The Orphan’s Story

In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.
Why did Jesus have to come? Because we cannot do it on our own.

This new year I plan on changing things up a bit. We are going to work our way through the story of the Old Testament. Why do this? Why not just focus on this Gospel and give you all the good news of Jesus Christ, and the salvation from sin? Because it is meaningless to show that our sins are forgiven if we have no sins of which to be forgiven. And more to the point, not only you and the person sitting next to you, but for thousands of years of recorded biblical history, man has found that he cannot do it on his own.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, he formed a garden and he put Adam in it and told him to be fruitful and multiply. Then when he found no fit partner among the created world, God put him into a deep sleep and fashioned Eve and called them into the covenant of marriage together, a marriage in which a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife.

Why did the God add this bit about leaving father and mother and becoming one flesh with his wife on to the end of the creation narrative? It seems as though the story has already reached its climax, Adam was made, searched the entire world and could not find what he was looking for and then God provides it for him and he is exceedingly happy. Roll credits over a happy score; send the people on their way with a good feeling.

God decided rather to comment, a bit cryptically mind you, on the living arrangements of the new happy couple. It is cryptic because who are Adam’s mother and father? Adam is the first man and thus has no father except God and has no mother at all. There must be a theological point that is being made here.

To find the answer to this we look back at the first account of the Creation narrative. There are two accounts present in Genesis, the first being the grand scheme—big, God’s eye view of creation coming together. The second is man’s—he cannot see all that is going on but what happens in front of him.

In the first account, creation is set up like a beautiful Temple. The world was without form and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep. The first creation is God giving the earth form and filling the void. There is a parallel to the days. Days 1-3 parallel days 4-6.
Day 1: God creates light and dark—day and night. Day 2: God separates the sky from the sea—the waters from the water (both are blue and it was assumed that the sky was simply a dome that kept the waters above from crashing down on the waters below—hence why the sky is blue).
Day 3: God separates the dry land from the water and creates vegetation.

Now the earth is formed, but remains void, so days 4-6 God fills the void.
Day 4: God fills the void of day 1 by adding a Sun and a Moon—one to rule the day, another to rule the night.
Day 5: God fills the void of day 2 by adding birds and fish—birds to rule the sky and fish to rule the sea.
Day 6: God fills the void of day 6 by adding land animals and bugs (I love the phrasing in the Hebrew: “creeping things that creep on the earth”), essentially these rule the land.
Finally, still on the 6th day, God creates man and he is to rule over the entire thing.

Now the earth has both form and void, and so God rests. God does not rest because he is tired, he rests as an example to man. God rest to show man (collectively) that there is something that is beyond this world. In resting God calls us to his eternally rest. This is why he hallows it—sets it aside for his use.

Now that we have the big picture, the camera cuts to Adam and we get his story from his viewpoint—we back up a day. We see God fashion Adam from the dust of the earth and the breath the first breath—the breath of his life-giving Spirit—into Adam and then the camera cuts to Adam’s view. He opens his eyes with that first breath and the first thing he sees is God.

Then God helps him up and shows him around the garden by beating the bounds. So God sets the boundaries and then gives him a job to do—protect the garden by tilling it and keeping it (this comes into play later so remember it). Then God gives him one rule: “See this tree? This one tree is the only one from which you cannot eat. It is called the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Look at its branches; see its fruit, and remember. Now, turn and look around. See all the other trees—everything else you find here, you may eat,” and off they go, Adam, and his personal tour guide, God: the creator of the universe.

Then God allows Adam learn something for himself. God says that it is not fit for man to be alone, so God creates animals. This must have been the coolest part of being Adam—hanging out with God as he creates animals. God would make something and hold it up, and Adam would name it and off it would scamper. After God made every animal, Adam still could not find his true helper—not even a dog, which was close, because immediately upon being named, it grabbed the nearest stick and Adam, God, and dog played the first game of fetch.

But when that was finished and the dog lay down beside Adam to chew the stick, Adam still had not found a helper fit for him. He had passed his first test.

So God caused a deep sleep to come upon him and when he woke up God brought forth the jewel of his creation, and asked Adam to name her. This woman (for that is what he named her) was perfect for him. At last he had his perfect helper and they were married on the spot.

