Scripture: Revelation 21:1-6 (NRSV)
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
'See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.'
And the one who was seated on the throne said, 'See, I am making all things new.' Also he said, 'Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.' Then he said to me, 'It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.
This year the Bible Study I lead at our church has been focusing on the Apocryphal Gospels. As such, we have been having a wonderful time debating what the purpose was of making Jesus look like a boyish trouble-maker in The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, what it could have meant for the history of Christianity if Judas' betrayal was done in love as The Gospel of Judas seems to suggest, and imagining what the author could have been thinking by including a walking and talking cross in the resurrection scene of The Gospel of Peter, among other things. And oftentimes our conversation seems to come back to a similar question: Why would those who helped shape the canon of our scriptures not want to include these texts?
I confess, I have had a similar thought with the book of Revelation$mdash; and truth be told, kind of wish those who were against its inclusion had fought a little harder. Martin Luther was on to something.
But then I open the book. And after wading through angels and Wormwood and the Lamb and more angels, I see this: Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more.
And shockingly, it gives me pause. That might just preach.
And so I'm reminded of John Dominic Crossan who calls the establishment of God's Kingdom on earth "the Great Divine Cleanup of this world." It's when we help to make this world into what God dreams it can be. A day of no mourning and crying is surely a part of that dream. Sounds like a new heaven and an earth to me.
So what if we all did our part? What if we worked on our little corner of the world and tried to make it what God dreams it can be? Could we actually work with God to hasten God's Kingdom coming?
It's worth a try. And it might just be enough to convince me that maybe those early canon-izers knew what they were up to. After all, they made a good call on that walking cross.
The world needs a good cleanup, O God. Help us to see that the inspiration for that cleanup may come from the most unlikely of places$mdash; even Revelation. And then inspire us to be a part of making it happen. Amen.
Jeff Michael Gallagher
the Senior Pastor of the United Congregational Church of Tolland and author of the book Wilderness Blessings: How Down Syndrome Reconstructed Our Life and Faith