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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Today’s Scripture 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! Amen.”

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)

This passage was the cornerstone verse for a church where I previously worked. It was an intentionally multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-racial faith community that sought to reflect the full diversity of God’s people in the face of the world’s default tribalization and segregation. We wanted to work towards God’s future “Revelation vision” in the midst of a flawed present. Our location was in a central, non-residential neighborhood that was no one’s “home turf,” where each member had to choose to travel there to worship with many who looked, spoke, and thought differently than themselves. This meant some hard work for all, but we felt it worthwhile, and that we were working towards God’s redemptive vision for what true community could be.

I think John would have recognized that challenging, beautiful vision.

A sea of white robes, “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation,” all calling out in one voice. But that unity doesn’t wash away differences: on the contrary, those from every tribe and people and language are still recognizable as such. Instead, their shared faith and suffering washes them into a heterogeneous, not homogenous, concord. God’s people fully realized in their beautiful uniqueness. Together.

God doesn’t ask or want us to be “colorblind.” On the contrary, the diversity of creation reflects a God who wants us to listen and learn from the experiences of our siblings whose stories and lives vary from our own. We grow by one another. And the sharing of those stories, even of great ordeals, washes us together in the divine love that wipes away every tear.

Creator God, the God of variation and variety, thank you for my unique story and being. Help me share that story with others, and give me ears to hear theirs. Make us one in you. Blessing and glory and wisdom be to you, our God, forever and ever. Amen.

Written by Sarah van der Ploeg, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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