Here we have reached our theological point wrapped in the shapely curves of Eve. The point talking about marriage here, about leaving father and mother and cleaving to his wife is the same thing Jesus talks about when the crowd when his family comes to gather him thinking him to be crazy. “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.” Those who leave their earthly father and mother and participate in the marriage between Christ and his Church, they are the ones who participate in the eternal rest of the seventh day. The saying on marriage is making the same point as the rest—we are called beyond the created world to God Himself and we will find no rest until we realize this.

This is why we are focusing on the story of the Old Testament this year, because it allows us to see over and over again our story for we cannot realize the end without knowing what led up to it.

Countless people have gone before us and we would do well to learn from them, because time and time in the bible, the point is made: God has called us to him, but try as we might, we cannot do it by ourselves. Notice that it is God who provides Eve for Adam, not Adam finding something already in existence. Adam cannot do it by himself.

I recently heard a saying: “He who does not know the story of his past is an orphan.” Beloved, I would not have you be orphans but true children of the Father. And to do this, we must learn our family history.

In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.

Undercover King

In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.
There was once a good king who after years of leading his people became frustrated by his people’s failure to abide by the rules of the kingdom. Sure whenever the land was in trouble they obeyed the laws, for the people expected the king to ride out with his armies and defend them and this kept them from straying too far, but in times of peace, the people were downright nasty to each other and obstinate toward his rule.

This vexed the king and it would cause him to lie wide awake at night, his mind racing about the way to properly get his people to live at peace with each other and with the realm while they were at peace with their surrounding kingdoms. Night after night he would lie there, tossing and turning all night, one fruitless idea after the next bouncing around, until one night the answer finally presented itself to him.
He would spread word that he had gone on a diplomatic quest to strengthen the bonds with the neighboring realms and place his most trusted advisor in charge in his absence. But he would instead go out among his people in disguise and try to inspire among them the ideals by which they should live.

So he set his plan into action and sent out decrees informing the people of his absence and setting his steward upon the throne to govern the day-to-day affairs. Then the king went into his chambers and shaved off his beard and shaved his head. He gathered clothes that would allow him to blend in among the people, and he set out to start his own grassroots movement.

In an effort not to be recognized, he went out to one of the furthest villages to insure that his plan was not spoiled by a particularly vigilant soul and he set up at the local inn. Every day he would go out and be among the people, talking with those who would talk with him and keeping his eyes open for opportunities.

Then one day he saw a man who was begging for food, and he decided that he would give him a portion of his meals. The man was grateful and more the king came, the more they would chat. The man who was begging was begging for food for his family and eventually began to bring his family and they too would listen and talk with the king.

As more and more people gathered to listen to the king speak, he found that not only was he able to teach these people, but often times he was able to help them in other ways as well. The food he brought he original man and his family everyday inspired others who could to bring food for those who did not have enough. Eventually it became cold and heavier clothes were needed both for the king and for those of lesser means.

After a while, the king decided that it was time to move to the next town. He told the people of this and placed a man in charge who was able to keep up the good work in his absence. But the man and his family who was his initial disciple, they went with the king to the next town and there they started anew. This they did from town to town across the kingdom, and as they went, the king found that the more people were willing to give to others, the more receptive they were to the reforms he brought to them.

Finally, they worked their way through the entire kingdom. One night as they sat around the fire, the original man said to the king, “We should bring this to the king himself. I have always heard that he was a good man, protecting us when we needed, and surely he has heard by now what we have been doing and will be eager to talk to us about the good we are doing through his kingdom. Who knows, maybe he will even adopt our practices himself.” The king agreed that the time was right to bring this to the palace and agreed that the king would be most receptive.

The next day, they entered the palace gates and were granted permission to enter and address the throne, though they were told that the king was out on a diplomatic mission and his steward was on the throne in his stead. As the king (still in disguise) approached the throne, the steward stood up. As the king reached the steps, rather than the king come up the steward descended and when he reached the king, he knelt and said, “My king, you have returned.”

