Friday, February 28, 2014 did it for Jesus

Good evening friends,
Today's reading continues yesterday's vision of the final judgment from Matthew's Gospel. Jesus has just told his listeners that the righteous will be invited into their reward because they cared for Jesus by caring for poor and vulnerable neighbors. Today we see that the opposite is true too: those who have not cared for their poor and vulnerable neighbors will find out on the last day that they have rejected Jesus. 

This is one of those passages that just feels true: how we treat people matters. It matters to us and it matters to God. The challenge is that when I picture myself at Christ's throne for judgment, I know I have sometimes taken care of those in need and I have sometimes rushed on to something else and turned away. How can we shift our lives to reflect God's calling more clearly?

God bless,

Matthew 25:41-46
41Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’

44Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Thursday, February 27, 2014

just as you did it for them...

Good evening friends,
Today's reading (and tomorrow's) give us one of the most familiar and haunting images of judgment in the Bible. Jesus tells the crowd that they will be judged based on how we treat the most vulnerable members of society. Religion is important, but our faith isn't real if it doesn't change the way we treat other people. In a nation like ours that is very wealthy and yet has a rapidly growing divide between rich and poor, God's word is a wake up call. Both in policy and in individual decisions, God is watching us.

God bless,

Matthew 25:31-41
31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 

34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 

37Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

fresh water hope

Good afternoon friends,
Today's vision from Ezekiel continues the vision we saw yesterday of a powerful water flowing from the throne of God. Today we see that river renewing and refreshing the whole region and bringing forth new life. In God's renewed creation there is abundant life for all.
God bless,

Ezekiel 47:6-12
6He said to me, “Mortal, have you seen this?” Then he led me back along the bank of the river. 7As I came back, I saw on the bank of the river a great many trees on the one side and on the other. 8He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah; and when it enters the sea, the sea of stagnant waters, the water will become fresh. 9Wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish, once these waters reach there. It will become fresh; and everything will live where the river goes. 

10People will stand fishing beside the sea from En-gedi to En-eglaim; it will be a place for the spreading of nets; its fish will be of a great many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. 11But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. 12On the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

waters of life

Good morning brothers and sisters,
Today's reading shows us the renewal of Jerusalem and the world through the eyes of Ezekiel. Many of the images in Revelation seem to take their cue from Ezekiel. He envisions the world's renewal, here shown as the streams of the water of life, coming from the temple of God. In Revelation, there is no temple because God's presence will be so obvious such things won't be necessary. 

God bless,

Ezekiel 47:1-5
Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple; there, water was flowing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east); and the water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. 2Then he brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and the water was coming out on the south side. 

3Going on eastward with a cord in his hand, the man measured one thousand cubits, and then led me through the water; and it was ankle-deep. 4Again he measured one thousand, and led me through the water; and it was knee-deep. Again he measured one thousand, and led me through the water; and it was up to the waist. 5Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross, for the water had risen; it was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be crossed.

Monday, February 24, 2014

a feast at the end

Good evening friends,
Today's reading gives us another angle on Isaiah's vision of God's kingdom. God acts for the poor and provides not just what everyone needs, but a giant party. Heaven is a feast for everyone. God's intention for redemption is a joyful, peaceful kingdom for everyone.

God bless,

Isaiah 25:1-10
O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you, I will praise your name; for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure. 2For you have made the city a heap, the fortified city a ruin; the palace of aliens is a city no more, it will never be rebuilt.  3Therefore strong peoples will glorify you; cities of ruthless nations will fear you. 4For you have been a refuge to the poor, a refuge to the needy in their distress, a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat. When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm, 5the noise of aliens like heat in a dry place, you subdued the heat with the shade of clouds; the song of the ruthless was stilled.

6On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. 7And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. 8Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.

9It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.     

Saturday, February 22, 2014

where you gonna run to?

Good afternoon sisters and brothers,
Today's reading is a stark wake up call to that part of all of us that is comfortable while others are in need. God judges justly; there's mercy for all, but also a stop to injustice. Today's daily reading also comes with a video, and my sister in law, Dana gets credit for introducing me to the song.

