Monday, October 20, 2014 – Proper 24, Year Two
[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 25 (morning) // 9, 15 (evening)
I once saw a verse from today’s second reading written in beautiful calligraphy, illustrated, framed, and mounted on a wall: “Do not damage the earth or the sea or the trees” (Revelation 7:3). I was so pleased that the last book of the Bible contained such wisdom about preserving the created world. What a perfect, prophetic few words to leave to the Christian community.
Imagine my disappointment years later when I encountered these words in their apocalyptic context, as we find them in the fuller passage today. For starters, the verse is directed not at humankind, but at “the four angels who had been given power to damage earth and sea.” In the vision that this reading describes, these four angels are standing at the four corners of the earth, preventing the winds from damaging any piece of earth, sea, or tree.
Furthermore, the complete verse actually reads, “Do not damage the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have marked the servants of our God with a seal on their foreheads.” So, this verse is not an indefinite command to keep environmental destruction at bay. Instead, the verse describes only a temporary stay on ecological disaster. Once a few people have been plucked out of harm’s way, presumably the angels can let the winds do their worst to our created home.
Encountering this verse again today, I’m trying to hear it in a more humble way. Since it’s apparently the angels’ job to keep the world from total destruction, what can human beings do? Today, I wonder whether human beings have a very simple, small-scale mission: to do our best to buy humanity a little more time.
We need time for repentance, for transformation, for mercy. We need time for the arc of the moral universe to bend toward justice (MLK, Jr.). We need time to develop sustainable patterns of treading on this earth. We need time, and we need a very patient God.
Whatever has gone before us, and whatever the future holds, we have bought ourselves another day. Today is a small window of opportunity to forestall disaster, to enjoy created gifts, to love people around us, and to inch our way toward God’s dream for us. We may not have the power to save or destroy the world, but we can receive today as a gift that is not damaged yet. Perhaps by embracing all of our todays in this way, the angels will find the strength to hold back the winds eternally.
Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.