This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:
PRIEST WHO WELCOMED PROTESTERS RESIGNS FOM ST PAUL’S
12 When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and there came a great earthquake; the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, 13and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree drops its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. 14The sky vanished like a scroll rolling itself up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 15Then the kings of the earth and the magnates and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16calling to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb; 17for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’
7After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth so that no wind could blow on earth or sea or against any tree. 2I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to damage earth and sea, 3saying, ‘Do not damage the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have marked the servants of our God with a seal on their foreheads.’
4 And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the people of Israel.
The narrative method of The Revelation involves sequences of seven which are not completed: seven seals, seven trumpets etc. Here the sixth (and for the moment last) seal is opened to reveal a crisis brought about by the wrath of God and of the Lamb. That sounds as though some terrible punishment is unleashed on the powerful of the earth. In fact as we shall see, every catastrophe in this book is nothing other than the effect of the suffering of the Lamb and his servants. The earthquake and darkness of the sixth seal is nothing other than the sacrificial deaths of the servants of the Lamb in the fifth seal. The catastrophe IS the great refusal of the saints to bend the knee to power and wealth: that’s the miracle that shakes the stars from the sky and terrifies the kings, magnates and generals; that is what strips them of their power. Behind the appearance of worldly events, like the ruthless crushing of all opposition by arrogant powers, what is really happening is that God is “putting down the mighty from their seats and exalting the humble and meek” -a reality that will be made evident when the prophecy is fulfilled.
We can always distinguish these different levels of happening in The Revelation
- What is apparently happening in the world-the brutalities of power and the suffering of the Lamb’s servants;
- What is truly happening: the sacrificial suffering of the Lamb and his servants strips power and wealth of its authority;
- The confirmation of the Lamb and the Lamb’s people along with the rejection of the brutal in the ultimate judgment of God.
- 1. Canon Giles Fraser, who supported the presence of anti-capitalist demonstrators outside St. Paul Cathedral, is ditched by the power holders of his Church and left with no alternative but to resign;
- 2. In reality Giles Fraser has sided with the Lamb and the Lamb’s people and his action strips his superiors of all legitimacy;
- In the ultimate judgment, Giles Fraser will be thanked by God while his superiors are lodged in the devil’s fundament (at least for a season).
24 He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?” 28He answered, “An enemy has done this.” The slaves said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” 29But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”
Jesus’ parable was doubtless told with a degree of humour; if God was a farmer you might think that he wasn’t very skilful as his wheat fields were liberally scattered with weeds. In fact, some daft people were so concerned they proposed weeding the wheat fields immediately. God like any farmer is not daft: he knew how much labour and good crop would be lost if that were done. He’ll wait till harvest, when the wheat can easily be separated from the weeds. (THIS IS NOT MODERN AGRICULTURE)
What you see in the world is not the victory of evil (weeds) but the time of God’s patience. One day soon judgment will come.
It’s comforting to me perhaps if I see the wheat and the weeds as different kinds of people; less comforting if I recognise that wheat and weeds, good and evil growth are in me. God is patient meantime but one day the evil growth has to go to the big fire. That will be painful but welcome.