Great cartoon in this morning’s Daily Mail . A couple are seen walking past a store emblazoned with the logo “Tesco: Best Before 2014”. (My source is the BBC website, I hasten to add).
Amazing how quickly Tesco’s have fallen from grace. It was not that long ago I was singing their praises. For in my blog of August 2011, I reflected “Tesco now reigns supreme. £1 out of every £7 spent in the UK is spent in Tesco’s. So what’s their secret?”
Little did I realize at the time (nor indeed did their senior management) that the skids were already under this superstore success story. Their secret, in part, was in massaging their accounts.
And now this gives me to opportunity to refer to Wednesday’s result at Anfield when LFC were overwhelmed by a magnificent Real Madrid. I think the scoreline was 0 – 3. But it was only five years ago when this scoreline was reversed when Liverpool won 4 – 0.
Just two examples of the Ozymandias effect. In this much-quoted poem from 1818 Shelly mocks our pretensions to greatness. What was once seen as magnificent and permanent is now lost in the sands.
And it is not just Empires which come and go, so do retail brands, sports teams, even large multinational companies. Remember ICI?
So Apple may be the flavour of the month the whole world follows the Premier League and we Google everything – but for how long? We refuse to be overawed.
Certainly the disciples were overawed by the magnificence of Herod’s recently completed temple. So Mark tells us: “As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!’” (13:1)
I have seen those stones, each the size of a shipping container. They must have seemed immovable, impregnable. King Herod the Great had one main goal in building this astonishing edifice for the Jewish people – that generations still unborn would refer to him as Herod the Great.
For we are so easily impressed, taken in, especially by big buildings and what appears to be success.
But not Jesus. “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
Some forty years on, it took the Romans a whole month even to plan the destruction of Herod’s temple, how on earth they were going to move those gigantic stones. They managed – and the stones which remain there to this very day they left there deliberately to remind us of the power of the Roman Empire. For it seemed to them at the time it that their Empire would last forever. It didn’t.
We long in vain for permanence, for institutions and football teams which will forever reign supreme. It is something which this world simply cannot deliver.
So the writer to the Hebrews encourages us “For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.”
(13:14). We may enjoy permanence and are privileged to build on solid foundations – but only on the promises of God. “This world is not my home I’m just a-passin’ through.”
And this understanding has huge implications. As Christians, we are called to sit light to the things of this transient world, exiles in a strange land. We are to put our roots deep into Christ rather than take our nourishment from transient cultures. We refuse to be taken in by the false promises of success.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”