WAKE UP! THE END IS NEAR! Words like these have been emblazoned on signs held by sidewalk prophets who stood on the corners of main streets in major cities across North America. When I lived in San Diego, California, I saw one of those sidewalk prophets. This prophet was an older woman. She stood on the corner of Broadway and 4th Street right in front of a huge bank tower. Her curly grey hair waved in the breeze. She was very thin. Her dress and jacket were too big for her. Her deeply tanned and wrinkled skin revealed that she spent a lot of time on the street. You could tell that this woman had lived a hard life. With Bible in hand she stood firm. In a loud voice she called those who passed by her to “repent and believe in Jesus, for the end is near.”
No one bothered to stop to listen to her. Some passersby chuckled at the sight of her. Others uttered insults at her under their breath. Most passersby were disturbed by her. Conversations between pedestrians stopped as they approached her. Most of them just looked down and walked past her as quickly as they could.
I marvelled at this woman’s faith. She believed in the most profound way that Jesus was coming and he was coming soon. She stepped out in faith and proclaimed that good news. It was her most passionate desire that people repent and believe in Jesus.
I felt sorry for her. She was there for a noble task, yet, was reduced to the object of laughter and derision. She was an embarrassment to them. I felt anger toward those who scoffed at her, laughed at her, and ignored her. However, as a young Christian lawyer, with a wife and baby boy and my whole life ahead of me, like them, I did not want to think about the end. I did not want to see the end was coming in all the signs around me. I did not want to stand beside her on the street corner and say: Amen sister! – Preach it! I did not want to be like her. I did not want to call people on a busy street in the heart and soul of San Diego to see the signs and to repent and believe.
I never saw that woman again. I have seen fewer and fewer sidewalk prophets over the years. Perhaps the days of the sidewalk prophets for Jesus are over.
Today we have new sidewalk prophets. They are not afraid to talk to people about the signs around us. On their placards are emblazoned these words: WAKE-UP! REPENT! CLIMATE CHANGE IS KILLING US – THE END MAY BE NEAR. At first there were only a few scientists, politicians and celebrities with placards raising the alarm. People mostly made fun of them, cursed them, denied them, and ignored them. They persevered. Today almost everyone wants to be a climate change prophet.
Climate change describes global warming—the ongoing increase in global average temperature—and its effects on Earth's climate system. They say burning fossil fuels has increased C02 levels which in turn increases temperatures. Climate change, they say, is causing a range of increasing impacts on the environment.
They want to shout from the rooftops that, because of climate change, deserts are expanding, and heat waves and wildfires are becoming more common. They point to warming in the Arctic, melting permafrost, glacial retreat and the loss of sea ice. They claim that higher temperatures are also causing more intense storms, droughts, and other weather extremes. They allege that rapid environmental change in mountains, coral reefs, and the Arctic is forcing many species to relocate or go extinct. They warn that we are coming to a tipping point. If we do not do something now, the situation will get worse and worse. Like the endangered animal species, they say people will have to relocate and may one day have no place to go and then go extinct.
They call us to repent and change the way we live! They promise that if we all pitch in together the disaster can be averted. They call us to: reduce our carbon footprint or the extinction of the human species may follow. They call us to abandon fossil fuels. Don’t eat meat. Go green. Use an electric car and even better non-polluting public transport. They claim these changes will save our earth so that we can have a future.
People are listening to these prophets more and more. Climate change is preached in Parliament, our provincial legislatures and city halls. It is preached in our schools and universities. Some denominations identifying as Christian have made climate change a top priority in their preaching, teaching, and outreach.
I believe that Jesus calls us to take seriously those who listen to the doctrine of climate change. We are called not to laugh at them, utter insults at them under our breath, cancel them, or even worse, ignore them. Jesus calls us to see that climate change is more than a movement inspired by science. It is a religion and a faith. It requires faith and trust in leaders and their doctrine. Central to the message of the prophets of climate change is the individual and what each person is willing to sacrifice for the future, the very destiny, of this planet. These prophets require absolute and unwavering belief in their prophecies and that the changes in behaviour they demand will change the destiny of mankind.
People are looking at the signs in the world around them. They are feeling the heat and breathing the smoke. They see footage on their screens of the devastation caused by hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods. They see people scrambling to dig their loved ones and neighbors out of buildings collapsed by an earthquake. These same screens broadcast images of war in the Ukraine and Gaza and other places around the world. Scenes of famine in Africa are found in the media. They see an unprecedented increase in crime in their cities and towns. They agree there are more homeless people on our streets today than ever before. They witness the use of legal and illegal mind altering drugs by millions and watch as these drugs harm and kill them. Behaviours which were once taboo and wrong are now venerated and encouraged. People are increasingly afraid of the future. They fear for themselves and their children.
