(Aberdeen American News--April 1998)

    It had been in some ways the most successful society the world had ever seen.  A wealthy society, providing even its average citizens luxuries undreamed of in most of human history. A free society, with a centuries-old tradition of self-government.  A cosmopolitan society, combining the best of many cultures.  And on top of all this, a military power: the strongest in the history of the world.  

    Peace.  Prosperity.  Cultural advance.  Strength.  But it didn't last.  

    The economic system began to function very badly.  The society was still rich--richer than ever.  But wealth was concentrated more and more in fewer and fewer hands.  Further, wealth was often accumulated in unsavory and corrupt ways, and while some were making fabulous fortunes, thousands of citizens were driven into the ranks of the poor, dependent on government handouts just to stay alive.

    The justice system, once the envy of the world, had become a system of bureaucratized injustice.  Criminals walked free, while honest people could easily have their lives destroyed by irresponsible prosecutions.

    Morality was falling apart.  The society had once been known for its exceptionally high moral standards: for honesty, piety, courage, and marital faithfulness.  But morality had all but disappeared.  Divorce, once rare, had become the rule.  Sexual immorality of all types abounded.

    And, as always when sex gets perverted is such ways, children began to be viewed as a nuisance that gets in the way of pleasure rather than as the greatest treasure men and women could have.   Babies were often disposed of as unwanted refuse.

    Everywhere one looked, one saw signs of cultural deterioration.  Popular entertainments had become more and more sordid, and more and more violent.  Traditional religious beliefs began to give way to the most irrational of superstitions.  And while the country had once produced an abundance of truly admirable leaders, moral midgets now dominated the political scene.

    Not long before, it had the best of everything human beings can create, and yet is was a society about to die--and a society that deserved to die.

    America today?  No.  Rome at the time of Tiberius Caesar.

    But in the midst of the all this darkness, just as those who longed for justice and truth might have been tempted to complete despair, a single, almost unnoticed event on the fringes of the Empire offered, not just a glimmer of hope, but a complete transformation.  That event: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    It could be called the most important turning point in all of history, and certainly it was a turning point for the Roman Empire.  But the Resurrection is something more than that: not merely a turning point in history, but an escape from history.

    James Joyce once called history a nightmare, and he was certainly right.  What else can one call life in world where injustice so often reigns, when good is so often unrewarded, where everything we value perishes, where, in the words of a popular song, the best you can hope for is to die in your sleep?   For no matter how good and how pleasant a life we lead, the last scene is the same for every one of us.  

    It is through the Resurrection we awake from the nightmare of our lives in this world.  Through the Resurrection injustice begins to come undone.  Through the Resurrection sin begins to come undone.  And through the Resurrection, death itself begins to come undone.

    Many Christians today hope for the great religious revival that will save America, and, if historical patterns hold true, we are due for such a revival within the next few years.  But it is important to remember that the Resurrection does not and cannot preserve forever our hopes in this world.  Belief in the resurrected Jesus delayed, but did not prevent, the ultimate collapse of Rome.     

    But what the Resurrection promises is a better and more enduring hope than a revived nation.  It opens the way to the kingdom of life.  "Why seek ye the living among the dead?" asked the angel.  The Resurrection calls us from the dead and dying hopes of this nightmare world to a new and living hope.  No wonder the women went away rejoicing.