12"See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone's work. 13I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End."
14Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates.
16"It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star."
17The Spirit and the bride say, "Come."20The one who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon."
And let everyone who hears say, "Come."
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
21The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.
Easter 7 / Revelation
Easter is fifty days, a week of week, a season that occupies one-seventh of the year! For lectionary year C, the second reading for Easter 2 through 7 comes from Revelation, the last book of the bible. Revelation is full of code words, symbols, and apocalyptic imagery that all need to be interpreted. When it was written, insiders would have understood it applied to Rome's Caesar Domitian, yet "Babylon" serves as a cipher and stand-in for empires in general; the book's symbolism and counsel can apply to almost any empire anywhere at any time.
• The Revelation passage for Easter 5 pictured the city of God, the New Jerusalem, literally descending from heaven. A safe place that welcomes everyone.
• Last week Easter 6 celebrated the river that flows through the city with the healing tree of life on the riverbanks.
Revelation isn't a short book, and choosing a reading for each of six Sundays necessarily omits a lot of material that relates well to our ministries. This is a book of sevens: seven letters to seven churches; a scroll with seven seals; seven thunders; seven angels; seven bowls; seven plagues.
New Heaven /New Earth
Genesis 1 and 2 are the first books in the bible; in Genesis 2 the first creation includes a garden, a tree of life, and a river of life. Revelation is the last book; in Revelation the new creation includes a city, a tree of life, and a river of life. Sounds very green to me! Maybe surprisingly, the new creation is about a new earth and a new heaven!
We've been discussing Revelation as a guidebook to living baptized amidst empire. When we follow that counsel and the world looks at us, the church, does it look like the best place possible? Does the church look like heaven on earth?
City of God
All God's creation is beautiful, yet many people idealize and almost idolize less-developed areas like wilderness, outback, tiny towns, rural wide spots in the road, and beach paradises. Even now, many parents aspire to raise families in suburban or exurban places with less traffic, lower population density, and what they perceive as better schools and services. Yet scripture reveals a city as the center of God's new creation. Not the apparently forsaken desert of exodus wanderings that was the site of Israel's identity-formation, but the city:
• Most cities are built along a waterway that creates a literal crossroads with multiple land, air, water ports of entry.
• These crossroads bring together near-infinite ethnic, class, educational, and cultural diversity that create many kinds of fusions: language; music; religion; cuisine; fashion. You can list lots more! Does this lead to cultural appropriation? Nah! Mostly cultural appreciation!
• And so much more!
What's your general opinion of countryside vs. city?
What's your take on a green city as the center of the New Creation?
The Bible Concludes
The one who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon."
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with us all. Amen!