...self care is never a selfish act- it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.

Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Time Between and Revelation

Our 2008 Thanksgiving Day lands in the middle of Christ the King, the last Sunday in the Christian year, and the first Sunday in Advent. I had the privilege of leading an adult study of Revelation to Chapelwood's Cornerstone Class these past seven weeks. The study was based on an actual reading and commentary on most of the book by chapter. The best study I know of is James Efird's book, Revelation for Today. It's both very readable, stays doggedly with the actual text and the community context of the Apocalypse. It's also a thorough debunking of Darby's fantastic interpretations which seems to reappear with every new generation.

I've enjoyed teaching this class and, along the way, have learned:
  • Revelation is a natural segway into Advent/Christmas, because it can foster a meaningful discussion of what God's coming among us looks like now and in the future, especially in a world racked by economic misfortune, trauma, war, violence, natural and human disasters.
  • Revelation is not as hard as we can make it out to be; but the metaphorical and picture language is challenging to church folks who equate the Darby chronology with Christian orthodoxy. It is interesting that western Christians read it this way- more metaphorically- for 1800 years, or until after the industrial revolution.
  • The core to me seems to be about worship of the one and only God who alone lives forever. That connects well with the commandments and defines what true faithfulness is.
  • A non-linear approach to the book is possible by staying with the genre. If you stay with the genre of apocalypse, the book reveals the origin, direction, and operation of evil, as well as the alternate reality of the Lamb and those who worship the Lamb. Again, the non-linear approach will raise the eyebrows of believism.
  • The Beast seems to be all about peace through war and violence, while the Lamb and his followers are told to endure (and not fight). The Jesus followers were not trusted by Jewish brothers since those following the way of Jesus refused to fight alongside them in the Jewish Revolts of 66-70 A.D.
  • The second coming of Jesus (rider called Faithful and True) is one (and not the only) image of the end; others are: the New heaven and earth, the New Jerusalem, the Judgment, the Wedding Feast, the fruit of the Tree of Life, etc.
  • John is and was right! Domitian died not long after the Revelation was written. Evil had its limited day, and the persecution lifted. Indeed, John was correct about what was "soon to happen, " with Christians living in a time without threat of persecution.
  • Then there's the stuff not found in the text of the Revelation: rapture and battle of Armageddon are good for starters. The antichrist is also absent from the text.
Questions:
  1. If you believe that fear works, why do we have to be threatened in order to believe or repent?
  2. I've noticed how the word apocalypse is so negative and destructive in today's culture. How does Revelation speak to our world in the darkness of violence, chaos, and hopelessness?
  3. We say we believe that Christ will come again in the Prayer of Thanksgiving. What does that look like for you??

1 comment:

  1. I commend you for teaching on the book of Revelation, Scott. I have done that in several of the churches I have served over the years, and I think it's always been helpful to the people in the pews. Without this kind of study, people are bound to conclude that the content of the book of Revelation = the claims in the Left Behind books. People need to encounter the actual content of the book of Revelation to see what it really is & what it really says.

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Having been in ordained ministry in the UMC for 34 years, I've experienced the truth that although, clergy are frequently present for others, no one can offer what they don't have.That's why if you're a clergy person, you need someone who will listen to you. Not the random next closest person available, but rather someone like a spiritual director, a therapist, a peer who can be fully present to you. I hope the links and posts you find here will give you ideas, humor, hope and encouragement. Scott Endress

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