I’m old enough to remember using the dewey decimal system and referencing card catalogs to research papers and presentations for school. My family’s dinner table conversations would meander through different topics and often pause with an “I wonder” statement:
I wonder what year a woman first drove a military submarine.
I wonder who won the bronze medal for women’s gymnastics in the last Olympics Games.
I wonder if it’s possible to climb a tree without using your legs.
I wonder what my kindergarten teacher is up to now, more than a decade later.
We’d talk about it as people held interest or at length and, if no one knew the answer, we’d simply continue to wonder. If we couldn’t find clue in the newspaper or the Encyclopedia Britannica, we’d go days or decades without a hard answer. And, once upon a time, that was okay.
Intergenerational wonderment is a gift that reminds everyone there that the universe is vast and our capacity to memorize and regurgitate facts is not. It’s communal humility and gratitude for all that lives beyond us.
I am just old enough to know, remember, and appreciate this ever-present invitation to wonder. It hung in conversations and daydreams before high-speed internet and Wikipedia and Google and Facebook rode in with Calvary, forever confusing the openness of wonder and curiosity with the concrete security of answers and solutions.
I am just old enough to remember adults who answered my abstract and bizarre questions with, “I’m not sure.” They joined me in pondering the mystery of it all instead of rushing to their phones to ask Siri or looking it up online.
I don’t say this because I have beef with technology or because I can resist the temptation to do a quick Google search before thinking for myself. These advances have their great benefits, but along the way we have forgotten to practice wonderment. Awe for the power and mystery of it all has become an uncomfortable silence that we automatically fill with research, facts, and explanations.
We are fooling ourselves when our behavior confines our imagination, craving knowledge instead of wonder.
After Jesus spoke to the seven churches, I looked and there in heaven a door stood open! And a voice said, “Come up here and I will show you what must be.”
The door is already open. Before you look inside and see whatever Jesus wishes to show you, remember that that door is already open.
Entry does not require earning a key or remembering to pack your decoder ring or conquering the Throne Room like Raiders of the Lost Ark. You don’t need to take notes like a journalist and the symbolism isn’t a Bible quiz to see how well you know your Old Testament imagery.
It is tempting to let your brain and your search engine lead the way, isn’t it? We want to make sense of these visions because they are frightening and confusing and threatening – or maybe they’re just mysterious and wonderful and we’ve forgotten how to receive mysterious and wonderful as GIFT.
So before we head into the Throne Room, park your fear and paranoia and competition. Take deep breaths to release your insecurity about where you stand with the Lamb of God because you already know the only thing that matters: The door was open when you got there and Jesus said, “Come and see.”
The wild mysteries inside are not yours to solve or domesticate. They belong to God in heaven and you are a mere witness of this scene that is designed to stretch your imagination and perk your curiosity and fill your being with wonder. So enter with your heart, your vulnerability, your childlike wonder for everything that is beyond an easy answer.
The one seated on the throne is not described in human or angelic terms. There is no gender to debate or distract. There are no robes or wings or feet to over-analyze. Instead, there is jasper and carnelian and a royal rainbow – signs of creation even beyond humankind – rock and light – signs of strength and promise.
The elders seated around the throne are dressed in white and alive with lightning and thunder. Jesus told us to come and see – does their storm remind you of the fear and awe you felt while hiding under the covers as a child, overwhelmed by nature’s power and noise?
The living creatures resemble animals you have seen before, but only faintly. Let it be faint. Let them surprise you with their eyes and bodies and presence in such a holy space. Let them remind you that all of creation rejoices in this place, not just the church going people and heady theologians. The beasts of sea and land and air have songs to offer their God.
How do they know this song? How is it that they are singing like we do before the Eucharist, full of mystic power and love our sacred ballad that crosses time and space: Holy Holy Holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come. Are they reconciled even beyond these doors?
And then the elders fall from their thrones, casting crowns and falling down as if they are not satisfied with their seniority and comfort for long – but that they would rather give up their pew and position to fall prostrate in wonder. The ones we thought might be weary of worship or bureaucratically inclined cannot sit still for long. They move with the music and with deep adoration for what they cannot conquer and contain, singing: You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and created.
I’m so tempted to decode the Throne Room. There is so much to dissect about this scene of Creator and Creation: all those eyeballs and thrones and creatures that look only somewhat like what we’ve seen on earth.
But Jesus does not require these calculations on earth or in heaven. He doesn’t not require that we win debates or out think or nail down exactly how any of this works. Again and again: incarnation, temptation, transfiguration, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, the sacraments, absolution, salvation, and certainly this invitation to sneak into the Throne Room of heaven: Jesus simply says Come and See.
The door is open. Jesus says, Come closer. Be curious. Ask questions. Keep showing up, even when it’s confusing. Don’t worry about having the right answers. Praise my name while it fills every fiber of your being with wonder.
And if these are the instructions for every encounter with God’s wonder and mystery, I will pray that God puts away my urge to be right, to be in the know, and to be in control. Because these are things that keep me from admitting, “I don’t know” or embracing the awkward silence after a good question long enough to spark awe for the power and mystery of it all.
The Throne Room invites us to imagine the worship God desires, which seems to include:
- A funny looking guest list
- Each creature only vaguely familiar to our earthly expectations
- Uniquely and together
- Humility and movement from everyone
- Unceasing energy for worship both day and night
- Invitation to reclaim childlike wonder
- All eyes on the throne: strength and promise
We did not earn an invitation. The door was already flung open and a voice beckoned us in beyond our routines and solutions, to imagine worship beyond looking the part or tasks done right or facts taken seriously; to imagine life beyond looking the part or tasks done right or facts taken seriously.
I am just old enough to remember a time when wonder was our default setting. And God is old enough to know that wonder is our most natural and beautiful setting.
So if you step inside the Throne Room of Revelation 4 or follow Jesus on the journey to the cross, pack lightly. You do not need a search engine or a biblical commentary or mathematical formulas or good order – or even your best behavior.
WHY? Because the door is open. Jesus says, Come closer. Be curious. Ask questions. Keep showing up, even when it’s confusing. Don’t worry about having the right answers. Praise my name while it fills you with wonder and WOW. Amen.