Monday, May 1, 2017

Revelation 21:1-22:5

You can read this portion of the Revelation to John here.

There is a lot going on in this text and many places that might draw our attention. We might do well to notice that there is no "upward rapture" in Revelation. Rather, John sees the New Jerusalem coming down to earth, and claims that the home of God really, truly is "among mortals." This is the promise of Immanuel (God-with-us) fulfilled. This is heaven-on-earth: the New Jerusalem, the New Washington, DC, the New Worcester...

I have long been fascinated by the image of the tree that grows by the river of life, the tree whose leaves are for the healing of the nations. (22:2) That healing is a crucial sign of this new heaven and new earth. In the end (as we've seen in our glimpses into the choir room along the way to this point in the unveiling) the congregation isn't singing "God Bless the U.S.A." That doesn't mean that we should not feel pride of place. But I think the hymn that comes closer to the truth that John sees on Patmos is the one set to the tune of Finlandia, This is my song, O God of all the nations. Those who claim Jesus as Lord know that while the skies are blue in this great country, skies are everywhere as blue as ours.

In the afterward to Heaven on Earth: God's Call to Community in the Book of Revelation, Michael Battle writes:
A good theology of Revelation is one in which we do not need to wait for heaven.We can find it beginning on earth through John's imagery of the leaves healing the ethnoi.
Participating in this work, here and now, is the work of the Church. And I think more and more we are learning to share this work with synagogue and mosque and temple and even with those who identify as "nones' but long for peace on earth and good will toward all. In the end, I think John's vision is that our ethnic and cultural differences do not need to lead to mutual destruction, but can lead to mutual respect and neighborly love. I offer this prayer, from The Book of Common Prayer toward this vision.
O God, you have made us in your image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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