Graham Whaley

Sun 18 Nov

Headlines! “Trump warns Russia and China the US will ramp up nuclear stockpile as tensions mount! If the US withdraws from the Cold War Nuclear Arms Treaty it could give the Pentagon new options to counter Russian and Chinese missile advances. But experts warn the ensuing arms race could greatly escalate tensions in the Asia Pacific Region.”    “There will be wars and rumours of wars…nation shall rise against nation, and Kingdom against Kingdom…there will be earthquakes and famines…but whoever endures to the end will be saved!” WELL WHAT DO WE MAKE OF ALL THAT? ARE WE GOING TO SURVIVE? It’s a good question isn’t it?

A survey of Secondary school age students in the USA showed that 75% believe that there will be a nuclear holocaust within their lifetime. One student said: “We may as well eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow – who knows?” Another said: We may be on the ‘Titanic’ but at least I can go down in a First Class Cabin!” And it’s not just kids saying that!     Recently the United Methodist Bishops in the USA issued a Pastoral entitled “IN DEFENCE OF CREATION.” It says that we live in fearful times, when all creation is threatened. We hold the powers of life and death in our hands. We could easily destroy every living thing upon the face of the earth.Al Gore’s Documentary “AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH” which deals with the destruction of the whole world’s eco-system through climate change reinforces all of that.       THE END IS NEAR! The Doomsday clock is ticking if we don’t take matters into our hands and work for peace and the preservation of creation. Will we survive?     “….wars and rumours of wars….earthquakes, famines and plagues.”  Luke even adds: ”And there will be strange and terrible things falling from the skies!”                                                                                                                                                  

SO WHAT ABOUT US?” Where do we fit into all of this? ‘This will be a time for you to bear testimony….to share the Good News!” Jesus says. PEOPHECIES! PREDICTIONS! TESTIMONIES!        To bear testimony! To share Good News! What are we talking about? We are talking about the Gospel of Peace. We are talking about the Preservation of the Planet.

I remember when I was doing a stint at Trinity Pakuranga  a few years ago – we were invited to attend a special Interfaith Celebration of Peace at All Saints in Howick  – it was 5/11, the Anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers in New York. One of the speakers was a Muslim Mufti – he talked about the Arabic letters that make up the word ISLAM and told us those same characters make the word PEACE. ISLAM = PEACE. He also talked about the HAAJ – the Muslim pilgrimage. On the Haaj pilgrims are not allowed to break a branchor pluck a flower or kill an insect. Any desecration of the creation would make their pilgrimage invalid! The Preservation of Creation!

In theology we talk about ESCHATOLOGY, and we call passages such as our reading from Mark 13 APOCALYPTIC, for they deal with the End Time –The Eschaton! The Apocalypse! Throughout the ages the church has taught that Jesus was an Eschatological Prophet, who proclaimed the imminent end of the world, but today what Jesus believed about the Last Things is controversial. The Jesus Seminar rejects the premise that Jesus held an apocalyptic world view. They argue that the authentic words of Jesus, rather than revealing an apocalyptic eschatology instructing his disciples to prepare for the world’s end, indicate that he preached a sapiential eschatology which encourages all God’s children to repair the world. In the situation we face today it hardly seems to matter one way or the other.

One thing is certain – there will be an end! And because of the threat of a nuclear holocaust, global warming and the destruction of the environment we may be the first generation for a long time to understand Jesus on the subject of The End!      Certainly our young people have taken it all on board. Many feel that nothing matters, nothing is worthwhile, because there ‘s no future anyway. That neither we nor our world will survive! There’s a growing fatalism out there!

How do we as N.Z’ers cope with this? Are we protected by our isolation? Are we as secure as our government would have us believe? After all we are surrounded by potentially dangerous nuclear powers aren’t we? China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, France and Iran – and even the United States itself! But I believe that the question is wider than how do we N.Z’ers cope. More important :How do we as Christians cope?” How do we cope with the realities of the world we live in? And how actively involved are we prepared to be in promoting change?     I guess the big question is: Is this our business as Christians?

In the “Touchstone” a few years ago there was an article entitled “Call AMEN to Save the Planet.” AMEN = Aotearoa Methodist Ecological Network. It was originally set up as a network of like-minded Methodist lay people and presbyters who were wanting to formulate an eco-theology and to foster practical initiatives to support and save Creation. “We want to say ‘YES’ to life, to the planet” Rev Mark Gibson said. “Methodists need to become more active in environmental issues.” Sadly little seems to have been accomplished. We need to be more aware of the realities of the world we live in! Jesus was certainly aware of the realities of the world he lived in when he told his followers of the destruction of the Temple, of wars and rumours of wars, of natural disasters, of persecution and of martyrdom. All were to happen within his hearers lifetime!

365 days a year you can see them, tourists from all over the world coming to admire the beauty of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Why do you think so many come? Well in a world of disposable nappies, non- returnable soft drink bottles, throw away cartons, biodegradable shopping bags and plastic everything it’s good to encounter something substantial. So much that surrounds us is transitory. Everything changes, decays, is tossed in the garbage heap of time….but this place, with stone upon stone, arch upon arch, solid, ancient, eternal. This building will last – or so it seems! Jesus’ Disciples were tourists too, admiring open-mouthed the massive beauty of Herod’s Temple. So many stones, arches lined upon arches. But Jesus said: “The day is coming when there shall not be left here one stone upon another….!” Such a thing was unimaginable! The Temple – the very centre of national life and pride, the very seat of God, destroyed! Unbelievable! Impossible!

Green, clean N.Z –“ God’s Own!” A source of national pride – Indestructible!    Climate change. Global warming. Destruction of native forests. Extinction of thousands of species of plants and animals. Desertification. Pollution. The pillage of natural resources, Environmental degradation. WE need to say “YES” to life, to the planet! Can we survive? You and I? Can we? Can our children, our grand-children, our great grand-children?

Jesus as he sat on the Mt of Olives looking out over Jerusalem towards the Temple said: “Be on your guard..don’t be deceived..don’t be afraid..for whoever endures to the end, will be saved!”