Reflections at Blue Point

Notes on the texts for Reformation Sunday-Revelation 14

For Reformation the lectionary appoints Revelation 14:6-7 as the epistle lesson. These two verses are found in the midst of what Siegbert Becker identifies as 7 visions beginning with the vision of Dragon in chapter 12 and ending with the vision of the Seven Plagues in chapter 15. The text for this day is found in the vision of the Three Angels/Messengers. Both the place of this vision in the midst of these seven visions (context), and the theme of the book of Revelation are important to keep in mind as one considers this text.

Revelation 14:6-7 is the fifth in a series of seven visions. The first vision (Rev 12), speaks about the battle which ensued after the fall. One needs to remember the proclamation in Genesis 3, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and hers." Revelation 12 is a picture of this battle, as it goes on throughout history, beginning with the desire and intent of the devil to strike at the Messiah (seed of the woman Gen 3:15), through his attempt to destroy the Church (Rev 12:13ff), to his constant attacks on individual Christians (Rev 12:17ff). Chapter 13 speaks of the two allies that the Devil employs to attack and destroy faith in Christ, i.e. secular government and a seat/personage within the Church herself. (With respect to the latter, cf the description of the second beast in Rev13:11 as being "lamblike" and the Words of Christ in Matthew 7:15, along with 2 Thessalonians 2:5ff). These enemies would fight against the Church until the end of time.

In Revelation 14 the 4th vision, the vision of the 144,000, reminds the reader of Revelation, even and especially as the reader cycles through pictures/visions of history, in which it appears that the devil, the world, etc seem to get the upper hand, that God's mission will not fail. The Lord will keep His Church, the 144,000 (which is a picture not of a literal number of believers, but of the one holy Christian and Apostolic Church which has existed throughout history), safe even in the midst of battles.

The 5th vision, the vision of the 3 angels/messengers begins with the given text and reminds the hearer that God will continue to make sure that the Gospel is proclaimed, no matter the enemies, and that this proclamation will bring forth from the Church a confession of praise and thanksgiving. Some Lutherans see the 1st angel as referring to Martin Luther, who confessed the Gospel in the midst of a state and church attack on the same. Nothing that the Pope or the Emperor did or could do would stop the Gospel from going forth. Luther stated that while he and his associates drank Wittenburg beer, the Holy Spirit was turning the world upside down. While it is true that Luther certainly fits into this context, one cannot limit the promise of this angel/messenger to Luther, for God has, is and will use many such messengers to continue to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ until the last day. The other two angels/messengers begin to warn of the failure of and of the judgment against God's enemies.

The last two visions of this section of Revelation carry through what apocalyptic literature does so clearly and beautifully, move on to describe the Last Day/Judgment. Apocalyptic literature paints history with a very wide brush, running from creation/fall to certain critical/important events in history and then on to the Last Day/Judgment. Other apocalyptic works do this very nicely. Joel, e.g., starts with a locust plague and moves on through the coming of Christ, Pentecost and on to the Last Day.

Notes on the texts for Reformation Sunday-Matthew 11

In the Gospel lesson for this Sunday, the one verse that seems to give people trouble is verse 12 in which Jesus says Matt. 11:12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. (NKJV)

The question which this text prompts is, who is it that seems to be attacking the kingdom of God? Are the enemies of God attacking the kingdom of heaven, or is Jesus referring to the saints of God, those who become heirs of the kingdom? How can one resolve this question? The ambiguity seems difficult to remove, no matter what direction you go with the text. However, I have a hard time ignoring a certain aspect of the Kingdom of Heaven, which is tied to violence.

What violence do I refer to? Well, the kingdom of heaven, as we come to know it, is clearly tied to violence. Man lost the kingdom through the fall, and in its place suffered the violence of sin. Sin brings upon man disease, pain, etc, and finally death, the most violent of all things we suffer in this world. The cure for sin involves violence. Lamb after lamb, sacrifice after sacrifice, death after death, blood shed daily, offered in faith, looking forward to the ultimate act of violence, Christ's death on the cross. Even as Christ, John, and the Church suffered violence from the false teachers, Roman government, so God's plan would take shape and be fulfilled. Even one who enters the kingdom of heaven, enters through the violence of the cross in our behalf. The violent snatch the kingdom, in an interesting way, in the sense that they lay hold of the violence done to Christ, as suffered on their behalf. They, the ones who are violent, murders, receive the peace of God, through the work of Christ.

I think that the ambiguity in the text really expresses, in some ways, how the violence of men/devil was used by God, as His instrument, to accomplish the salvation of men, through Christ.

What do you think?

Notes on the texts for Reformation Sunday-2nd Chronicles

Here are some ideas about the texts for Reformation Sunday. The texts are 2 Chronicles 29:12-19, Revelation 14:6-7, and Matthew 11:12-15.

All three texts speak to the Church as she makes her way in the midst of a very difficult and often violent struggle, as she walks toward to wedding feast of the lamb. The Bible pictures the entire history of the Church in midst of battle. The texts for today reflect this quite clearly. The Old Testament lesson, 2 Chronicles 29, is just one scene from the Old Testament, in which we find the Church in need of reformation. King Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, had become King in Judah, and began the process of opening up and repairing the temple. Ahaz had led the people away from Word of God, from the Temple, Sacrifices and promises which pointed them to the coming of Christ. Ahaz himself, trusting in the power of men, when threatened, ignored a beautiful reminder and promise/prophecy through the prophet Isaiah, in Isaiah 7, that God would take care of Judah, for Immanuel, the Christ, God in the flesh, must come. Ahaz trusted in the strength of men and so darkness reigned in Judah at that time (cf Isaiah 8:19ff), even as the Lord was proclaiming the coming light (cf Is 9:1ff), who would come through the person of Ahaz (cf Mt 1:9). (Ahaz was in the line of the Messiah who was to come, even though he was a wicked King).

Hezekiah, the son of Ahaz, sought to lead the people of Judah back to the promises which God made to them concerning the coming of the Christ. He determined to send men to repair and open up the temple so that the people could again hear and see the promises of the Christ. Hezekiah reestablished the sacrifices, passover, and made sure that the priests and Levites were being taken care of. The reformers liked to say that the church is always being reformed, and so we see in the midst of this historical point in time, evidence of just that. At the same time, the devil and all of his instruments, seek to turn Hezekiah's face away from this critical work. Assyria would come with a huge army, threatening to destroy Judah, weak and frail as she was. But the Lord was faithful, even as He is today.

Blogging at Blue Point

Blogging, it sounds so new-fangled and current, that is, if you have been out of the technological loop, so to speak . And yet, we are still stepping into this medium, even if it is fairly late in the game. After all, there are more blogs, more opinions, more places to express yourself than one could shake a stick at. So what do we hope to accomplish with this entry into the field, this late in the game?

Well, first of all, there is always room for one more blog. This blog will seek to serve the members of St Paul Lutheran Church at Blue Point. Second, it will seek to fulfill a few simple goals and no more. It will seek to discuss issues which the contemporary church must face as she moves forward in mission. It will seek to discuss things like books, movies, TV and other forms of information/entertainment. It will be a place where the church is made aware of events, resources etc, on a day to day basis. Therefore, there will be days and possibly weeks in which the blog will have little or no information, or will just direct the reader to other blogs, sites etc. Other days will provide much to think about, reflect on and perhaps, if you are brave, to respond to.

In all of this, God's Blessings to all who venture here!