At some point, some will see that buying an electric car and swearing off beef will not change them or the world. Some will see that going green will not stop wars, starvation, addiction, criminal behaviour, unnatural behaviour, or natural disasters. Their hearts may be softened and their stiff necks may be relaxed. When they reach this point, they are in desperate need of a sidewalk prophet for Jesus.
A sidewalk prophet for Jesus will put the signs that cause panic into a biblical perspective. His street prophet’s will declare that this world as we know it will end. All life, as we know it will cease. The extinction of all life will not come from the slow and painful effects of climate change. The path to the end was fraught and will continue to fraught with natural disasters, severe weather, unrest, war, disease and pestilence. This was predicted by Jesus 2,000 years ago. He promised that these signs would progress until a great crescendo is reached. Read Mark 13:1-23. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a pause will follow. It is during this pause that a cosmic event, that no human mind can comprehend, will occur.
“‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light ; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. (Mark 13:24-25)
The whole sidereal world, the cosmos, will collapse. All that holds the heavenly bodies in place and orbit will fail catastrophically. The sun, moon and stars that God placed in the heavens to light the earth on the fourth day of creation will stop shining. The universe will be plunged into an unimaginable darkness.
This darkness points us back to the first day of creation. Moses wrote, “darkness was over the surface of the deep.” (Gensis 1:2) To dispel that primordial darkness God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.” The light on the first day was not emitted by the sun, moon and stars. It was the light of God.
The light that breaks the darkness at the end of time, will, like at the beginning of time be the light of God. The triumphant Jesus, the light of the world, will light up the cosmos with his presence. When he comes the dead will rise and he will judge the living and dead and will divide all people who ever lived into lightness (those who believe in him) and darkness (those who do not believe in him). Jesus will use his angels to gather his beloved together. Then King Jesus will say to those who believe: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34)
Then vision seen by the Apostle John will be made manifest in a way we cannot comprehend: Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” … The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. (Revelation 21:1-4, 23)
Jesus calls his sidewalk prophets, not to proclaim the signs of our time as others do, as a steps on a slow and painful slog to extinction and nothingness. He calls us to see these signs as the fulfillment of his words. He predicted that these events would happen and they are being fulfilled before our very eyes. He calls us to see that God is in control and all that has happened, is now happening, and will happen is a manifestation of the will and the word of God. Jesus calls us to see that this path that we are on that seems to be fraught with darkness is a journey to an eternal summer and eternal life in the real presence of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
He calls sidewalk prophets to declare that the one who will judge all mankind in the future, came to earth in the past. By the power of the Holy Spirit he became one of us, truly human (mortal) and at the same time truly divine. He was born in Bethlehem. He fulfilled the Old Testament scriptures when lived a perfect life, preached, taught, and performed miracles, was arrested, falsely accused of a crime, sentenced to death on the cross, suffered and died, and on the third day was resurrected to new life. He instituted baptism and Holy Communion which bind his people to him so that their sins are forgiven. They are infused with the Holy Spirit who creates faith in them through word and sacrament. This faith in Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the gateway to eternal life.
Jesus speaks his words to us today. He calls us to believe with all our being that he is with us now and is coming. He calls us to be ready. To watch. He calls us to go about the duties he has assigned to all Christians. To go into the world and baptize people in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He calls us to learn from him and in the process become disciples and make disciples. He calls us to be sidewalk prophets.
Over three decades ago a woman took to the street in San Diego, California, for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am sure she wondered if she touched the life of any person that day. She touched at least one life, my life. Her image and her message were burned into my memory, as were my failures. She had sowed a gospel seed. It looked as though that seed had fallen among the thorns. I had heard the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth had seemingly choked the word, making it unfruitful. (Matthew 13:1-23) However, God promises that the words that go out from his mouth do not return empty but will accomplish His purpose for them (Isaiah 55:10-11). That prophet’s witness to the Gospel turned out to be a step on a journey that led to me being here with you today.
Today I hear that woman say to me: “Amen! Preach it brother!” I hear her encourage me to not be afraid to share my faith and declare that there are signs all around us that point us to Jesus’ return. She would advise me not to listen to scoffers; nor be put off by those who laugh at me. Most importantly, she would admonish me not to be discouraged by those who look the other way and ignore me. She would call me to remember what God’s word accomplished in me and believe His word can do even more in others. With my sister in Christ, my sidewalk prophet, I want to encourage you in the same way. This is how we wait and watch. We hear the word believing that God will use it to transform us. We share the word, believing that any witness to the Gospel could be a step on a journey that will lead a person to faith in Jesus Christ, another soul that waits for his return, and citizenship in the eternal kingdom of God.
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