Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Resisting Trump with Revelation (35)



Responding to the word and Dismissal (22:8-21)


Responding to the Word

Jesus’ sermon is over. Our hypothetical worship service turns to “Responding to the Word.”  The first move in this section is a reminder to worship only God. It’s usually a hymn or song in our services. Here it is a warning addressed to the Seer himself. And if John needs such admonition, we do all the more. This word must be published abroad “for the time is near” (v.10). The emphasis on “soon” (vv.12,20) and “near” (v.10) reminds us that we live in a time requiring urgency and readiness for God’s work in the world is ongoing (v.11) and our faithful response to him is necessary (vv.12-13).

Next a Beatitude is pronounced on the hearers:  

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” (vv.14-15)

Even pronouncing blessedness, the Seer also issues a stern warning against any who “love and practice falsehood.” In context this must refer primarily to those who give up, give in, and collude with the empire and its worldview (as it has been throughout the book).

Jesus, the Davidic, Bright Morning Star messiah, the genuine Emperor for God’s people and God’s world (remember, the slaughtered Lamb of Rev.5!) issues the Call to the Table of the Eucharist of our worship service in v.17:

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”
And let everyone who hears say, “Come.”
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.

Coupled with the call “Come, Lord Jesus” (v.20), which may function here as a “preface” to the Eucharist, this verse invites the readers/congregation to experience “the revelation of Christ through his “coming” in the Lord’s Supper.”[1]

Other eucharistic imagery includes the references to “dining” with Christ (Rev.3:8, 20, 4:1) and the Passover imagery in the letter (15:2-4; 16:1-21) esp. the references to “blood.”

I won’t belabor these references here (check the article in the footnote for a fuller treatment). But I do want to call attention at this point to the baptismal imagery used throughout the book, esp. the notion of being sealed or marked with the Name (3:12; 14:1; 22:4) and being clothed with white garments (3:4-5, 18; 4:4; 16:15; 19:13,16) or robes (6:11; 7:9, 13-14; 22:14). Consult the article below for the evidence that these carry allusions to baptism. What I do want to spend a little time on is that the visions of Revelation are bracketed between baptism and the Lord’s Supper. This, I think, is the true setting for Christian existence, the matrix or “force field” within or between which we are to live as Christians and function as God’s witnesses. Some comments from my blog on this theme:

God comes to us personally through his living Word, Jesus. And he comes to us through his written Word, the Bible. But he also comes to us through his enacted Word, the sacraments. These rituals, baptism and the Eucharist, give us the opportunity to both kinetically and imaginatively encounter the living Christ and practice the skills and moves necessary for faithful prosecution of the struggles of God’s people.



From the perspective of God’s SCRM, these sacraments can be re-visioned to gain traction within this framework. Indeed, I suggest that military imagery is especially helpful here and lifts up aspects of these acts frequently overlooked. I refer specifically to seeing baptism as induction into the military and the Eucharist as the rations that nourish and sustain soldiers in military action.



The Holy Spirit uses the Liquid Word of baptism and the Edible Word of the Eucharist to seal, that is, confirm and make effective, the Preached and Written Word of the Bible.



Baptism is a sign of initiation into God’s people, akin, I suggest, to induction and basic training into the military. Both give us a new parent (Uncle Sam/God the Father), a new identity, a new family, new resources and skills, a new inheritance or goal, and a new vocation (to serve in God’s Subversive Counter-Revolutionary Movement).



The Eucharist sustains and nurtures us in Christian living. Again, we might liken it to the “rations” a soldier lives off while in action. In the Eucharist we experience a preview of the great feast in God’s kingdom which is our hope, receive provision for present need, and we practice the skills needed to do and be the people God calls us to be. Undeserved welcome, friendship, peacemaking, hope, and stewardship chief among them.[10]



These sacraments are “means of grace” because they initiate and sustain us as members of God’s people and through whom we meet the risen Christ and grow in relation to him.



Another way to state the significance of these sacraments and their importance for us is to think of baptism as the beginning that never ends and the Eucharist as the end that has already begun. We never outlive or outgrow our baptismal call to live for Christ and God’s kingdom; so too, we experience here and now, in part, hope of life and friendship with God and one another in his new creation forever and ever. We live, as I like to put it, between the Font of baptism and the Table of the Eucharist. The various graces of each enfold from opposite directions making that imaginative space between the font and the table in the sanctuary a matrix of grace that forms us as God’s people.



Yet another way to reflect on the significance of these sacraments is to say that in baptism Jesus’ SCRM life becomes ours, while in the Eucharist, our lives become SCRM lives in his.



This is the “grace” John ends his book with (22:21). By now we have a full-orbed profile of this grace to fortify us for the struggle the Empire. A final post will offer some concluding comments on our journey through this strange book.



[1] Charles A. Gieschen, “Sacramental Theology in the Book of Revelation,” Concordia Theological Quarterly 67 (2003), 171.

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