Be Fierce and Unrelenting in Your Pursuit of Righteousness
Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever." Then the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, singing, "We give you thanks, Lord God Almighty, who are and who were, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign. The nations raged, but your wrath has come, and the time for judging the dead, for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints and all who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying those who destroy the earth." Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.
Last summer, my church's youth group joined a church softball league. In our small community, the league's games were well attended. However, if you did not make it to the ball field, you could hear exactly what was happening on a loudspeaker that projected over most of the town. We have an announcer with a snazzy radio voice who gave all the churches and players nicknames and could make you feel like you're watching ESPN.
Whether I attended the games or not, I always knew when they ended, because our announcer would invite everyone to attend the church of their choice, and, in jest, to remember to "turn or burn." I would always chuckle to myself as he said it but then ponder if there was a kinder, gentler way to approach the topics of repentance and judgment.
In reading both the passage from Ezekiel and the one from Revelation, the themes of judgment and redemption appear not kinder and gentler than "Turn or burn!" but rather more fierce: loud voices, earthquakes and thunder usher in the reign of God. Ezekiel calls us not to be more fierce in our judgment of others but to be fierce and unrelenting in our pursuit of righteousness. The prophetic voice here is indeed one of a warning over a loudspeaker. It calls for a deeper commitment to restoring justice and a fuller devotion to loving God alone. It calls us to examine our lives and turn away from those things that are making us waste away and turn toward those things that allow us to embrace righteousness. It calls us, this Lenten season, to be more honest about our shortcomings, so that we can participate in the coming of the kingdom of God.
Gracious God, help us hear your voice as loud as loudspeaker in our hearts. Amen.