I was reading the New Testament aloud on the front porch. The text sounds different when I read it into this space with Manna House guests listening.
“Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:6-8).
“Who are the rulers of this age?” a guest who was listening asked.
Another standing by jumped in quickly to answer, “Trump, the wealthiest, the powerful politicians.”
“Those rulers, they still crucifying every day,” yet another added, “Getting worse every day.”
Conversations that begin like this have a tendency to jump around from biblical text to biblical text. I wondered where we might land.
“What about the beast in Revelation?” the standing guest wanted to know. “Sounds to me like a ruler of this age. Go to that book.”
So I went to Revelation 13, “And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads; and on its horns were ten diadems, and on its heads were blasphemous names. And the beast that I saw was like a leopard, its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And the dragon gave it his power and his throne and great authority. “
Porch commentary commenced again. A guest asked, “That’s the 666 beast, right?”
I thought about all the speculation that has been done over the centuries of Christianity regarding this beast.
One of the guests who loves this kind of apocalyptic stuff urged me on. “Find where it talks about 666.”
I jumped down a few verses, “This calls for wisdom: let anyone with understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a person. Its number is six hundred sixty-six” (Revelation 13:18).
Then I jumped back up again, “they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?’ The beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven” (Revelation 13:4-6)
“I guess Trump’s only got 42 months” a guest laughed, “He can’t last. Bible says so.”
I kept going and read, “Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints” (Revelation 13:10).
Just then a guest walked up the steps of the porch, handed me a penny, and kept on walking into the house.
“We got real worship now. Preacher just got a tithe!”
“Widow’s mite! Widow’s mite” shouted another guest, referencing the story in Luke’s Gospel. Jesus was watching rich people putting their gifts into the Temple treasury, and “he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on’” (Luke 21:1-3).
“Are we supposed to give until we got nothing?” a guest asked me after I told that story.
“Do you think Jesus was happy that the Temple Treasury was taking the last money of a poor person?” I answered his question with a question.
“Doesn’t seem like Jesus would be” he came back. “Beast wants us to think Jesus would.”
Another guest brought us full circle. “Remember those ‘rulers of this age?’ This is how they crucify.”