Friday, November 16, 2007

The Last Battle

Friday, November 16, 2007 -- Week of Proper 27
(Margaret, Queen of Scotland, 1093)

"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
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Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p 992)
Psalms 88 (morning) 91, 92 (evening)
1 Maccabees 1:41-63 (found in the Apocrypha)
Revelation 19:11-16
Matthew 16:13-20

In John's vision we have the return of a white horse and rider. The earlier white horse (6:2) was one of the four creatures symbolizing human destruction, especially through war. This is a heavenly horse with a heavenly rider, Jesus -- Faithful and True -- the Lamb who was faithful and true unto death. John's description of the rider picks up elements from the introduction of the scene of the heavenly liturgy in chapter one.

The blood references in Revelation usually refer to the blood of Jesus and his sacrificial death. The judgment scene in chapter 14 speaks of the "great wine press of the wrath of God. And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the wine press, as high as a horse's bridle, for a distance of about two hundred miles." That language is symbolic of covering the whole world (200 miles is literally 1,600 stadia -- 1,600 symbolizing earth (4 x 4) and wholeness (10 x 10). Connected with the earlier angelic reaping of wheat in chapter 14, that earlier judgment scene is an image of a universal Eucharist.

So Jesus returns for the final battle, his "robe dipped in blood" -- his own sacrificial death and the wine of the Eucharist -- and "his name is called The Word of God... From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations." Again John says that victory over evil is won through words, or the Word. John's own writing is his militant action on behalf of the battle. We will see later that the wicked will be slain by the word of Jesus. (vs. 21)

Like so many other people I know, I find much of the book of the Revelation baffling and troubling. It makes more sense as a description of an interior spiritual warfare. If it is literalized, it has moments of questionable morality, moments that seem to condone genocide. As militant as its images may be, there is never the portrayal of a battle. The next paragraph after today's reading opens and closes with vultures, the armies are gathered, but there is no description of the battle. The beast and the false prophet are captured and dealt with. The Word of Jesus slays the rest of the wicked.

Lamb Power is greater than beast power. The sword of the Word triumphs over evil. The blood of the cross is God's wrath poured out in the Son's sacrificial death which brings life through the Eucharist. Heaven will make victory on earth. These are the comforting messages of John's Revelation, encouraging our perseverance and faithfulness in the midst of a culture of excess and luxury and impiety.


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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.


At 10:45 AM, Blogger The Underground Pewster said...

Workin' my way through Revelations with you...two chapters to go... Sounds like a song by Frankie Valli.

At 10:04 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Ah. And maybe when we get to the final three visions of John, we can close with, "My Eyes Adored You."



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