Thursday, 19 November 2015

War and Rumors of War

There certainly is no shortage of war or rumors of war these days.  The temple in Jerusalem has been destroyed long ago.  The only remnant is the Western Wall—Jewish people do not want it referred to as the Wailing Wall.  Many evangelical Christians believe that we are in the end times and are looking forward with anticipation of the rebuilding of the temple as the final sign of the apocalypse.  However, Jesus does tell us that even he did not know when that would occur.
People have been predicting the end-times since the first Christians when they expected that it would occur, as Jesus also predicted in their life time.  There have been disastrous consequences throughout the subsequent centuries for the many people who believed those who preached that the end times were at hand.  One lesson that these erstwhile prophets of apocalypse have learned is never to be specific.  I googled information on end-times predictions and found no shortage of specific predictions.  Here are a few examples:
·         About 90 CE: Saint Clement 1 predicted that the world end would occur at any moment.
·         365 CE: A man by the name of Hilary of Poitiers, announced that the end would happen that year
·         375 to 400 CE: Saint Martin of Tours, a student of Hilary, was convinced that the end would happen sometime before 400 CE.
·         968 CE: An eclipse was interpreted as a prelude to the end of the world by the army of the German emperor Otto III.
·         1000-MAY: The body of Charlemagne was disinterred on Pentecost. A legend had arisen that an emperor would rise from his sleep to fight the Antichrist.
·         1179: John of Toledo predicted the end of the world during 1186. This estimate was based on the alignment of many planets.
·         1496: This was approximately 1500 years after the birth of Jesus. Some mystics in the 15th century predicted that the Apocalypse would begin during this year.
·         1689: Benjamin Keach, a 17th century Baptist, predicted the end of the world for this year.
·         1794: Charles Wesley, one of the founders of Methodism, thought that Doomsday would occur in this year.
We even have non-Christian predictions:
·         1919: Meteorologist Albert Porta predicted that the conjunction of 6 planets would generate a magnetic current that would cause the sun to explode and engulf the earth on DEC-17.
·         2000:  We can all remember the Y2K prediction of the end of computing would occur and disaster would strike when computer clock turned over to 2000.
·         2012: the Mayan calendar was understood to predict the end of the world.

What, then, can we take from all this?  We can, of course, throw up our hands and believe that there is no point in trying to respond to the challenges that our current world presents to us.  I believe this is one way we can be led astray.  If the end of the world is immanent what is the point of trying to make it a better place.  We can just sit back and have a good time until that rapture take us—unless we are left behind to deal with the apocalypse.
Jesus tells us that we should not be led astray by false prophets, Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray”.   We can be led astray in many aspect of life from political leaders, to people promising easy answers to any problem.  It is human nature to want a strong leader who will give us the answers to all our problems.  There are many examples of the Israelites in the Old Testament wanting a strong leader to save them.  Moses appeared to them in Egypt as God’s messenger and they followed him but when times got tough and Moses was too long on the mountain they looked to a golden calf to save them.  In the Promised Land they wanted a King like other people around them and God gave them Saul and David and Solomon.  But still they ended up in exile.  They worshipped false God’s such as Baal when their leaders led them astray.

What exactly is a false prophet?   Basically it can be defined as one who falsely claims the gift of prophecy or divine inspiration, or who uses that gift for evil ends.  We have to remember that prophets were not people who predicted the future.  They were people who were giving God’s message to the people.  It was often the king or ruler that received the benefit of a prophetic declaration that the king and the people were not following the course God called them to.  As noted in the definition a false prophet will claim to be divinely inspired and will attempt to use that claim for wrong purposes such as personal gain. 

In modern times we have many examples of people who use false claim and personal charisma for evil ends.   Hitler and Mussolini did that in the last century.  Now we have the added challenge of false prophets who offering all kinds of easy answers and quick fixes to our problems.  We have the miracle cures to health problems; we have miracle cures to financial problems—the popularity of lotteries is a symptom of this; we have easy answers to loneliness; we have miracle cures for relationship problems from using the right deodorant to wearing the right clothes or meeting Mr. or Ms. Right on-line. 

These are all the false prophecies of facile and easy answers.  The answer may not be easy but it is there for each of us. It is contained in that ancient Jewish prayer which Jesus confirms is to be followed today—The Shema; the Hear of Israel:
Hear, O Israel,
the Lord our God, the Lord is one.
Love the Lord your God
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind,
and with all your strength.
This is the first and the great commandment.
The second is like it:
Love your neighbour as yourself.
There is no commandment greater than these.

Love your neighbour as yourself; simple but not easy.  Actually sounds impossible if we take it seriously.  There are neighbours who are easy to love—if we are lucky.  But what about those neighbours next door and on the other side of the world who are not easy to love—the ones we might classify as our enemies?  As we have seen in the recent events in Paris How do we love them?  As we will pray in the prayers of the people, we can pray that peace may be established among the nations and between individuals as God will draw all people to God’s self in love.  That is a start.  We also must put that love into action and take even small steps to bring reconciliation to individuals and nations.   We can pray for God’s guidance for in God even the seemingly impossible is possible; all things are possible.  Today when you go home pray that God will open your heart to someone who is difficult in your life and pray that every day.  God willing it will become a step towards reconciliation.  Amen 

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