Tour of Luther’s Germany: July 25
Monday, July 25, 2022: Munich
Our final day of touring is in Munich, the capital and most populous city of the German state of Bavaria, with a population of over 1,500,000 inhabitants. Munich’s 12th-century roots manage to co-exist within a growing industry sector, merging cutting-edge technology with Bavarian tradition. Chic Munich is known for its Baroque theater, royal palace, Glockenspiel, and 700 years of beer-brewing tradition—attracting over 6 million people a year to the world’s largest Octoberfest.
A bit of history
Munich traces its origins to the Benedictine monastery at nearby Tegernsee, which was probably founded in 750 AD. In 1157 Henry the Lion, duke of Bavaria, granted the monks the right to establish a market on the “salt road” between mighty Salzburg and Augsburg. In 1225, it became the primary residence of the ruling Wittelsbach family, a dynasty of dukes and then kings who ruled Bavaria for eight centuries. Many of the rulers were avid builders who attracted artistic and musical talent to the city, which mostly flourished under their rule until the 1918 abolition of the monarchy. When Hitler came to power shortly thereafter, Munich became the “Capital of the Movement,” with buildings reflecting Nazi views. The city suffered terrible bombardments during the war. After the end of postwar American occupation in 1949, there was a great increase in population and economic power during the years of Wirtschaftswunder, or “economic miracle”. The city hosted the 1972 Summer Olympics.
Our farewell Bavarian dinner will be held in a local beer garden, as we celebrate all we have learned and shared in Germany!
Where we’re staying ~ Flemings Hotel München-Schwabing
Auf Wiedersehen, my friends!
Tour of Luther’s Germany: July 24
Sunday, July 24, 2022: Oberammergau
The village of Oberammergau is a friendly, artistic community featuring elaborately frescoed homes, world-class wood carvers, and an abundance of alpine activities—all framed by the majestic Alps. Oberammergau is best known for its live Passion Play, performed every ten years by its dedicated residents since the mid-17th century.
A bit of history
The history of the Oberammergau Passion Play dates back to the middle of the Thirty Years War. In 1633, after months of suffering from the Bubonic Plague, the people of Oberammergau made a vow that if God spared them from any further deaths, they would perform a dramatic portrayal of the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ every ten years. Miraculously, not another inhabitant of the town died from the plague from that moment on, and all those already suffering recovered. True to their promise, the residents performed the “Play of the Suffering, Dying and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ” in 1634 and have continued the tradition nearly every ten years since.
While it is clearly a powerful depiction of Christ’s death and resurrection, the Passion Play has not been without its own controversy. Using a largely unchanged text from 1860, Adolf Hitler extolled the Passion Play as “the parching strength of the home soil” to be “of significance for the Reich”. He also called Pilate the prototype of the Roman who is superior “in race and intelligence” and who seems “like a rock in the midst of the Jewish vermin and swarm.” After WWII, there was an outcry to re-write the Passion Play, with a petition led by American Jewish leaders including Arthur Miller and Leonard Bernstein. Unfortunately, the text of the play did not undergo significant reform until its 1990 production.
The Passion Play is roughly 5 hours long, presented in two parts, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. It is a combination of spoken text, visual tableaus and choral music. Even though it is all in German, the images are easy to follow, and a beautiful portrayal of Christ’s love seen most clearly on the cross.
One aspect of the Passion Play is the power of music to proclaim the beauty of God’s creation, the power of Christ’s sacrifice and the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit. While chanting the Psalms was brought into the church by Bishop Gregory the Great in the late 500’s, it would be nearly 1,000 years later before congregation singing would be incorporated into worship – under the leadership of Martin Luther. Not only did he translate the sung portions of the Latin Mass into German, he personally wrote or commissioned numerous hymns, believing firmly that when good theology is set to music, if can permeate one’s heart more deeply. In the early days when there were no hymnals, the pastor would often sing the hymns line by line, which were repeated by the congregation (similar to the African-American Spirituals). Luther also believed that the style of worship music should match the vernacular, ie, he often set hymn texts to secular songs, quipping: “Why should the devil get all the good tunes?” As one who connect deeply with God through music, (particularly congregational song), we offer our thanks to Luther for this contribution.
Reflection verses The Seven Last words of Christ
Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.
Woman, behold your son! Behold your mother!
Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.
Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.
It is finished!
Hymn(s) of the Day O Sacred Head Now Wounded
Thine Is the Glory
A look ahead
Tomorrow, we travel to Munich for a day of touring and a farewell dinner.
Tour of Luther’s Germany: July 22
Friday, July 22, 2022: Heidelberg, Rothenburg
Today we begin with a morning on our own or a tour of Heidelberg Castle. The university town of Heidelberg nestles along the scenic Nekar River, its landscape dominated by the crumbling red sandstone of hilltop Heidelberg Castle. Heidelberg features a bustling Old Town, an idyllic market square, and the longest pedestrian-only shopping street in Europe. Countless artists and writers have been inspired by its beauty over the centuries, earning Heidelberg UNESCO’s City of Literature designation.
