Corporate reading of Scripture, in season and out of season, unlocks awareness of hidden process. By not ditching it, even when it doesn’t seem relevant, we hold open the possibility of meaning breaking through from it.
I had been thinking how irrelevant the strange psychedelic poetry of Revelation was, and glad we only really encounter it seriously at this time of year, when I was handed a Bible to read from at a lunchtime Eucharist this week, the day after Woolworth’s bankruptcy, only to find it was Revelation 18:
Alas, alas, thou great Babylon, that mighty city, for in one hour is thy judgment come! The merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over their city; for in an instant no man buyeth their corrupt merchandise any more. Thy merchandise was gold and silver, precious stones, pearls, fine linen, purple silk, and scarlet and fine wood, all manner of vessels of ivory, and of the most precious wood, and thy buildings of brass, and iron and marble, and thy slaves which were the souls of men. Yet now the fruits which thy soul hast lusted after and for which thou hast laboured so long are wholly departed from thee, and all things that were dainty and goodly are departed, and thou shalt know them no more... In one hour is so great riches come to nought...I wonder what the evaporation of all the mighty city’s wealth in an hour meant in the first century — certainly a phenomenon you would have to be a wacky psychedelic apocalyptic poet to imagine. The sober fact is that today, like global destruction, we have the technology. When apocalyptic suddenly leaps off the page in this way, it’s a powerful reminder that the framework in which we take such pride, and from which we derive such security, is, in fact paper thin. Everything is connected, fragile, vulnerable and dependent on God — to use a slightly eggheaded word, contingent: