28 June, 1914. We mark the centenary tomorrow.
The assassination in Sarajevo of Archduke Franz Ferdinand along with his wife by Gavrilo Princip has to be one of the most climactic actions of modern history. It set in train a whole series of events, culminating in the Great War, which were to utterly revolutionize the world. We still live with the consequences.
And yet, as assassinations go, it was unremarkable, distinguished only by some remarkable blunders on both sides. You wonder just what would have happened had someone had bothered to let the Archduke’s driver know that the route had been changed for security reasons.
I’m sure at the time few people in Aughton even knew of this event which was soon to convulse the world. But they soon did. Within three months the first memorial service took place at Christ Church. This was for Arthur Kyrke-Smith, of Quarry Drive. A career soldier he fell at the Aisne.
Just one bullet was to kill so many people, more than nine million. As you will read in this summer CONSIDER, some six of the fallen are buried in our small churchyard.
Of course, our Christian faith essentially rests on a climatic event some 2000 miles away some 2000 years ago. As those who watched Jesus being crucified, alone and abandoned, none would have even the faintest notion of the significance of this political killing, assessed by any standard.
So the Roman historian Tacitus, in his review of the troubles in Judea concluded “under Tiberius nothing much happened.” What makes this summary so surprising is that it was written some 70 years later.
I’m not sure of the precise dates but it seems that Christianity only begins to show a public profile some 150 years after the resurrection of Jesus. To say the least and in total contrast to the killing at Sarajevo. it took some time to get traction.
On Monday Jacqui and I visited the gardens of Dunham Massey, where we experienced the week of glory for the amazing Giant Himalayan Lily. For the first six years in the life of this flower nothing much happens, altogether unremarkable. Then in its seventh year (why seven?) it suddenly starts growing to over 11 feet – before producing a spectacular display of flowers for just one week in June. And that’s it – it then dies, leaving some unremarkable seed pods.
But for those first 150 years following the ministry of Jesus, something remarkable was happening: his Church was being formed gradually undermining the corrupt foundations of Roman society. And such a transformation takes time.
This is how God works and on a very much different time scale to our own.: long preparation before decisive action. As the apostle Peter writes to an impatient church: “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” (2 Peter 3:8)
This needs to be said loud and clear to our society so often driven by short term SMART goals, where we operate on the timescale of a Chairman of a Premier League football team.
What counts is perseverance and faithfulness. As Jim George points out: “Faithfulness to God requires your obedience, even when it’s difficult.” Meanwhile, just leave the consequences to the Lord of history.