Within days of arriving in Germany [for my internship a few years ago], my supervisor Matthias Weiß had Dawn and I holding a plate in front of us and looking over the edge of it for a photo that was placed on the cover of the church’s next newsletter and was also used for the local newspapers. The title? “Ein Blick über den Tellerand” is literally translated as “a view or look beyond the edge of the plate.” But the literal translation says very little about the actual meaning of the saying.
The point of my wife and I holding a plate in front of us in this new strange place was to say – this is different; this is not the same old thing that we are accustomed to; this is an “opportunity” to learn something new, to see things differently – to grow, to challenge ourselves, to – yes – change. The idea behind the saying is to not simply look onto your plate (or current situation) and see what it contains, but also to take a new perspective and see what it looks like from the plate looking outward – to see things from another, perhaps not yet considered point of view.
As I write this, I find myself sitting in a parsonage for the church at which I did my internship here in Germany. In this very spot where I am sitting, just hours ago, three familiar faces at Grace Lutheran Church — Bobbie Cameron, Martha Sienkiewicz and Barbara Lake — all sat having coffee and discussing a different perspective – the experience of a worship service in a foreign country. Perhaps Grace Lutheran Church in West Springfield, Massachusetts has never thought of itself as a globally connected church, but with this visit of only a couple of people, the face of Grace Lutheran Church is changing. It now includes friends from half-way around the world in a place that probably never considered itself as a globally connected church – and yet, we are connected.
Change is one of those things that never changes. Even when we resist it, things around us change and we cannot help but be affected by our surroundings, our environment, our culture, etc. We are a people called to change, called to be changed by the love of Christ in our lives; and called to change others by that love. As we change, grow, challenge ourselves and support each other in change, it is important to remember that the love of Christ not only calls us to change, grow, etc., but also to share that love with each other in community. And who knows? When we look beyond the edge of our plate, we may just see Christ looking back at us, urging us to find new ways of living, loving and learning to be Christ in this world.
Pastor Derek Harman
(From Bremen, Germany)