Our metaphor of the New Jerusalem and what the new city and life after death looks like continues today. Yes, we continue our journey in the Book of Revelation and its message of hope and abundance. Today we reach the climax of this message.
To help fully understand the new Jerusalem, Allen Ronald, a New Testament Professor in Indianapolis, reminds us that there are two cities being talked about in the Book of Revelation. Earlier the city of Rome is eluded to in chapter 18. A city that is immoral and foul. A funeral song is already being sung over this city. This is a place of despair, loneliness and suffering.
The second city, the one we have heard last week and again this week is the new Jerusalem. This is a city that is vibrant, secure and abundant. Inevitably people are given a choice of which city they wish to live in. Allen points out that walls and water in this context are important. Walls typically symbolize community and water is always an important commodity and resource especially in a harsh and dry environment. It is interesting to note that the gates within the walls of the New Jerusalem are always open. If walls symbolize community and the gates are always open, I wonder what this suggests about the New Jerusalem and the Kingdom of God? These are symbols that would be readily understood by any reader in Ancient Israel and Palestine.
We read today of the water of life sparkling like crystal, flowing down the middle of the city’s streets. The water is never ending, it is the water of life and is a symbol of abundance together with the tree of life. The tree of life, full of fruit, is large and stands on both sides of the street. (Rev. 22: 1-2). The citizens of this city flourish and grow in the same way vegetation flourishes along a riverbank. Who wouldn’t choose to live in this city?
We are always presented with a choice in life. We can choose to live abundantly and to embrace the goodness God provides. Or we can live a life of scarcity. Always fearful and wondering when the bottom will fall out. When the money will run out or any number of other things that keep our minds preoccupied and distracted from what is important.
On paper the choice is easy. We all want an abundant life for ourselves, family, and community. We want a good life for ourselves and the generations that follow. Many of us make ethical choices in purchasing cars and in the grocery store. In this way we recognize the value in our resources and in the abundance in which we live. It is easy to ‘buy into’ this abundance because it gains popularity in our social conscience. How many of us remember the days before ‘green waste bins’ . . .? Now a days it is second nature.
But it is hard to choose an abundant life when we haven’t got the social buy in or is something we cannot see and can easily overlook. These are the areas in our life, community and world where it is uncomfortable to acknowledge the truth that is being overlooked.
I am, of course, talking about the uncomfortable truth that we are guests on Ancestral land. As a Church, locally and nationally, we still have blocks where we don’t fully include and welcome our neighbors or recognize that there are people who offer a different way of making decisions that is still authentic and culturally relevant.
We live in volatile and changing times as a Church. Our Church, locally and globally, is changing. How do we live and work in harmony with the First Peoples of this land? How do we fully embrace and welcome those who offer differing definitions of marriage? These are the questions on the hearts and minds of many of us and on many more who find themselves on the fringes of the Church.
At our Synod for the Diocese of New Westminster this past weekend these were questions that we talked about as a diocese and Church. While many of the conversations, points of discussion and resolutions are still fresh; I like many, are still processing what this means for us in the life of the Church. I, for one, am excited.
As a National Church we are preparing for our annual General Synod which will be held here in Vancouver. These are the questions that the Church will be talking about. The revisions to the Marriage Cannon will come again to the floor of Synod for a second reading and vote as per the canons of General Synod. If that is not enough, we will be electing a New Primate who will be our voice and advocate in the Global Church community. These are big decisions and big conversations and your prayers; all our prayers are needed at this time regardless of where we personally land on any one of these issues. This is fast becoming our mission field as a Church. A mission field that will affect every church across the land.
The question for us is: How do we keep our gates to our walls, our community, open? How do we live into the Baptismal promise we all make to: Respect the dignity of every human being? Our reading from Revelation reminds us that while we live in volatile and changing times as we wrestle with big questions; we have an opportunity to live fully and completely in the new Jerusalem where we place our trust and hope in God. A God that is fully present, alive, active and vibrant in our lives, Church, community and world.