Nov. 1, 2020
Today is All Saints’ Day! Presbyterians don’t venerate saints the way our Catholic and Orthodox friends do, but we do believe in the “communion of the saints” which we proclaim each week in the Apostle’s Creed. This is the “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1), the faithful from every age, and this feast of the Church celebrates their legacy. May God bless our reading:
- What images come to your mind when you hear someone talk about the book of Revelation? Horsemen, dragons, trumpets, angels? What feelings accompany those images? Anxiety, confusion, curiosity? How familiar would you say you are with this last book of the Bible?
- A great deal of time and energy has gone into “deciphering” Revelation over the years. People’s imaginations are captured by the sensational imagery, precise numbers, and symbolism. It is somewhat ironic then that ‘revelation’ (the first word of the text) is actually the Greek Ἀποκάλυψις – apocalypse. This word literally means “to uncover, unveil, or reveal,” (it does not mean ‘the end of the world’ as it’s often used in modern parlance). Apocalyptic literature in scripture is meant to be God’s way of pulling back the curtain and allowing us to see the truth of what is happening; it’s a chance to see clearly rather than a code to crack. How many different theories have you heard for what Revelation ‘really means’? Did you find any of them compelling? Why or why not?
- The first readers of Revelation would have easily heard its ‘unveiled’ message clearly. It’s meant to convey comfort rather than confusion. To a persecuted early church, this book is full of encouragement to stay the course and an assurance that, regardless of the pain they may experience now, God will ultimately triumph. What sort of relief does it give you to know that God is still in control, even when the world seems chaotic around us?
- “After this I looked and saw 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.” What does this say to you about what the Kingdom of Heaven is like? How is God’s radical inclusivity and hospitality on display? How do you extend those same values in your life?
- “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal.” What sort of ‘ordeals’ are you facing right now? How do you pray about them? Does hearing that the Lamb is the shepherd who will guide you give you comfort?
- As we celebrate the saints gathered around the throne singing eternal praise, who among that uncountable crowd are you remembering? Light a candle and say a prayer for the grandparents, Sunday school teachers, mentors, and all those whose legacy of faith has been an inspiration on your journey. Then, reflect on those saints who are still with us and continuing the work of the Kingdom now. Write a note to someone just to say that you appreciate them and want to encourage them.
My New Testament professor in college memorably told his students: “All you really need to know about Revelation is that, in the end God wins.” Be comforted by the hope we have this week, the faith of the saints and martyrs: the Lamb is on the throne and “all shall be well” (St. Julian of Norwich).
Grace and Peace to you all!
Pastor Maggie Rust
Watch this week’s worship service: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1z7y3q2nsw&t=3s