Mark 12: 1-8
â€œThe storm before the calmâ€
On March 15, 1980 in Washington state, which is in the upper west coast of the United States of America (and not to be confused with Washington D.C. on the East Coast) Mount Saint Helenâ€™s started grumbling. Just over two months later on the 17th of May thirty car loads of residents were allowed back to gather some of their possessions.
The next morning at 8.31am things were much the same, Helen just grumbling along and â€œletting of a bit of steamâ€. At 8.32am she erupted with great intensity and spewed out hot ash and rock at the speed of 300kmâ€™s an hour and 57 people lost their lives at the bottom of a mountain that had been before the eyes of the world for over two months.
The daylight was turned to darkness and on the news a reporter at the scene said that â€œthe localâ€™s believe this is the end of the world, and if I didnâ€™t know better, so would I.â€
San Francisco, as are many West Coast cities is situated perilously close to the San Andreas Fault line and on the 18th April 1906 it lost over 3,000 of its residents due to a mega earth quake, and now those cities prepare and wait for the next â€œbig oneâ€.
On our own shores on Christmas Eve 1974, cyclone Tracey reached Darwin taking 71 people lives and destroying four out of every five houses.
These cities and places have been rebuilt with tighter building codes and government â€œalertnessâ€ programs available to residents if and when these natural tragedies come to pass again. Yet it would seem from current events that the landscape is changing. Cane toads are heading south, just yesterday Queensland encountered â€œSuper Storm Shazâ€ and the recent storm in New York cannot even be classified due to its â€œfirst of a kindâ€ nature.
Surveying our times we see natural disasters, war, famine, persecution, moral and social decline seemingly unchecked, gaining speed and it would seem all heading in the one direction. Clearly we are at living in the end times that Jesus has spoken of in todayâ€™s Gospel.
Just as the apostles were in their times. The beginning of the end started at the end of the beginning-the time that the promised messiah, Jesus Christ the Son of God came to earth and defeated sin and death on the cross.
Comedian John Cleese in Faulty Towers after yet again being disciplined by his wife (and for good reason I might add) said to himself: â€œSwish, what was that? That was your life mate. Do I get another? No sorry, thatâ€™s itâ€.
Life is fleeting and our time here passes quickly but unlike Basis Faultyâ€™s sad deduction, we do have another life to come and we live now with our eyes on both. An eye to the consummation of the promise, that our last day will become our first in Godâ€™s Kingdom where there will be no death, trials, tribulations or separation from those we miss.
And an eye to Godâ€™s kingdom now, living in it and participating in its growth. To live amongst our worldâ€™s fears and distractions and amongst its joy and beauty. To live knowing the truth of how we stand before God. That whether we meet God the Father after his Son does indeed come from the clouds, or meet God the Father in death, meet him here today in worship or meet him in the person we meet up the road, that in Christ we stand before him with our names written in the book of life. To live as Martin Luther responded â€œI live everyday like itâ€™s my last, yet still planting a treeâ€.
Things happen in our lives that hurt. Our own stuff and seeing others with theirs. There is much joy in our world but just as much of the other. But with that one eye to the promise we have been given in Christ, our road here and now is full of promise and beauty.
The hard stuff will come along but we can face and endure it in Christ, knowing that it will pass.
In this monthâ€™s Lutheran an article talks of a man that was led to Christianity, to our Lordâ€™s kingdom through his medical studies where he continually saw how Christians reacted to impending death. We may not be as close to the end as those who witnessed to him. But we all one way or another in our remaining time, be it one day or one hundred years are all in the same hospital bed as those that he saw. That we travel these days of confusion, danger and fear in hope and faith is a question or a thing to ponder for those still searching. Our faith is our witness.
Several years ago a disgruntled ex-employee entered a building and started shooting people. As he stood over what was to be his third victim he asked â€œare you ready to meet your maker?â€ To which he heard a nervous response of: â€œYesâ€. This lady was his last victim as those present said â€œher reply seemed to stun him; he just stood there and then put down his gun and gave himself upâ€.
In our times it takes great courage to be in the world but not of it. To live in the face of death in hope. To live and work with our colleagues and friends and treat Christian and non-Christian alike. To give ourselves, to love and support those who may ridicule us because of our faith and beliefs the same as we do for those that thank God for our faith.
Last Tuesday, I filled in for Kathy and led the scripture class at the primary school. Believe me I have great admiration for Kathy, Dianne and others that take these classes every week. At the end after getting talked over by many of the students, the teacher as I departed farewelled me by saying â€œKeep fighting the good fightâ€.
Well I suppose it did seem a bit like a fight that morning. Though it was a fight that I didnâ€™t seem to be winning and a fight that I wasnâ€™t particularly good at is not the point. The point is Jesus Christ our Saviour.
â€œKeep fighting the good fightâ€. Jesus fought our battle on the cross and The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit have fought and worked tirelessly throughout our lives that we see and accept that truth. To rest in that truth.
In our lives we go out daily into the mission field to fight the good fight. Not against our fellow citizens but against the lies that have led them astray. To not stand in front or behind our earthly brothers and sisters, but stand alongside them in front of the cross, that they too may see, hear and understand the truth of our Saviour. Amen.