Thursday, June 6, 2019

Sixth Sunday of Easter: Revelation Part 5


There are many different versions of this picture.
We have probably all seen one.
It is a picture of Christ,
made up of the faces of humanity.
I encourage you to take a closer look at it.
Either now, during the rest of my sermon, 
on the way to or from communion,
or after the service is over. 

In the passage from Revelation today,
we are heading towards the end of the book.
The apocalypse is over, the battle between good and evil,
between the forces of God and the forces of wickedness
has been completed.
God shares the new holy city of Jerusalem
with God at the center of it.
God is the light and the source of the water of life.
God is at the center of the city
and all people walk in God's light and praise God 
for all the gifts given.

The gates of the city are never shut,
symbolizing the safety and security of the city.
There are an abundance of trees in the city,
symbolizing vitality and growth,
reminding us of the Garden of Eden.
There is one throne,
one seat for God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Always as one, God is altogether in everything. 

Unlike the line of prophets going back through the centuries,
everyone will see God's face.
Even Moses didn't see God's face, 
or Elijah or Ezekiel, 
not the disciples, 
quite literally, no one in the scriptures sees God's face 
yet here,
everyone sees God's face.

The passage even specifies that God's name will be on everyone's foreheads. 
Which is interesting in multiple ways.
It could be a phrase translation issue,
supposed to mean that God's name is on our minds.
Or in the Jewish tradition, with the tradition of phylacteries or tefillin,
those little leather or wooden boxes with scripture 
wrapped around the arm and forehead of the men during prayer,
it could mean that everyone has the name of God written on their foreheads.
Then again, in Revelation, there are characters who have words inscribed directly on their foreheads, so perhaps it quite literally mean, God's name will be on everyone's foreheads.

The other interesting part of this is that in the Jewish tradition,
because names are powerful, and give power to those who know them,
no one is allowed to know or speak the name of God.
In that vein, the tetragrammaton is used,
the four letters used to represent the name of God in scripture,
which cannot be pronounced (though is transliterated into YHWH or Yahweh (which became Jehovah in English).

So not only are the faithful found walking around with the unknowable name of God
written on their foreheads, 
everyone also gets to see God's face.
This is a very different world than the one we live in today.

Or is it?

One of the underlying messages John of Patmos has for the churches in Asia Minor 
and perhaps for us today
is that God is with us all the time,
God is within us and around us.

Throughout the Revelation to John,
God appears with the community of the people.
Wherever the community is, 
that is where God is.

Perhaps as part of God's creation, 
we carry God with us.
Not always as visible as God's name written on our foreheads,
but God goes with us,
because God is within us
and wherever we are, 
God goes with us. 

Genesis tells us
We are created in God's image.
It says so in the Bible.
Okay, so we say that, and we don't know what exactly that means.
But like any creative endeavor, 
when we add our flavor to it,
God added flavor to us.
I've been watching the Great British Baking Show on Netflix,
so yes, I am a few seasons behind,
but it is always interesting to see how the baker's personalities and styles
come out in what they bake,
even on the technical challenge, which is a blind challenge, 
where everyone has to make the same exact thing.
Even when they do all make the same thing,
there are always differences, always nuances which give each baker away,
especially towards the end of the season and you have learned the style of each baker.
I'm not sure what kind of style quantification you could come up with
if you tried to look at all of God's creation,
but I think in the midst of everything, there is an emphasis on love.
As a signature, God's is pretty clear.

If we took a cross section of creation,
which lots of different kind of scientists do to test if something is similar throughout the whole of whatever they are studying,
like taking a cross section of a tree or of the soil or rocks or of fish or of humanity in psychology studies,
if we took a cross section of creation,
we would find God in all of it.

There is nothing in creation that doesn't have some of God in it
because God created everything.

When we create art or clothing or food dishes,
there is a part of us that goes into them.
A good artist or cook or musician or jewelry maker
puts something of themselves in their art,
even if it isn't something that can be pointed out or taken out.
God is like that. A part of us because God created us.
Love created us and love is a part of us.
We cannot live without that.
Even when we deny that God might be in us.

Ah, perhaps you wonder, what about evil! 
Always a problem, evil is. 
Did God create evil?
Evil... the myth about evil is that evil entered the world when Lucifer,
originally an angel of God, decided not to follow God, 
because he was too interested in his own ego and power. 
God created Lucifer, and Lucifer turned his back on God. 
It was a choice of Lucifer's. 
However, just because Lucifer turned his back on God, 
doesn't mean God didn't create Lucifer anymore. You can't go back on that.
Of course, that is the story about evil, we don't know how evil actually was created.
God creates with free will given as a gift,
and we are free to choose.

As choices go,
So many people think they can live without God.
They don't think they need spirituality or religion 
or anything bigger than themselves in their lives.
Community is good, but only with the people they want to be in community with.

However, deep within us there is a part of God.
And God within longs for unity with God above
and with God within others.
We cannot live fulfilled lives without knowing
the deeper truth within us.

Everything radiates from God.
Creation. Humanity. The universe.
Which is why the image of the new Jerusalem
seen by John of Patmos
has endured for centuries as an icon.
We long for ultimate unification with God
and the promise of a new world in which we can be at peace
in safety
and praise God.

The vision John saw was one of hope for the Christians of the first century.
It continues to be a vision of hope for us today.
The world is not one in which we are at peace and safety,
where we all know we are God's beloved children.
But someday,
we will see God's face and we will know God's name
and the face of God will be seen in all of our faces.

Amen.

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