he pyramids of Egypt are some of the most famous structures in the world. Most of us probably know that they served as burial chambers for the Pharaohs. But archaeologists report that preparation for death was important right across Egyptian society, not just for Pharaohs.
For the Egyptians the path to eternal life was fraught with dangers, demons, and false trails. One must be well prepared. The Book of the Dead provided instructions, tips, and incantations for the soul on their journey to the underworld. The book was often excerpted on coffins and tombs, or the complete scrolls might be placed in the tomb.
The last ordeal on the path to eternity was the weighing of the deceased’s heart. This would determine their fitness for joining the land of the gods. Applicants who passed were welcomed by Osiris; a too-heavy heart laden with evil was devoured by a monster and the spirit banished into darkness.
Christian faith of course sees death very differently. The path to eternal life is not fraught with danger, but has been made simple and open by Christ. And while our hearts may be weighed, it is not the degree of evil found within them that will matter but the presence of faith in Christ, who forgives all our sin and welcomes us into his presence.
Source: Archaeological information from Discovering Archaeology website.
In 1985 Cher starred in a movie called Mask. She played the biker mother of Rocky, a teenager with a severe facial deformity. Possessed of a gentle nature, Rocky volunteers to help out at a camp for blind kids. If they can’t see his face they’ll judge him on who he is, not what he looks like.
During the camp he develops a romance with one of the blind teenage girls. Blind since birth, she doesn’t know what Rocky means when he talks about colours or clouds. Rocky is determined to communicate these things to her, and has a brilliant idea on how to do it. He leads his girlfriend into the kitchen and over to the refrigerator. He takes out a rock he has placed in there earlier and places it in her hands. “That’s blue” says Rocky. He then takes her to the oven and pulls out a rock which has been heated. Placing it in her hands she comments on how hot it is. “That’s red” says Rocky. He then pulls out a bunch of cotton wool balls and places them in her hands. “That’s what clouds are like”. The two of them grow excited as this young blind girl feels that for the first time she understands what colour and clouds are.
Of course she never sees colours and clouds as they really are. Rather, by comparing them to something she already knows she is able to gain a sense of what they’re like.
When it comes to describing realities beyond our direct observation the bible adopts a strategy similar to Rocky’s. How could we possibly understand exactly what heaven and eternity in it will be like if we’ve never experienced that kind of life yet. So the bible draws pictures in terms of what we already know as familiar: a brilliant city, a beautiful garden. In painting such pictures we may not get a literal picture but like Rocky’s blind girlfriend, we get a sense, and the sense of it is all we need.
The approach of the year 2000 brought a lot of hysteria with it. Many people were convinced that the “millennium bug” would crash our computers and bring life as we know it to a halt. Some TV networks ran stories about the lead up to 2000. One was about Steve Watson. Steve was a 45 year old computer systems analyst from Oklahoma, USA. He was also convinced that when the clock struck midnight 2000 the millennium bug was going to unleash a disaster of epic proportions. Steve predicted that the electricity grid would die, communications networks would fail, financial markets would crash, banks would close, planes and trains would stop and the entire world would be engulfed by panic, looting and riots. But Steve was going to be ready. When the clock struck midnight he and his family were safely holed up in a bunker in Oklahoma. He had his stockpiles of food and medicines, his own power and water, his new found living off the land skills – why heck he didn’t even know how to tan a hide until mid 1999! And Steve Watson, who had never previously owned a gun, will have several, including four M-16 assault rifles, and lots of ammunition. You’ll be pleased to know that he does not consider himself an extremist, a wacko or some wild-eyed Armageddon-monger. He’s just ready!
Christians (and indeed humanity) are waiting an event of much greater proportions than the Y2K bug or any other bug – the return of Jesus Christ. The question is, will we be ready?
Source: Reported on Australian Current Affairs show
In 1505 21 year old Martin Luther walking toward village of Stotternheim when sky became overcast. Raging storm blew up and a bolt of lightning lit the sky with a flash, knocking Martin to the ground. “St Anne help me!” he cried “I will become a monk.” Martin had grown up in a medieval culture filled with talk of devils and demons and angels and heaven and hell and the great judgement day. Culture of great fear. He thought the lightning had been launched at him by God as a message, a glimpse of the terror of Judgement Day. Martin knew he needed to preserve his soul and the best way to do that was to become a monk. So off to the monastery he went to seek God’s grace and mercy. At the end of his first year he was made a priest and invited to celebrate his first mass. Martin’s family came for the occasion, the chapel was filled, the psalms were sung. Then Martin took his place behind the altar and began. But just moments in he was struck by sheer terror – here he was, in his own words, “a miserable and little pygmy…dust and ashes and full of sin” daring to speak to the living, eternal and fearsome God.
Martin got through the mass and kept going as a monk, but those experiences capture his terrible internal burdens. He got to the point where he was convinced that God was so pure and holy no-one could ever hope to be saved. All would be abandoned to the torments of hell. “More than once (I) was driven to the very abyss of despair so that I wished I had never been created. Love God? I hated him!”
And then in 1513, 8 years after that thunderstorm, 7 years after that terrible mass, Luther had a third great religious experience. He was lecturing on the book of Psalms at the University of Wittenburg, then in 1515 on Romans, then in 1516 on Galatians. It was during those studies Luther discovered a life transforming insight from the gospel – that God’s requirement for us is not perfection but faith. “My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage him. Therefore I did not love a just and angry God, but rather hated and murmured against him…Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith…whereas before the ‘justice of God’ had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love”
Source: Reported in Roland Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther
Eminence, a novel by Australian author Morris West, tells the story of Luca Rossini, a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church. Luca who now serves in the Vatican, live sin the shadow of a terrible experience he suffered as a young priest in Argentina. It was the 1970’s, a time when the military junta that ruled Argentina, acted with terrible brutality. Luca was brutalised in front of the villagers. Lucky to escape with his life he was spirited out of Argentina. Yet the scars across his back are an outward symbol of the scars he bears within. By the time we find him in West’s novel Luca is 50 years old, a confidant of a rigidly conservative Pope. In one scene the Pope reflects that he, the Pope, will have much to answer for when he comes to judgement before God. Luca responds, “We pray every day that our trespasses will be forgiven, Holiness. We have to believe that our end will be a homecoming, not a session with torturers!”
“Do you really believe that, Luca?” asks the Pope.
“If I did not, Holiness,” replies Luca, “I think I could not endure the chaos of this bloody world or the presence of whatever monster called it into being.”
Source: Morris West, Eminence (Harper Collins, 1998) p106-107