Monday, January 02, 2012

I wrote this in I'm a little behind the times.  I was blessed to be able to travel to Austria, Germany, Holland, Scotland, and England.  What an awesome time! are still on my camera...

In the Footsteps of the Dead

I've seen a lot of tombs, statues, and memorials over the past two weeks.  In fact, I've been to five countries in that span of time primarily for that purpose.  I've seen homes where famous people lived and died, rocks marking the place where they were burned or beheaded, and cathedrals where their final resting places are marked with an elaborate sculpture or a simple plaque.

Some of these people were truly great; others primarily notorious.  Some died for their faith, unwilling to comprise what they believed to be true even if it cost their lives.  Others died because they had the misfortune to have given birth to a daughter instead of a son.  Some, like Luther, live on in churches, museums, and gift shops.  Others--like Huss are memorialized with a simple stone in a now quiet residential street in an otherwise unremarkable side of town.

As I visited the tall narrow residence of George Fredrick Handel, the room where he wrote is famos work "Messiah" contained a few quotes from admirers and critics alike.  Apparently, while some considered him a hard-working genius, others knew him as a conceited pig.

And the Wesley house and church has grown into a sort of shrine to Methodism.  A church that the Wesley brothers--a few hundred years later -- would probably not recognize.

The simplicity of the house where Corrie ten Boom gave refuge to Jews in "the Hiding Place" seemed to be the perfect setting for the sincerity of her faith and the sacrifice of her freedom.  But unlike the stone cathedrals and marble memorials, it wasn't particularly designed to span the ages.  Eventually, the decorwill fade.  The creaky floors will give way.  The hiding place will be recycled into something far less noble.

And so it was that all of the lives behind the memorials--whether rich or poor, beautiful or ugly, noble or notorious--are all over.  Because every living thing dies.

Except one.

The last two weeks have been filled with international and historical experiences of every kind; but the thread that held it all together was the Reformation--Huss, Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, Cranmer, and Wesleys.  A movement that did not change the Catholic church but that did change the world.  It wasn't about the Pope, the priests, or even the indulgences.  It was the unleashing of the Scriptures.  The most powerful force in history.  The only living that will never die.

On our final night in London, we listed to a lecture on the Bible at the Westminster Abbey by a popular local author and speaker.  The thrust of his talk was this--for some unexplainable reason, the Bible has shaped--at least--the English speaking world.  It was the foundation for law, the motivation behind the abolition of slavery and the inspiration behind democracy. It was a cornerstond of science and literature--even literacy itself.

His implied conclusion was that it would be a shame for it to be forgotten completely in this modern age.  Like it or not, we owe it something.

Perhaps he thought that the Bible needed his help.  Perhaps he thought that by giving a speech in a world-famous, ornate abbey, hundreds of years old and surrounded by the impressive presence of the stone statues of great men that he was authenticating a questionable document...That he was pointing out a redemption value of an antiquated novelty.

But I have news for him.  Scripture owes him nothing.  He is dying.  Scripture is not.  He will one day be forgotten.  But the Word of God will never be.  It is far more than the Book of Books.  It is the way to God.  And it shows us His character in a way unequaled by any cathedral, any song, and even nature itself.

While churches and cemetaries call hallmark history by marking the bones and ashes of the dead, the Scripture will take us not to the grave of a dead man, but to the throne of grace because of the One who conquered death.  There is no resting place on earth for a dead Savior.

Ignorant people can deny its authority.  Experts of every stripe can explain it away, but the blood of the maryrs has fanned a flame lit by Christ himself and documented in a book preserved by God himself in the greatest book of all time.  Heaven and earth will pass away, the Word of God will last forever.