This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he placed his right hand on me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive for ever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades. 19 Now write what you have seen, what is, and what is to take place after this. 20 As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
The Message to Ephesus
2 ‘To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands:
2 ‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance. I know that you cannot tolerate evildoers; you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them to be false. 3 I also know that you are enduring patiently and bearing up for the sake of my name, and that you have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember then from what you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. 6 Yet this is to your credit: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers, I will give permission to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God.
AMOS CHAPTER EIGHT
1 Then the Lord God made me see this sight: there was a 2 basket full of ripe fruit. And he said, Amos what do you see? And I said, A basket full of ripe fruit.
Then the Lord said to me, So are my people Israel .ripe for destruction. I will not relent again.
4 Listen to this, you who trample upon the needy and grind the faces of the poor!
5 You who say, When will the new moon be past, so that we may sell our grain?
When will the Sabbath be over, so that we may offer our corn for sale?
While you make your measure short and your prices high, and cheat with biased scales.
6 And all to possess the poor for silver, and the needy for the price of a pair of shoes,
Selling for grain the sweepings from your floor.
7 The Lord has sworn by the glory of Jacob, Never will I forget what you have done.
I still remember the amazement with which the world looked at the shoe wardrobe of the Imelda Marcos wife of the deposed President of the Philippines. The numbers of pairs of shoes ran into many thousands, all of them high-end stuff. Imagine however the baffled rage of the poor citizens of that country who could see clearly that the value of their lives and the lives of their children was less than that of a pair of smart shoes. In Amos’s time, poor people who could not pay their debts were sold as slaves. The detail picked up by the prophet is instructive: the corruption of the rich people of the world is shown by our casual expenditure; our dainty food, our expensive clothes, our fancy holidays, our taxis. I say “our” because I include myself. Even the poor of Scotland will spend as much on Christmas as would keep a truly poor family alive for six months. Even our charitable giving is touched with the despicable habits of the rich: “Comic Relief” is exposed as investing funds in tobacco, alcohol and arms.
These habits which express our disdain for the poor, our flaunting of inequality, are hard sometimes to discern and even harder to cast off. Amos was clear that the causal injustice of rich people would not be overlooked by the God of justice.
In The Revelation the God of rescuing justice allies himself with his suffering worshippers in the Roman Empire. The prophet falls as if dead, but is raised to life by Christ who was himself killed and raised to life, and keeps the keys to the abode of the dead. He tells the prophet to write his message to the seven churches of Asia. The message to the community in Ephesus is startling. Christ confirms that they are doing OK, but complains that they have lost their first love of him. Here the Lord of the universe chides his people for not showing more love. He can do so without injustice because He is revealed as the one who in love for the world has suffered; and who never ceases to be the Lamb. Those who conquer, we shall discover, are those who fight evil passionately and non-violently, and are therefore given what was refused to Adam and Eve: access to the Tree of Life, that is, life forever.
The image of the risen Christ combines reverence and intimacy in a way which preserves the mystery of his presence without distancing him from humanity. Here is One who inhabits eternity yet craves the response of the human heart, as well as the obedience of the human will.