19Nov 19th November. Wednesday of Week 33.

 First Reading: Revelation 4:1-11

The twenty-four elders before God’s throne.

After this I looked, and there in heaven a door stood open! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the spirit, and there in heaven stood a throne, with one seated on the throne! And the one seated there looks like jasper and carnelian, and around the throne is a rainbow that looks like an emerald. Around the throne are twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones are twenty-four elders, dressed in white robes, with golden crowns on their heads. Coming from the throne are flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and in front of the throne burn seven flaming torches, which are the seven spirits of God; and in front of the throne there is something like a sea of glass, like crystal.

Around the throne, and on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with a face like a human face, and the fourth living creature like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and inside. Day and night without ceasing they sing, “Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come.”

And whenever the living creatures give glory and honour and thanks to the one who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall before the one who is seated on the throne and worship the one who lives forever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne, singing,

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

Gospel: Luke 19:11-28

Parable about God’s investment in us.

As they were listening to Jesus, he went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. So he said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to get royal power for himself and then return. He summoned ten of his slaves, and gave them ten pounds, and said to them, ‘Do business with these until I come back.’ But the citizens of his country hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to rule over us.’

When he returned, having received royal power, he ordered these slaves, to whom he had given the money, to be summoned so that he might find out what they had gained by trading. The first came forward and said, ‘Lord, your pound has made ten more pounds.’ He said to him, ‘Well done, good slave! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small thing, take charge of ten cities.’ Then the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your pound has made five pounds.’ He said to him, ‘And you, rule oer five cities.’ Then the other came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your pound. I wrapped it up in a piece of cloth, for I was afraid of you, because you are a harsh man; you take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked slave! You knew, did you, that I was a harsh man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money into the bank? Then when I returned, I could have collected it with interest.’ He said to the bystanders, ‘Take the pound from him and give it to the one who has ten pounds.’ (And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten pounds!’) ‘I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them — bring them here and slaughter them in my presence.'”

After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

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Ready for his return

The visionary in Revelation shares his religious experiences in symbols like the roar of many waters, the flashing of thunder and the flaming of torches. All of us have had some significant religious experience: the joy of our first communion, and later perhaps decisions to be of service to others, moments when God seemed especially near, moments of peace after sorrow of loss. Sometimes we have tasted a particular sense of God’s closeness to us; at other times we have sensed the wonder of God through the beauty of nature. Later, if things seem to be falling apart through severe misfortune or sadness, we can recall those moments of joyful awareness—precious moments of peace—and hope for their return.

In the parable, Jesus could be alluding to a king who was well-known in Israel, Herod the Great, who had to flee for his life from Jerusalem, then made his way to Rome and charmed the emperor Augustus into naming him king of Israel, and then returned to Palestine to take over. The parable warns us that the king will return—and therefore we must be prudent and loyal, industrious and honest, for one day we will be called to answer for our use of time and talents. “Use it or lose it” is a phrase that applies to our human potential. We can paraphrase Jesus’ words, “Whoever puts their talents to the service of others will be given more; but the one who has nothing he is willing to share will lose the little that he has.”

The last bit of the parable, about the king’s having his enemies slain in his presence, is rather baffling. It may simply be a memory of what king Herod actually did to his enemies on his return from exile. It can hardly be Jesus portraying a vengeful God, for his central teaching is about God’s power and goodness. The faith he teaches is always of a God whom we can call upon as “Abba, Father!”