You can read the fourteenth chapter of the Revelation to John on Patmos here. (For those who may be stumbling upon this post, it is actually the tenth part of a sixteen part series, if you are interested in checking out the previous posts.)
John looks and sees the Lamb with the 144,000 we heard about earlier (12,000 each from the twelve tribes of Israel) on Mt. Zion. Then John listens and hears a new song led by harpists and this choir of 144, 000, who have clearly been rehearsing for a while. And then the angel (messenger) shares good news, and yet again it is with every nation, tribe, language and people:
- Fear God. (Which is not to say "be afraid of" but approach with awe.)
- Give God the glory.
- Worship God alone, the maker of the heavens and the earth.
An overarching question I've been pondering during my Sabbatical, which began on the first day of April, is about what it means to be the Church in this time and place. I've been trying to read this last book of the Bible looking for clues on how to answer this question. I recently came across a poem of Mary Oliver's that I had not previously encountered called After Her Death, written after the death of her partner. I commend the poem to you, but for here I want to pick up on just two phrases. Oliver writes:
I have not forgotten the Way, but a little,
the way to the Way.
I open the bookI love the Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery that is trying (always with God's help) to support God in carrying out the work of salvation in this world. We pray for wisdom and for discernment to know what it is we are called to be about in that work, and to keep our eyes on the God who is the maker of heaven and earth, the God to whom we give the glory. We have good days and bad days; some days we get it right and some days we don't.
which the strange, difficult, beautiful
has given me...
But at our very best the Church is still trying to faithfully be "the way to the Way." Not The Way itself: Jesus is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; not the Church. The "strange, difficult, and beautiful" Church's vocation is to simply be "this way to the Way."
John's apocalypse is one of the tools in our tool box - a strange and difficult and beautiful one, to be sure. But nevertheless a place where we can hear a "Word of the Lord" as we continue to follow the one who is The Way to the living God.