Over the last few weeks the earth has been rocked by several earthquakes, including one at Kalgoorlie in Western Australia and one in China, we’ve had the volcano doing its best to ground all international flights. As you would expect there have been several claims by people that the end of the world is nigh. There was even a claim by someone that the earthquakes were being caused by the revealing clothes that western women are wearing! One commentator on the internet coined a new term that I quite liked, he called these people ‘Psycho-Ceramics’ in other words, they are crackpots.
These people seem to use selected parts of Mark 13;
When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines.
When you think about it that way they are right, there are wars and rumors of wars, there are earthquakes happening in various places, there are famines and floods and all sorts of things happening. But whose voice are they listening to? They are taking selected parts of the reading without looking at whole thing.
Here is the actual reading: “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs. They are missing some very important statements in Jesus’ words to them, do not be alarmed, the end is still to come, this is just the beginning. These things have been going on for centuries haven’t they and Jesus says that there is no need for alarm.
Jesus also said, “My sheep hear my voice, I know them and they follow me.”
Whose voice do you listen to, do you hear the noises that false prophets make, or do you listen for the voice of God through scripture and test it with scripture?
It’s pretty easy to get led astray these days isn’t it? We have talk back radio, more radio stations than ever before broadcasting there own propaganda. We have public affairs TV shows that seem to run with their own agendas. Newspapers bombard us with opinion and report on the stories that they think will sell their papers in a society that now relies far more heavily on the internet for its information. Then there is the internet, where you can search instantly for the answer to any question you may have and usually find answers that support you own theory if you look hard enough.
Whose voice do you listen to? The voice of reason, your own voice, the voice of a stranger? Or do you listen for the voice of the Good Shepherd, the one who was willing to lay down his life for his sheep? He won’t let anyone snatch you out of his hand. I read a good analogy of this during the week. Imagine a yo-yo, a toy that has had many rises and falls in popularity over the years. To use one you attach the string to your finger, you can then fling it up or down, in or out and if you have just a little bit of skill you can usually make it return to the palm of your hand. That’s what it is like with Jesus. He lets us have a little space to go and do our own thing, to spin freely at the end of the string, but then he gives a gentle tug and we return to the palm of his hand. Protected and safe from the evil one.
What the Father has given him is far greater than all else. He has given him the power to make us his children, members of his flock, he has given us eternal life through him and he will not let anything or anyone snatch us from his hand.
Yes the time will eventually come when we are called to leave this earthly life, but as we heard in our reading from Revelation this morning, “The one who is seated on the throne will shelter them, they will hunger no more, and thirst no more, the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd and will guide them to springs of the water of life and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Even though our current life might be difficult and there might be many things we are dealing with, we live in the knowledge and the assurance of eternal life. The Good Shepherd guides us through this life and protects us as we wait for the coming of our eternal life with him, as we walk through the valley he guides us in all that we do and prepares a place for us to be with him at the end of time as we know it.
I think it is appropriate as Australia and New Zealand today commemorate ANZAC day that we hear these readings. War is a terrible thing brought about largely by human greed and a lust for power. Millions of innocent people around the world have lost their lives in war. Today the people of Australia and New Zealand pause to remember those who have given their lives in battle. We thank their families for their service and for the price that they paid. During dawn services around the two countries and at other events as well the following words are spoken:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
I’ve been hearing those words since I was about eight years old, many of you have heard them for a lot longer. They too remind me of our Revelation reading, they will hunger no more, and thirst no more.
Not one of us knows the day nor the hour when we will leave this earth, we don’t know how it will take place. It could even be as a result of an earthquake or war, what we do know is that the Good Shepherd who has laid down his life, for us his sheep has called your name; he wants you to follow him, so that you will dwell with him and he can protect you in the palm of his hand. Listen for his voice, testing the call of false prophets against his word, so that you may dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Pr Tim Stringer