After we finished our workshops on Wednesday, we went to a neighboring town to visit a “Wooden Church”.
Our guide explained to us that the Lutheran religious community went to the government asking for permission to build their churches. They didn’t really want to allow it, as it did not align with the current mainstream religion, but they felt pressured to in order to maintain military support from these people. The edict that ensued had so many articles that it was clear they intended to make it pretty much impossible to build. For example: any of these churches built had to be completed within 1 year (in the 1600’s!), it couldn’t be built inside the town limits, the entrances couldn’t face the towns, it couldn’t have a steeple or otherwise look like a church, no more than two per county would be allowed…there were something like 73 restrictive articles in total-and the most amazing one: it had to be built entirely of wood. NO other materials were allowed-no metal means that not a single nail could be used in the creation of these churches. Even the chandeliers were wood plated.
These heavy restrictions were intended to create an impossible situation-yet they built many of them! They also were intended to create buildings that the religious leaders assumed would not stand the test of time-they expected them to be quite temporary structures…and yet here they stand, 300+ years later. I mean, it’s just an amazing story of persistence of these people under religious persecution, just so that they could worship God.
Consider the fact that, after pleading to the very religious leaders who had oppressed them, these people showcased incredible creativity and determination, in order to design these buildings to be constructed without what I will just call “materials of convenience”, and then spent numerous hours erecting them. As if that’s not enough, here’s the real kicker: once the buildings were completed, the people would walk somewhere in the ballpark of 4 hours (each way), to these Wooden Churches for their Sunday services…I mean, the commitment is tangible.
In the US, we live in a culture that can’t typically identify with the kind of genuine struggle these people experienced. They believed so greatly that having the ability to gather their community to worship God, to honor God, was important enough to jump through some pretty serious hoops for. To endure troubles and trials and attacks…We generally have the freedom to worship as we desire. How much do we take that for granted!? It causes me ask myself, “How many times have I given up on (or ignored entirely) something Christ has asked of me, because it was inconvenient or ‘too hard’?” I’m a little ashamed at my answer to that question. How many times have I groaned, rolled over & silenced my alarm on a Sunday morning, choosing not to devote that one hour to God, but rather to sleep in? How many times have I said, “I’ll catch up on my Bible Study later. Today I have to finish this and that…” How many times have I ignored an opportunity for service, because it was inconvenient or it made me a little uncomfortable?
When you think about that, maybe, like me, it causes you a little discomfort because your perspective has also been very near-sighted. But keeping a long term (far-sighted) perspective; truly understanding God’s eternal rewards to us, for our commitment to Him through our trials and our joy, is worth far more than anything this world can offer.
When you encourage yourself to have that kind of a mindset, doesn’t silencing that alarm clock seem a little selfish and privileged? For me, it does. This trip seems to be continually refining my perspective, and for that I am eternally grateful.