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Psalm 130

NOTE: While Pastor Charlie is on a trip out of the country through June 5, he has chosen some of his favorite blog posts from his weblog from 2020 to 2021 to share.

From: November 9, 2020

Psalm 130

A song of ascents.

1 Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; 2 Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.

3 If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? 4 But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

5 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. 6 I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.

7 Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. 8 He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.

Two years ago, at this time, I was blessed to partake in a time of study and fellowship in Wittenberg, Germany. A gathering of Lutheran pastors from around the world were invited to study Martin Luther’s writings and discuss theology and faith. I was one of the members of the twenty that gathered for these two weeks of study.

It was two years ago today that I will never forget.

November 9 is a day of remembrance in Germany – some good remembrances, but the others are definitely very difficult and painful.

The good days include this day in 1918, World War One in Germany came to an end, and the great day in 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down.

But it was this day in 1923, Adolf Hitler made his first attempt to take over the German government but failed.

And in 1938, eighty years ago today, Kristallnacht or "Crystal Night” also referred to as the Night of Broken Glass. This was a program against Jews throughout Nazi Germany on 9–10 November 1938, carried out by SA paramilitary forces and German civilians. The German authorities looked on without intervening. The name Kristallnacht comes from the shards of broken glass that littered the streets after the windows of Jewish-owned stores, buildings, and synagogues were smashed (information from Wikipedia).

To remember this night, we gathered with people of Wittenberg outside the Town Church under a sculpture that is found high on the wall in the corner of the church. It is the perfect place to meet that night.

From the Christian Century, these words about the sculpture: “Perched 26 feet above the ground, on the exterior southeast corner of the Town Church, is a 14th-century sandstone sculpture of a pig with two people in identifiably medieval Jewish hats suckling at its teats and another holding a piglet’s ear. An additional Jewish person lifts the tail while looking into the sow’s rear. Written above the relief is an inscription with the words, “Rabini Shem Hamphoras.” This nonsensical reference to the Jewish appellation of God’s name, added after Luther’s time, quotes a derogatory comment in one of Luther’s writings.”

The question has been for many years why this sculpture remains. Prior to German reunification in 1989, the Town Church leaders spoke with the Jewish community of the nearby city of Magdeburg, who supported the decision to keep the sculpture on the church. As a result of the discussions, the youth group within the church decided to create a memorial plaque, and on November 11, 1988, in honor of the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht (when Nazis burned Jewish stores and synagogues), the Town Church installed a Holocaust memorial on the ground to counteract the “Judensau.” The vice-chairman of the synagogue community of Magdeburg in 1988, Dr. Gunther Helbig, gave a speech at the unveiling ceremony, according to the church’s website.

The counter-monument’s role, as explained on the wall, is to not allow this history to be forgotten. The design of four blocks with cracks in between symbolizes a cross that wells up as a sign of guilt and atonement. The memorial plaque installed Nov. 11, 1988, the words surrounding the plaque state, “The true name of God, the maligned Chem Hamphoras, which Jews long before Christianity regarded as almost unutterably holy, this name died with six million Jews under the sign of the cross,” followed by words in Hebrew from Psalm 130, "Out of the depths, I cry to you."

Two years ago on this night, we gathered with the community to remember and to pray. We lit candles and laid stones on the sculpture on the ground, remembering the six million Jews who were killed in the concentration camps in World War Two. It was a moving and powerful service.

We struggle on how best to remember the past. Do we tear down statues that might be perceived as harmful and painful, or do we keep them up as a reminder of the history of our nation, our past?

We cannot change the past, but we can learn from it.

Let us pray: Out of the depths we cry to you. Forgive us of our self-centered ways, and open our eyes to see the wonder of your creation in everyone we meet. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen

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