The divine source of the apostle's message

Posted Aug 5, 2022

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Daily Scripture

FRIDAY 8.5.22 1 Thessalonians 1:4-6

4 Brothers and sisters, you are loved by God, and we know that he has chosen you. 5 We know this because our good news didn’t come to you just in speech but also with power and the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know as well as we do what kind of people we were when we were with you, which was for your sake. 6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord when you accepted the message that came from the Holy Spirit with joy in spite of great suffering.

Reflection Questions

Most of us have a built-in resistance to change. Too often, it takes a health crisis to get us to change exercise or eating patterns, or a relationship struggle to make us willing to work on our emotional health. The Bible said the Holy Spirit sometimes gives us a forceful inner nudge, one that produces a deep personal sense of conviction, whether we’ve done something wrong or need a closer walk with God.

  • John Wesley, Methodism’s founder, used the imposing term “prevenient grace” to say the Holy Spirit is active in every person before we accept Jesus. Paul didn’t use the word “prevenient,” but he believed the same thing. He told the believers in Thessalonica that the Holy Spirit had prepared them to respond to the good news the Spirit led him to preach. In what ways (if any) can you see that God was preparing your heart even before you openly became a disciple?
  • The believers in Thessalonica accepted the good news about Jesus “with joy in spite of great suffering.” In the last few years, we’ve lived through the fears and limitations of a global pandemic, an ugly war in Europe, and severe economic stress. We may all have a clearer sense of what suffering feels like. What habits or practices have you learned to link you with the Holy Spirit’s strength so you can have inner joy and resilience, and not let any challenges crush you?

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you don’t always fit my human expectations, but you are alive and active even in this broken, troubled world. Let my life reflect yours in words, but even more importantly in actions. Amen.

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Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe helps facilitate Journey 101 “Loving God” classes, guides a 7th-grade Sunday school class, is a member of a small group and a men’s group, and serves on the curriculum team.

Since Doris & I just experienced Resurrection’s trip to Germany to see The Oberammergau Passionsspiele with 94 of our newest friends, today’s GPS will be a bit off-topic. (Thanks for the warning, though I doubt anyone would have even noticed the difference – Editor.)

The performance of The Passion Play has been on our bucket list for 22 years. Back in 2000, we were visiting McPherson to see Doris’ mother, Norma, shortly after she had returned from Oberammergau. She was enthusiastically chatting about a performance of the Passion Play she had seen. Huh. A life-long Christian attends a re-enactment of a story she had heard & read hundreds of times & says it was inspiring & faith-changing. As we returned to Kansas City, Doris & I made a note to add this to our personal list of things we wanted to do for our own faithwalk.

Aside: Some people have expansive & impressive bucket lists. Unfortunately, my list is a little pail in comparison.

The play was awesome. It was an amazing evening that was alternately inspiring, shocking, & moving. Without spoiling the ending, here are 3 tidbits that I found interesting:

  • The portrayal of Judas as a believer who was duped into thinking he was being helpful was very sympathetic & sad.
  • Joseph of Arimathea was shown as a vocal & fierce advocate for Jesus during His trial.
  • I was intrigued by the portrayal of Jesus sharing the Passover prayer in Hebrew at the start of the Last Supper.

The back-story of the Passion Play is particularly relevant today. In the 1630’s, the 30-Year War & the spread of the Bubonic Plague rocked Bavaria. (One small village would have only 1 married couple survive the plague.) Oberammergau goes on strict lock-down, with guards patrolling the roads, to keep the plague outside its borders. However, one homesick farmer, Kaspar Schisler, slips past the guards to see his family & celebrate the local church's birthday. With him came the plague & within weeks 83 villagers would die. The surviving villagers (fewer than 600) gathered at the town cross & pledged that if God spared the remaining villagers they would perform a Passion Play, re-enacting Jesus’ life, death, & resurrection. (Passion Plays were all the rage in Bavaria during this era.) The Parish Register of Death in 1633 records dozens & dozens of deaths & then it abruptly stops. No more plague-related deaths are recorded after the pledge is made.

Aside: Preparing for the trip, I learned to speak a little German. For example, I can say “Good Morning” (Guten Morgen) & also “Morning” (Morgen). The latter greeting is the guten-free version.

The 1st performance was on Pentecost Sunday in 1634 & it is typically performed every 10 years. This year’s performance was the 42nd time it has been performed. It has only been canceled two times: In 1770 during the Enlightenment/Age of Reason when God was considered obsolete & in 1940 during World War II. It has been postponed only twice: During World War I due to the lack of surviving men to fill the cast & in 2020 during Covid 19.

Aside: Being of German heritage, I like the comic strip of a group of German adults staring idly at the chalkboard in a classroom. Written on the chalkboard is the message: Our First "Learning English as a 2nd Language Class" is postponed.

The Play’s performance schedule runs through the whole summer. The performance is 5.5-hours long, with a 2.5-hour intermission for a dinner break. The cast & crew includes over 2,000 people, almost all of whom are from the village. There are 3 criteria to be in the cast:

  • Be an Oberammergau native by birth
  • Live in Oberammergau for 20 years
  • Marry someone from Oberammergau & live in town for 10 years.

Also, per ancient statute, many of the men quit shaving on Ash Wednesday the year prior to the performance run, to allow their beards to resemble the 30 A.D.-style.

So, what might this dramatic production in a little Bavarian village mean for us today?

  • What are we doing to develop our faith? Have we allowed the enthusiasm & excitement of our 1st leap of faith become stale & routine? Maybe we should deliberately seek out ways to re-energize our faith walk.
  • A year before the Passion Play performances, the town performs "Die Pest" - a show to remind the villagers of the terrible plague & the purpose for the Passion Play. Perhaps we, too, need to remember the many blessings we have experienced through the years & not take them for granted.
  • As we are just beginning to reckon with all of the unintended mental, social, scholastic, & spiritual consequences of some of our COVID policies, perhaps, like our friends in Oberammergau, we should make sure to include God in shaping our responses to the next crisis. (This applies to the crisis & challenges that aren't health-related as well.)
  • Finally, I was surprised at how moving it was to see such a large cast/crew sharing the story of Christ to a sold-out audience of 4,500 people. (Amazingly, during the performance I saw no flickering of cell phone screens & only 3 people went to the restroom.) There's just something amazing that happens when you are in the midst of people of faith. Unfortunately, Oberammergau only performs the Passion every 10 years and it is not an easy village to visit. If only there was another way to gather in-person with other Christians, without the need to travel thousands of miles, & share the excitement of Christ & His life more frequently. Wouldn't that be awesome? Hmmm...

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I'm going to block out the performance dates for Christmas at Resurrection this December. After the last 2 winters of silence, it is going to be epic. Spoiler Alert: The ending is joyous!

Walker, Peter. Immersed in the Passion, Walkway 2020

Fuquay, Rob The Passion Play: Living the Story of Christ's Last Days, Abingdon Press 2019

Cruz, Juan Lucas 2022 Passion Play Oberammergau Text Book, Gemeinde Oberammergau 2022

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