Monday, October 29, 2007

Challenges in times of prosperity

Monday, October 29, 2007 -- Week of Proper 25
(James Hannington, Bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa, and his Companions, Martyrs, 1885)

"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location --

Audio Podcasts of today's "Morning Reflection" and those from the past week are available from (go to St. Paul's Home Page and click "Morning Reflection podcast")

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer p. 990)
Psalms 41, 52 (morning) 44 (evening)
Zechariah 1:7-17
Revelation 1:4-20
Matthew 12:43-50

We have a brief word today from the prophet Zechariah, speaking in the year 519 BCE. He helps announce the time of rebuilding after exile. The four horsemen of God have gone throughout the world. They announce all the world is at peace. Normally that would be good news, but it is not. Why are the nations at ease while God's people suffer unjustly? Zechariah announces that God is stirring; Jerusalem and the cities will be rebuilt. His words sound like those of the 8th century prophet Amos who challenged a prosperous and secure elite not to enjoy their wealth while so many in Israel live in poverty and need.

We also read from the opening of the Revelation of John. Recent scholarship suggests that this is not a book coming out of a period of Roman persecution of the church. There is no evidence of persecution in the region of the seven churches during the later first century when Revelation was written. The book imagines suffering for the future. But the present seems to be a time of peace and prosperity. The great temptation is that of materialism. Do not be seduced by the lure of luxury and glamour of the Roman culture. Hold the faith in the face of such challenge, says John.

He opens with a trinitarian formula, offering grace and peace "from him who is and who was and who is to come (God), and from the seven spirits who are before his throne (Spirit; seven is the symbol of perfection and completeness), and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth (cross, resurrection, and exaltation).

Revelation will address politics and religion. "To him who loves us and freed us... to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father..." The book speaks in the present tense. "He is coming with the clouds..."

John mentions that he was on the island of Patmos, sharing "the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance." Unlike what we were told when we visited there a few years ago, Patmos was not a penal colony. It could be that John had been banished there. It is more likely that he was on this sparsely settled island better to organize his active resistance to the Roman culture through his writing.

The vision he sees is an earthly reflection of the heavenly reality. The seven spirits are sacramentally present as seven golden lampstands, and "one like the Son of Man" appears with a description connecting to the visions from the traditions of Daniel, Zechariah, Ezekiel and Isaiah. In his right hand are seven stars (a symbol of power over destiny) and a sharp two-edged sword comes from his mouth. That is an important detail. The sword in the hand is an instrument of coercive power. The sword of the Son of Man is the power of his word and testimony. He is the presence of enlightenment: "his face was like the sun shining with full force."

John will testify that this is the true power and wealth and glory that will inherit the earth. Do not succumb to the lesser glories of the Empire and its materialism.


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The Rev. Lowell Grisham
Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, AR

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

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Our Rule of Life:
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.


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