God bless,

Isaiah 10:1-4
Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees, who write oppressive statutes, 2to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be your spoil, and that you may make the orphans your prey! 3What will you do on the day of punishment, in the calamity that will come from far away? To whom will you flee for help, and where will you leave your wealth, 4so as not to crouch among the prisoners or fall among the slain? For all this his anger has not turned away; his hand is stretched out still.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Advent: a beginning and a conclusion

Good evening friends,
Today's reading is familiar as an Advent reading, and it echoes the vision we've been reading about the redemption of the world. If these readings are feeling repetitive, it's because God's vision for a righteous, peaceful word is woven throughout scripture. That hope is deep in God's heart, and deep in our hearts. May that kingdom come soon.

God bless,

Isaiah 9:2-7
2The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined. 3You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. 4For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. 5For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. 

6For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

bringing justice to the ends of the earth

Good afternoon sisters and brothers,
Today's reading is the first of the "servant songs" in Isaiah. Christians have always seen Jesus as a fulfillment of these songs because of the servant's gentle, yet authoritative way. Here we see the persistence, gentleness and grace of God working steadily through the servant (and through us) to bring forth justice in the world. Our work is never finished, but we are not alone in it.

God bless,

Isaiah 42:1-12
Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. 2He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; 3a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. 4He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

5Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: 6I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations,to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. 8I am the Lord, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols. 

9See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them. 10Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the end of the earth! Let the sea roar and all that fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants. 11Let the desert and its towns lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar inhabits; let the inhabitants of Sela sing for joy, let them shout from the tops of the mountains. 12Let them give glory to the Lord, and declare his praise in the coastlands.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

another vision

Good evening friends,
Today's reading follows up on our tour through Revelation in that it also shares our God's vision for a restored creation and a peaceful world. Like in Revelation, God's peaceful kingdom where the most vulnerable are cared for, follows God's judgment of the evil power that prevents peace and justice (every mountain and hill made low.) This vision also reminds us that only God is eternal. We are called to humble and bold discipleship to build God's kingdom. 

God bless,

Isaiah 40:1-11
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. 2Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

3A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” 

6A voice says, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field.7The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. 8The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.

9Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” 10See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. 11He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

the end

Good evening friends,
Today's reading wraps up Revelation with encouragement and a warning. Jesus speaks to the church and tells them (us) to stay faithful and honest. He promises to return soon. We pray for his return and the peaceful kingdom he brings.

God bless,

Revelation 22:13-20
13I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” 14Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. 15Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. 16“It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” 

17The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let everyone who hears say, “Come.” And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift. 18I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book; 19if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

20The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! 21The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.

Monday, February 17, 2014

coming soon

Good evening friends,
Today's reading continues the wrap up of Revelation. We've seen the great vision of the new heaven and new earth as God redeems creation. Now the angel of God promises that the end is soon. That's hard to believe, since it's been 2000 years. And yet, any day could be the last. 

God bless,

Revelation 22:6-12
6And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true, for the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.” 7“See, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” 

8I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me; 9but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your comrades the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God!” 10And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. 11Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.” 12“See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

the city at the heart of God's redemption

Good morning sisters and brothers,
This is one of the passages I think about when I think about urban ministry and the great hope of the world. In God's redeemed creation, after evil has been defeated, there is a city where the world lives with God. God is there directly and obviously, so there's no need for a temple or any other structures to remind us of God. The river of life runs right from God's throne through the middle of the streets to renew and encourage everyone. Honesty thrives, the nations are healed and God's love will reign. Come quickly, Lord, and heal our world.


Revelation 21:22-27, 22:1-5
22I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; 4they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

Friday, February 14, 2014

the new creation

Good evening friends,
Today's reading shows us the point of God's judgment: a new creation of peace and love. God judges to save, to set right all that is wrong in the world. 

