Staff Blogger: Rev. Dr. Charlie Yoost, Director of Religious Life, Lakeside Chautauqua
The year was 1633. The place was Oberammergau, Germany. Europe was in the midst of the Thirty Years War, which would result in over eight million deaths, a little over a tenth of the continent’s population. One of the lethal outcomes of the war was disease, notably the bubonic plaque, a deadly, contagious disease.
In spite of its remote location, and its efforts to quarantine those entering the town for a period of time after which there would be an inspection for signs of the disease, a man unknowingly carrying the disease got passed the guards, and infected his family. Within a few months’ time, 84 of the town’s nearly 600 residents had died.
In desperation, the townspeople turned to God. Holding a meeting in the parish church, they prayed for God to spare them more deaths, and their prayers were answered. In gratitude to God, the people vowed to perform a Passion Play every 10 years.
Turning to God in a crisis might not immediately change the crisis. However, it can change how we face a crisis, and depending on the vows we make, give us understanding of how God can work through a crisis and bring a new sense of our purpose and place in life.
I see many parallels between the Oberammergau story and the current crisis we face. I am not suggesting we try to bargain with God, nor that we promise to produce a Passion Play at Lakeside. But I hope all of us will remain faithful to the vows we have made and ask how God can use us in new and creative ways during and after the current crisis. In a time of panic, the people of Oberammergau contemplated a way to praise God. May we follow in their footsteps!
Prayer: O God, we have promised you that we will be faithful. In these stressful times, help us live up to the vows we have made, and show us new ways to be faithful to you. Amen.