This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:
Woman soldier killed in Afghanistan
13 Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four* horns of the golden altar before God,14saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.’15So the four angels were released, who had been held ready for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, to kill a third of humankind.16The number of the troops of cavalry was two hundred million; I heard their number.17And this was how I saw the horses in my vision: the riders wore breastplates the colour of fire and of sapphire* and of sulphur; the heads of the horses were like lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulphur came out of their mouths.18By these three plagues a third of humankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulphur coming out of their mouths.19For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; their tails are like serpents, having heads; and with them they inflict harm.
20 The rest of humankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands or give up worshipping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk.21And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their fornication or their thefts.
This vision may owe something to the invasion of the Roman Empire by the Parthians from Asia Minor, a people expert in cavalry. In any case the sixth trumpet simply brings on idolatrous human beings the results of their idolatry, in this case, war, which carries off a huge number in death. The author hints that there is a link between the power conferred on false Gods by idolatry and the power of the demonic horsemen summoned by the sixth trumpet. Modern secular intelligence might laugh at this connection but the number of times developed countries have been attacked with armaments they have themselves sold to the enemy, should give pause for thought: worship of wealth and power creates its own problems. The author notes that the death toll does not change the habits of the idolaters; any more than the tragic death toll in Afghanistan has changed the insane commitment of the U.K /USA to a bankrupt policy of armed intervention.
The images of the book of The Revelation point to characteristics of doomed power we would prefer to ignore.
King Alfred of Wessex, whom the church remembers today, fought one of the great powers of his day, the Danes, to repel their invasion of England. After successfully defeating their army, he wisely conceded them territory on condition that their leaders bound themselves to the Christian faith. Beyond his own lifetime this policy eventually proved itself as the Danish settlers integrated with the native population. While recognising the necessity of war under certain conditions, he relied on faith, education, law and difficult coexistence as best means of protecting his people.
Jesus Visits Martha and Mary
38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home.39She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying.40But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’41But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things;42there is need of only one thing.*Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’
This sweet story is in fact a scandalous and revolutionary announcement. Martha takes the woman’s role of hostess, whereas Mary insists on taking the role of disciple: she “sits” at Jesus feet. Martha points out that she is short-handed and that Mary is acting inappropriately. Jesus, however, firmly supports Mary as a disciple.
This story needs to be told and interpreted in all the churches who do not accept the priesthood of women. Let it be told to the male coteries of Anglican clergy (some of whom are gay and should know better) and traditionalist laypeople, who can’t accept the ministry of women bishops. Let it be repeated in the deaf ears of the Roman Pontiff until he gives new life to his church by encouraging the priesthood of women. Let it be preached in the stony bastions of Calvinist Presbyterianism in Scotland and Ireland where women are still suspected as the main agents of the Fall. And let it be mentioned in argument in secular societies where women are still paid less than men for identical work, or disadvantaged in the pursuit of top jobs.
Jesus, scandalously, valued women as equals and accepted them as disciples.
Q: Why do Free Presbyterians forbid their members to have sex standing up?
A: It might lead to dancing.