A bit of history
The first settlement in present-day Heidelberg dates back to Roman and Celtic times. The community of Heidelberg was planned and built, together with the castle, in the 13th century. During the Reformation, its rulers first embraced Lutheranism but soon turned to Calvinism. The town gave its name to the Heidelberg Confession of 1563. Toward the end of the 17th century, poets and philosophers, such as Friedrich Hölderlin, Clemens Brentano, and Joseph von Eichendorff, made Heidelberg the “City of Romanticism.” In 1945, American forces took the city with little destruction, making it U.S. and NATO headquarters.
Our next stop is Rothenburg ob der Tauber, the fairytale-like village which is considered Germany’s best-preserved, walled medieval town. Most of the buildings standing today were built by 1400. Rothenburg features cobbled streets, stately towers, massive fortifications, churches, and unique museums.
A bit of history
Rothenburg was granted a city charter in 1274 and flourished in the Middle Ages. As the city grew physically, it also grew spiritually. Ideas of Reformation emerged early when young men from Rothenburg studied in Wittenberg with Luther and Melanchthon. This theology combined with Renaissance thoughts brought great change to the city. However, Rothenburg’s growth stalemated in the 17th century after being defeated during the Thirty Years War, facing financial repercussions from the Catholic church for its Protestant status, and enduring an outbreak of the plague.
The Reformation Unfolds
Even though this has little to do with Heidelberg or Rothenburg, Luther’s life and work continued after the Diet of Worms. Originally a close associate of Luther, Andreas Karlstadt stepped into the void created by Luther’s 11-month stay at Wartburg. Unfortunately, Karlstadt was far more radical than Luther, eventually dissenting from him on issues such as religious music and art (he smashed the statuary in the Castle Church), doctrine of ministry (he disavowed clergy robes for peasant’s clothing and being called “Brother Andreas”), and infant baptism (he was against it.) Eventually, Karlstadt was banned by Frederick and would pursue a more Anabaptist doctrinal perspective.
Karlstadt was not the only reformer whose theology further departed from the Roman Catholic tradition. Not only did more legitimate reformers emerge like John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, Thomas Cranmer and John Knox, far more extremist “leaders” also came forth, gaining in short-term popularity and significantly confusing the theological landscape. Referred to by Luther as the Schwarmers (fanatics), Luther would spend the coming years trying to draw them back to the truth of the scriptures.
Luther continued to teach, preach and write from Wittenberg, guiding the development of the Lutheran (a name he greatly disliked) faith, referred to as the Evangelisch at the time. During this period, he would address additional points of doctrinal divergence from the Catholic Church. In addition to challenging indulgences, relics, and papal authority, he also challenged their understanding of transubstantiation, withholding the cup from the laity, the number and definition of the sacraments, music in worship, and the celibacy of the priesthood (a topic we will cover tomorrow.) If you’d like more information on these topics, just ask!
Why was Luther allowed to stay in Wittenberg unharmed? Wasn’t he declared an enemy of the state? Prince Frederick’s protection of “his theologian” was key to his survival, driven, not so much by Frederick’s faith, but his pride and competition with his cousin! Additionally, as the popularity of the Reformation grew and more and more reformers emerged, the German nobility came to see that burning every non-Catholic in their realm would neither be possible not wise. And finally, after the Diet of Worms, Emperor Charles V was kept very busy fighting France to the West and the Turks to the East – which took both his resources and his attention.
What happened in Germany as the Reformation continued to progress? The Peace of Augsburg, signed in 1555 (9 years after Luther’s death), was a treaty between Emperor Charles V and the Schmalkaldic League (a gathering of Protestant leaders), which allowed the rulers to choose either Lutheranism or Roman Catholicism as the official religion of their state. Generally speaking, most of Central and Northern Germany became Lutheran, then advancing further into Scandinavia, while southern Germany remained Roman Catholic. Calvin’s Reformed tradition (a.k.a. Presbyterianism) spread in Switzerland and through John Knox into Scotland, and Henry the VIII broke from Catholicism establishing the Church of England, primarily for personal power rather than theology.
Reflection verses Psalm 90:1-6
Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
You turn us back to dust, and say, “Turn back, you mortals.”
For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night.
You sweep them away; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning;
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.
Whenever I come in close contact with history, particularly OLD history, I am struck by the difference between God’s sense of time and my sense of time. In Greek, there are two different words for time – Kairos (or God’s non-linear time) and Chronos (human, measurable time). And I always get into spiritual trouble when I forget that distinction, as it inhibits my trust in God’s time.
When my brother passed away nearly 10 years ago, I was so angry at God because he only lived 56 years. He was a good person, making a positive difference in this world and I just couldn’t understand how God could let his life be cut short by cancer. Two years later, my mom and I went on a tour of the Holy Land. It was in the cave in Bethlehem where Jesus was born, that I finally came to peace Paige’s passing. Through touching those ancient walls which had echoed the sound of Christ’s first cries, God put me in my place – in a good way. I understood how brief one life is compared to antiquity. I realized how vast God is, how inexplicable God’s time is, how “a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past.”
How does being around so much history impact your sense of time? Where have you experienced God’s time on this tour, in your life? How can your faith grow as you consider God’s goodness in all circumstances and at all times?
Hymn of the day Lord of All Hopefulness
Where we’re staying ~ Printzhotel Rothenburg
A look ahead
We move into Bavaria and visit Neuschwanstein castle!