Threat to the Status Quo

By David Baumann

A Reading from Revelation 1:1-8

1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place; he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.

3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it; for the time is near.

4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia:

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

7 Look! He is coming with the clouds;
every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him;
and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.
So it is to be. Amen.

8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

Meditation

The first-century Roman Empire was already past its prime; government was often indecisive and its ways corrupt. Leaders were often opportunists rather than true servants of the populace. In such circumstances, rulers, others in power through economic domination, and those who are generally “anxious” resist challenge and change, and scapegoat those who simply are “different” — especially if they show confident independence from the “ways of the world.” For this reason, first-century Christians were seen as something dangerous to the Empire. Official persecutions began under Nero, who reigned from 37 to 68 A.D. His successors continued the persecutions, including Nero’s immediate three successors who finished out the first century: Vespasian, Domitian, and Trajan.

During these years, the Book of Revelation was written. In spite of being produced during times of unabated persecution, the book’s message is one of great glory and triumph for the whole Church. The message which the author received and passed on to believers is from the all-powerful Risen Lord, the One who had triumphed over death and the grave, and is supreme over any who have power to persecute the saints (1:5).

The book begins with a vision of power and glory, meant to encourage those who are suffering for the Name. John is saying, “Take heart! Triumph and honor will be ours!” The dynamic of first-century Christianity in the Roman Empire has been manifested in many other times and places, including today, and it always plays out the same way: authentic Christianity, just by existing, challenges any other philosophy the world can offer. The constant dilemma for Christians is how to live uncompromisingly faithful to Jesus while living in this “City of Man” that is hostile and passing away.

David Baumann served for nearly 50 years as an Episcopal priest in the Dioceses of Los Angeles and Springfield; he retired last year. He has published nonfiction, science fiction, and short stories. Two exuberant small daughters make sure he never gets any rest.

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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Waco, Texas
The Diocese of Ihiala (Church of Nigeria – Anglican Communion)

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