“… But can ye not discern the signs of the times?” (Matthew 16:3).
We look for heavenly signs. Earthly, geologic signs. Political, economic, social. But if we have any biblical acumen, we must consider, more importantly, the signs as seen in the flickering light of God’s established people—the Jewish nation in the Old Testament, modern Israel and the Church in this age.
The slide toward outright apostasy begins innocuously. It quickly gathers steam as it speeds along the track away from the true Light.
Here is a story of “worms” and the light it sheds on the modern church:
A few years ago, the regional public transit authority in my city rolled out a plan for huge changes in their system. Hundreds, if not thousands of riders would be adversely affected. Many of us fought like the dickens. To no avail. Public bureaucracies cannot be moved once they get sliding, either. (At least not immediately.)
We did have some success in the long run.
Shortly before the massive changes took place, I decided I would try to recruit some others to join me in praying for a miracle. Most cities have some kind of alliance of evangelical churches. Our city does, too. I phoned them.
I asked the woman who answered if she had the means of alerting their various member churches of an urgent prayer request—for something that affected numerous people throughout the city. She hesitantly replied, “Yes.”
I explained that the bus system was about to institute major changes in routes and schedules and we anticipated difficult times ahead for many elderly and disabled riders as a result. Would her churches, I asked, be willing to beseech God on our behalf.
She responded by saying, “That would open a can of worms.”
This is not the response I expected. Maybe she thought I wanted the bus company to take us all fishing. She questioned me further and sought to bring the conversation to a close by suggesting I email her more information.
She required proof that the changes would be problematic for the riders I spoke of. I told her much had been published already and a cursory glance at the problem clearly showed the challenges the changes would pose for these riders.
I just wanted church people to pray for us.
I told her about our particular situation and that we could certainly benefit from some divine intervention. The changes were very grievous to us.
She was not to be moved. Like the religious workers in the parable of the Good Samaritan, she was finding it safer to cross the street.
So, almost 500 years after the Martin Luther’s Diet of Worms (1521)—the salient feature in the establishment of the Protestant Church, a Protestant organization in a Midwest city in the U.S., told me my request for prayer for poor, disabled bus riders would open a can of worms.
I’m not surprised. I figured the powerhouses behind our current transportation troubles were probably church-goers. What will this secretary do if ever she has to rely on our bus system? Bet she doesn’t bother entreating anyone for prayer.
I can fathom the reluctance Christians have in taking on institutional bureaucrats. It is a job that is thankless, confusing, frustrating and usually ultimately futile. Except by continuous, long-term prayer and a whole bundle of sacrifice. Keep at it… keep at it… keep at it.
Prayer is necessary and the more people praying, the better. More Christians get blessed by having a hand in the miracle.
But now, institutional Christianity won’t even pick-up the miracle-working can opener. This is just another bureaucracy that doesn’t like to move.
For another allusion, add another pock mark to the picture in the attic.