The king, now revealed, turned to his stunned followers and said, “My friends, I am indeed the king. I had to come among you to show how it was that I wanted you to live. Had I simply decreed it and made it into rule, it would not have been effective because it came down from above and would be perceived as oppressive. However, since I came as one of you and showed you the benefits of doing this without making it mandatory, it has spread throughout the entire kingdom. Now it may be brought into law as now understand and have seen it in practice. There will now be no excuse for neglecting to show charity towards one’s neighbor since this is a rule that has not come from me, but a rule you want for yourselves. So shall it be written, so shall it be done.”

Beloved, this is the point of Christ the King Sunday. Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, the Word of God, descended among us, divesting himself of all forms of majesty to become one of us. He became one of us to show us how it is to be truly human—how to be exactly what he expects from us.

We want him to be our Savior, which he gladly does for us because we ask through our Baptism. But he also tells us that in asking him to be our Savior and Protector, we willingly subject ourselves to his rule. And his rule is set plainly before us, having been perfectly demonstrated before being enacted.

We are held responsible each time we fail to live up to the standard before us. Yet each time we fail, he asks that we acknowledge the failure, which he then forgives, and then he looks at us and says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Beloved, let us not only be hearers of the Law, but let us also be doers of the Law. Let us also remember the poor and needy, for our willingness to help them shows our willingness to follow Christ.
In the name of the F, S, and the HS. Amen.

Chocolate and Lemonade: Steps to a Better You

In The name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.
A young boy was given a dollar at the store and told he could buy anything he wanted. He was given the dollar because he was good at school and he was nice to his teacher. It was the best day of his life as far as he was concerned—the world was at his fingertips, so full of potential. So he went to the candy aisle—he was going to buy the best piece of candy there.

But there were so many choices. Did he go chocolate bar? Just plain chocolate or did he want something inside the center? Or maybe he wanted quantity, so he went over to the big movie-sized candy section. Did he want a candy that he could eat really quickly but had such quantity that he could run three feet off the ground due to the sugar-high, or did he want it prolong the experience with hard candy? So many decisions so something that seems so easy.

As his mother did her shopping, all he could do was stand there in front of all that candy, weighing the endless possibilities for his selection. This was his dollar and it held endless possibilities for happiness. Yet for all the potential for happiness it held, the goodness was locked behind these little boxes, and it could only unlock one.

That’s not fair. It is like asking which one of your dreams you wanted to come true. It is saying yes to one, but saying no to all the others. What if he picked the wrong one? Then he was stuck with a box full of blech that was destined not for his stomach, but for the trash. This was all too hard.

All of the sudden his mother appeared at the end of the aisle, her basket full and ready to go. His time for debate was now gone—it was now or never. But ahhhh, so many choices.

Ok, moment of truth. He passed the hard card, too much work. Movie candy? Nah, not in the mood. Chocolate bars it was. Snickers seemed to be the most bang for his buck in the world of chocolate world, so he grabbed the biggest one he could find and followed after his mother ready to tear into it in the car.

He wanted to be in line all by himself. This was the first time he was spending his money. This was not mom’s money, this was his. So he let her go first, this was not some mundane bit of groceries—this was nougat, topped with caramel, wrapped in chocolaty perfection. This was special.

FINALLY, the groceries were all paid for, bagged, and back in the cart. It was his turn. He put it on the conveyer belt and watched it as it made its final journey as property of the grocery store. The clerk picked it up and swiped it across the scanner which then read: $1.00.

He reached into his pocket for that dollar. But there was no dollar. The other pocket. No dollar. The back. Where could it be? This couldn’t be happening. Through his excitement and decision making, he must have dropped his dollar somewhere.

His mother turned to see what was the fuss? She saw him frantically and tearfully looking for his money. So they went back and looked. Someone must have picked it up when they left. It was gone. He had not been careful with his things. So she decided to teach him a lesson and they left the store.

When they got home and the boy was distraught. After calming him down and putting up the groceries, the mother called him back in to the kitchen. On the kitchen table, there was a bag of lemons, some sugar, a big pitcher, some poster board and a marker. Together, they sliced the lemons and juiced them. They filled the pitcher with water and poured in the lemon juice. Then they used the sugar to sweeten the drink until it was perfect. Then they made a sign “Lemonade 25¢” and went outside to set up a stand.

The day was hot but beautiful and there were many passersby, so they picked a place that was just shaded enough to be comfortable and set up shop. They sold many cups that afternoon, such that they had to go back in a number of times to make more lemonade. Finally, they had to stop. They were all out of ingredients to make more, so the day was done. So they cleaned up and went inside to count the money.

