I am spending the next month in the book of Revelation. Leading Bible Study on it Wednesday evenings and Thursday mornings (join us!), I will take some time in its chapters, working not just to make sense of it, but to bring it to life.
Revelation is a great book. It is a message of hope for Christian generations throughout history. Christ has defeated evil and death. He is alive, and among us, and holding us in his hands. And he will come again to rescue his people from the oppression of evil once and for all and lead us into a new creation.
“See, I am making all things new,” says God (Rev 21:5 NRSV). Indeed, the Christian witness is that God is transforming our dying world and lives into a whole new creation and new life. Christ is coming, and it is good news for the whole world.
Revelation also offers words of warning for complacent churches. Christ has redeemed the world, yes, and he will come again, but what of us in the meantime? Revelation offers words of hope to suffering Christians, but it is also a warning to those who are less than faithful. The author writes to Churches who, although faithful Christians, have in some ways lost their way. Some of them have forgotten the importance of loving their neighbors. Some well off Christians have become too comfortable in trusting their wealth. Others are putting different things and practices before God, or are not living out what Jesus taught. All in all, the Churches are largely failing to be what Christ intended them to be – communities of love that exist to serve those in need and share the good news of Jesus with others.
Revelation makes it clear that Christ takes very seriously the work of the Christian Church. So how are we doing with that at St Mark? If Christ were to come now, would we be ready? Would he find that everything is in order and that we are the kind of community he calls us to be? My guess is that like the Churches mentioned in Revelation, we also have some work to do. Maybe even some repentance – some cleaning house and changing of our hearts and lives.
But the good news is that God is always making all things new. It is never too late to shed what we don’t need or what is getting in the way of being the community God calls us to be. It is never too late to reclaim our mission to love and serve, and to find new ways to do it. Revelation is clear that the path is never easy. In fact, from the beginning the Church has faced struggles and hardships, as explained in Revelation. But it is clear that Christ will never abandon us, and those who emerge from current struggles join all Christians throughout history in God’s kingdom, worshiping day and night forever.
I have been talking about our mission a lot at St Mark lately, and the trend will continue. Christ is coming, and we have work to do. We are not called to escape the world, but live in it, being the light of Christ shining to lead the way for others. May Christ come and make all things new, and may we be open to where the spirit calls us as we head together towards the new Jerusalem.