God bless,

Revelation 21:1-12
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.2And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; 4he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”

 5And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. 7Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

9Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10And in the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. 11It has the glory of God and a radiance like a very rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal. 12It has a great, high wall with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates are inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of the Israelites; 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

a last battle and a final judgment

Good evening friends,
In today's reading we see the devil released from the pit for one more assault on God's people. We also see an image of all the dead rising again to be judged. There are different images in scripture of the last judgment, but the New Testament teaches that the dead will rise. As the creed says, "Christ will come again to judge the quick and the dead." That's what we see here. There's a lot we don't know about judgment, but one thing we do know is that our judge will be the one who died for us, so there will be a lot of grace involved.

God bless,

Revelation 20:7-14
7When the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 8and will come out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, in order to gather them for battle; they are as numerous as the sands of the sea. 9They marched up over the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from heaven and consumed them. 10And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

11Then I saw a great white throne and the one who sat on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them. 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books. 13And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and all were judged according to what they had done. 14Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire;15 and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

a battle and a thousand years

Good afternoon brothers and sisters,
In the evangelical tradition there is a debate about whether the thousand years John talks about comes before or after Christ's return. The whole concept is kind of odd. I wonder why Satan is locked up for a thousand years and then released, but that's how John sees it. It's interesting too because once again we see the forces of political power join Satan against God, but God is victorious in the end. No matter what happens or what the future looks like, God is with us and love will win.

God bless,

Revelation 20:1-6
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3and threw him into the pit, and locked and sealed it over him, so that he would deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be let out for a little while. 

4Then I saw thrones, and those seated on them were given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. Over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him a thousand years. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

the cost of judgment

Good afternoon friends,
Today's reading reminds us of the double edged sword of judgment and empire. In this passage the merchants and business people mourn over the fall of the great empire. Empire has an evil drive to power that includes persecution, violence and suppression of opposing voices. At the same time, the economic power of empire brings wealth and success to many. That means when empires collapse, many people, including some who are innocent, suffer too. That suggests that we need to be careful how we invest our resources and our time. Are we intwining ourselves with oppression or are we supporting justice?

This passage also resonates with the political arguments that are made about the risks to economic growth of X, Y or Z program. Of course economic growth is important, but if we're asked to chose between economic growth and justice, for Christians the choice should be clear.

God bless,

Revelation 18:11-24
11And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore, 12cargo of gold, silver, jewels and pearls, fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet, all kinds of scented wood, all articles of ivory, all articles of costly wood, bronze, iron, and marble, 13cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, olive oil, choice flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, slaves—and human lives. 14“The fruit for which your soul longed has gone from you, and all your dainties and your splendor are lost to you, never to be found again!” 

15The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud, 16“Alas, alas, the great city, clothed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold, with jewels, and with pearls! 17For in one hour all this wealth has been laid waste!” And all shipmasters and seafarers, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off 18and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning, “What city was like the great city?” 19And they threw dust on their heads, as they wept and mourned, crying out, “Alas, alas, the great city, where all who had ships at sea grew rich by her wealth! For in one hour she has been laid waste.

20Rejoice over her, O heaven, you saints and apostles and prophets! For God has given judgment for you against her.” 21Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “With such violence Babylon the great city will be thrown down, and will be found no more; 22and the sound of harpists and minstrels and of flutists and trumpeters will be heard in you no more; and an artisan of any trade will be found in you no more; and the sound of the millstone will be heard in you no more; 23and the light of a lamp will shine in you no more; and the voice of bridegroom and bride will be heard in you no more; for your merchants were the magnates of the earth, and all nations were deceived by your sorcery. 24And in you was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slaughtered on earth.”

Thursday, February 6, 2014

separation or engagement?

Good afternoon friends, 
Today's reading brings us one step closer to the judgment of Babylon/Rome. As we've been reading, empires always collapse eventually. It's interesting that God warns God's people to leave Rome so they can escape its judgment. That's a good reminder that even passive participation in injustice is dangerous, because it involves us in evil. To me that's not usually about leaving a troubled area;  we are called to engage in situations of injustice to promote justice. The reminder is that we are always involved in what's going on, either by actively engaging or by sitting back and doing nothing. 

