Lenten Reflections: Week 3

The thing about doing something for Lent is that you commit to it and the first couple weeks are relatively easy, then you hit that midpoint at the end of week three, and you’re really feeling over it.  Of course, it is a practice that’s built on developing spiritual discipline, so we’ll just keep on keepin’ on until Easter.

I spent most of the last week continuing to read in Jeremiah, but what I found as I got deeper and deeper into it was that I was having a hard time staying invested in the narrative of the exile.  Jeremiah gets heavy into theodicy about the Babylonians conquering Israel and Judah, and it honestly gets kind of repetitive after a certain point.  People were too busy worshiping other gods, God is angry to be ignored, everything that happened to the Israelites is deserved, etc.  There’s hammering a point home, and there’s beating a dead horse, and then there’s the book of Jeremiah.

Fortunately, I’m not bound by any constraints that say I have to stick with Jeremiah during Lent; I just picked it to get a flavor of the prophetic literature from the Old Testament, but at the rate I’m going of reading a few chapters a day, I would have spent several weeks just reading this one text.  So after I got about halfway, I decided to leave Jeremiah behind and look at something else.  I settled on reading John of Patmos’s book of Revelation.

Revelation is a weird coda in the New Testament; much of it is clearly meant to be symbolic, but the significance of the symbolism is largely obscured by time and distance.  I don’t know why there are so many different sets of angels or what’s important about the locusts that have human faces and breastplates like iron breastplates (okay, actually I have some idea of what the deal with the locusts is, but you get my point).  Revelation is dense, and it is opaque.

At this point I’m not terribly certain what I’m hoping to get out of reading this particular text.  I don’t put any stock in Rapture-tinged theology, and I know that I simply don’t have the contextual knowledge necessary to make out a whole lot of the meaning of John’s book.  I think mostly Revelation is on my mind because I know it’s a relatively sharp departure from Jeremiah, even as I recognize that much of it is also intended to be a coded polemic against the injustices perpetrated by the Romans against early Christians.  Maybe it comes down to the fact that our current times feel slightly apocalyptic, and I want to compare that feeling with what’s contained in an actual apocalypse.

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