Apocalyptic Warnings   1 comment

jeremiah-sistine-chapel

Above:  Jeremiah, from the Sistine Chapel, by Michelangelo Buonarroti

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, by grace alone you call us and accept us in your service.

Strengthen us by your Spirit, and make us worthy of your call,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 19:1-15 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 20:7-13 (Friday)

Jeremiah 20:14-18 (Saturday)

Psalm 65:5-12 (All Days)

Revelation 18:11-20 (Thursday)

2 Peter 3:1-7 (Friday)

Luke 10:13-16 (Saturday)

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Those who dwell at the ends of the earth tremble at your marvels;

the gates of the morning and evening sing your praise.

–Psalm 65:7, Common Worship (2000)

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The prophet Jeremiah would have been thrilled for that statement to have applied to Jerusalem.  Alas, some people there even sacrificed their children to pagan gods at the valley whose name became the source for the label “Gehenna,” a place of suffering in the afterlife.  Jeremiah condemned such idolatrous and violent practices and pronounced divine punishment.  For his trouble he faced flogging and imprisonment.  Yet those who mistreated him would, he said, die as exiles in Babylon.  That prediction came true.

A common expectation in New Testament times was that Jesus would return quite soon.  It was an age of apocalyptic hopes that God would end the violent and exploitative rule of the Roman Empire, set the world right, and that the divine order would govern the planet.  In that context a lack of repentance was especially bad, as in Luke 10:13-16.  In Revelation 18 the Roman Empire had fallen (within the Johannine Apocalypse only), but the imperium survived well beyond the first century of the Common Era.  Discouragement and scoffing had become evident by the 80s and 90s, the timeframe for the writing of 2 Peter.  Yet the calls to repentance remained applicable.

Divine time and human time work differently, but some things remain the same.  Fearful theocrats react badly to honest prophets.  The realization that God has not met a human schedule leads to bad spiritual results.  Violent, oppressive, and exploitative governments continue to exist.  And the promise that God will destroy the evil order then replace it with a holy and just one remains a future hope.  In the meantime we would do well to consider the moral lessons of Revelation 18.  For example, do we benefit from any violent, oppressive, and/or exploitative system?  If so, what is the “Babylon” or what are the “Babylons” to which we have attached ourselves, from which we benefit, and whose passing we would mourn?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 23, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 29–CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY–THE LAST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF JOHN KENNETH PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP; HIS WIFE, HARRIET ELIZABETH “BESSIE” WHITTINGTON PFOHL, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN; AND THEIR SON, JAMES CHRISTIAN PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLEMENT I OF ROME, BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF MIGUEL AUGUSTIN PRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/23/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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