thoughts and reflections into what I’ve been noticing and experiencing!  What are your experiences away from home?

© 2012. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

One Language

So all has been going super awesome here, but things have been quite busy and, once again, I’m later than I’d like to be on my blogging.  But tonight, something caught my attention and I had to write about it to think about and to chew on it some more.  I’ve been thinking a lot about Holy Communion for the past couple months.  Before I left, we heard the Gospel of John’s readings on bread, so I think that got me thinking.  And I preached a couple of those weeks, so that also made me really ponder these texts about Jesus, bread, wine, and Communion.

But I’ve continued thinking about Communion since I’ve been here.  During the past (almost!) two months, I have been absolutely blessed to participate in many different types of services.  Thus far, I’ve been to:

  • two Lutheran services
  • two Catholic services (one more of an open meditation/prayer evening with music)
  • morning and evening devotions here at the Collegium Oecumenicum
  • a joint Thanksgiving service (Germans celebrate this holiday on the first Sunday of October – this year, on the 7th) between the Collegium and the Heilpädagogisches Centrum Augustinum (HPCA) with whom we share space (similar to a L’Arche community)
  • one ecumenical semester opening service at the Collegium
  • two ecumenical services in the style of the Chicago Folk Service at the Collegium

These have been truly rich experiences because they have given me a chance to see different styles and forms of worship, something that is harder to do when one is serving at one place.  However, I have missed Holy Communion.

In Germany, Communion is not practiced as regularly as it is in Lutheran churches back home.  Here, it often seems to take place once a month or so, and when you’re used to receiving Communion once a week or more (between seminary, internship, home visits, etc.), you notice not having it.  And at Catholic services, I do not receive Communion since it goes against their teachings about receiving the sacrament.  The Communion services here at the Collegium, done in the Chicago Folk Service style, have been the only two times I have received that little bit of bread and that sip of wine that have become so important to me.

Even this morning, I was already looking forward to tonight’s service because I knew we would not only sing, pray, and hear God’s word, but that we would also celebrate the Eucharist.  And then, during the service, the most beautiful thing happened.  The Words of Institution had been said (“In the night in which he was betrayed…”) and we formed a half-circle in the tiny chapel.  Then, the pastor gave the bread to the organist and each person passed it on.  I was so excited because at Christ Lutheran Church in Washington, DC those who help lead worship stand in a circle and give each other bread and wine every Sunday.  It’s such a wonderful reminder to me of how we give and receive, of how we need each other, and how we are to live in the body of Christ with one another.

So the pastor gave the wafer to the organist and spoke, naturally, in German: “Nimm hin und iss. Christi Leib, für dich gegeben” (“Take and eat.  Body of Christ, given for you.”).  Well, to a non-native German speaker, to speak these foreign words to others could have been a daunting task.  I know sometimes people get nervous speaking these words in English because they’re such important words.  They are words of promise.  They are words of God’s action in our lives.  And no one wants to mess up speaking God’s promises or acts to another person!

But here’s where the beauty occurred.  The bread reached a man from Brazil and instead of speaking these words in German, he closed his eyes and spoke them in Portuguese.  He spoke these words in the language that was close to his heart and said them the best way he knew how – authentically in his mother tongue.  As we went around the circle, others spoke in English and it was interesting to hear all of the slight variations of these words.  But even with the variations, you could tell that the words people chose and used were the words that meant something to them.  The same happened with the chalice: “Nimm hin und trink. Christi Blut, für dich vergossen.” “Take and drink.  Blood of Christ, poured out/shed for you.”  It was wonderful to hear these words that mean so much to me in different languages and voices.  The variety brought such a richness to the experience and made me think about the feast to come.  It made me think about that feast, that colorful heavenly banquet, where people will be gathered from every corner of the world, from all different backgrounds and times, all speaking one language: praise.

When we finished with Communion, we sang a song that brought the whole experience together for me: “Strahle brechen viele [aus einem Licht]” (“Rays break many [out of one light]”).  The last verse seemed particularly apt:

Glieder sind es viele, doch nur ein Leib.
Wir sind Glieder Christi.
Glieder sind es viele, doch nur ein Leib
und wir sind eins durch ihn.  (Lyrics found here)

In English: “Members, there are many, but only one body.  We are members of Christ.  Members, there are many, but only one body, and we are one though him.”  And the cool, and really nerdy, thing is that in German, the word for body (Leib) and the word for a loaf of bread (Laib) sound exactly the same when spoken aloud.  Body and bread, together in one sound.  People joined together through bread in the body of Christ through the one language of praise.

© 2012. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

“Abendmahl” by/von Brunhild Klein-Hennig

“Soak it up”

Sponge!

A very wise professor told me before I came to München to “soak it up”  – to take it all in and to simply soak everything up.  In the hustle and bustle of school and internship, these were grace-filled words for me to hear.  He didn’t say “you have to do this, this, this, and this while you’re there.”  He just said “soak it up.”  And with that, I was free to get into anything and everything! (There are, of course, still some requirements for studying!)

