Updated: Nov 12, 2021
Switzerland is the most expensive country in the world - and perhaps the most beautiful. Why then is there such a thirst amongst its people?
Florian Weicken, Westminster graduate and minister of the newly-established Zürich Presbyterian Church, writes:
O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water. So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, To see Your power and Your glory.
These verses from Ps 63 are a clear testimony to the Psalmist’s belief that the greatest good someone could long for, the most beautiful desire someone could have and the ultimate need of mankind is God himself – He is the summum bonum. There is no other like him. There is nothing that could compare to him. No one else can satisfy our yearning and longing. Nowhere else do we find beauty that would, even in the slightest, match his splendour and infinite glory. I hope we all agree. However, the challenge before us is: Do we really believe this? And therefore, do we have the same longing like the Psalmist? Do we refuse to be satisfied by anything else other than God? Is he our chief yearning and craving? But … how do we quench our thirst? How do we feed upon our Lord Jesus Christ? Where do we find springs of water and plenty of nourishment to rest our restless souls? Where do we find his power and glory? The Psalmist told us where this is: It is in God’s sanctuary. It is in the church, the holy gatherings of his Saints, the temple of God and the new Jerusalem. There he is in our midst. There he meets with his people. There he tells us to sit down in green pastures. There he feeds and nourishes us. There he gives himself to his people in Word and Sacrament. It is sad that we have almost lost this sense of awe in Switzerland when we come together to worship our God. If we would really understand this, the church in this country would be different. Let us pray for a Spirit wrought yearning after God in the church plant in Zurich and indeed in all our churches. It is at times heart-breaking to see how little longing there is after God and how the people don’t even know how much they are missing out on by not seeking that which is so much more worth their time than all worldly goods. Oh, that we would again say with all our hearts: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the LORD'”. While we know that the house of the LORD is not a building, but the gathering of the Saints, we are nevertheless thankful that in mid-May we received the keys for the cemetery chapel in Eichbühl, Altstetten which is a district of Zurich (see images below). It is in a convenient place as there are a lot of people who walk by and it is right next to recreational areas. We have already had several people that had passed by sitting into our worship services, with one man who even returned for a second time. Unfortunately, he immediately leaves as soon as I close the sermon and we have not yet had the opportunity to speak to him. We are now also able to worship morning and evening and enjoy some fellowship over coffee & tea after the morning service. Further fellowship is facilitated between the services as we open up our flat each Sunday for everyone who wants to enjoy some hospitality. These Sunday meals have been a blessing and make it easier for some people to come to both of our worship services – something that some people still find strange in Switzerland where I do not know of any other church that has regularly two services on a Sunday. Although, at the time of the Reformation there were two worship services in Zurich on the Lord’s Day – and one service almost every other day of the week! Perhaps the people then were longing more fervently for the Lord than we are today? We have also recently started to distribute invitation flyers on the street in Zurich. The first time we went, we had someone coming for our evening service the next Sunday! It was a man in his 30s who has also come a second time already. Please pray for him that he would come again. Furthermore, I have been thinking about preaching on the street for some time but never got around doing it. However, a few months back I got in touch with two other ministers (one of them is from the USA) who have started to preach once a week very brief sermons to people who sit near a river in the city centre for their lunch. By God’s grace I was able to preach a few times there as well and it is our intention to do this regularly in Summer when it is warm enough for people to sit outside and eat. While the preaching is only very brief it has the advantage that (compared to preaching on the street) almost all the people listen to what is being said. At times they are extremely focused on what is being preached although only a few take any tracts or invitations to our church services afterwards. Nevertheless, I am grateful to the Lord for this opportunity and would value prayer for this ministry. Almost every Sunday, we have had different visitors coming. One particular encouragement was the brother of one of our members in the core group. The brother, who is a self-proclaimed atheist, recently came along to find out what our member is up to, as he had heard from him about the church plant. To our great surprise, one of the following Sundays he also brought his girlfriend to church who also identifies as an atheist. One of our members had a very long conversation with her while I was talking to the brother who was wondering how the Apostles were saved even though they were sinners. Please pray for both of them as they are now back in Germany where they live. One of the biggest encouragements recently, however, was that we have welcomed our first two members into official membership. There are also several others who are in the process of becoming members and we look forward to some baptisms in the coming months. Over the next few weeks our wee flock will enjoy guest preachers while I attend a presbytery meeting in England, visit family in Scotland (Outer Hebrides) and attend a promising conference in Newcastle (https://www.presbyterianseminary.org.uk/conference). I was planning to be in the States this October but these plans fell through due to the remaining Covid related ban on Non-US citizens to enter the country. Hopefully, I will be able to travel in late Winter / early Spring to the States. Prayer points:
That each and every member of the church plant would have a deep longing to know God better!
May the Lord add many more people to us and that the many visitors we have had would return and become committed Christians.
While there are only a few weeks left this of year where it is warm enough, that the outdoor preaching would nonetheless yield a harvest.
There is the potential for a Ministerial Intern joining us on the ground in Zürich. The candidate is called Simeon and I have been in touch with him over the course of the last 6 months. He first came in contact with Presbyterianism at his home church in Zürich through an elder who came to faith in the Presbyterian Church of Australia. The elder has since returned to Australia but Simeon’s interest in Reformed theology has increased and although he already has a theological degree, he is considering to do some further studies with WPTS while being part of our church plant with his wife Ladina.
Please pray for me as a church planter to grow in my love towards God and my neighbours.
We are very grateful for your prayers. Nothing better could be done for us.