Wars and rumours of wars. Sounds like the news last night doesn’t it? Actually the news last night was full of Anzac day coverage. We have an interesting juxtaposition at this time of year – we are celebrating Jesus’ resurrection, once and for all time, and yet, we are commemorating those who have died in battle.
Wars and rumours of wars. These things are always with us. You would think that by now, in the 21st century, human beings would have found another way to reconcile their differences other than annihilating one another, but no, war has always been a distressing part of the human condition. And yet, He is risen, Alleluia, He is risen indeed, alleluia!
What can it mean for today’s follower of Christ, that we can expect to rise with him in glory, and yet this world we live in is still such a mess?
It means hope. It means there is always hope, not just when the war ends, the tests come back negative, the prodigal returns. There is always hope, no matter what the situation, hope in the midst of war and turmoil, because God is walking with us through it. God is not silent, sitting on his sapphire throne impassive, while we weep and bleed at his feet. God was walking among the Anzacs all those years ago, sorrowing with them, feeling their pain, and the pain of those left behind, while instilling hope in the soldiers, that what they were doing mattered, it was for the purpose of hope in a better world, hope in a world where peace reigned.
The passage we have heard from Mark’s gospel foretells the end of times. And some apocalyptic novels have been based on passages such as these. It’s very dramatic, but actually it looks a bit like the news headlines – war and earthquakes and famines. All these things are still with us.
Mark also foretells the hard time that Christ’s followers will encounter as they, and we, testify to his ever-loving salvation. Certainly in some countries Christians are being persecuted.
We are fortunate here, aren’t we? We haven’t been bombed like our Coptic Christian brothers and sisters in Egypt. We haven’t been forced to convert like some in Muslim counties. But what has happened here in NZ has been more subtle. The largest religious observances in the country happened not the week before last, on Easter day, but yesterday, where thousands upon tens of thousands attended Anzac day services. They have become a religious observance for many.
And yet, when I read the poetry written about Anzac day, what strikes me is that something is lacking. Sure, we are giving thanks for the ultimate sacrifice, but thanks to whom? Not to God, but to those who fell. But for every poem about the dead staring out through empty eyes over Turkish hills, I see the opposite story – He is risen, Alleluia! He is risen indeed, alleluia!
Because the dead falling in battle is not the end of the story. You may say, it was the end of their story. No it wasn’t. Only if you believe that there is nothing after this life. And we know that Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life.
Resurrection can take many forms, and the peace that we enjoy now is part of the resurrection legacy of the wars that our servicemen and women have been involved in.
I wonder if some of those attending Anzac day services listen to the prayers the chaplains speak, and hear that there is hope in the midst of death and sacrifice. There is resurrection, because in spite of how terrible people are at resolving conflicts, in spite of the awful things human beings do to one another, God loves us so much that he sent his only son, who died a horrible death, and in doing so defeated death and hell, so that death is not the end of the story.
Make you celebrate the risen Christ in every aspect of your lives today, in the good and in the bad, in the tears and in the rejoicing.
Alleluia, He is risen!
He is risen indeed, Alleluia!