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to “soak it up.”  About what I want to learn here, about what I want to return home knowing.  About what it means to absorb life to the fullest.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reading One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp.  A dear friend gave this to me as a gift before I left and I’ve been slowly reading and chewing on Voskamp’s poetic and insightful words ever since.  The book is about the author’s journey towards living a life of eucharisteo (“to express gratitude for benefits or blessings – ‘to thank, thanksgiving, thankfulness.'” – where the word “Eucharist” comes from!).  Her journey is about learning to give thanks for the little as well as the big things in life.  To give thanks for the good things, as well as learning how to live a life of thankfulness in the awful, difficult things.  At the urging of her friend, she begins writing a list of one thousand things she experiences as gifts.

After reading the book, I’ve been inspired to take up such a practice and it’s made me sit up and pay attention.  Each day, heading to my German course, I have a ten minute walk to the bus, a ten minute ride on the bus, a five minute wait for the U-Bahn, a fifteen minute ride to one station where I change trains and then ride another ten minutes to the stop for my class.  Finally, it’s a three to five minute walk to the building where the class is.  I say this not to point out that it’s a complicated commute, but to show that that’s a lot of time and many different places in which to see the gifts of God.  Thinking about gifts, giving thanks, and soaking up life, I’ve been keeping my eyes open to see what God is up to.  And it’s not just about seeing either – I’ve been paying more attention to sounds, to the feel and texture of things, the taste of delicious food, and even to different smells!  It’s been working on my heart, too – keeping it open to the possibilities, the unexpected, the things that I normally miss.  My heart has been more open to seeing things in a different light – maybe even in God’s light…

Back to this idea of “soak it up…”  Sponges soak things up.  The German word for “sponge” is Schwamm.  It’s a pretty fun word.  But as I think about it, it seems to be connected to the word for “swim” (schwimmen, schwamm, schwomm, geschwommen).  Ok, sponges come from the ocean – that much should be clear.  But more than that, sponges seem to passively absorb things.  Swimming, on the other hand,…that’s active.  That means diving in, moving through the water, swimming to the bottom and coming back up for air to see where you are and what’s going on.  Swimming is actively engaging in an environment.

And there’s another connection I’m seeing with this soaking up life idea, giving thanks, being fully present and engaged, and swimming.  Any guesses?!  It’s baptism! In baptism, we were washed clean and freed through Christ’s death and resurrection to engage fully in the world.  To really live – to engage in the world.  To soak it all up.

So that’s what I’m trying to do while I’m here – to try out as much as I can, to embrace the opportunities life presents, to live fully present and in deep gratitude and appreciation of all that I’ve been given – of all that we’ve been given.  In Christ, we all have been freed to dive in and experience life as it’s happening.  I can dive in and accept the invitation to drink Korean tea with my housemates or have wonderful spontaneous conversations with people from all over the world.  I can dive in and join fellow theology students for translation sessions.  I can spend a few moments in a busy day looking at gorgeous red flowers peeking out of window boxes.  I can smile at a child’s laughter on the train or a tired dog sleeping at the sun.  I can soak up München.  I can soak up Frederick.  I can soak up life.

There’s a blessing I have loved ever since I read it in Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals:

“May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you : wherever he may send you;
may he guide you through the wilderness : protect you through the storm;
may he bring you home rejoicing : at the wonders he has shown you;
may he bring you home rejoicing : once again into our doors.”

To me, this speaks not only of bringing me home to America rejoicing at what I’ve seen here in Germany, but also to one day (when the time comes!) bringing me home to God.  A journey home that involves rejoicing and giving thanks each and every day of my life.

© 2012. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

Bitten

I was bitten…bad.  It happened 11 years ago and I knew I’d been bitten when it happened, but I didn’t know that there would be lasting effects.  More than that even – it had permanent effects.  The travel bug chomped down and refused to release me.  It happened in July of 2001 when I traveled to Germany and Austria with my high school German club.  I was bitten.  Infected.  And I haven’t been the same since.

And in less than a week, I will set off, driven by this same bug bite and an insatiable curiosity for the wonders of the world.  I will journey once more to Munich, my first international destination in 2001, to live in an ecumenical community and to study at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet Muenchen (the University of Munich).  I go not knowing what to expect, but only with the hope and expectation that I will learn and grow through my experiences.

I will miss my husband, family and friends tremendously, but I know that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.  I feel that grabbing such opportunities when they arise is so important to discovering who we are, challenging ourselves to go outside of our comfort zones, and growing.

My previous travels have always been so important in my faith journey.  It seems that seeing a new place, meeting new people and being filled with awe at each new sight or landscape helps me to reflect on my life and experiences.  Traveling invites me to reflect on the imaginative and artistic God who created the world and inspired humans to create.  Being in and exploring a new place helps to shed light on the places I have already been, or the places where I usually am.

And so as I prepare to travel, I pray that God will keep my heart and mind open to new things.  That this time will be one of learning in the university classroom, but also in the classroom of life.  I pray that this time will be one in which I grow in faith – a time of continuing to discover who I am in Christ.  I look forward to worshiping with my brothers and sisters from different denominations and various countries.  And I look forward to hearing how God has been at work in their lives.  I pray that God will be at work, transforming me through this trip (and always!) for a life of continued discipleship.

I hope to post more about my travel adventures and what I’m learning and discovering here on this blog.  Keep in touch!

© 2012. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

 

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