Dear Members and Friends,
I was visiting Berlin as part of a German partnership experience. This was soon after German reunification. My hosts were former East Germans. I was taken on a walking tour of a part of Berlin known as Museum Island, which had been under East German control. As we walked, rising before us was a church known as the Berlin Dom. The current structure had been built to be the Protestant counterpart to the Vatican. Today, there is no comparison. WWII saw extensive destruction. Some restoration had taken place under the East Germans; now more was happening.
We walked around the Berliner Dom to one of the little used side entrances, specifically a door called “The Door of Reconciliation.” What is significant about this door and why it made such a profound impact on my experience is that the door pictures the Parable of the Lost Son in the context of Nazi Germany. Imaged throughout the door are the horrors, excesses, abuses of Nazi Germany. In its center is the prodigal, the Nazi, kneeling in humility and contrition before the Father.
As I spoke with my host, he talked about the controversy behind this particular door. Part was the modern sculpture on an otherwise historic building. A larger part was the message of the door itself. When I went searching for online images, I could find little reference to the door.
Why do I write about a door on a cathedral in a foreign city? The context of the door is about inclusion. In this case, inclusion of individuals who had done terrible wrong, and yet the message was still one of “Come, you too can be loved.” Secondly, I saw the door as I walked by the building. I had passed up entering the church through the main doors, because there was a fee (you can enter the Dom free only for worship). In a moment of stubbornness, I refused to enter the church because of that fee (this same stubbornness has appeared at other churches—Westminster Cathedral, Canterbury Cathedral which charge fees for entrance). I’ll give a donation, but not pay a fee—go figure. Ultimately I entered the Berliner Dom through the doors of Reconciliation, but that is another story.
The Doors of Reconciliation exist as a public statement, an invitation for any and all that God’s radical and forgiving love exists inside this building. Thinking about ourselves, how are we at sending a message about God’s radical love to the outside community?
Remember, from the outside most church buildings look alike. It is only from a few sign boards, a name, a piece of art that a more inclusionary or dramatic message may be sent. The community outside the doors of our church makes the assumption that one church is like any other and in recent years the Christian Right has defined church, one that often communicates a message of inflexibility, judgment, and exclusion.
How are we doing at sending a visible message of welcome, not only to those who may need God’s forgiving love because of past wrongs AND for those who have been wrongly excluded because of societal judgment, or worse yet wrong judgment in the name of Jesus/God?
Are we willing to have a visible, radical message — one that could even be controversial?
We have a radical message of inclusion. “No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here!”
Love, Grace, Peace;