Our author, John, has been imprisoned for sharing the gospel and this revelation, this account of heaven breaking into the strangeness of earth is John’s way of reaching out to all kinds of people/church communities to assure them that God is always invested and present in the thick of our drama:
all of our beauty and brutality,
all of our vibrancy and violence,
all of creation’s songs and screams
God is still here, weaving through our confession and absolution, death and resurrection, fulfilling a promise that is both ancient and futuristic in Jesus. We just sang it:
The lamb has been slain.
His blood set us free to be people of God.
“It’s all true, even while we wait.” – A mentor.
I fell in love with the book of Revelation, not through fire and brimstone preaching or the Left Behind series, but thanks to the very first verse, this declaration of what it means to be Christ’s body:
I share with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom
and the patient endurance.
“Things that are all true, even while we wait.”
Discipleship is the call to a life of contradictions, we are sinners and saints dead to sin and alive in Christ asking questions beyond earthly answers trusting in truth and power and community across time and space:
It is persecution and the kingdom, and the patient endurance necessary to wade through it all.
Sometimes this is a painful and heavy load.
This Minnetonka Campus community knows the weight of communal grief and loss. You have been through hard conversations, traumatic divisions, and considerable change since you first gathered for worship more than six decades ago at Groveland School.
And you know the weight of personal grief and loss, too. You have been through relationships crumbling or death, diagnoses or financial strain, war or grave disappointment. You have been too sad to come to church…or too mad to stay away.
And you’re still here.
You’re still here to sing and hear the word. To see a friendly face that helps you feel resilient. To shake hands – beyond hello – so that the peace of God fills souls and space. To receive a morsel and a sip that carry presence and promises that work on your body and mind and heart all week long in mysterious ways. To be blessed – to hear that you are worthy and loved and that you matter, which is fuel for blessing others.
Sometimes it’s a joyful load shared.
This community knows how to celebrate, how to mark the moments that feel a bit lighter, like the kingdom, because you are the church, full of Christ’s light.
It comes in the form of forgiveness and gospel and fourth verse harmony and coffee hour and being recognized in community. It comes in waves of generosity and good humor, prayer shawls, and personal sharing.
We are like John, his sisters, and brothers in Jesus, bound together by the persecution and the kingdom, and the patient endurance required if we are to keep showing up for discipleship’s contradictions, questions, and mystery.
We are like John. Christ asks us what we see and demands a witness.
The warm and holy light of Christ, so dazzling and brilliant that it overwhelms everything else:
all the concerns that are not really ours,
all the changes that loomed large just a minute ago,
all the reasons we bicker and the excuses we make
they are blinded by the glow of Christ who’s life can draw us together across
language and race
politics and nation
gender and age and ability
time and space.
“It’s all true, even while we wait.”
John falls down as though dead, but is raised with Christ’s own hand and a word also for us:
Do not be afraid.
This is life that breaks through death.
This is kingdom that interrupts persecution.
This is power will not be squandered or perverted, so shine.
Shine or I will bring my light somewhere else.
Shine with this light or you will be fooled into thinking you must create the light.
Shine so that others can see and know the One Thing that actually matters.
We know why church communities split. Clergy misconduct, political differences, worship styles, and deal-breaking doctrine are just a few of the reasons people leave the church or never consider visiting in the first place. Too often, Something has distracted us from the One Thing, the light of Jesus that forms our vision and has the power to hold us together.
Westboro Baptist Church will be protesting the Women of the ELCA Triennial Gathering at the Minneapolis Convention Center this week.
New Member Litany includes this confession: “We also acknowledge that we will fail you. The church is not perfect and we make mistakes all the time. So we ask that, on this side of failure, you promise to stick around while we heal and mend together. Because if you go, you will miss the most beautiful part about being the church: the dying and the rising, the forgiving and the living.”
Jesus does not ask perfection of us. He’s just asking for us.
John looked at those seven churches aglow, each with their own unique challenges and conflicts and fears, and saw us. He saw our generation becoming whatever it’s becoming! He saw people and communities filled with the life and light of Christ, but who are also terrified about operational expenses and stressed out about ministry deadlines and hesitant about how to go about loving our neighbors. He saw us, distracted by Something and juggling the complex call to discipleship: persecution, kingdom, patient endurance.
He saw us and wrote to us with good news:
Do not be afraid.
Shine with this light.
I see you, my beloved,
all of your beauty and brutality,
all of your vibrancy and violence,
all of your songs and screams
And from every corner of creation I gather you into my glow,
into the promise of One Thing:
Christ died and is risen
for our brokenness, for our grief, for our pain,
for our mending, for our peace, for our joy, for our whole lives.
The light of Christ is here in this church,
to consume your fears and warm your hope so that today,
when you go out from this place,
you will see only One Thing and will witness to
the Lamb who was slain, whose blood sets us free to be people of God.
“For this is all true, even while we wait.”