When things seem stressful around the office, I like to remind people not to worry: I read to the end of the book, and it turns out well. (I stole this line from someone else, but can't remember who.) This week, we read part of that fabulous ending.
I love the last chapters of Revelation. This week, we read from Chapter 21. It's beautiful: one day, all our tears will be wiped dry. Our thirsts will be met with the abounding refreshment of the water of life.
The rest of the book of Revelation is a wild ride through sometimes horrifying, dramatic descriptions of an end-time; it's horror would look familiar to many who suffer the oppression, deprivation, violence and injustice of our world. But, then, at the end, this beautiful new reality emerges from the midst. Incredible.
So good, even, a band called Bad Religion can get it right: There will be sorrow no more.
I love imagining a better world. I love Micah's vision of vines and fig trees for everyone to sit under and, I suppose, feast on. (So much so that I planted kiwifruit and a fig tree in my own backyard this week...) I love how Isaiah told it, what with wolves and lambs hanging out together, and all being well.
This week, I was talking with some people about that vision of Isaiah's, about the wolves and lambs. It only works if everyone learns new ways of behaving. Otherwise, they can't hang out together. It won't end well. The harmony will be short-lived--maybe only 'til the photo op passes.
I wanna believe that this vision can last. Not just for a moment, for eternity.
I suppose that's why the makers of our lectionary, the three-year cycle of Bible readings we use on Sundays, paired Revelation with a story from Acts, in which we learn that Peter has learned a new way of behaving.
He's confronted by other religious people--folks who were concerned (to say the least) about his having totally blown the rules about eating "clean" things, with appropriate people. Peter, we learn, had not only eating off the holy diet, but he did it in the home of Gentiles. This is bad. When the people of Israel have disregarded holy rules like this before, they've ended up in exile for years.
Peter has a good answer: the Holy Spirit led me to do it. And it led that Gentile to invite me in, and to hear the Gospel preached, and to receive and be changed by that message. Then, he gets the best line in: If God did for them what God did for us, "like I'm going to stop God?!?" (That's my translation. Not official anything translation.)
The Spirit is at work in our world, making real this wild vision of God's future. Of a time when our tears are wiped away, and when we all have plenty of water of life to drink.
And, sometimes, it moves in such amazing ways that the best we can do is stay out of the way...