Last time I was in Austria, God drew my attention to the community of Graz. I couldn’t figure out what He wanted me to see there, but it was quite clear that there is a treasure in that area.
I asked Serina if she knew anyone there, and it turns out she most certainly did. (What else would you expect from an Exhorter, right?!). She pinged her friend, Ingrid, who promptly put together a house meeting in Graz.
I flew into Frankfurt and took a short hop to Graz, arriving Saturday night. We went directly to the home where Ingrid’s friends were gathered. There was an impressive cross section of people from various backgrounds.
Ingo led off with an impressive grasp of national and regional history, then I queried them about sundry facets of the culture.
It was clear by the end of the evening that the state of Steiermark is Servant land. They are known as the Green Heart of Austria as they have preserved more forest land than any other state, and they have a heart for the fecundity of the land. As can be expected, they are famous for food and for inclusion of those who come from outside.
This is a marked characteristic of the Servant versus the Giver gift. I remember the first time I went to Hilton Head, South Carolina and tasted their Giver gift, I felt the pain of the double bind regarding tourists.
The Giver economic culture needs the tourist income, but the locals find themselves deeply resenting the outsiders who come in and run rough shod over their community. That love/hate relationship with the tourist industry is quite standard around the world in Giver communities.
By contrast, the residents of Steiermark enjoy engaging with those from outside the region and helping them feel at home.
There were three remarkable facets of the Steiermark state that captured our awe that evening.
First is their state coat of arms. Click here to see the picture. I love the fact that long ago, before high population produced discussions about deforestation and the green culture, they accurately understood the essence of their region by using a green background.
In heraldry, vert represents freedom, joy and loyalty in love – highly appropriate for Steiermark as a Servant state.
Then there is a silver panther, rampant. The oral tradition is that the panther went into a cave and slept for three days. When it came out, there was a fragrance coming out of its mouth that attracted all of the other animals to it, and they lived in peace. The modern secular perspective is that it is fire coming out of the panther’s mouth, but the older tradition is fragrance.
This is a magnificent picture of Christ. It takes me back to what Father told me about the Mercy season – people would smell the fragrance of Christ.
The second thing that emerged from Ingo’s masterful presentation of their history is the speed with which the region has recognized the things of God. The hardest changes are from God’s order to God’s new order. Frequently it is the Servant who leads the way.
We see this in Nathanael. He was a seasoned old man who was not easily swayed by every new religious fad that floated by. He was brisk in devaluing the patently absurd rumor that there was a Messiah from Nazareth.
Nonetheless, when Christ engaged him directly with a word of knowledge, Nathanael became wholeheartedly committed to Christ. This is vintage Servant – recognizing the truth and embracing it with intensity, instantly.
Thus when the Protestant Reformation swept down from Germany into Austria, the Steiermark region embraced it first, and embraced it intensely. Centuries later, when the Charismatic renewal came to the Catholic stream of the faith, Steiermark once again lead the way in embracing this new revelation of the nature of God.
This segued into the third major discovery about the region. They gloriously demonstrate a gifting for defending their boundaries. When the Turks invaded Europe, Austria was the high water mark of their invasion. While Vienna was the hoped for prize, it was the warriors from Steiermark who rose to the occasion, established a battle line and were able to repulse the invaders.
More recently the Dalai Lama came, overtly planning to do a large ceremony to covenant the region to his spiritual masters. The believers in Steiermark pushed back hard. He came and was only able to do a small event, and when he attempted to return a second year, they completely blocked him, and he gave up trying to annex Austria to his domain.
We spent some good time savoring how the region was walking in their birthright already. The team was very excited to have language for who they are.
We envisioned each prayer group or church in the region adopting some sector of the society, such as farming, or government or health care and using their authority to protect the boundaries of those sectors from demonic assault.
Vision was high when I left. It was a splendid evening. Helmut is an elder in the nation, highly respected in the national Round Table of pastors. He is excited about sharing their identity with the other leaders next time they meet.
I was honored to spend an evening with this wonderful group of people. I wonder what the future holds.
Copyright September 2015 by Arthur Burk
From Loig, Austria