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Fire in the sky

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Revelation 12:1-10
A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.

Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth.

The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born.

She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God.

And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down--that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.

There are animals who must give birth even as they watch hungry enemies waiting to eat their offspring. Unless they have protectors there is nothing they can do. John's vision draws that tragedy into the spirit world, where we cannot see or hear or know anything with our physical senses. His pictures are the stuff of nightmares: a giant dragon waiting to eat the baby, angels protecting the mother and stealing the baby away, and war. Always war.

When the war is over in the heavens it begins on the earth. The hatred and cruelty of men are driven by the anger and jealousy of the dragon. The Genesis serpent has grown up and now has seven heads and is enormous. He has honed and perfected his power to destroy and corrupt the inhabitants of this earth, animal and plant and human alike.

I don't know these things through my senses; I can only feel their truth. John wrote from prison as an old man, remembering his early life as the disciple whom Jesus loved. He too, of course, felt his way through this time of visions and did his best to be faithful to Jesus. That must certainly have been his highest priority.

"This is crazy! Do I really write this down?" John must have heard God say, "Yes." John's own experience with cruel and evil men surely made him more willing than ever to listen to God.

Other than becoming evil myself, what else can I do? In Picasso's Guernica, one dissembled victim holds a candle barely lit, while the light that never goes out waits above the battle for ... what? Picasso doesn't see God rescuing the perishing.

John's story continues with more enormous catastrophic pictures of battle, but his vision shows God much more involved in the rescue of planet earth and all of us. Cynical, hopeless pessimism in the face of evil is never an option. Inviting God's power, accepting his rescue, holding my candle up to his light is the choice I, too, want to make.

Let me put my life where my mouth is, Lord, and choose to live my life with you.

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