The recent earthquake in Italy serves as a stark reminder of how fragile a hold we have on our existence on this planet. One man who survived told of how he and his wife .were asleep in bed when the disaster struck in the early hours of the morning. As the roof of their house collapsed he threw himself over his daughter to protect her, they both survived, his wife was killed. So far 250 people have been confirmed dead while hundreds are still unaccounted for. It proves the point about this life that the only certainty is its uncertainty, none of us know what awaits us tomorrow and into the future. An earthquake leaves a dramatic scenario in its wake, the very fabric of terra firma is ripped asunder and lives are literally swallowed into the belly of the earth. There is something chilling about seeing the gaping chasm left by the shifting tectonic plates and the bric-a-brac of ordinary life emptied into its cavernous deep.
The old country and western hymn got it right I think when it reminded us “ This world is not my home, I’m just a’ passin’ through…” This life is not a picnic it's a pilgrimage ! Those of us who endeavour (however fitfully) to live the Christian life are often counselled by well meaning friends and relations to “ keep your feet on the ground”. Nowadays the very ground is being taken from under us, not only in the actual reality of increasing global earthquake activity, but also in the rapid descent of our worldwide economies. Jesus warned time and time again about the temporary nature of this earthly sojourn, encouraging His followers to “ … seek … first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Mt 6:33). By the way ‘these things’ were the basics we need to keep body and soul together, food, drink and clothing ! It’s all about priorities, if this is all there is then it makes sense to invest everything into the here and now, but supposing all this ‘kingdom of heaven’ talk is true , well then…
This week is commonly known as Passion or Holy week as various denominations recall the events that led up to the death of Jesus by crucifixion . The death of Jesus is another unpleasant reality that somewhat mars the ‘Utopian’ landscape of the idealists and optimists of our human condition. Like the sudden and devastating effect of an upheaval on the crust of our earth, and the stinging blow of a global recession, what happened on Calvary 2000 years ago is one more stark milestone that should cause us to stop and ponder. How could one so good and noble as Christ be put to death in such a barbaric and tortured fashion, more especially as the whole sordid affair was schemed and incited by the religious elite of their day, the Scribes and Pharisees. Was this just another inexplicable senseless human tragedy ? Not a bit of it, as one of the criminals crucified beside Jesus came to recognise, His death was different and had an eternal significance. The convicted thief turned to Jesus and seeing beyond the marred visage of his blood streaked face, understood that this death was different and asked, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” (Luke 23:42)
Jesus died on behalf of that thief and on behalf of all who subsequently turn to Him recognising the power of His atonement. With all our human attributes and abilities we are , according to Scripture enslaved by the power of disobedience to Gods law, and Christ has taken our condemnation to the cross. The good news in this transient and shifting world is that the invitation of Jesus is a sure and solid dependable that we can trust even as we see so much crumbling about us. The love of God in sending His Son to die for our sins is a sure foundation on which to build a life here and now, and on which to place our hope for a glorious and everlasting future. This world will rattle and roll, our ‘certainties’will totter and disappear, but God’s truth endures forever. If you haven’t done so, let me encourage you to take that step of faith today and turn to Jesus, confessing your sins to Him and receive His gift of eternal life. No better way to mark this ‘Holy Week’ than to encounter the One who took those agonising steps to Calvary and died there for you and for me,.