By David Baumann
A Reading from Revelation 1:9-16
9 I, John, your brother who share with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 11 saying, “Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamum, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”
12 Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands I saw one like the Son of Man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash across his chest. 14 His head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and from his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining with full force.
Paul wrote to believers in Corinth, “Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth” (1 Cor. 1:26). He wrote to folks who were “little” in the eyes of the wider world. People like these in major cities and small towns throughout the Roman Empire in the middle years of the first century were targeted for persecution by the leaders of that great empire, for they were perceived to be a threat to the very morals, values, and practices of the culture. And indeed they were. Powerless people like 86-year-old Polycarp, the slave Blandina, the pregnant young widow Perpetua, 12-year-old Agnes, and thousands of others, most of whose names are not known to us, stood up publicly for Jesus even unto death. Their witness is astounding.
The proconsul who tried Polycarp said, “Don’t you know I have wild beasts waiting? I’ll throw you to them.” The aged bishop responded, “Bring them on, then! For we are not accustomed to repent of what is good in order to adopt that which is evil.” The martyrdom of Christians in the arenas of the Roman Empire was usually last on the program of entertainments, for the citizens had never seen anyone die with such inextinguishable joy, and the appeal was indescribable. It is to believers like these that the Book of Revelation was first addressed, and the image in today’s reading is breathtaking. We see the Risen Savior standing among seven candlesticks. These represent the seven churches named, as well as the entire Church across time — the number “seven” in this book represents wholeness, unity, and perfection. The description of Jesus shows irresistible authority and final judgment. May our witness for Jesus today be as amazing as that of Polycarp, Blandina, Perpetua, Agnes, and countless others.
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:
The Consortium for Christian Unity
The Diocese of Ijebu (Church of Nigeria – Anglican Communion)