The gift and the giver (by Ailsa Wright)

The Edomites, descendants of Esau, whom Obadiah is addressing in his prophecy, lived in the hill country south of the Dead Sea which was made of red sandstone. Petra, the famous ancient city in the area cut out of the rock, is thought to be the capital of Edom (although there is some dispute about this). Anyone who has seen pictures of Petra with its narrow entrance passage can understand how safe the residents there might have felt. Living in such a situation, soaring like an eagle, having a nest among the stars, is enough to make any nation feel proud of its achievements.

By Emilio from Germany/Chile (Roman aqueduct) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Emilio from Germany/Chile (Roman aqueduct) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

As far as we know, the Edomites followed a similar religion to those around them, some kind of fertility cult. They certainly don’t seem to have felt any affinity for the people of Israel, worshippers of Yahweh, to whom they denied passage through their land when Moses was leading his people out of Egypt. Of course, the Edomites could ignore God and they could rely on their physical position for safety but through the words of Obadiah God made it clear that nothing could keep them safe from him.

Perhaps it’s possible to understand the attitude of the Edomites in their ignorance of the one true God. However, as I read the beginning of the book of Obadiah I couldn’t help hearing echoes of Psalm 30 which is ascribed to David. In verses 6 and 7 he writes:

As for me, I said in my prosperity,
‘I shall never be moved.’
By your favour, O Lord,
you had established me as a strong mountain;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed.

David prospered. He acknowledged the source of his prosperity as being the Lord, but even that was no protection against too much reliance on material things. Even he, a man after God’s own heart, forgot that ‘the Lord gives and the Lord takes away’. David took his eye off the giver and instead concentrated on the gift. When he finally looked back he noticed that God was absent.

In our prayers each day as a community in Second Life, one or another of those gathered often expresses gratitude to God for the wonders of technology which allow us to meet and pray together. People from all around the world can be in one virtual place and pray ‘with one heart and mind’ as the opening prayer in Common Worship Morning Prayer says.

All is not plain sailing though, as the technology is not 100% reliable. For about a year we have had some kind of bug which has affected Epiphany Island and caused people to crash when they arrive. That seems to be fixed now, thankfully, but it has been a worry. The issues with using voice in Second Life continue. Some days it works brilliantly, other days we struggle to get it to work or it suddenly stops working.

As you can imagine, these problems are frustrating. However, having read Obadiah and Psalm 30, I am beginning to look on these hiccups as a blessing. I doubt if we will ever be able to look on our technology as a ‘strong mountain’ which cannot be assailed. Instead, I hope we will remember to give thanks to God who has inspired people to create such a wonderful vehicle for communication. I suspect we will also be cultivating the fruit of patience as we deal with the inevitable difficulties!

 

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petra#/media/File:Petra-Roman-Aqueduct.jpg)

About Ailsa Wright

Lay Pastor of Anglicans of Second Life, teacher, counsellor. Living in Wakefield in West Yorkshire, England.