Pursuing the past, finding the future

Pursuing the past, finding the future

We drove southeast from Zürich toward the birthplace of Maria Tschanen Zimmerman, my great-grandmother. I’d hoped to find family tombstones, especially for her sister, Anna. My grandmother’s only expressed wish, unfulfilled, had been to visit Switzerland. After my mother’s death this year, I felt the need to link back to her grandmother’s land, especially since it is my middle daughter’s home, and the birthplace of two of my grandchildren.

By the time we reached Wohlen bei Bern, early winter darkness forced us to pull out flashlights. We stomped around the graveyard at Die Pfarrkirche, but all we found were fairly recent graves.

church at Wohlen bei Bern
church at Wohlen bei Bern

Inside the church, the boys and I were fascinated with the manger scene, loaded with woolly sheep.

Manger scene in church at Wohlen bei Bern, Switzerland
Manger scene in church at Wohlen bei Bern, Switzerland

We read that the church was founded in 1320.

Wohlen bei Bern Die Pfarrkirche
inside church looking toward the back
Ten Commandments from 1681
Ten Commandments from 1681

So why no old gravestones, the kind my older brother and his wife found throughout the U.S. to establish our family tree on our father’s side?

In a country rich with history, even pre-dating the Romans, it didn’t make sense.

After thoroughly covering every part of the cemetery, I stopped to listen to my daughter explain that, according to Swiss law, any graves over 100 years old are removed to make space for new ones. (No, we don’t know what happens to them.)

Finally, we chose a young cinnamon rose-bush near some Zimmerman and Tschanen graves to disperse a portion of Mom’s ashes. (Mom had been an avid gardener.)

Cinnamon Rose bush in Wohlen bei Bern churchyard
Cinnamon Rose bush in Wohlen bei Bern churchyard

Tracey and the boys sang “I Am His Child,” which Jeremy and Kyle had sung to Mom on their last visit in April – and to which she had responded with deep emotion and tears. (They also sang it at the reception after her Requiem.)

For days I was frustrated that I had not been able to find my ancestors’ tombs.

Yesterday, understanding dawned, and I sighed in relief.

empty manger
empty manger

Just like the empty manger, the empty cross, and the empty tomb where they had laid the body of Jesus, someday all our tombs will be empty.
 
The only thing that really matters is where we go from there.

“My purpose in writing is simply this: that you who believe in God’s Son will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the reality and not the illusion. And how bold and free we then become in his presence.” I John 5:13-14

 

sunrise over Schindellegi
sunrise over Schindellegi, Switzerland

Below is a partial clip of Jeremy and Kyle singing “I Am His Child” at the reception.

I Never Hear a Sound

church in Switzerland ©Jack H Thompson
church in Switzerland
©Jack H Thompson
church in the Alps
church in the Alps

Beautiful, historic churches tower over villages and grace city corners in Switzerland, where I’ve been visiting Middle Daughter and her family. The old buildings have lovely stained glass windows, intricate stonework and impressive construction.

church above vineyard
church above vineyard
©Jack H Thompson

church spire over lake
church spire over lake
©Jack H Thompson

grill work and altar
grill work and altar
©Jack H Thompson
ceiling frescoes
ceiling frescoes
©Jack H Thompson

However, though the country celebrates numerous Christian holidays, many traditional churches attract only a handful of regular attendees.

church bells
church bells
©Jack H Thompson

Church bells toll throughout the day, calling the faithful, but life goes on as if no one hears.

family by lake ©Jack H Thompson
family by lake ©Jack H Thompson

Here’s a video clip I took on a hill, looking down into the valleys.
(Turn up your volume to hear the bells from two different villages. Click on the arrow to start the video. It’s pretty wobbly, but it gives you a sense of the way the bells dominate the countryside. If you can’t see it on your phone or tablet, you may have to change a setting.)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/fl7/12424359725/

The next day, walking through an alpine village, I stopped to listen to the peal of the bells. Busy shoppers hustled by me, school children giggled on the way home from school, and skiers stomped from the shuttle bus.


children from school
children from school
©Jack H Thompson

As often happens, a song began to play in my mind, this one about how Jesus sings all around us, and we never hear a sound. (Click on the arrow.)

How often do we rush through our day, disregarding the call of the Holy Spirit, the yearning of our God to engage us?

walking away ©Jack H Thompson
walking away ©Jack H Thompson

While we strive, he sings to us in the beauty of creation.

swan ©Jack H Thompson
swan ©Jack H Thompson
tree on snowy landscape ©Jack H Thompson
tree on snowy landscape ©Jack H Thompson

moss and stream ©Jack H Thompson
moss and stream ©Jack H Thompson

“God’s glory is on tour in the skies, God-craft on exhibit across the horizon. Madame Day holds classes every morning, Professor Night lectures each evening.” Psalm 19:1-2 The Message

While we struggle with loneliness, he speaks through the warmth of friendship.

Caitlin kisses
Caitlin kisses

friends walking in woods ©Jack H Thompson
friends walking in woods ©Jack H Thompson

MD and friend ©Jack H Thompson
MD and friend ©Jack H Thompson

And while we scheme and work to make life conform to what we desire, he whispers to our hearts.

What compels us to push on, ignoring that voice, avoiding that face?

Are we trying to do it right? Make it right? Get everything under control so we can bring our to-do list, all checked and fulfilled, to gain rights to his presence?

Do we hide from his gaze, like Adam and Eve in the garden when they became aware of what their choice cost them, unable to bear those penetrating eyes?

Are we turning away out of anger, shaking our fist at a God who would allow evil and pain such as we, or a loved one, have suffered?

Or are we so competent, so intent on doing it our way that this Creator God I speak of is irrelevant?

profile ©Jack H Thompson
profile ©Jack H Thompson

Whatever the source of our discontent, he continues to pursue us, dancing over us, singing to our hearts, seeking us,

    offering the only gift we truly yearn for, though we often mistake our need for something far less.

With open arms and eyes full of love, he calls our name.

    He offers all-encompassing forgiveness that we do not deserve and cannot earn, which cost him everything.

And with that forgiveness, comes hope. And with that hope, comes faith to trust that he is great and he is good.

To trust his love.

If we stop.

And listen.

“Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches.” Revelation 2:29 The Message