Pastor’s Friday Comments (05.31.19)

Since Easter, one of the suggested readings for worship in the Revised Common Lectionary has been from the Apocalypse of John, the book of the Bible that we refer to as the Book of Revelation. In our worship service we have read those texts as the alternate reading before the pastoral prayer.

Most of the readings have been about the triumph of God over the forces of evil and the glories of our eventual home in heaven. From these readings and from a casual perusing of this very difficult book, it is easy to assume that this is the primary or even the singular interest of the book. This is not at all the case.

John was writing to people who were experiencing great stress and the threat of persecution. His vision is a reminder that, despite what we may face and how much evil seems to be triumphant, in the end God wins. But the challenge to believers that runs strongly throughout Revelation is to remain faithful in the face of the pressure to go along with the cultural flow.

Allegiance to the empire required placing devotion to the emperor before the worship of God. If the teachings of the Creator and the will of Caesar were in conflict, then the citizens of Rome or its conquered states were expected to bow before Caesar. To refuse to do so meant torture and death.

While John seeks to reassure Christians that if they remain faithful they will one day be with God, he offers no comfort to those who willingly place anything before their service to God. The ones who surround the throne are the ones “who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14). These are not people who went along to get along.

The Book of Revelation has a strong moral component. John decries the economic injustice that allows the few to have most of the world’s resources while many people starve. He rails against the thoughtless allegiance to a leader who exploits the people for his own gain.

The point that many Christians seem to miss in exploring this book (if they read it at all) is that we are confronted with a choice: We are obedient to God or obedient to Caesar. You don’t get to have it both ways. This final book of the New Testament has always been relevant. It certainly is today.