Reflection for the First Sunday of the Kingdom and Bonfire Night.

“You will hear of wars and rumours of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place…. For nation will rise against nation.” Jesus, in Matthew 24:1-14.

“War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always 

 an evil, never a good. We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other’s children.” Former US President Jimmy Carter.

The reflection last week focused on time and one of those who replied to it wrote:

Ecclesiastes 3:7-8. Thee is a time for everything. Now is a time of war. A struggle between good and evil…..the fight will be to face down evil. In this context and that of the warfare in Gaza and Israel, Ukraine and Russia, the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel are a reminder that wars, like famine, disease and earthquakes, are part of history and human experience no matter when we live. They don’t necessarily mark the start of the end times but, as atrocities continue and there is no sign of hostilities ending, fear is growing today that the fight to face down evil in our time may yet intensify and spread. Such ongoing destruction and enmity – where could all this lead?

Although the Temple was at the heart of Judaism for nearly a thousand years, Jesus foretells its destruction when he leaves it for the last time in today’s reading. The building is huge and beautiful but he warns his followers that no stone will be left unturned, which became the case at the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. As Roman soldiers besieged the Temple, a fire began and the many gold decorations in it melted into the cracks between each stone. To retrieve the gold, soldiers were then ordered to take the stones apart and the Temple was completely destroyed, as Jesus had predicted. 

Jesus makes other predictions as he speaks to his disciples: not only of wars, famine, disease and earthquakes but also torture, death, betrayals, false prophets, lawlessness and love growing cold. But, into this despair, he also prophecies endurance and the good news of God’s kingdom being proclaimed through the world. As his foretelling of the destruction of what was the Second Temple came true, so Jesus’ other predictions should also be taken seriously but be tempered with his reminder to “See that you are not alarmed; for this must take place.” He warns his followers that what he speaks of must be expected and they should not let anyone lead them astray. 

The same challenge applies to his followers today as we Remember, remember the fifth of November, gunpowder, treason and plot and other insurrections that have also been part of the history of the United Kingdom, with the King just this week acknowledging the acts of violence committed against Kenyans in their struggle for independence from British colonialism. As the Kingdom season of the church’s year begins, that challenge is encapsulated in what Bishop Gregory asks of us all:

Please do three things – pray, campaign and donate. Pray for a just end to war, write to those in authority asking them to be active in the cause of justice and make a donation to those organisations which can make a difference in bringing relief, or working for justice…… The solution to the problems of the Middle East may still be beyond us, but we need to practise what we preach, and be reconcilers, healers and enablers in the neighbourhood which God has given us for our work. 

With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Guardian.