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Friday, November 1, 2013
Today’s Reading | Revelation 7:9–17
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying,
“Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing,
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor
and power and might
be to our God forever and ever!
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
For this reason they are before the throne of God,
and worship him day and night within his temple,
and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them,
nor any scorching heat;
for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (NRSV)
Most people I know, clergy and laity alike, hold the book of Revelation at a distance. We do this because it has so often been used in a way that has excluded people. The beginning of this chapter proclaims the number 144,000—used by terribly conservative Christians as the number of people who will be accepted into heaven: a very exclusive group.
Revelation is a book of recorded visions. Visions, like dreams, that give a glimpse of God but aren’t to be taken word for word as truth and formula. I love how these verses describe a “multitude that no one could count from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb:a much more inclusive group.
A man once asked me if he would see his mother again in heaven. He was worried because he had never heard her say the words “Jesus is my Lord and Savior.” I don’t think God is as formulaic and prescriptive as that. I believe God has capacity for far more than 144,000 people.
My parents both died when I was in my thirties. While I missed them terribly, I didn’t spend much time wondering about where they were or if I would see them again in any real sense. But over the years, I have had many people tell me about their visions of loved ones after death—hearing a voice, having a dream, seeing a vision, feeling the loved one’s presence in a supernatural way. Those visions, shared with me, are much like this vision in Revelation. They give hope. One year I had my own vision. It appeared out of nowhere, in which I saw both of my parents singing joyously, in what appeared to be worship—worship beyond any worship any of us has experienced. That vision changed my ministry.
Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Thank you for the lives of those who have gone before us, who worship now day and night at your feet. Give us strength as we continue without them, and grant us confidence in your promises. Amen.
Written by Judith L. Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care
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