Thoughts for 28th June
‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long’ (Psalm 23 v 6: NRSV)
‘Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life’. (Psalm 23 v 6: The Message)
Today, Keith and I should have been setting off on our journey to visit the Oberammergau Passion Play in Bavaria. It would have been our second experience of the play as we visited in 2010.
For those of you unfamiliar with Oberammergau’s history, the play was first performed in 1634. The Black Death (plague) reached the village in 1632 and by October 1633, 80 villagers had died so the parish elders made a vow to perform a passion play every 10 years. The sixth presentation was moved forward to 1680 and until this year the only time the play was cancelled was in 1940, for obvious reasons. The 42nd, 2020 presentation is now planned for 2022.
Today almost all villagers are involved in the play, as actors, musicians, costume or set preparers, providers of hospitality to the thousands of visitors (dare I say pilgrims) who come to witness this portrayal of the last week of Jesus’ life. In 2010 I recall the crowd of around 4,500 leaving the auditorium in total silence at the events that had been played out, and many (including myself) were weeping at what we had witnessed.
For just as when we present Easter Cracked to our local Year 6 children, the final short scene proclaims the resurrection. The music swells with the final chorus ‘Praise to you, who on the altar of the cross offered your life for us! You have purchased us for yourself, for you alone we live and die! Hallelujah! Praise, honour, adoration, power and majesty be yours for ever and ever.’
We continue to live through another type of plague, a deadly pandemic that has infected millions in every country on this planet, and claimed the lives of thousands of people worldwide, and we mourn with each family’s loss. This plague has changed the way we live our lives.
But in all of its ravages there has been evidence of God’s love and visions of hope – the kindness of strangers; help from those we barely knew who have now become friends; better quality air; better ability to notice the beauty of God’s creation and hear birds sing more clearly; more time to spend with the God who cares for us and a recognition that although we miss meeting with church friends, this doesn’t have to be in a building. We have all felt God’s love in our homes, connected through the wonders of the telephone and internet, and through those who post messages through ‘snail mail’.
Rev. Andrew White (2015: 193) in his book ‘My Journey so far’ says this, referring to his Anglican church in Baghdad as he was forced to leave it during the advance of ISIS: ‘There is much we need to discuss, not least the long-term future of the church. In truth we don’t know what the long-term prospects are. We don’t know what will be happening in one month’s time, let alone a year or more. Will there even be an Iraq as we know it?’
The same could be said of the situation we are currently experiencing. ‘Will there be a church as we know it?’ And I think the answer is probably ‘No – church is and will continue to be different’. Each age has had to adapt. Community is different. But God’s church, his witness on earth, is not the bricks and mortar. It’s His people, the flesh and blood that keeps us in touch with each other, finding new ways to hear God’s voice and to be His witnesses; to rediscover those things that are of real importance. Faith has been tested and challenged, but we will come through, for as Anna Letitia Waring said in her hymn based on Psalm 23, we are ‘In Heavenly love abiding’.
Read it through: STf 736 or listen here: https:www.youtube.com/watch?v=0sd7GDDSsvk
Lord, we thank you that we can ‘abide in you’ and know your love, compassion and kindness. Our hope and salvation are in you. In the silence of our prayers we ask your blessing on all those we love and those desperately in need at this time. In the name of our beloved Lord Jesus, Amen.