Mark 13: 32,33
“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.”
“67 looked to be a great year for me and my young family. We were living in Princeton, Illinois, my birthplace and the birthplace of our youngest son, Philip, surrounded by grandparents and siblings on both sides of the family. We love our community. We loved our families. And we loved our local church. We loved it so much that we got involved in just about every event that took place. On Saturdays we knocked on newcomers doors. On Sundays I led the choir and taught the youth class. We loved our pastor and flourished under his teachings.
In 1967 no one was talking about a faltering economy. Anyone who wanted a job had one. The average price for a home in America was a bit over $7,300. Gas prices were at 31 cents. Wow! I could have filled up my present Le Sabre for $6.50. I know what you are thinking right now. Wages weren’t all that great in those days. Come to think about it, my teaching contract for the coming year would have been $6200.00. In addition to my teaching salary, for the past two years our income had been buttressed by the booming economy in our town. A steel company from the east had built a plant nearby, making Princeton a prime spot to purchase real estate. And we both held licenses. It was a classic case of living in the right place in the right town at the right time.
Faith, family, and finances all combined to provide what we considered the good life. Except for a leading of the Holy Spirit. For the past two years, God had been digging around those very secure roots and nudging us in a different direction.
For people who are born again, there is always more than one side of the world. June 5, 1967 found me working on the landscape of a new property that we had recently sold. The heat of the oncoming summer seemed to be getting a head start that day. Perspiration dripped from my forehead and ear lobes as I stood in the middle of a landscaping project. I leaned on my rake and wiped the moisture from my face. That’s when I heard the breaking news from the nearby transistor radio. Regular programming was interrupted to announce the building up of a centuries old conflict in the Middle East. Tiny Israel was once again being encroached upon by the muscular half brothers that surrounded her. I stopped working to listen more closely.
From my perspective, based on what I had been taught, Israel was the “timepiece” for future history. We were steeped in teaching that encouraged us to pray for Israel. We believed in the soon coming of Jesus. A state of being ready for the “coming of the Lord” was part of the fabric of our faith. I listened to the news that morning with the ear of a believer. Could this news indicate that we had entered the season of “His Coming?” How might current events be entering into our family’s plans for our immediate future? Should we stay here in Princeton waiting for the Lord’s soon coming or should we continue with our plans to leave it all behind and move to another state to pursue the ministry?
That day, June 5, 1967 marked the beginning of the Six Day War. Before noon that day, Israeli jets had attacked and destroyed the air forces of Egypt, Syria and Jordan. Before noon that day, the Six Day War was basically over. A modern day David and Goliath story was being enacted on the world stage. And I couldn’t help but wonder, were these events the setting of the stage, preparing for the coming Messiah?
I learned a lesson in those few days that Jesus seems to be teaching His disciples in today’s text. “Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.”
Middle East skirmishes have come and gone since June 5, 1967. Even now, Goliath Iran bellows across the sea threatening to annihilate David Israel. I am willing to leave the outcome of that potential war to the hand of God.
As I muse about those days, I feel a certain attraction to the concerns that I held then. Time has a way of eroding a sense of readiness that we all feel in the infancy of our faith. Today I easily place the matter of His coming in His hands.
Decades of history have come and gone since those innocent but sincere days of 1967. We all have known of sects who took refuge on mountain tops in readiness for the Rapture. “Eighty Eight Reasons Why Jesus will Come in ‘88” captured the attention of the religious world. “The Late Great Planet Earth” still stands. Only recently have we passed the day when one noted predictor had announced the Rapture. The Mayan calendar even marks 2012 as the year of the end of the world.
I rest in the words of Jesus at this juncture. “You do not know when that time will come.”
Thinking about this piece of my history awakens something important in me. There is something about believing in the coming of the Lord that brings energy to faith. In II Peter 3, the apostle describes in graphic detail the end of the earth. In his final conclusion he says, “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.” II Peter 3: 11,12.
More than four decades since 1967 finds me still trusting my future to Him.