He cleared the kitchen table and dumped out the jar full of quarters—the noise of all that money filled the room. What a pile! He started sorting he quarters into groups of four. When he finished, he counted them all up—25 in all. He had just made $25. Jackpot!!

But then his mother sat down at the table with the receipt from the grocery store and a calculator. Together they counted up how much all his supplies cost—$15. So he gave his mother fifteen on his piles. But he still had ten left!

The mother and son got back in the car and went to the grocery store—back to the candy section. This time he knew exactly what he wanted, but it didn’t seem so big of a decision this time. He calmly selected his Snickers bar and also a nice bar of chocolate for his mom to say thanks. He placed them both on the conveyor belt and when the price came up, counted out the money for both bars. When they got in the car and opened their candy, both agreed that this was the best chocolate they had ever tasted. And what was better, was that he even had money left in his pocket for later.

The moral of the story Beloved is that God gives us all talents and expects us to use them. If we do not use them, then they are worthless. The problem is that if we do not expect them to be a renewable resource, then our decision has to be perfect which can induce fear at making the wrong decision. However, if we use them with the expectation that there will be more to use, then we are free to spend. Sometimes work has to be done to discover the gift, but once it is discovered, it is pointless to keep it to ourselves.

Using our gifts and talents in the service of God is the reason that he gave them to us in the first place. It is no wonder that the man in the parable is thrown into outer darkness, because he is refusing to follow God’s command for fear of failure. God says use them, you will find out that they are indeed renewable resources and ones that bring immense joy. Make a decision and follow it and know that God will bless it because it is being used in His service.

So now two questions remain: What are your talents and how can you use them?`

Letters from Condemned Men

In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.
Two men were sitting on death row, each man rightly accused of a crime they didn’t commit—both were to be executed on the same day in one month’s time. They were allowed to write their farewell letters home, but they are so deep in the prison that sunlight doesn’t reach them and they are assigned men to take down their dictation.

These two men have know each other for the last 35 years, they both worked for the same man. When they met, they hated each other, but after one saw the light, they began to work together. Sure they had their spats along the way, but each man was so devoted to the man for whom they worked that they settled their differences and eventually became good friends.

The two men were now old. Each had lost his hair long ago and yet each had an impressive grey beard that each reached down and touched their chest. Both were gaunt with lack of proper prison provisions, but both were still strong with a strength that did not come from them. As the scribes came down the hall, a torch was held aloft to cut the darkness, a when that distant flame rounded the corner, it caught the eye of the two men and each could see the inner fire reflected from within burning brightly in his cell mate.

The scribes reach the cell and have the jailor open the door that they may go in to accomplish their task. They sit down and ready their pens. The first man begins his dictation: “Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: may grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”

His friend begins his dictation: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus, to Timothy, my beloved child: grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The year is 68 AD, and these men reside in Rome, both men are to be executed by order of the emperor Nero. Both Apostles are writing to encourage those back home while taking the opportunity to reflect back on their life in Jesus Christ. Both letters have very similar topics as well. Both men look to buoy the faith of the recipient because they know that their death will be quite a blow. They both then warn about those who would come to deceive and corrupt that which they have built in Jesus Christ.

Paul then encourages his protégé and shows him what qualities he will need now that he is to don the mantle of leadership. Peter gives strength to his people to combat the scoffers who will surely try to discourage them after Peter’s death.

Surely this Christian following is false since Jesus promised that he would come back and it doesn’t look like he will be coming back in Peter’s lifetime. Peter was his best friend and if he doesn’t come back for Peter, he probably won’t come back at all.

Peter can speak to this because it has been on his mind as well. He says, “These [scoffers] deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the Day of Judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

But do not overlook this one fact beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come, like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise, we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”

Beloved, Peter was addressing what our Gospel lesson is talking about today. Jesus speaks of the wise and foolish virgins who are waiting for this very thing about which Peter is telling his people. Prior to this passage, Jesus is talking about the final victory when this world will pass away and Jesus will lead all those whom he saves to the new Promise Land of Heaven. But it will not happen when you expect. In the meantime, we must ready ourselves and make sure the bags are packed for the journey.

