How Deep and Long and Wide

How Deep and Long and Wide

On Sunday morning, February 5, 2012, I let my dog outside and noticed a jet exhaust line stretched out as far as the east is from the west. Other planes in the air had short exhaust tails that dissipated quickly. I thought—what kind of plane makes that long a line? A half hour later, the line was still there.

Later in the day, another jet line crossed the valley—this time north to south. Both lines, the same day. Such a curious thing! I wondered about it, because that particular day, I was studying Zechariah 2. I also read Matthew Henry’s Commentary to help me understand such a mystical Old Testament book. What struck me was this:

Hand holds a thick rope. On a white background.Zechariah 2: 1-4, talks about a man with a measuring line in his hands…

Then I looked up, and there before me was a man with a measuring line in his hand. I asked, “Where are you going?” He answered me, “To measure Jerusalem, to find out how wide and how long it is.” While the angel who was speaking to me was leaving, another angel came to meet him and said to him: “Run, tell that young man, ‘Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of people and animals in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will be its glory within.’” (NIV)

Jesus, the Master Builder, is building room for multitudes. He is drawing up the plans and measuring out the perimeters for the “church”—how long and how wide (From Matthew Henry’s Commentary). The jet streams I saw in the sky completely stirred me. Perhaps God was saying something over our valley through these verses.

This background information has a purpose. Stay with me…wait for it!

Corpus Christi procession by Carl Emil Doepler

Corpus Christi procession by Carl Emil Doepler

A few weeks ago, I was traveling by boat up the Danube River with my father, my sister Nancy, my brother Rick, and his wife Sheryl. On a seemingly ordinary Thursday, we stopped in Passau Germany, a town of 50,000. The tour director announced that all the stores would be closed due to a religious holiday called Corpus Christi.

Corpus Christi, Latin for “Body of Christ,” is a minor feast of the Catholic Church, but for many European believers it is an annual event. It celebrates Communion, reflecting The Last Supper and identifying the belief in Christ’s bodily death and resurrection. Holy Week is generally a time of repentance and sorrow, pondering the last days of Christ. Corpus Christi was instituted to be a feast of celebration.


Birch saplings lined the streets

Rick, Sheryl, and I decided to venture into town to see what was happening. Street after street was lined with birch saplings. It had the feel of Palm Sunday though the celebration is 60 days after Easter.

Banner of flowers "Jesus our center"

Banner of flowers
“Jesus our center”

On the town square, a banner made entirely of flowers said, “Jesus our center.”

Then all at once, we heard the thunderous peal of eight giant bells.

It was heart-stopping.

Next came numerous processions of people, young and old, male and female, led by clergy down various streets. Some carried birch branches. The priest declared something, and the people responded in liturgical style as they walked. You’d have to know German.


Inside the cathedral

Eventually the various processions formed into one long stream that strolled toward Saint Stephen’s Cathedral on the town’s square, a masterpiece of Italian Baroque style. The church has long held the largest church pipe organ in the world until recently.

Rick, Sheryl, and I followed the others into the church at the end of the line. We couldn’t resist.


The famous organ

The congregation sang boldly while the organ, made of 17,774 pipes, filled the church with a breathtaking sound. To experience what this was like, click here.

After the hymn, a benediction was given and eventually everyone filed out. Apparently the people had gone to mass in their own individual churches prior to the procession.

I saw many smiling faces.

Up at the very front of the cathedral, a large altar carved by Josef Henselmann depicts the stoning of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr who was also a Jew. The sculpture was placed in the church in 1953. Our guide said that people in his town needed to remember this story in Acts in light of WWII and the mass killing of Jews…that they would rid themselves completely of the wickedness that overtook their hearts. To see an excellent photo of this altar by Adrian D. Smith, click here.

Although most of Europe was profoundly impacted by the war, it is worth mentioning that Hitler as a young child lived with his family in Passau for several years. And during the WWII, Passau housed three sub-camps of the infamous Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp. The horror was in their backyard.

The measuring line over Passau!

The measuring line over Passau!

While I was just an observer, I’d say some true repentance had happened in that place in the 70 years since. You could see the joy…you could feel the presence of God. They were celebrating that Jesus died and rose on their behalf.

And that means forgiveness from God is real.

For anyone who has looked into the darkness of the human heart, their own heart—forgiveness of sin means everything.

I went back out on the square and watched a jet make a line overhead. “Yes!” I said out loud. Jesus, the man with the measuring line has stretched it out over Passau. Though many have said that Europe is spiritually dark or even dead, in this community I found otherwise. The perimeters of the Church will be long and wide, because the love of God is so unfathomably deep.


  1. Craig Hollenbach :

    Thanks, Susan. We leave this evening for Germany to spend 3 weeks with my son and daughter-in-law, serving with Young Life Military Ministry. We will meet a German I occasionally work with, who this year told me about Corpus Christi the day it was celebrated. We will meet outside of Munich. Perhaps we will also find spiritual birth there? -craig

    • Craig! How nice to hear from you. God’s people are everywhere though sometimes more hidden! I was really moved to happen upon the Corpus Christi event in Germany and then see God’s confirming sign in the sky. The jet line was and is a symbol of shared meaning that God added to my vocabulary with Him. He wants to build prophetic language with each of us,so that we will not only see, but discern—not only listen, but really hear the stirring of His Spirit. Bless you for your continued efforts with Young Life! Susan

  2. Thank you for this. At a time where I am finding so many Christians up in arms in total unrest it’s nice to be reminded God is on the move in a sovereign quiet way waiting for us to open our hearts to Him.

  3. Maria Emilia :

    It was quite inspring to read it , specially during a season in my life living in Europe. Thanks for that Susan.

  4. Hey! Great job–and a wonderful coda to your piece on Budapest…I think we should pray for forgiveness for our national sin of slavery. How much damage that has done and continues to do… If God can forgive the Germans, surely He can forgive us, too.
    And…glad you are feeling better.