I woke up at 6am this morning, so decided to get up and go to the gym. It was great - I only did about 40 minutes, but felt so much better for it. Got a huge coffee and a muffin and started off the day much happier than I have the last couple of days. Also had a shower in the gym's clean, bright showers so didn't have to contend with the mould.
Today has been a busy sort of day, but bitsy, running around doing odd jobs and getting stressed out by constant demands from people. But still, I got to hear Richard Chin's talk on Revelation 6-7, which was excellent and extremely challenging (one big point I took away was that although we in the west might not face death for following Christ, we need to live as though death would be preferably to faithlessness - or anything else without Christ, really. Might sound extreme, but, well, it is!).
I was planning to just hole up somewhere and chill out on my own most of the night, but a bunch of staffworkers from Newcastle asked me to go to see Elizabeth: the Golden Age, and I jumped at the chance to get out and see a movie. I don't seem to do enough of that anymore.
The movie was gorgeous to look at, but I found it quite disjointed and disappointing in its portrayal of religion, and the way it played fast and loose with historical facts (though I didn't really expect anything else). The Catholics (especially the Spanish Catholics) were all zealots and going to war as ordained by God; the English Protestants were basically just English - England was the thing that mattered, and God didn't really get a look in, even though they were staking their whole identity on a question of religion. I need to do more reading on church history to get the facts straight in my head; that's the problem with this type of movie, the glossy narrative and visuals tend to stick more than something you read in a book.
But it's interesting how there were resonances there with what David Brown, the General Secretary of the GBU, said in his talk last night about student work in France (GBU is the French equivalent of AFES). He was explaining why the French have the attitude they do to Christianity, and said that basically they have had it ingrained in them for centuries that religion equals war. Having seen some of that portrayed in the movie tonight, it's easy to see how people would believe that.
The passage Richard was speaking from this morning was about the four horsemen of the apocalypse that bring conquest, leading to war, leading to famine, leading to death. The language is poetic and symbolic, and can be hard to get your head around. But the fact is this: it isn't some vision of the future, of things that will happen someday. This is the world we live in now. It makes us weep and cry for justice when we see the things that are happening in our world, when we see man's inhumanity to man.
Yet the only one who can bring peace and justice and restore things to right is our God. Not a Queen. Not a regime. Not any earthly power, be it a treaty, United Nations, or international war tribunal. Only God can do that. And the way he chose to do that was through giving his son as the atoning sacrifice for all this evil, all this suffering, all this sin in the world so that we would be washed clean of all this filth. It's quite incredible. Revelation uses the symbolic imagery of the Lamb (= Christ, the innocent sacrifice), and his blood washing us white as snow. As Richard said, it's bizarre! Have you ever tried to get a stain out by using lamb's blood? But that's the image - that through Christ's sacrifice on the cross, we are made perfect in God's sight. What a wonderful thing.
In his love and infinite patience, God is waiting for us to turn back to him so that many more can be with him in the new creation...what a glorious day that will be!
Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?"
I answered, "Sir, you know."
And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
"they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.
Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat upon them,
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd;
he will lead them to springs of living water.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."