This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news
Storm batters east coast USA
As I write this morning, I’m thinking with concern about the people of the Caribbean and the eastern seaboard of the USA, praying for their safety.
14 The second woe has passed. The third woe is coming very soon.
The Seventh Trumpet
15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying,
‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah,*
and he will reign for ever and ever.’
16 Then the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshipped God,17singing,
‘We give you thanks, Lord God Almighty, who are and who were,
for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.
18 The nations raged, but your wrath has come, and the time for judging the dead,
for rewarding your servants,* the prophets and saints and all who fear your name, both small and great,
and for destroying those who destroy the earth.’
19 Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.
The number seven indicates completion but the author has already given us seven seals and seven thunders, which then led into the sequence of seven trumpets. We are to understand that the prior sequences contain the latter ones; and that the latter unroll the meaning of the prior ones. We can ask, “What event does the number seven indicate?” And the answer always is, “The life, death and resurrection of Jesus considered as one single happening, which is nevertheless repeated in the lives, deaths and resurrections of all God’s servants.”
Here the heavenly choir praises God whose rule has begun and whose rewards and punishments are imminent. The kingdoms of the world are being handed over to the rule of God and his Messiah. What achieves this result? It is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, in whom God does battle with the great dragon and its representatives, as we shall see detailed in the chapters which follow. As always in this book the happenings “in heaven” spell out the real meaning of happenings “on earth.” It is Jesus on his cross and in his rising from death who opens the temple of God, reveals the ark of the new covenant, and wins the ultimate victory over evil. The image of opening the temple is similar to the gospel image of the veil of the temple being torn apart at the time of the crucifixion. This reminds us that what is revealed in The Revelation is the nature of God whose goodness is for all who choose it, but is not forced on those who refuse it. They are left in the darkness they have chosen.
27 While he was saying this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!’28But he said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!’
The Sign of Jonah
29 When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, ‘This generation is an evil generation; it asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.30For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be to this generation.31The queen of the South will rise at the judgement with the people of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here!32The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgement with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here!
The Light of the Body
33 ‘No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar,* but on the lampstand so that those who enter may see the light.34Your eye is the lamp of your body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light; but if it is not healthy, your body is full of darkness.35Therefore consider whether the light in you is not darkness.36If then your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be as full of light as when a lamp gives you light with its rays.’
Jesus ironically appeals to bible stories to chide his contemporaries for not recognising him as the bearer of God’s gracious rule on earth. They have seen the successful battle he is waging against the powers that diminish and destroy human life, but they have failed to respond as positively as the people of old times did to lesser messengers. Wake up, he’s saying. See what’s happening amongst you! Like the author of the Revelation, Jesus believes that something decisive for humanity is happening in his ministry.
Then he goes on to speak about how the truth reveals itself:
1. It is seen by the “eye” of a person’s capacity for truth.
2. Everyone has this capacity but not everyone uses it, because not everyone wants the truth.
3. A closed “eye” plunges the entire life of a person into darkness. Refusal of the truth leaves the person without a hold on reality.
4. A healthy “eye” allows the truth to illuminate the entire life of a person, so that they grasp a reality that transforms them.
Jesus’ profound teaching about the way in which our openness or closed-ness determines what we see, has been insufficiently appreciated.