No Sympathy for Babylon

Scripture Focus: Revelation 19.1-6
1 After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: 

Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 
2 for true and just are his judgments. 
He has condemned the great prostitute 
who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. 
He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” 
3 And again they shouted: 
“Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.” 
4 The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: 
“Amen, Hallelujah!” 
5 Then a voice came from the throne, saying: 
“Praise our God, 
all you his servants, 
you who fear him, 
both great and small!” 
6 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: 
For our Lord God Almighty reigns. 

Reflection: No Sympathy for Babylon
By John Tillman

When nations fall, the world stands in horror. But one day, a nation will fall that has caused so much evil that choruses of praise will break out from all those who suffered under its rule. 

Babylon will fall.

In Revelation 18, John showed us nations and business owners mourning Babylon’s fall. They didn’t care about the lives she’d snuffed out. They lamented the loss of profits she put in their pockets. (Revelation 18.9-18) The Rolling Stones had a hit song entitled, “Sympathy for the Devil.” But in this chapter, John sympathizes with sufferers and shares the voices of Babylon’s victims shouting a three-fold, “Hallelujah” at Babylon’s fate.

In the Bible, Babylon is both literal and metaphorical. Babylon appears on the scene in the story of the Tower of Babel, then echoes through scripture like the peals of a warning bell, telling us, “Beware, beware, beware!” It is a real empire and also a symbol of all empires, cities, leaders, and powers on Earth.

Biblical authors paint other cities and empires with Babylon’s colors. In Revelation she is Rome but throughout scripture Egypt, Assyria, Nineveh, and even Jerusalem and Samaria (the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel) were painted as Babylon. From the biblical authors’ perspective, Babylon hasn’t fully fallen yet. Only stumbled.

Babylon sang shanties on the decks of slave ships in the North Atlantic. It thrived in Hitler’s Germany. It preened in South African Apartheid and in the Jim Crow South. It rode shotgun with rape squads during genocides on every continent.

Babylon is still alive today and we can see its signs. Pride and the abuse of power. Greed and the crushing of the poor. Lust and the dehumanizing industry of smut. Gluttony and the never-ending appetite for more. These are Babylon’s bloody calling cards of evil. We see these bloody cards played from the hands of leaders of nations, political parties, international corporations, and other groups.

It’s easy to point fingers at others. But we need to examine ourselves. God calls us to “come out” of Babylon. (Revelation 18.4) That tells us that we are living there. When Babylon falls, will we sing dirges with the kings and merchants or hallelujahs with her victims?

Babylon woos and confuses. She tempts, taunts, and tricks. Are we seduced? Or maybe just sympathetic? 

The painful question is…How much of our hearts belong to Babylon?

Divine Hours Prayer: The Cry of the Church
O God, come to my assistance! O Lord, make haste to help me!

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 11 (Listen 4:25)
Revelation 19 (Listen 3:47)

This Weekend’s Readings
2 Samuel 12 (Listen 5:25Revelation 20 (Listen 2:49)
2 Samuel 13 (Listen 6:39Revelation 21 (Listen 4:34)

Read more about Come Out of Babylon
“Come out of her,” Christ cries. “Don’t look back longingly,” warns the angel of the Lord…Babylon is a test of the heart.

Read more about Come Out of Captivity
Christ’s kingdom of light exposes the darkness of our human kingdoms. We find this not only in Revelation, but throughout the scriptures.

Unwrapping Christ’s Gifts :: Epiphany

Scripture Focus: Luke 4.18-20
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Reflection: Unwrapping Christ’s Gifts :: Epiphany
By John Tillman

The Annunciation of the birth of the King of Kings had come quietly to Mary, a young girl in Nazareth, and when that King’s time had come, he announced his kingdom in the same synagogue he studied in as a young boy. Mary’s son chose to announce his true identity to those who knew him best. He chose to proclaim the presence of the kingdom of God in a town from which true Israelites believed nothing good could come.

It should not surprise us that Jesus chose to make one of his earliest and most direct claims to being the Messiah not in a rabbinical school, not in the temple, not in a court of law, nor in the courts of political power.

Jesus consistently chose to minister in out of the way places to people life had pushed out of the way. But here in Nazareth, Jesus wasn’t burying the lead; he was burying a treasure in a field. Those who studied the prophecies knew that the Messianic ministry would dawn like a light in Galilee. Christ’s seeming retreat from more important locations, is actually a marker of his true nature as the foretold Messiah.

Christ’s gifts to us are at first concealed, like gifts under a Christmas tree. They are hidden in plain sight for us to wonder at, to shake, to puzzle over, and ultimately to open and rejoice over. But, after opening, gifts become a part of you when you accept them. Whether it is a tool that is used regularly, an item of clothing that is worn often, or a book, game, or other entertainment that engages our mind and imagination, good gifts integrate themselves into our lives and identities.

Christ’s gifts are meant to become integral to our lives and to become manifestations of himself to our family, friends, and communities. As we approach Epiphany over the next ten days, may we wear Christ’s gifts prominently, like new and well-loved items of clothing. Through the wearing, may we allow them to transform us into the manifestation of the giver.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Bless the Lord, you angels of his, you mighty ones who do his bidding, and hearken to the voice of his word.
Bless the Lord, all you his hosts, you ministers of his who do his will.
Bless the Lord, all you works of his, in all places of his dominion… — Psalm 103.20-22

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 32 (Listen -5:58) 
Revelation 18 (Listen -4:48)

This Weekend’s Readings
2 Chronicles 33 (Listen -4:01) Revelation 19 (Listen -3:47)
2 Chronicles 34 (Listen -6:23) Revelation 20 (Listen -2:49)

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Read more about The Purchase Price of Peace :: Peace of Advent
The peace God spoke would come at a cost, and shedding his glory and light to be born in a dim and dirty animal stall, was only the down payment.

Read more about Supporting our Work
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