Jesus is ready to shut off the lights and lock the door, but he stands at the light switch, finger ready and keys out making that last call to make sure all are out. “Is anybody in here?” As long as he hears movement he will wait, but if people are waiting in the corner to like some bandit hoping to be locked in, once he shuts the door and locks it, he is walking outside and pushing the button to demolish the building. He is patient, but at some point, you should have already handled what you need to and gotten out of the door.

Jesus knows that sometimes things happen and messes are made that require a bit of cleaning before leaving. We are human, and there are times when we forget ourselves and drop the good things we have and need time to pick them up again. So he waits and reminds us that this building is going down, handle our business and let’s go. And this is what causes the bridegroom to be delayed for the virgins. While he waits, those ready must have everything prepared so that when he shows up everyone can leave together and join him in the new heaven and new earth.

When Peter and Paul finish composing their letters, the scribes are dismissed and the two friends are removed from each other and placed in opposite sides of the prison. Paul is brought to a bit nicer place—he is a Roman citizen after all—and Peter they send deeper. Paul is to be beheaded and Peter to be crucified like his master before him. But these two men know for them, this is not the end, they will see each other again soon, and when they do see each other it will be a joyous reception attended by Jesus himself. But for now, all they have to do is wait for that coming of Jesus, keeping their candles lit like the virgins of the parable, ready to come out to meet their Lord when he comes.
In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.

Old John Learns a New Trick

In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.
Being the youngest of the group has its benefits, like being able to outlive your contemporaries. This was the case for the Apostle John; easily able to outstrip Peter to find out if Jesus’ body was present in the tomb, yet too young to have the courage to go in and have visual proof. But now, at the twilight of his life, any idea of hastily getting somewhere is way out of the question.

The year is 95 AD, John has lived a long and fruitful life up to this point. After Jesus’ death, the 12 got together and divided the known world into twelve—John got Asia-Minor (modern-day Turkey). Before he could undergo this adventure, he had to finish the one Jesus had given him first. John would spend the next 15 years in Jerusalem looking after The Blessed Virgin Mary until she was called home to re-join her Son.

After this he went to Ephesus and became the leader of the Church that Paul founded some 14 years prior. Ephesus would be home base for the next 30 years, until Domitian became emperor of Rome. Domitian, a great persecutor of the Church, rounded the old man up and brought him to Rome to be killed—John was to be boiled in a cauldron of oil. Domitian watched as John was placed in the oil, yet if he was expecting this to be the end of John, he was sadly mistaken—the Lord miraculously delivered John from certain death by restraining the heat. But Domitian would not be made the fool by this old man, so he exiled him to the island of Patmos—out of sight, out of mind.

On the island of Patmos, it seemed that John’s life was over—doomed to wander this small island until he too rejoined his Lord. Sure he was able to minister to the few people there, but for the most part, it seemed to John as if he was all alone, just waiting to die. One Sunday, John woke up like every Sunday before. He got out of bed and went to ready himself for the one true service that he could provide—he was at least able to say Mass on Sundays. He washed his face to rid himself of the sleep and allow himself to be fully awake both physically and spiritually when he encountered the Lord.

He dressed himself and readied himself to once again meet Jesus, veiled though he may be in this bread and wine. But unbeknownst to John, this time was to be different than any other time he had ever been with Jesus—even when Jesus was alive. As John was in the midst of the Mass, he heard a voice—it was familiar to him, a voice that he had not heard in a long, long time. The voice was louder than a normal voice, and it echoed around the room, but it was a familiar voice nonetheless.

He turned to find the source of this voice to find seven golden lampstands, and in their midst he saw a man clothed in a long robe fastened with a golden sash. The man had a head full of snowy white hair. As John took in the man, he focused in on his face—he had eyes that burned like the flame of fire, so intense was his gaze that John could not hold it very long. So he turned his gaze to the exposed skin of the man, his feet shone like the sun, like burnished bronze refined in the fine. He looked at the man’s hand that was outstretched to him, and it looked as though he had seven stars.

He was the able to focus on the voice, a voice that from the effect sounded like the deafening roar of an enormous waterfall at first, but as he listened through the noise, he heard a voice that he had not heard in sixty years—the voice of Jesus his master. And John fell at his feet as though he were a dead man.

