We’re not very good at holidays where you just lie in the sun. We like to get out and see and do stuff. Like take the cable car up der Zugspitze, at just under 3000m the highest mountain in Germany. Or savour an evening of classical music in the high chamber of the Fortress overlooking Salzberg.
But let me tell you about another location we visited this time, less spectacular perhaps but no less interesting.
In 1633 this village was already suffering the ravages of the 30 Year War when Plague broke out. Eighty citizens died in one month. The town council met and made a formal pledge to stage a ‘Passion Play’ depicting the sufferings of Christ every ten years. The Black Death claimed no more victims and for almost 400 years the people of Oberammergau have kept their promise. In 2010 around half a million people travelled from all over the world to this mountain village to witness this mediaeval based, semi-open air drama.
I’m impressed at the human aspect, of the commitment of a community honouring the vow of their forefathers so many generations later. But it also reminds me of a promise God made to King Solomon at the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem over nine centuries BC:
‘If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.’ (2 Chronicles 7 v 14)
A community that commits themselves to honour God will receive grace and blessing. A timely lesson for every place and generation!
Things had changed by the first century AD. Israel was no longer an independent state. While the seemingly invincible Romans were calling the shots, God’s ‘kingdom’ continued to grow but in a new, unexpected way as throngs of non-Jewish people decided to trust and follow Jesus the Christ.
While the Church cannot impose religious belief on society, the Apostle Paul encourages believers to be good citizens and exert a godly influence any way we can, not least by praying for our communities. He writes, ‘I urge then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live quiet and peaceful lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good and pleases God our Saviour Who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.’ (1 Timothy 2 v 2-4)
The Black Death may not be a 21st century problem but we’re plagued with many another. We urgently need fresh Divine grace and mercy today! We don’t need another Passion Play, just people who will earnestly pray and seek to honour God and his Son.