Most every morning, I read three things: Morning Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer, Brother Give us a Word from the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, and God Pause from Luther Seminary and WorkingPreacher.org. Some mornings are more hurried than others. Sometimes, I able to just sit and soak in some meditative time, while other days, I’m reading from my iPhone screen in the parking lot at my daughter’s school. This morning was one of those hurried times, but thankfully God spoke to me in the midst of my harried existence.
In this reading from Revelation, the early church creates a grand visual aid for embracing God: God is the source of light in a time when darkness was a source of fear and unknowing; God is a flowing river in a dry land where water means life; God is an abundant tree of life producing a new crop every month in a land of uncertain food resources.
I’ve never done much work in the Book of Revelation. As such, I’ve never dealt with the vast array of images that John used to describe the things he saw in his vision. For some reason this morning, the image of the “abundant tree of life producing a new crop every month in a land of uncertain food resources” really struck me. Maybe it is because my eldest child attends an elementary school with a nearly 80% free and reduced lunch rate. Maybe it is because the Episcopal Church is statistically much older than the general population in which roughly 10% of senior citizens faces food insecurity. Maybe it is because of the increasingly loud political rhetoric around “hand outs” and “entitlement programs” which ensure that American citizens, especially the young and the elderly, those most vulnerable, don’t go to bed hungry on a regular basis. Whatever it is, I’ve come to realize just how radical a vision John is having when he sees the tree of life which offers fresh fruit each month, giving a world that was vastly more food insecure than 21st century America, the promise that God will provide: especially for those who can’t help themselves who don’t fit into the power system.
If John’s vision of the New Jerusalem is compelling today, imagine how much more it would have spoken to an oppressed church in a starving backwater place like the Sinai Peninsula in the sprawling Roman Empire. Thanks be to God for a vision of a world where there is enough for everyone, but next comes the hard part. How do we follow the words of our Lord’s Prayer and make this heavenly vision happen on earth, right now?