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Another Resurrection

POSTED: September 16, 2011 7:00 a.m.

My wife, Diane, and I recently returned to Kansas after five weeks in Germany. We spent most of our time in northeast Germany in the old Soviet zone. Not many American tourists go in that direction. In fact, we travelled for two whole weeks without meeting another American.
What we saw, however, were the magnificent brick churches of northeast Germany. These are huge churches and cathedrals constructed from bricks rather than stone. Most are six to nine hundred years old. All were built before the Reformation, but are Protestant now. Thousands upon thousands of bricks were fired right on the spot!
As we toured these churches, we learned that many had been destroyed and rebuilt more than once. Often they were enlarged. Sometimes a chapel was added. The process went on for hundreds of years. But again and again they rose up to praise the God to whom they were dedicated.
The most recent destruction was during World War II when many of the churches were bombed or burned in allied raids.  Some were rebuilt shortly after the war; others languished through the Soviet period. Now after the fall of communism in 1989, many are being repaired or rebuilt.
In Rostock the great steeple on St. Petrie’s has been restored after forty years. In Wismar, St. George’s had been an empty shell since 1942. Now it is almost completely rebuilt. We were able to walk around in the big empty space, still waiting to be furnished after all these years. In Dresden the Church of Our Lady (not a brick church) has been rebuilt in all its splendor. When our son John was in Dresden almost 20 years ago it was but a pile of rubble.
We have been told again and again that the church is not a building. Indeed, it is not. Nevertheless, the resurrection of these great churches is a visual reminder of the perseverance of Christ’s church. For most of us 50 or 60 years is the better part of a lifetime. For these great churches it is but a passing moment.
A recent article in the Salina Journal pointed out that the church seems to be in decline.  Maybe so. But when I look at these great churches, rebuilt and renewed, I am filled with confidence. As Bishop Grundtvig wrote in his great hymn, “Built on a rock the church doth stand, even when steeples are falling; crumbled have spires in every land, bells still are chiming and calling . . . . “

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