Jesus, the risen and glorified, reached down and comforted one of his most trusted disciples and best friends, and I imagine that there has never been such a deeply loving embrace between two people ever before, nor ever since. But Jesus has not merely come for a social visit, he has business with John. First he tells him that he has a few personal notes that John is to give to the Churches of his diocese.

After taking down these seven letters, John’s eyes were again hit by a blast of light, this time from above. A door way appeared in the heavens, and Jesus was standing next to it. John must have had to concentrate very hard on Jesus’ words and didn’t notice that he was no longer standing next to him. And in his booming voice that is totally foreign to this world, boomed in John’s ears, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”

John is fearful of entering this doorway, not in a way that is entirely describable for it was equal parts terror and awe that had him rooted to the spot. He decides to follow Jesus, though he knows not how, he takes a step, and immediately he can see his body below him as his spirit leaves it to follow Jesus through the door and into heaven.

John’s senses are immediately overwhelmed…do you even have senses in heaven if you have no body which is still on earth, but no he definitely had a body because he could definitely see. So he looks around and behold, the vision he takes in is an extension of what he encountered when Jesus came to him. It was all so, so bright at first, but he definitely saw a throne—a throne of the brightest color you have ever seen. And Around this throne was a rainbow, but not like rainbows we have here, but like an emerald.

And John focused in more on the throne, and he saw that it was not just one throne, but there was a central throne surrounded by 24 smaller thrones, each with a man sitting on them. And there was light issuing forth from these thrones—no it was from the center throne, and sound, renting the atmosphere like a clap of thunder from three feet away. And he looked below the thrones and he could see for miles and miles, but it had clarity, like that of when you are peering down into the depths below of crystal clear water—you can tell there is distance between you, but it is almost as if you can reach down and grab it—it’s that clear.

Then he focused further in on the throne and he sees four creatures, one like a lion, another an ox, another with the face of a man, and another an eagle. They had six wings and were covered with eyes, and he could just discern through the cacophony, these great creatures were worshipping the man on the center throne. In fact, now that his eyes were getting used to the scene, he could discern that the man on the satellite thrones were also worshipping the man on the center throne.

John focused in further to reveal a scroll in his hand. A voice boomed over the din, “Who is worthy to open this scroll?” But as no one was found worthy, John was overcome with grief. It was just too much. Then one of the elders came to him and said, “Behold, one is worthy. The Lion of Judah—Jesus himself.” As Jesus took the scroll and as he did, everything in heaven immediately fell and worshipped him, and John noticed an extra haze about the area. This he found out was the actually the prayers of the people below as they too worshipped God. And behold, at this moment, John’s eye were opened even more to see the vast multitude such that no one could ever could all joined in the worship of God.

Jesus then began to open the scroll and with each broken seal John witnesses another further devastation of the world below, each more horrible than the last. After the sixth of seven seals, there was a dead calm on the earth below, devastated by a huge earthquake that blocked out the sun, and in the calm, an angel rose from the wreckage and told the angels carrying out the destruction of the world below, “Hold, do not harm the earth or the sea until the full number of the those who are to be saved are sealed on their foreheads.”

With the break in the action as the angels set about this task John was able to look around again. He saw a seemingly new group and these were definitely human and their number included people from every nation throughout the world—people whom John had never heard of before. John saw their ever-increasing number and inquired of them. “These are the ones who have been martyred for the cause. The wrongs that they encountered are righted and nothing will ever again harm them because they are worthy of the Lamb.”

Years later, John was able to reflect on this revelation from God and the great multitude that joined with his prayers as he went about the task with which God had tasked him. He found that though it seemed as though this great persecution under Domitian would end the world, he now knew it would not—he still had a job to do. John was now able to accomplish this task without any fear, because no matter what may happen in this world, it paled in comparison to the real devastation that would mark the end initiated by God. Any evil or hardship he faced could be overcome because God and all the vast multitude with him accompanied John and we praying for his success.
John, upon the death of Domitian was released from his exile ad sent home to Ephesus. He then went about the task of handing out the letters that Jesus told him to compose to the churches under his influence, confident that we has no longer alone.

In the name of the F, S, and HS. AmEn.