There is a wonderful book, with a tile that sounds like an Irish joke called “The day the Irish saved civilization” which documents the way in which Irish monks and Celtic Christianity, preserved literacy and through their communities of faith, re Christianised the whole of Europe in the so called dark ages. At a time when the church in western Europe was waning, becoming simply the state religion, Francis of Assisi started a movement that was based on a radical adherence to the sermon on the mount, which it was said he read twice daily…The reformation at the start of the enlightenment…The rise of Methodism and the Salvation Army in response to the new urban environments of the industrial revolution…The welsh revival… The growth of new denominations in our own age…new centres of Christian vibrancy in the developing world…The call on the church now not for a reformation but a reformission… to take up the challenge of being and bringing the gospel to our post Christian world.
n most of the English translations of the bible the name YHWH is written as LORD in capitals and we can easily miss the importance of the name being used. YHWH is the name for God used in Obabdiah, YHWH was the name God chose to reveal himself by to Moses at the burning bush… It is the “I am who I am”. It is the God who sees and hears the plight of his people, who cares and who acts for their redemption. It is the God of relationship, the God who promised land and blessings and descendants to Abraham, who chose Jacob to be the son of blessing, not the stronger Esau, very relevant to the book of Obadiah, who was with and kept Joseph and prospered him even in the face of jealousy and wrong imprisonment, and through that was able to provide for Jacob and his family. The name Joseph is used to signify in Obadiah that God will bring all his people back from exile. It is YWHW who bought the people of Israel out of Egypt and made a covenant with them, that they would be his people and he would be their God. Who kept his covenant even when Israel did not keep hers, so much of the books we call history in the Hebrew Scriptures are there to show that YWHW was justified to send his people out of the land he had promised them. In Obadiah they are encouragement that YHWH can be trusted to restore them again. Just as YWHW was their deliverer back then he will keep his promise again… “On Mt Zion will be deliverance, it will be Holy”.
I love the image behind me because it is a sign of hope of new life coming out of the old. “That God’s grace is sufficient for us.” I started today by saying that there are many church ruins, and I want to finish with a story that is very much like this image behind me. In Europe there has been a growth of new monastic movements, people rediscovering old ways of living together, sharing a common rhythm of prayer, community, service and evangelism. One such movement is the 24/7 prayer movement. They started to form urban communities called boiler rooms a group of people in a particular place that form a Christ-centred community that practices a daily rhythm of prayer, study and celebration whilst caring actively for the poor and the lost. You can read about them on line or in the book ‘punk monk’. The first boiler room they opened was in an old pub, but as they researched the background of the place they found it was in the grounds of the old cathedral and monastery in that city. When they opened one in London, they were given a basement of a building owned by an insurance company, and it was only after they had been running for a while that someone noticed a brass plaque that said that this was the site of John Wesley’s foundry his base in London where not only did he preach the gospel but set up a community to care for the poor, and do social justice. Now I now one of these boiler rooms has closed since I read about them, but I think this gives us encouragement that like in the oracle of Obadiah, God is able to bring new life and new growth and his kingdom even in the ruins.