Nations

I will begin with a confession. I love Revelation! Many of my colleagues stay as far away from this book as they can get because it’s weird and fantastic and, well, unbelievable. It is all of these things, but it’s also powerful and imaginative and filled with the Holy Spirit. As we enter into the sixth week of Eastertide, don’t we all need a power boost?

Finding a common theme in the texts this week took some thought. I’m distracted by many, many things. There are the usual church activities and trying to squeeze things in before so many scatter for the summer months. It was the first anniversary of my mother’s death and I braced myself for feelings and thoughts that didn’t show up on schedule. Prince’s death flooded my Minneapolis congregation with shared grief and unifying memories. I’m preparing for a writing week and trying to get coverage lined up, liturgy written, and figuring out how to honor and intern who has been with the congregation for four years who is leaving in a couple of weeks. Throw in continued conversations on racism and the anticipated but strong resistance to that. Now add on-going and crisis-based pastoral care needs and distraction comes as no surprise.

Instead of resisting, I let myself fall into power and wonder of the Revelation text before venturing into the others. I can see that beautiful city of crystal and ever-flowing river of life. And I want to reach out and grab one of those leaves that would bring healing to the nations. I so desperately want to journey to this city and bring the whole world along.  What will get us there?

The answer lies, at least in part, in the other texts. In Acts we read of Paul’s vision of his call to Macedonia. He responds and the result is both in offering and receiving hospitality outside of the expected people and places. Some lovely, feminine purple cloth anyone?

From the hospitality of Lydia we move through the words of the psalmist who reminds us that blessings and the ability to be a blessing to others comes from God. Real power flows through us by the grace of God and we should respond with praise. This is holy hospitality at its best.

Then, of course, we get to Revelation which is where I started. I can’t help but wonder if we who embody Christ now are not supposed to be the River of Life and the leaves that offer healing through all the seasons. To offer a place of respite, healing, and radical hospitality to any and all who are in need when so many places in the world give just the opposite would be a huge step toward healing the nations, wouldn’t it?

The familiar words of John 14 breathe life into this possibility of such extravagant hospitality. Jesus breathed on the disciples the very breath of God. I recently read somewhere that every person in their lifetime breathes in at least one particle of air that Jesus breathed. There’s something profoundly unifying, humbling, and encouraging in that statement. We are all connected by the breath of God, a breath that saturates our lives with love. How can we not share as freely as we have been shared with?

Or, if you’re going with John 5 and the man at the pool of Bethzatha, the model for healing is evident here, too. Jesus met the man and assumed nothing. Instead he asked the man if he wanted to be made well. Is it not a mark of hospitality to ask what is wanted? Sometimes just the fact that question is asked and the answer is heard brings a tremendous amount of healing.

I read these texts and hear an invitation to a truly holy hospitality that would bring healing to the nations. What do you hear? Where is the Spirit guiding you this week? Please join in the conversation so we can walk this journey together.

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Photo CC-BY-NC image by Rachael Keefe.

10 thoughts on “RCL: Weird, Fantastic, and Unbelievable

  1. As I read the John 5 text, which I’ve preached on more than once, this time I kept reading through the whole story. What starts out as a healing story — which is as far as the lectionary text goes — turns into a “witch hunt” (if I may call it that) by the religious authorities out to get Jesus. Yes, Jesus has done a good thing — but the “gotcha!” is that he did it on the Sabbath — and they go after first the man who was healed (how dare you carry your mat on the Sabbath!), then they go after Jesus. And there just might be some modern parallels to this story in recent politcal maneuverings…

    Whenever I think i can go with a “sustainable sermon,” the Holy Spirit yanks on me and says, “Unh-unh, I’ve got something new for you to say!”

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    1. I’ve only recently heard “sustainable sermon” term. I don’t use a manuscript so none of mine are. The Holy Spirit can be counted on to unsettle us and mess with our plans. The sermon you are working on is one that I would like to hear!

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  2. I led a study on Revelation a few years ago and the group decided that Revelation would make a great video game … and that John of Patmos must have been eating some magic mushrooms on that island to which he as banished!!!!

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  3. I am talking about blessings with the kids [ Rogation Sunday] but am still unsure where I will be going with the sermon..probably something about blessings, spirit and peace.

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  4. Here’s a thought on the connection between these texts – movement and crossing over. The man needing healing tries to move, but is blocked until commanded by Jesus to just do it. The tree of life lives on both sides of the river – is it a bridge? And finally, Paul crosses over to Macedonia. He leaves from an island not to far from the island of Lesbos where refugees wait today to cross over. Hmmmmm

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    1. Sandra, that will most definitely preach! Where are we blocked and Jesus is giving us a command that we might not necessarily want to hear (as individuals or as a congregation)? How do we access this tree that lives on both sides of the river that we can become or utilize the bridge between what was and is or what is and will be? Or what must we cross over in response to God? or do we identify more with the refugees who feel trapped, forgotten, or dismissed?

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