You see me.

The art for the reformation 500 in Wittenberg has really caught my attention. Not just because of the cute cartoon animals and bright colors, but also the questions they pose. I don’t know if you can see these photos clearly but the green one with the seal reads-“Do we change the world or does the world change us?”. The second photo of the blue sign with the bear and the adventurer asks “can we be farsighted by looking back?”
Both of these questions greeted me as we began our day in Wittenberg.
We started with a Bible study lead by Bishop Eaton who shared a beautiful new way to look at the Magnificat through the story of Hagar. By being seen, these women and many others throughout the Bible were given an incredible hope when they thought they were invisible, forsaken and forgotten. By being seen, by knowing God’s action of love and grace for them, the whole world shifts. They are no longer invisible but witnesses to this love and because of this love, life has new meaning. This love calls us to action to see those who are invisible, to point to God’s unconditional love wherever it may be found. I continue to chew over these things. How can seeing these important places from our faith past- help us recognize God’s love here and now? In so many little things God has appeared for me-the hospitality of our host homes, the way the daughter in my host family takes such joy of dancing with a dandelion, the simple pleasure of walking, the gratitude of people in history standing up to power, sharing in worship when I cannot understand a single word spoken, deep welcome, waiting, laughter, human connections across tables, the horrors of war, oppression, refugees, the work of freedom
and peace yet still to be done. . .
The last picture I want to share is from the town church in Leipzig- the first protestant church. It may be hard to see… it is a steeple and at the bottom you will hopefully notice a pig. This was meant to be a derogatory image towards the Jewish neighbors across the street and this wasn’t the only Protestant church to have such art work back in the Middle Ages. You would think this symbol today would be taken down or destroyed. But our tour guide shared, and a colleague echoed later, that this and other painful parts of Germany’s history are left intentionally as a reminders. They become visitor centers and stopping points for tours. They are visible marks, the scars of history meant to be acknowledged and discussed. They serve as reminders that these are symbols we can no longer use, no longer embrace. But even so because they have been a part of history, they need to be seen. Just as God saw Hagar in the midst of utter abandonment, just as Christ enters into our suffering… we as people of faith need to be willing to look at not just the beauty around us but also the ugly painful people, places and things we would rather forget,destroy, place in a closet never to be displayed again. I wonder what it would look like to be brave like our German brothers and sisters and leave these carins of truth in the open for continuing conversation,lament and remembering.
I continue to be grateful for this trip and the chance to see all that east Germany has to teach me. The beauty in the painful past, the invitation into honest and difficult conversations about what is happening right now in our world and the presence of God that continues to surface into the tangible. I look forward to what these next days will bring. God’s peace be with you.
-CJ Valenti
Pastor at Salem Lutheran, Dalbo

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