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Sabbath Day – Germany II: Berlin

March 5, 2016


My Sabbath Day yesterday was largely spent in NYC with members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers along with their student allies, people of faith, and consumers of conscience as a nationwide consumer boycott of Wendy’s was announced. Members of my congregation, my community, and my presbytery were well represented. My wife and I took our nine-year old son out of school so that he could participate. These are formative experiences as a citizen that we do not want him to miss. As a bonus, he got to hang out with other activist children his age. (Notice in the photo above our good friend, The Rev. Dr. Mark Koenig, Director of the Presbyterian Office at the United Nations. I hadn’t notice him when I took the photo, but bumped into him moments later.) In the photo below, the kids are busy working the line, handing out literature about the boycott, and talking with people about farmworker justice. Between them, these two handed out well over 200 boycott announcements. So very proud of them. #boycottwendys


A few days ago I wrote a pre-Sabbath post about Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s from the Tegel Prison in Germany during the Second World War. Moving forward in time with my reading of multi-national literature, but lingering in 20th century Germany, my nine year old son introduced my to A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielsen. Nielsen lives in Utah, and writes fantasy and adventure primarily for children.


A Night Divided is Nielsen’s first venture into historical fiction. Set in East Germany in the weeks that follow the construction of the Berlin Wall, the story follows twelve year old Gerta and her brother Fritz in East Germany, as they attempt to be reunited with their family in the West. As I observed my son reading this book on our couch, his body would occasionally squirm and he would shout out “THERE IS A LOT OF TENSION IN THIS BOOK!” Which made me want to share the experience with him. So, over two evenings, after putting him to bed, I raced to catch up (and lost a few hours of sleep). It was definitely a page-turning story of suspense, and an introduction to the how the Cold War was experienced in the East. Perfect for his age.


I round out my literary visit to Germany this week with a selection of poets, including Bertolt Brecht; Gunter Grass, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1999; Nelly Sachs, pictured below, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1966; and Paul Celan, whose parents were killed in the Nazi camps, and who spent significant time in prison himself.

Nelly S

The labor camps, death camps, open air prisons and lives of exile are never far from 20th century German literature. Nelly Sachs poem, “Chorus of the Rescued” includes the haunting line…

“Our bodies continue to lament”

With prayers for all who mourn, resist, struggle and survive, fighting always for a better future and a possible present … a blessed Sabbath.


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