The readings are from the catholic lectionary for daily mass while the headline is meant to keep my thinking real:
“HILLSONG”AUSTRALIAN PENTECOSTAL CHURCH SPREADS WORLD-WIDE
REVELATION 4:1-11 ©
In my vision, I, John, saw a door open in heaven and heard the same voice speaking to me, the voice like a trumpet, saying, ‘Come up here: I will show you what is to come in the future.’ With that, the Spirit possessed me and I saw a throne standing in heaven, and the One who was sitting on the throne, and the Person sitting there looked like a diamond and a ruby. There was a rainbow encircling the throne, and this looked like an emerald. Round the throne in a circle were twenty-four thrones, and on them I saw twenty-four elders sitting, dressed in white robes with golden crowns on their heads. Flashes of lightning were coming from the throne, and the sound of peals of thunder, and in front of the throne there were seven flaming lamps burning, the seven Spirits of God. Between the throne and myself was a sea that seemed to be made of glass, like crystal. In the centre, grouped round the throne itself, were four animals with many eyes, in front and behind. The first animal was like a lion, the second like a bull, the third animal had a human face, and the fourth animal was like a flying eagle. Each of the four animals had six wings and had eyes all the way round as well as inside; and day and night they never stopped singing:
‘Holy, Holy, Holy
is the Lord God, the Almighty;
he was, he is and he is to come.’
Every time the animals glorified and honoured and gave thanks to the One sitting on the throne, who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders prostrated themselves before him to worship the One who lives for ever and ever, and threw down their crowns in front of the throne, saying, ‘You are our Lord and our God, you are worthy of glory and honour and power, because you made all the universe and it was only by your will that everything was made and exists.’
This vision of heaven pictures it as God’s court, modelled on although more beautiful than the courts of worldly rulers. Instead of the usual flunkies, God’s throne is surrounded by 24 elders who have a priestly function, praising God and offering to him the prayers of the people; and by four anaimals or living creatures who represent all the life God has created, being the noblest, strongest, wisest and swiftest. The elders share the rule of God over the world but throw their crowns in front of God t show that their power is derivative. Heaven in this vision is the orderly and beautiful worship of God the Creator and the readiness to serve the One who inhabits all space and time.
As we shall see in the visions that follow, heaven also has a mysterious relationship with earth, partnering its realities as resurrection partners death. It is the redemptive side of history
GOSPEL LUKE 19:11-28 ©
While the people were listening, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and they imagined that the kingdom of God was going to show itself then and there. Accordingly he said, ‘A man of noble birth went to a distant country to be appointed king and afterwards return. He summoned ten of his servants and gave them ten pounds. “Do business with these” he told them “until I get back.” But his compatriots detested him and sent a delegation to follow him with this message, “We do not want this man to be our king.”
Now on his return, having received his appointment as king, he sent for those servants to whom he had given the money, to find out what profit each had made. The first came in and said, “Sir, your one pound has brought in ten.” “Well done, my good servant!” he replied “Since you have proved yourself faithful in a very small thing, you shall have the government of ten cities..” Then came the second and said, “Sir, your one pound has made five.” To this one also he said, “And you shall be in charge of five cities.” Next came the other and said, “Sir, here is your pound. I put it away safely in a piece of linen because I was afraid of you; for you are an exacting man: you pick up what you have not put down and reap what you have not sown.” “You wicked servant!” he said “Out of your own mouth I condemn you. So you knew I was an exacting man, picking up what I have not put down and reaping what I have not sown? Then why did you not put my money in the bank? On my return I could have drawn it out with interest.” And he said to those standing by, “Take the pound from him and give it to the man who has ten pounds.” And they said to him, “But, sir, he has ten pounds . . .” “I tell you, to everyone who has will be given more; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
“But as for my enemies who did not want me for their king, bring them here and execute them in my presence.”’
When he had said this he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
Jesus’ parables are vivid and not at all pious. His main characters are worldly people acting in a worldly way. In this case the nobleman who wants to be a puppet king is an almost blasphemous image of the God, who issued his people with ten commandments rather than ten pounds and intended to return as King to hold his servants to account.
The key to the parable is in the words, “Do business with these.” The man is looking for profit. It’s the same with God, Jesus hints; he has not given his commandments to be held in honour and treasured as wise teaching; he’s given them to put into practice in the world, so that some profitable goodness will result. And just as a hard business man will not be pleased to get his money back untouched, so God will not be happy if his commands have been honoured but not put to work.
Jesus was criticising the Pharisees and teachers of the Law for giving unproductive lip-service to the Torah. Of course there are risks in trying to apply theTorah to the difficulties and ambiguities of life; some creative adapatations may be needed; but the risks of obedient service gain the approval of the KIng. Faith that makes a fetish of its revelation rather than using it for good in the rough and tumble of the world is not the faith of Jesus. We can have visons but we live on this side of history rather than in heaven.