Episcopal Church in Minnesota

Environmental Stewardship Commission
(MEESC)
Lectionary Reflection
All Saints' Day, New Testament Reading

Revelation 7:2-4, 9-17:
 
Then I saw another angel rising where the sun rises, carrying the seal of the living God; he called in a powerful voice to the four angels whose duty was to devastate land and sea, "Wait before you do any damage on land or at sea or to the trees, until we have put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God." And I heard how many had been sealed: a hundred and forty-four thousand, out of all the tribes of Israel. ... After that I saw that there was huge number, impossible for anyone to count, of people rom every nation, race, tribe and language; they were standing in from of the throne and in from of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands. They shouted in a loud voice, "Salvation to our Go, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" And all the angels who were standing in a circle round the throne, surrounding the elders and the four living creatures, prostrated themselves before the throne, and touched the ground with their foreheads, worshiping God with these  words: Amen. Praise and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and strength to our God for ever and ever. Amen. 
One of the elders the spoke and asked me, "Who are these people, dressed in white robes, and where have they come from?" I answered him, "You can tell me, sir." Then he said, "These are the people who have been through the great trial; they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb. That is why they are standing in front of God's throne and serving him day and night in his sanctuary; and the One who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. They will never hunger or thirst again; sun and scorching wind will never plague them, because the Lamb who is at the heart of the throne will be their shepherd and will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away all tears from their eyes."

Reflections

The whole book of Revelations is about the Creation. It is Johnís interpretation of a vision about the whole of Godís Creation. The interpretation is based on the knowledge of 2000 years ago. Do not misunderstand, please, my intention is not to belittle or de-emphasize the Revelation, but to emphasize the cosmology of the Revelation.

We have, in this writing, the whole of our wonderment of our universe. In these times we forget the magnificence of our earth and the vast interstellar space that we are whirling around within.

An angel ascending from the rising sun, do we even see the rising sun? Are we so caught up in daily troubles and trials that we donít welcome in the day. Do we think about the earth and the sea?

A great multitude, every tribe, in todayís world what is a tribe? How much time this week have we spent thinking about people from other nations, other languages, different life styles!

With palm branches in their hands, would we think about carrying palm branches if we wanted to get special attention? Would we even touch a palm tree?

Living creatures, probably we do not come into contact with other creatures on our earth unless we have pets.

What concept do we have in our times about falling on our faces, an often written of way (in times long past to show veneration for that which was above, beyond understanding.

They have washed their robes, imagine for a moment the process of washing clothes 2000 years ago. Nothing near the process of today! Something like this; take off the robe, put on another, if you are fortunate enough to own one, go down to the river (if itís not the dry season), hopefully thereís room for you there, and spend lots of time and energy beating water through your heavy fabric garment. Perhaps thatís why this metaphor is so powerful, it reflects a major natural and laborious domestic undertaking.

And worship him day and night: how many of us have expended enough energy to do something over the span of a day and a night? Are we even aware of the waking experience of 24 hours in a row, and in veneration?

They will hunger no more and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; do any of us have so intimate a relationship with our environment that we are vulnerable to the possibility of starvation, dehydration, sunstroke? This person who wrote the "Revelation of John" did! And so did his audience!

How can we understand the magnificence, the dramatic reality of this vision to the people of this time without understanding the close, the necessary, intimate relationship that they have with the geography of their homes, the wind in their face, the reality of getting water or not surviving, farming or starving!

The readings for All Saints' Day are familiar and wonderful.  They "sing praises of famous men" whose "names live on generation after generation."  Psalm 149 praises God with dancing and the timbrel and harp as we sing a new song to the Lord in the congregation of the faithful.  It is good to find ourselves in the list of saints, past and present, and to remember that we are to let the light of those saints shine through us and our works, so that God can be glorified before all those we meet and with whom we live and work.  it is a great resonsibility to be a  Christian in today's world, and the words of Jesus as he spoke to the crowds on the mountain remind us that we are blessed in many ways, even if we find ourselves persecuted for our beliefs.

But the words of comfort from John in his vision are the words that resonate when we remember that we are one with Creation, and the things of earth are soothing in that comfort.  The conclusion of the New Testament passage for this day is a quote from Isaiah, and it speaks of natural things and how nature impacts life situations.  People of the desert lands would certainly be comforted to know that there would be no more scorching heat, and that the Lamb would be their shepherd and guide them to springs of the water of life.  This was a metaphor the people could understnad, and in the midst of the persecution they were suffering at the time of these writings, it was what they needed to hear.  We know that God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and that we are truly His saints this day and always.

Many of the images in the Book of Revelation are earth-centered, and it is a wonder to read those passages and note all of those evidences of the importance of the land.  Even the multitudes robed in white were waving palm branches in their hands.  Volumes have been written in explanation of the events in Revelation, but we can let those words speak to us without regard to "meaning" -- only enjoy the promises and accept that we will be before the throne of God, worship him day and night ,and be sheltered by the One seated on the throne.  If you were a desert-dweller, hearing that the sun would not strike you, nor any scorching heat, would be a welcome promise.

The Bible Commentary says that those wonderful words:  "God will wipe away every tear from their eyes" may have been prompted by words of the prophet Isaiah, and that is not doubt a true statement.  The thought of the Lamb as the shepherd of the church leading us to springs of the water of life is of great comfort, too, and we can look forward to the day when we join those multitudes waving palm branches and worshipping at the throne.

The readings for All Saints' Day and the Sunday After All Saints' Day are familiar and wonderful.  They "sing praises of famous men" whose "names live on generation after generation."  Psalm 149 praises God with dancing and the timbrel and harp as we sing a new song to the Lord in the congregation of the faithful.  It is good to find ourselves in the list of saints, past and present, and to remember that we are to let the light of those saints shine through us and our works, so that God can be glorified before all those we meet and with whom we live and work.  It is a great responsibility to be a Christian in today's world, and the words of Jesus as he spoke to the crowds on the mountain remind us that we are blessed in many ways, even if we find ourselves persecuted for our beliefs.

But the words of comfort from John in his vision are the words that resonate when we remember that we are one with Creation, and the things of earth are soothing in that comfort.  The conclusion of the New Testament passage for this day is a quote from Isaiah, and it speaks of natural things and how nature impacts life situations.  People of the desert lands would certainly be comforted to know that there would be no more scorching heat, and that the Lamb would be their shepherd and guide them to springs of the water of life.  This was a metaphor the people could understand, and in the midst of the persecution they were suffering at the time of these writings, it was what they needed to hear.  We know that God will wipe away every tear from our eyes and that we are truly His saints, this day and always.


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