Today’s Scripture Readings
I am particularly attracted to the Psalm response for today, because it sums up where we are headed. “Here God lives among his people.” That is an outcome I find comforting because I think it not only refers, as the other readings today do, to our life with God after death but also to the life we live right now. I think the important part is to see the connection, the parallel between our life with God now and our ultimate home with God in the future.
There is nothing that I believe more strongly than that God lives among us right now in every moment of our lives and is available to us in a way that we don’t understand very well and therefore don’t fully appreciate nor respond to. These readings tell us something of what it takes to appreciate that presence.
Part of what we heard today is from the last of the visions of John in the Book of Revelation. As you know he is trying to tell us what will happen at the end of time. It is a mythic picture of what will be the culmination of God’s work. We often talk about the end of time as the time of judgment. It is that but that judgment in our reading today is a description of how all that is evil will be destroyed and all that is good will be rewarded. It is a story meant to take away our fears. Our fears of the devil, Satan, monsters, beasts, of all that is unknown. Even death itself is destroyed. The sea is no more because the sea represents all the forms of chaos in the world. Remember the flood in the Old Testament is how all of life is removed from the earth. So the sea stands for those great uncontrollable forces that ruin life on earth. This is a story of sweeping away all that harmed the people of God’s kingdom and made them fearful.
At the same time those who were faithful to Christ and lived a good life are brought into the kingdom to reign with Christ. Did you hear how judgment would be “according to their deeds?” Twice in a very short space John repeats this “according to their deeds” because that would have been a very radical idea. The norm of the time would have expected the wealthy and the powerful to be rewarded because of their position in society. To judge people by how they acted with each other was still a very new and radical idea.
Our reading of Revelation ends with the culmination of all God’s plans. A new heaven and new earth replace the old heaven and old earth. It is all new, without fear and full of love, just like a bride and groom, fresh, vibrant love that creates new life.
One of the things to notice is that there is a complete disconnect here between what was and what will come after. The old is destroyed and the new is brand new. Nothing is brought over from what was before except the people who have lived a good life and were already living as God asked them to live.
Perhaps in that disconnect is a message for us today. If this story of the culmination of God’s creation is told as a myth, then it is meant to tell us something of ourselves. Something of what will help create that new heaven and new earth in our own lives now. I think that something is our willingness to see our own fears and put them aside. To see the signs of the times, like Jesus’ fig tree and recognize it is time to move on. That all things change and we must be willing to make changes too. Each of us has different monsters and beasts that keep us from being as fully human and loving as we might be. Perhaps if we can let go of what we fear, what holds us, then we can more fully appreciate the deeper reality of our Psalm today, “Here God lives among his people.” The good overcomes evil, deeds can overcome fear. Today the book of Revelation and our Gospel said that’s what God wants for us.