Today's Lectionary Text
When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.
Another angel with a golden censer came and stood at the altar; he was given a great quantity of incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar that is before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth; and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.
Never in a million years would I have thought I would have chosen this text to explore today. Yes, I had several options from the Lectionary readings, but despite my personal objections to exploring (even briefly) this cryptic text from Revelation, I think it includes a message that’s important for us to consider.
Honestly, I try to avoid the easily misunderstood, apocryphal and confusing last book of the bible. Sure there are few scriptures or images that I can grasp and quote (“Behold, I stand at the door and knock”—Rev. 3:20, and “the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations”—Rev. 22:2, and even “Come, Lord Jesus!” Rev. 20:20). But much of this book leaves the modern reader in a place of obscurity, despite its name, which implies the contrary.
But this text points to an important reality of the Christian life…prayer. The picture of prayer in this passage is full of images of the Jewish sacrificial system: the trumpet announcing a call to prayer, the altar at which the prayers for atonement were offered, and the golden censer and incense that were inseparable from the prayers themselves. The prayers symbolized here are prayers birthed of sacrifice. They’re costly. And they’re impactful.
The mention of thunder, lighting and earthquake spark fear and mystery. But, what if they are an image of intervention, interruption, and impact in the world that desperately needs the hope, healing, and help of Jesus? What if OUR prayers were sacrificial prayers that then take on flesh and become the intervention to the world around us? When we pray for God’s intervention, imploring God to “Do Something!,” what if the next step of prayer is for US to respond as God’s hands and feet to the world around us?
The costliness of our prayers, then, is not in dollar amounts for incense, but with the witness and investment of our lives. And unleashing the power of Christ through the Church—THAT is bound to cause an earthquake.
Prayer: Dear God, we often list our prayers, asking you to intervene on our behalf. Open us up to be unleashed on the world in a way that points others to you and initiates your restorative work in the world around us. Let your Kingdom come, and let it begin with me. In your name, amen.
Rev. Ashlee Alley Crawford
Clergy Recruitment and Development
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