This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with headline from world news:
10And I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire. 2He held a little scroll open in his hand. Setting his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, 3he gave a great shout, like a lion roaring. And when he shouted, the seven thunders sounded. 4And when the seven thunders had sounded, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down.’ 5Then the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and the land raised his right hand to heaven 6 and swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it: ‘There will be no more delay, 7but in the days when the seventh angel is to blow his trumpet, the mystery of God will be fulfilled, as he announced to his servants the prophets.’
8 Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, ‘Go, take the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.’ 9So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll; and he said to me, ‘Take it, and eat; it will be bitter to your stomach, but sweet as honey in your mouth.’ 10So I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it; it was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter.
11 Then they said to me, ‘You must prophesy again about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.’
It’s hard to keep a steady interpretation in the midst of the cosmic catastrophe in this book but we won’t go far wrong if we remember that all its events are mirrors of the one event of the life/ death /resurrection of Jesus. The little open scroll is the gospel of the redemptive suffering of the Lamb and his servants. It’s also hard to know what timescale the author has in mind when he says, “No more delay,” but there is certainly enough delay for him to carry out his mission of prophecy to the nations. This mission will not be accomplished by mere speaking but by “eating and digesting” the scroll of the gospel; that is, the gospel becomes part of his very life. It is sweet because it is the story of the redemptive suffering of the Lamb; it is bitter because it is also the story of the suffering of the Lamb’s servants at the hands of earthly power.
Anyone who has seriously tried to live the gospel of Christ knows its bitter-sweetness. It can bring the disciple into places of mockery and contempt, experiences of dryness and futility, which were also known to Jesus.
36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.’ 37He answered, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!
I doubt if Jesus ever gave such a mechanical explanation of his story. But Matthew does, and we can see it as an example of his preaching. The parable emphasises the patience of God whereas the “explanation” emphasises the end of the patience. There is some relish is Matthew’s depiction of the punishment of the evildoers, which we should not evade. From time to time when dealing with particularly arrogant evildoers, I think with satisfaction, “Yes, you’ll get yours one day.”
There is the splendid story of the Scottish preacher addressing the issue of the last judgement, “And the evildoers who are frying in hell will cry out in agony, ‘Lord, Lord, we didna ken!” (know). And the Lord in his infinite mercy will look down upon them and reply, “Weel, ye ken noo.” (now).
I cannot conceive of justice without the humiliation (literally, the bringing down to earth) of the arrogant sinner, including the arrogant sinner in myself.