Living in the Revelation

The Revelation to John is a book that provokes us with wild, vivid imagery; it twists and disorients us, so we are prompted to view the world and the Divine outside of the boxes we might otherwise put them in. According to John’s revelation (21:1-6):

When at last Christ returns,
when at last God & humanity are no longer in conflict,
when at last the chaotic churning of evil has ended,
it will be as though earth is brand new,
as though every tree
& every blade of grass &
every mountain & every river
is the very best version of itself,
unpolluted and unsubdued
…so that we will be awestruck,
and we will walk around saying to one another,
“How have I never noticed
that the dogwood is so exquisite?
Have we ever heard
such a perfect symphony
of birds caroling in the morning?”

When at last Christ returns,
when at last Satan no longer deceives us with power,
when at last praise dances on our tongues like fire,
it will be as though
the whole world is a new city —
built not from the ground up
with level upon level upon level
aspiring skyward in vain hopes
of achieving eternal glory;
but built
with its foundations in the heavens
with level upon level upon level
aspiring ground-ward so that God
can dwell among the people,
with all humanity gathered
together in this one new city.

When at last Christ returns,
when at last mercy gives birth to life
and death is buried by grace,
when at last peace prevails,
it will be as though
a bride has arrived to the wedding ceremony
in all of her finery; and
in the light of the radiant love on her face,
there is no more mourning or suffering;
in light of the joy that flushes her cheeks
there is no more worry or doubt;
in light of the racing delight of her heart
there is no more pain or despair.

For the bride is the new city,
and the city is an overflowing fountain,
and the fountain is an eternal stream
which replenishes life
for all who are thirsty.
The stream rushes to renew all people,
pours over all of the people
who are gathered together
in that upside-down city
with its foundation in heaven
while God dwells on earth.

In the beginning
there were waters,
chaotic & destructive
until God made them good.
In the end
there will be waters,
rushing & replenishing
with God’s goodness.
In the beginning
we strained & struggled
& climbed
to meet God
with our tallest cities
and best achievements.
In the end
we will finally recognize
God building a city
down to meet us,
naming us as
God’s best achievements.

In the beginning. In the end. In the renewing:
God is our praise!
At the start. Through the labor. At the last breath:
God is our praise!
In the growth. In the familiar. Beyond the boundaries:
God is our praise!
From the revelation. To the journey. Through the departure:
God is our praise!
In the wisdom of age. In the testing of youth. In childlike faith:
God is our praise!
Through the need. Through the hope. Through the change:
God is our praise!

But such praise
(glorious though it may be)
is no good
if it is only on our tongues!
Even if the praise of our tongues
sparks a new revelation to our souls
like the wild ecstasy of John’s revelation,
still it is of no use!
Only when the praise of our tongues
and the revelation of our souls
meet
and manifest
in the living of our lives,
then we begin to step foot into the beautiful new city,
we begin to walk down the aisle as the glowing new bride,
we begin to splash and dance in the public fountain
which is the grace of God.

Living in the revelation
means that we have seen and known
the goodness of God … and we choose
not to live as though we never knew it.
So we show the goodness to others.
We observe the beauty of it to strangers.
We look for it, not just when life is good & dandy
but also when life seems to have lost
its goodness;
then most of all
we hold on to the revelation
and we proclaim, “I know the goodness of God.”

Living in the revelation
means that we have experienced
the renewing waters of the grace of God
… and that we will not live
as though we have never experienced grace.
So we give grace to others.
We extend grace when others
run short on their own grace.
Again & again & again we demonstrate grace,
even when it is not returned to us,
because we have learned from God
that grace is not a commodity for trading
nor a situation of quid pro quo.
We show grace
because God is grace
and because there is
an upside-down city with its foundation in the heavens
pointing us to the revelation of
God as grace
among us.

Living in the revelation
means living in what will be, now.
Living in the new city of peace,
now.
Living in the new earth of healing,
now.
Living as the bride of joy,
now.
Living as though we are swimming
in waters of grace,
now.
Not because peace is finished
yet.
Not because the end has come
yet.
Not because evil is overturned
just yet,
but because
the revelation of God’s goodness
already is
and it
has been
from the beginning
and it
perseveres
until & beyond the end.
The revelation of God’s goodness
that was and is and will be
provokes us to live
in the ways
of God
from beginning to end
in the ways that life
has been shaped
for God’s glory.

With the praise of God on our tongues
and the delight of joy in our souls,
we step foot into the new city of peace,
living in the revelation
of God’s goodness
here among us,
now & always.

Sermon preached at Grace United Church of Christ, 4/28/2013.

Maybe Kinda Sorta

Ultimate Being,
Spectacular Beyond,
you are
maybe
kinda
sorta
like the breath
that inflates my lungs
and reminds my body of peace.

Creative Animation,
Profound Revelation,
you are
maybe
kinda
sorta
like the tree
that extends beyond my vision
and reveals faithfulness that knows no time.

Delightful Abstract,
Surprising Particularity,
you are
maybe
kinda
sorta
like the smile
that renews my soul
and draws me beyond myself.

Psalm 133

How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity!

It is like a pianist
pouring beauty into the world
with every note, with every
phrase rehearsed, reworked,
with every scale
spilled deliciously
into a song
like a mountain stream
tumbling out over its banks
with the fullness of spring rains.

How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity!

It is like a woman
quietly brushing her hair
indulging in the joy
of undivided
being,
a moment
without fracture
and contortion from life’s
carnival mirrors;
at peace with herself.

How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity!

Confessing Boston

Let us wail in repentance
and quickly;
Let us submit to sackcloth
and appeal to God;
Let us not dry our tears
but rather confess
that we have cried for Boston,
not Bangalore or Aleppo;
we have mourned the deaths of white children
but kept silent while brown & black children
are buried, no American flags lowered,
no commemorative days named.
We have rolled in ashes in the name of peace
but accepted the blood on our hands at Gitmo.
While the world finds God
in the helpers,
let us wrestle for God
among enemies
— that is, within ourselves —
where love exists in horrible fragmentation.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, let there
be mercy. 

Don’t Ask the Crocus

Sadly, prayers of lament can be used more than once. I reworked this lament in the wake of yesterday’s nightmare in Boston:

Don’t ask the crocus, “Where is God?”
as though the crocus can respond to
our cries echoing over the flower beds.
The purple blooms have done their best
to disguise the traces of our bitter violence;
it is not their job to soothe our seething conscience.

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