By Kathryn Eckler
Vienna is constantly on the move. From the bustling airport to the trains that cross the 23 districts of the former imperial capitol —the city never stops. In my first days here, I was taken back with the necessity of movement, change, and progress.
As I attended my first set of Sunday worship services here, I experienced God through the eyes of brothers and sisters who spoke Spanish, Farsi, German, and English (for a grand total of three services). Each service had different ways of leading worship, praying, and engaging with scripture. Throughout the day, it was challenging to find the “God of my childhood,” because I was experiencing God through many different cultures and traditions.
In pondering who God is to me, I was drawn to two passages of scripture. I first considered Deuteronomy 6: 4-5, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” This Old Testament commandment was used to guide and comfort the hearts of the Israelites.
These same verses are also presented in the New Testament. In Matthew 22: 34-38, Jesus quotes the prior verses from Deuteronomy to the teachers of the law. Jesus presents the Love of God as the greatest commandment. Even though I was challenged by the different ways of approaching God, I found that love is similar across time and space.
But “loving God” is not identical amongst the nations – nor does it have to be. Loving the “Lord your God” requires that one must have a personal understanding of God. For me, this understanding has been gained through main hours of prayer, study, and simply contemplating the nature of God. My understanding has been challenged by the perspectives of academia, friends, and those who I have met during my short time here in Vienna, Austria.
I know that I will be challenged to see God through many different cultural lenses. As my work continues during the coming weeks, I know that I will meditate on my personal understanding of God. Whether I am working on a construction project, or helping with a church service, I hope that I will return home with a greater understanding of how others relate to and love God.
Loving God requires a certain stillness; Loving God requires the deafening tone of silence. As the city moves around me, as I worship in different languages, as I meet people from around the globe, I seek out the common cord of Christian love. I take this love and bask in the transient yet unmovable commandment, “Love the Lord your God.”
Kathryn enjoys spending time on her family farm, reading, hiking, and exploring all varieties of libraries and museums.