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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Revelation 21:22—22:5

I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there anymore. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. (NRSV)

Look, I went to seminary, studied Greek, got a masters in divinity, and I still struggle to make sense of the Book of Revelation. Is this scripture we’re reading, or a fever dream stemming from ingesting pesticide on unwashed strawberries? (Don’t ask.) But does “making sense” of scripture always have to be our goal?

I once heard that it was impossible to understand Revelation without understanding the rest of the bible, which is impossible, therefore understanding the Book of Revelation is impossible. So I ignored it. But on a whim, like an impatient mystery reader, I skipped to the last two chapters of Revelation and thought, THAT! I want THAT! I wanted to be among the nations who come together peacefully walking in God’s light. Yes! THAT!

I dug deeper. I read somewhere that Revelation is the key to understanding the rest of the bible. Only careful dissection of the allegory and Roman imperial historical context will unlock the deeper meaning.  I did some of that and it helped, but it didn’t unlock any magic understanding. Scripture isn’t a Dan Brown novel.

Maybe Revelation is like a dream. The harder you try to hang on to it, the harder it is to grasp. What if we tried to experience revelation rather than trying to “make sense” of the Book of Revelation? What would it feel like to be lit in the light of God and Christ? Imagine being so connected to God that the leaves of trees could end wars and heal nations? We’re wired to try to make sense of things and that’s good. But the experience of something can also just wash over you and “sense” isn’t necessary for a moment. Try to experience this text today. Be connected to it. Feel God’s light.

Gracious and Mysterious God, we long for the peace of you everywhere. If you lit our way and the leaves of the trees could heal and stop the warring nations, what would we become? Give us sustaining imagination, we pray, so we might work toward that day. Amen.

Written by Alex Wirth, Minister for Evangelism

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