Over the last few months I’ve done my best to introduce you to my new village with stops at city hall (where, for tax reasons, I proudly declared my Protestant faith), the garage (with the impressive wine chiller in the waiting area), and most recently the recycling center (which, I now know, should not be visited on Saturday morning, if at all possible).
Today’s destination is the Brockenhaus!
To my English-speaking friends, this might sound like a sad and depressing pastoral visit, but the broken home in Switzerland – known by most people simply as “the Brocki” – is actually a second-hand or re-sale shop. When people move and, yes, break up their households, many of these people give their unwanted household items to the Brocki for resale. Every village seems to have one.
And since the Swiss themselves – cultural stereotype alert – prefer to buy items that are new and expensive, the Brocki is frequented mostly by expats like me, looking to buy a chair for the balcony, or a set of wine glasses, or just about anything else imaginable.
I am not a shopper, so visits to the Brocki have been painful, but even I can grudgingly admit that we have found some great deals there. And maybe the best part is that we have contributed to the work of non-profits in our area.
In 1904, on the initiative of local merchant Dr. h.c. Arnold Scherrer, the first Brocki in Zurich was established, with a Protestant minister, a Catholic priest, and a Jewish rabbi on its board of directors. The actual history of the Brocki is somewhat murky to me, but at some point the Salvation Army also became involved, and so some Brockis today are non-profit and charitably run, while others aren’t.
As a preacher I can find spiritual significance just about anywhere, including the Brocki.
By nature I am not a saver. When something is old or broken or has otherwise outlived its usefulness, my first inclination is to throw it away. I tend not to be sentimental about stuff. Please don’t judge.
Fortunately, I believe in a God who by nature is very much a saver, who is strangely attracted to the old and broken and useless, and who can find a new and dazzling use for just about anything. In fact, I like to think of the church, at its best, as a Brocki, not because anyone is for sale, but because the people there are no longer new and in pristine condition, but nevertheless have worth and value and purpose.
I look forward to going to the Brocki on Sunday – not the one I can see from my window, which will be closed, but the one in Zurich with the pulpit in front and the organ in back. We’ll be remembering the worthiness in us that only God can see.