You know by now that I have little bit of a penchant for historical dates, many of them related to either German or American history. Today, June 17, used to be the “Day of German Unity” when I grew up. Of course the country was far from unified then. A big fat wall ran through the biggest city and symbolic center, Berlin, and likewise a wall and heavily fortified barrier was erected along the long border that separated East and West. June 17 was observed because of an uprising on that calendar day in 1953 when Eastern Germans tried to cross the border, supported by people on the other side, and were crushed by Soviet tanks and military force. The protests began with a strike action by construction workers in East Berlin, quickly spreading across Eastern Germany and involving probably about a million people (in a population of less than 25 million). It was clear that people wanted to be free, but they were forced back, the wall was built, and it took another 36 (!!!) years for that symbol of separation to be taken down. For all of those 36 years, June 17 was a national holiday, but not a celebration day in Western Germany. It marked a hope and a dream for something that wasn’t there yet: a unified country. As I look back, I think it was one of the most meaningful national holidays, acknowledging something that clearly wasn’t there yet.
We don’t have a visible wall running through the United States, but sometimes it seems that we are pretty far apart and polarized amongst ourselves, evoking the famous Bible allusion by Abraham Lincoln, “A country divided cannot stand.” (I hope I quoted that right!) As hard as it was to defeat the visible wall in my native country, as long as it took, as hopeless as it seemed at times, it finally happened. But it is even more difficult to bring down invisible walls that are often created by ideological thinking, racism or pre-judgment (prejudice), and that is the case everywhere around the world. Sometimes we like to think that those barriers simply aren’t there. Politicians pretend they aren’t there when they use their favorite three words, “The American people,” as if they could easily speak for all American people. A lot of it is glossed over by other symbols such as the flag and the anthem. I am not criticizing these symbols. I think every country needs some of that. But the hard work of unifying people happens in a myriad of ways, and they always start with an examination of our own hearts. Do I contribute to the invisible walls in our society? Do I defend those walls? Are my thoughts and actions helpful in bringing people together? Sometimes it is better to have a day to remember that you aren’t there yet (as June 17 was in my childhood) than an easy celebration of unity that is, at the very least, severely compromised. May God bless America and bring down the invisible walls that stand between us!
Today I would like to introduce you to another couple that participated in our virtual New Member Orientation in early May. For Gwen S. this was a refresher since she grew up at St. Peter’s and in fact lived next door on Church Street for most or all of her childhood. Growing up, Gwen sang in our children’s choir and was active as an acolyte. She completed her confirmation at St. Peter’s and has fond memories of a church mission trip to Mississippi (for clean-up) after Hurricane Katrina. Also, her mom Cecily served on church council for a few years. A lot of our young people wander around at that stage of young adulthood, and it is not always clear during those wandering years whether they still see themselves as part of the church or not. When Gwen came to me and introduced me to her partner Mike V. and a newborn baby, cute little Meredith who was born in the last minute of August 4th, 2019 (yes, she was born at 11:59 p.m. that day!!!), we agreed on a refresher. Her partner Mike has two older children, Nathan (14) and Allison (12)who live with their mom in New Jersey. I had the pleasure of meeting them a few times when they came to church with Mike and Gwen. Little Meredith is all the more precious since her birth came with major complications and indeed endangered Gwen’s health seriously. Mike, who grew up Roman Catholic, also attended our recent Adult Faith Course. We hope to find a time to baptize Meredith outside in our Baptismal Garden this summer, in a small group and with safeguards in place. I hope you can meet all of them in the not too distant future!
Yesterday I learned that, sadly, Sharon S.’s husband Joe passed away after a longer period of heart problems. Joe was Roman Catholic and services will be conducted in a small family circle (actually the S. side of the family is very big!) by Corpus Christi. Please feel free to send Sharon a condolence card.
Please don’t forget today’s food drive (11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.) and the noon Bible Study tomorrow (see materials attached).
Listen, all of you who would like to do something for Father’s Day this weekend. I got word that a mysterious ice cream truck is going to appear this Sunday on the church parking lot where you can get free ice cream if you bring your dad along! More about that tomorrow!
Today is the birthday of Betty W. Happy birthday, Betty!
Be blessed and be safe! Pastor Andreas Wagner