As we begin a new week, and a lectionary trajectory that will take us to Advent, it is fitting for Revelation to show up as a text. Today’s lesson frames the entire book. We know who is writing, and why, and to what end.
“John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come….” Already there is a lot going on. We know that this crazy apocryphal letter starts like a standard letter in many ways. Yet already we get glimpses of the earth shattering nature, and good news spilling beyond boundaries.
The description of God the writer employs is a widespread Hellenistic Jewish name for God, “the one who is, and who was, and who is to come.” This is someone who transcends time! So much for “God is coming. Look busy!”
The joy of Revelation is that it is written to a people who understand they are part of God’s kingdom. They are being reassured that God is coming. “He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.”
Most likely it was a time of persecution. The writer is reminding the readers that God is ultimately in charge, and nothing can overcome his “overcoming”.
Sometimes I think we need a bit more of this imagery in our daily lives and churches. God is the “ruler of the kings of the earth.” And God is coming. In that sense, we become not ultimately inheritors of the kingdom, but stewards of God’s kingdom, much like the praefectus urbanus, the prefect of the city, was in charge when the king was away.
How would this change our churches, to focus on the fact that Christ is Head of the Church, and we need to leave it in a state so he could walk back anytime to pick up where he left off? How would we structure our meetings? Would we leave a seat open for him at the dinner table? How would our missions focus differently? Where would we be putting our money to good use?
Big questions. Even bigger concepts. God is in charge, and is coming back any minute now.
I love those bumper stickers, “Jesus is coming. Look busy.” It’s bad theology, but it certainly reframes things! Jesus is coming. So what are we waiting for?