“Oh, I think there is some water down here.” Diane and I spent the last week of February in Cyprus. Apart from being eaten on the first day by mosquitos, we had a very enjoyable holiday, which was “ruined”: we visited a wide range of Roman and early Christian ruins, including the ‘Tombs of the Kings’, which were not occupied by Kings and not really tombs so much as holes in the rock. I re-named them ‘Blackburn, Lancashire’ (“4,000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire” – ‘A day in the life’ – Beatles), but I digress. Amongst the ruins were some very fine examples of 1st to 4th Century mosaics, and one which included the lovely line at the entrance, “Enter to thy good fortune and may thy coming bless this house.”
We were ‘mopping up’ some of the free ruins in Paphos that we hadn’t seen earlier, starting with a vast site ‘Basilica of Chrysopolitissa’, the ruins of a 3 aisle church replaced by a larger 5 aisle church, both ‘Orthodox’ followed by the ruins to one side of a mediaeval gothic ‘Catholic’ church and then perched on top, an Orthodox church ‘Agia Kyriaki’ used instead by Anglicans and Roman Catholics! We pressed on up the road to ‘Agia Solomoni Catacombs’, some early Christian Catacombs. We arrived to find a large tree covered with handkerchiefs along with every available point on the nearby fence; apparently they were offerings seeking healing, but it looked like a huge inefficient laundry.
A set of steps led down into a large hole in the ground. Part way down, there was a button: push here for light was scrawled on it by hand. We dutifully pushed the button and the lights illuminated the rock hewn caves, clearly used both for prayer and dossing. A second set of steps took us deeper and to more caves into which we peered. A third set of steps led still deeper into the gloom. I moved towards the steps: ‘Don’t go down’ said Diane, but I pressed on. Near the bottom, the light was very poor and the step seemed to level out into a flat area. Moving around, I realised it was reflective. “Oh”, I called back, “I think there is some water down here.” What happened next?
I shifted my weight forward to test whether it was water with the toe of my right foot, again with the words “I think there is some water…” at which point my left foot suddenly slipped from under me and I tumbled full length into at least a foot of water, scrabbling as now I wasn’t sure whether it went deeper. I was able to drag myself back up the stairs and onto the surface. I was soaked through, fleece, trousers, sandals, everything – and the guide book was rather worse for wear. Diane didn’t laugh until much later! Standing in the bus shelter, I discarded everything unnecessary in my pockets and stripped off my fleece. I dripped my way back to the car, about a mile away. As the car was a hire car and I was soaked, I drove back in my pants, slightly less soaked than my trousers! At the hotel, Diane nipped in and collected a pair of shorts so I could make my way to our room and the shower. At tea, we got talking to the lady at the next table; Diane finally couldn’t resist and we all laughed.
We never know what lies around the corner – or indeed, the next step! One of the characteristics of life is never being able to be absolutely sure what happens next. We may plan our future, but it can never be known until it is no longer the future but the past. When I went to put out the paper for recycling on 6th May 2010, I had no more idea that I was about to have a heart attack than I did falling down in Solomon’s Bath, sorry, Catacombs. For us, the future is always shrouded. The old saying has it “Man proposes but God disposes”. Jesus tells a story of a man who plans his well-provisioned future without reference to God, ending with “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’” (The Bible, Luke 12.20). In contrast, Jesus continues “Do not be anxious about your life… life is more than food and the body more than clothing… which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Luke 12.22-23, 25) and concludes “Instead, seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” (Luke 12.31). Jesus is calling us to face the uncertain future by trusting it to the only one who knows it; we might still slither that last step, but in the certainty that ultimately, He is there to catch us. As he promised his disciples even as he faced the cross, “I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14.2), an eternal future guaranteed for all who trust their present to Him, however slippery the final step.
Praying that you may find in Christ Jesus an assured future and thus a peaceful and purposeful present.
Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ,
You can find the full text of the April Herald Magazine here