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Contemporary Comments 2017
The Cosmic Controversy
Ezekiel 28:1, 2, 11-17; Genesis 3:1-7; Revelation 12:1-17; Romans 8:31-39; Revelation 14:12 April 7, 2018
An unpopular president. A long war. Student protests. Gun violence. Racial strife. Political fights. Tensions with North Korea. It sounds like today’s news, except these headlines are from 1968. President Lyndon Johnson called 1968 the “year of a continuous nightmare.” The Vietnam War dragged on. Student antiwar protests exploded. Tensions rose when North Korea seized a Navy ship. Johnson, a champion of civil rights, stunned the nation by announcing he would not seek re-election.
Last Wednesday marked the 50-year anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. by a white supremacist. Rioting erupted in several cities, including Washington, where four teenagers died. Two months later, another assassin killed presidential candidate Robert Kennedy. Their deaths plunged the country into grief and a chaotic Democratic convention. Thousands of protesters clashed with Chicago police as a horrified nation watched on television.
Women marched for peace; 50,000 people gathered in Washington to demand economic and human rights for the poor; and 3,000 protesters camped on the National Mall for six weeks in the makeshift “Resurrection City.” Even the Mexico City Olympics sparked controversy when track stars Tommie Smith and John Carlos bowed their heads, raising black-gloved fists during the national anthem at their medal ceremony. Officials responded by banning the two black athletes. The year closed on a high note, however, when Apollo 8 became the first manned spaceflight to orbit the moon.1
The astronauts put 1968 in perspective as they read the Genesis creation story on Christmas Eve and beamed back an arresting image of a beautiful blue Earth rising above the moon. The message, broadcast around the world, reminded people everywhere—even in the depths of contentious controversy—that God is still ruling from His heavenly throne. Nothing is hidden from God’s sight, and no one is beyond God’s power to save.
Our lesson this week reminds us that contentious controversy isn’t confined to this world alone. Violent war ripped apart the most peaceful place we can imagine: heaven. When Revelation 12:7 says, “War broke out in heaven,” we should realize that it was as deadly and destructive as any war we’ve seen on earth. When Michael and his army of angels fought the dragon and his army, it was a real battle on a real battlefield. What we experienced in 1968, and again in 2018, and every other year since the fall in the Garden of Eden, is a continuation of that first conflagration.
It can be hard for us to grasp that this conflict is cosmic in nature. When we look to the peaceful stars in the night sky, there are other worlds watching our little battlefield planet to see how the war plays out. We, and they, know how the conflict ultimately ends, but our lesson this quarter reminds us that we are all still intensely interested in the events leading up to that conclusion.