God bless,

Revelation 18:1-10
After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority; and the earth was made bright with his splendor.2He called out with a mighty voice, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! It has become a dwelling place of demons, a haunt of every foul and hateful bird, a haunt of every foul and hateful beast. 3For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxury.” 

4Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, so that you do not take part in her sins, and so that you do not share in her plagues; 5for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. 6Render to her as she herself has rendered, and repay her double for her deeds; mix a double draught for her in the cup she mixed. 7As she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, so give her a like measure of torment and grief. Since in her heart she says, ‘I rule as a queen; I am no widow, and I will never see grief,’ 8therefore her plagues will come in a single day— pestilence and mourning and famine— and she will be burned with fire; for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.”

9And the kings of the earth, who committed fornication and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning; 10they will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say, “Alas, alas, the great city, Babylon, the mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.” 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Good afternoon friends,
I hope you're staying safe, warm and dry. With the roads and weather as they are, we are canceling supper and scripture tonight. Sorry to do it, but it's better to have everyone safe. Today's reading is kind of a doozy. We've talked about how both the woman and the beast symbolize Rome; but here we see the beast and other powers turn on the woman. I wonder if that suggests that the powers of empire eventually turn on each other? At any rate, here we see the judgment of God happening through human conflict. Empires destroy others and then ultimately destroy themselves. God's call to peace is constant, even when violence surrounds us.

God bless,

Revelation 17:7-18
7But the angel said to me, “Why are you so amazed? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her. 8The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to ascend from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the inhabitants of the earth, whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will be amazed when they see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come. 

9“This calls for a mind that has wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; also, they are seven kings, 10of whom five have fallen, one is living, and the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain only a little while. 11As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction. 12And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. 13These are united in yielding their power and authority to the beast;
14they will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.” 

15And he said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the whore is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages.16And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the whore; they will make her desolate and naked; they will devour her flesh and burn her up with fire. 17For God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by agreeing to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God will be fulfilled. 18The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.”

Monday, February 3, 2014

R rated symbols

Good evening sisters and brothers,
Today's reading is disturbing. There are all kinds of issues here about how John talks about women in general and this symbol in particular. As we talked about on Sunday, the beast is a reference to the Roman Empire. The woman John sees in this vision makes an even more striking reference to Rome by symbolizing Rome with a prostitute called Babylon. The Babylonian Empire destroyed Jerusalem in 587 BC and Rome destroyed the temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD, so the parallel is pretty obvious. The message is that even though the powers of empire and commerce seem unbeatable, even if they do break down the righteous and the faithful, God's love and justice triumph in the end.

God bless,

Revelation 17:1-6
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great whore who is seated on many waters, 2with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and with the wine of whose fornication the inhabitants of the earth have become drunk.” 

3So he carried me away in the spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. 4The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her fornication; 5and on her forehead was written a name, a mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of whores and of earth’s abominations.” 6And I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the witnesses to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly amazed.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

here they come

Good afternoon friends,
First, I'd like to invite everyone to our soup lunch after worship tomorrow (if you get there at 11:20 you'll be able to help set up.) Not only will we have tasty soup to eat, we'll also have lots of important stuff to discuss about 2013 at Laurelton and how we are moving into the future. There will be some important pastoral transition discussion too, so I really hope you can make it.

Today's reading continues the judgment of the world with the last plagues of God. Tough stuff, but moving towards a good ending.

God bless,

Revelation 16:1-11
Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.”2So the first angel went and poured his bowl on the earth, and a foul and painful sore came on those who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped its image. 3The second angel poured his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing in the sea died.4The third angel poured his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood. 5And I heard the angel of the waters say, “You are just, O Holy One, who are and were, for you have judged these things;6because they shed the blood of saints and prophets, you have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!” 7And I heard the altar respond, “Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, your judgments are true and just!”

8The fourth angel poured his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch them with fire; 9they were scorched by the fierce heat, but they cursed the name of God, who had authority over these plagues, and they did not repent and give him glory. 10The fifth angel poured his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness; people gnawed their tongues in agony, 11and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and sores, and they did not repent of their deeds.