From Kew Gardens to the Tower, from Baker Street to Elephant & Castle, from Wembley to London Bridge and from Heathrow to Piccadilly Circus; for millions of Londoners, the London Underground, or ‘the Tube’ as it’s more commonly known, is occasionally fast, sometimes noisy, often crowded and generally the most effective way of getting around the UK’s capital city. Exactly 150 years ago today on 9th January 1863, the first passenger journey on the world’s first underground railway took place. In those days it was known as the Metropolitan Railway. It ran from London’s Paddington railway station to Farringdon, a journey of three-and-a-half miles, and was hauled by a steam train.
The Metropolitan Railway Company had difficulty in proving to potential backers that the scheme was viable, not least because of negative stories in the press. ‘The Times’ newspaper, for instance, described the project as ‘an insult to common sense’. Others argued that passengers would be poisoned by the sulphurous smoke from the engines, and that the tunnels would collapse under the weight of the traffic above. Today however, London Underground has 270 stations and carries more than three million passengers a day.
The Metropolitan Railway’s detractors had no idea how popular the underground railway would become, but more pointedly they had no vision for anything but the status quo. Jesus faced the same problem. His coming had been prophesied hundreds of years before in the Jewish scriptures. Details like his birth at Bethlehem, his healing miracles and his suffering, death and resurrection were all foretold by the prophets. Yet when he began to teach and preach, privately declaring himself to be the long-awaited Messiah, the religious hierarchy didn’t recognise him. They weren’t prepared for something new. They were expecting a Messiah who would free them from Roman occupation not from personal wrongdoing; a Messiah who would come in power not in weakness; a Messiah who would come from God, not claim to be God. They couldn’t think outside the box.
Today that same Jesus, who turned the world upside down 2,000 years ago, is wanting to do the same with your life. He’s looking for people who see beyond the status quo, who will love the unlovely, who will go the extra mile, who will put him first and trust him for their future. As Rabbi Sha’ul once wrote: “I press on to take hold of that for which Jesus the Messiah took hold of me. … one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Jesus the Messiah.” (Philippians 3:12-14 TNIV)
Thousands of young brides and grooms stepped out of buses and entered the stadium. Many of them barely knew their future spouse, having only spent a week or two getting acquainted. In fact a few of them were only matched days before their wedding, a mass-wedding in the hills of South Korea presided over by Rev. Sun Myung Moon. This unusual spectacle was featured in a UK Channel 4 documentary, Married to the Moonies, which followed three young Londoners as they travelled to Korea to marry the international fiance(e)s chosen for them. The Unification Church, or ‘the Moonies’ as they are sometimes known, has often been called a cult because of their devotion to a charismatic leader, who changes the interpretation of ancient scripture and suggests that he is “The Lord of The Second Advent”, who has come to finish what Jesus failed to do.
In fact Jesus Himself said, ““Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.” Instead Jesus promised that His return would be unmistakable: “all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.” (Matthew 24:30) Jesus also taught that before His return “many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:4-5,10-13)
If “the love of most will grow cold,” how long will the love of those married by Rev. Sun Myung Moon last? Hopefully for a lifetime – marriage and family are the building blocks of a stable society, but just a quick glance at our world today is enough to confirm the truth of Jesus’ prophecy. Although there are many individuals and organisations who show great love and care to others, we live in the midst of a violent world. This week’s events in Syria are a graphic and tragic illustration. Also, human trafficking is rife, causing suffering to countless women and children around the globe. There is increasing pressure in the UK to allow doctors to kill sick or elderly patients in the same way that they are legally able to kill unborn children. Some in our world take home massive salaries while others exist or starve on less than a dollar a day. Will we let our love grow cold as Jesus suggested, or will we be those who overflow with love for God and for others? Whether we influence the world or just our local community, our practical love shown to someone in need can make a world of difference, and not by declaring ourself to be someone great, but by humbling ourself as Jesus did, and honouring and serving our fellow man and woman.