We saw a lot of history on holiday. Quite a bit of it was broken! Rome has been an important city for over 2,000 years: as a centre of civilisation, military power, and religious influence.
The “Pax Romana” – peace enforced by taxation and the Legions – shaped large swathes of modern Europe and Asia Minor. At its height, Rome wrote its story in large letters.
That legacy is attested by the remnants and ruins of a glorious and cruel past. Statues and temples to forgotten gods and heroes; the shell of the Colosseum which attracts hordes of tourists.
It is a monument to the failure of an Empire.
“Give them bread and circuses” was the bribe to a jaded populace of proud greed and restlessness. To keep the masses quiet, Caesars offered food and entertainment. On the surface, Rome was great and grand. But its policy of conquest eventually failed. Hordes of enemies invaded and drove the boundaries back and back until Rome fell.
The ruined Colosseum hosted the Games. The games degenerated into cruelty: gladiators fought to the death. Those not killed outright were at the whim of the people and the dreaded “thumbs down” signal which meant their death as losers.
Later it became the backdrop for the martyrdom of many Christians: Lions 5, Christians 0. Public executions became a way of feeding the blood-lust of the mob.
Rome fell. In its falling, much of civilisation was lost as the “Dark Ages” shrouded the Empire’s corpse.
The Colosseum stands as a tombstone for Rome’s glory.
As Rome declined, the Christian Church was spreading. Although itself fractured by disputes over doctrine, authority and culture, Christianity “absorbed” some of the best of Roman ingenuity. The Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and (for better or worse) dragged the church into the politics of Empire. The fall of Rome led to the division of Christianity: Catholic, Orthodox, Coptic and Celtic… later through revivals, reversals, and reform the Protestants emerged. A history of conflict mixed with a search for “the” truth of churchmanship.
Jumping to our own time, we can see monuments to both success and failure in politics and religion. We live in turbulent times where much is being shaken and disturbed, knocked down and rebuilt. “Christendom,” the establishment of Christianity within politics, is ending. The structures and denominations may be collapsing, but the Kingdom of God still stands. Millions of people throughout the world become followers of Christ every year: and the purpose of God is not defeated by our temporary struggles.
In the prayer of Jesus, there is a phrase worth contemplating whenever the future seems in doubt. Followers of Jesus still pray this regularly… “May Your will be done on Earth, AS IN HEAVEN.”
Almighty God is still the undefeated Sovereign; and the Kingdom of God stills grows. One day Jesus will be acknowledged as Lord and the merciful Redeemer. The glory and power belong to Him and is expressed through Christians who are helping build a legacy that will not fall. What is it?
LOVE. Love that is compassionate, freely given, and flowing out of hearts and minds transformed by the Spirit of Jesus.
Lord, may Your will be done in me, in us, today and always- until the King of Kings is crowned and Creation is restored. And then for eternity. Amen.
White water cascades over this rugged cliff in a Norwegian fjord. Constant streams of cold abrasive water, wrestling with the solid rock, and gradually carving a pathway that might one day become a new valley.
Life cannot exist without water. Yet in the wild outdoors, water is an agent of change and trial. The endless roar of this waterfall gradually numbed the senses, until wind caught spray and woke those same senses up again with shocking cold. But it was fascinating to be there, to watch and experience, and to enjoy raw power in the eternal conflict.
It’s a picture of life and faith. We need solid rock to stand on, and living water to enliven us in the daily struggles and conflicts.
This psalm speaks of the contrast: trouble weaves patterns through circumstance, and hope sounds a clear rallying cry- God IS with us!
Psalm 42:7-11 (TNIV)
Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.
Take courage in the everlasting sign of the rainbow. This photo was taken a few hours later as a squall passed. The rainbow rested briefly across the broken mountainside as late sunlight basted the slopes with warm light.
Sometimes we simply need to do what the psalmist suggested. Even when things are hard and conflict steals our assurance… “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.”
There is hope and peace eternally.
May the Almighty Lord God bless your soul with peace this day. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Wolves have a fearsome reputation. This one was “safe” although not tame. He was part of a small pack at the zoo, and in the large enclosure it wasn’t hard to see the hunter in his genes. We leave wolves alone, and don’t provoke them. In the right setting they are magnificent. In the wrong one they are deadly.
I selected this photo to celebrate the better news from Korea. Two national leaders have met, negotiated, and offered hope of a reduction of the nuclear threat.
Pray that this new state of political agreement will last, and become stronger. Isaiah, that great spokesman of hope, foretold the day when the predators would be at peace with their normal prey. Part of the purpose of God is to bring reconciliation through Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God and Prince of Peace.
Naturally enough, we worry and pray when international tensions are high. We should also pray with thanksgiving at every small step towards peace and the dawn of the Kingdom of God.
There is more hope today than there was yesterday. Give thanks and commit to being a peacemaker. Our prayers make a difference!