‘Believing that the end of the world is nigh’ was the first sentence in a notice in a Bible shop window in Frinton in 1940. It continued, ‘you are invited to come in and choose a free Bible …’ with an explanation of why that was vital as the world hurtled towards its end.
The shop belonged to Ernest Luff, the leader of a small band of travelling evangelists who carried the Gospel all over Britain in the 1920s. They were known as the ‘Pilgrim Preachers’. He also founded the care home in Walton-on-the-Naze that we took over some years ago, and redesigned and refurbished. I’m sure he’d be pleased that it’s now part of the Pilgrims’ Friend Society.[i]
Ernest Luff died in 1968, but if he were alive today and saw our newspapers’ headlines I’m sure he would rewrite his 1940s banner and stick copies on all the telegraph poles and lampposts in town. A lead headline in one today blazed, ‘The Threats We Face …’, followed by ‘World of Trouble’ by the diplomatic editor outlining international power struggles that might overwhelm democracies and end the balance of power in the world as we know it today. And how it would affect all of us here in the UK. At the top of the page is a world map in blood red with paler red blood splashes beneath the text.
A surprising number of people have said they’ve stopped reading articles like this, whether in newspapers or social media. They are just too depressing and worrying, especially as there is nothing they can do about any of the issues raised. Hezekiah lived in turbulent times like ours. When he received a threatening letter from King Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:14), he spread the letter out before the Lord and said, ‘“O Lord, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth. Bend down, O Lord, and listen! Open your eyes, O Lord, and see!’
And we can wrap them up and give them to God in the all-encompassing prayer that Jesus taught His disciplines –
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name: your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen