A few observations….
A numbered of things sparked my curiosity and grabbed my attention during our short time in Germany…
• The Food – If my memory serves me correctly, I’m part German and part Italian which qualifies me for many things food related, in particular ‘consumption of’ as well as an ‘appreciation of.’ Germany was no disappointment in this area.
While German cuisine is a lot closer to American cuisine that the food we ate in China and South Korea, it still has an element of adventure built in… especially in those times that we were just pointing to an item on the menu as was the case with our Schnitzel, a Kingdom gift from the Germans that pleased my palette and left me wanting more. Something could also be said for the Bread, Jeremy’s favorite, the Gyros just off the square in Mainz, and the frankfurters at the ‘Hopscotch’ café.
• The Clothes – One thing that caught my attention as we emerged from the underground train station, in the center of Frankfurt, was that nearly all of the people busily making their way through the square at that particular time were all wearing grey or black. At that moment, as I looked in all directions I only saw three people wearing color and those three were wearing red. I have not yet figured out the theological implications of this observation, but I’m sure it was more than ‘mess with Mark’s head’ day in downtown Frankfurt. At the very least it painted an interesting portrait of simplicity as it related to the urban landscape that we were experiencing.
• The Green Spaces – Overall, the two towns that we visited, Frankfurt and Mainz, seemed extremely clean and well kept. In Frankfurt Jeremy led us to a long and winding green space that was continuous in nature and seemed to circumnavigate 75 % of the city center… scattered all along the path were schools, playgrounds, soccer fields, and apartment buildings. As we walked along this path for an hour or more I couldn’t help but wonder what this are looked like in the early months of 1944.
• The Churches – Many elements of the ‘Church’ in Germany caught and held my attention, all of which I hope to post about at some point in the future. But, for the sake of brevity, my mind continues to stay focused on the buildings themselves. Of the five or six churches we visited, all had many things in common… size, ‘ornateness,’ attention to detail, and the mere number of times they were each constructed and re-constructed. It wasn’t the buildings themselves that were distracting to me, but rather the focused attention on rebuilding these structures three or four times over. I was extremely distracted by the thought of the recurring expenses incurred each time one of these building had to be rebuilt not to mention the human resources consumed by each rebuilding… and also, as my friend Kendall pointed out, the amount of financial resources needed for maintenance and reconditioning/refurbishing.
While ‘boxing up’ God (Ark… Tabernacle…Temple… Synagogue… House… Church, etc.) keeps us true to our Jewish and Christian traditions… we have, by my observation, in many instances gone above and beyond the call of the Kingdom and actively exploited the true nature of what it means to “dwell deeply in the House of God [love].” While “Structure-ism” and the ‘edifice-complex’ plague are deeply entrenched in western ecclesiology, they don’t hold a candle to the attention given to ecclesial buildings in Germany. Perhaps Jesus has a bit to teach us all about the nature of our religious structures and our unwillingness to break free of ‘Building Bondage.’
• The Architecture – The architecture was striking in that it was a mix of old and new… semi-ancient church buildings laid next to steel and glass structures that qualify for a spot on ‘Modern Marvels’
• The History – Coming from a country with a four centuries of developed, imperialized history… it was fascinating to see things alluded to that were a tad older than what we experience in America, at least from the 1700’s forward. While modern Germany doesn’t seem to hold an historical candle to what I experienced in China, but it does offer a unique snapshot of the Age of Enlightenment forward. Many of the buildings we visited held within them carved stones of identification from the 14,15, and 1600’s.
• Airport Security – As a word of advice… I do not personally recommend leaving an airtight, waterproof, stealth-looking video camera case at the security screening area in the Frankfurt airport.