Dear First United Methodist Church,
The famed passion play of Oberammergau, Germany has its historical roots in a faithful response of its citizens to an outbreak of the bubonic plague in 1633. The citizens vowed that should the village be allowed to survive, the villagers would perform a play reenacting the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ every 10 years. As a result of this vow, the village suffered no more deaths due to the plague. They have continued the tradition to the present day, though the next play has been postponed to 2022 as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
In Europe, there were many other villages who held passion plays. They were called “passion plays” because they depicted the suffering (Latin: passio) of Jesus Christ. The passion play of Oberammergau is not unique. However, it is noteworthy for its longevity and continuity, being the longest-running play of its kind. Rev. Rob Fuquay details the history of the play in his book, The Passion Play: Living the Story of Christ’s Last Days.
I believe the God-honoring tradition of the Oberammergau Passion Play reveals how God will care for us if we live for his glory in the face of trial and tribulation. What does the play have to teach us following Jesus in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Here are some of my thoughts:
- The power of entrusting our lives to God through faith and commitment. The vow that the inhabitants of Oberammergau made in 1633 signifies the ways that we can honor God by following through on our commitments to our families, our friends, and our churches.
- The power of the Holy Spirit working through a community of faith. God brings good news not only to individuals, but also to communities. God does his best work, by inspiring and uplifting a group of people to a cause greater than themselves.
- Death never has the final word. The resurrection power of God raised Jesus from the dead on the third day, and the same power brought protection and vitality to the village of Oberammergau. God’s resurrection power will lead us to a better future beyond the COVID-19 pandemic and thereafter, into eternity.
As we consider these and other lessons from the powerful testimony of the village of Oberammergau in the Sunday messages during Lent, may we receive hope that better days await us in the light of the Lord.
Grace and Peace,