Reign of Christ | Proper 29

John 18:33-37

33 Pilate went back into the palace. He summoned Jesus and asked, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own or have others spoken to you about me?”

35 Pilate responded, “I’m not a Jew, am I? Your nation and its chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?”

36 Jesus replied, “My kingdom doesn’t originate from this world. If it did, my guards would fight so that I wouldn’t have been arrested by the Jewish leaders. My kingdom isn’t from here.”

37 “So you are a king?” Pilate said.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. I was born and came into the world for this reason: to testify to the truth. Whoever accepts the truth listens to my voice.”

Reign of Christ

A world-famous archaeologist who once said, “Archaeology is the search for fact, not truth. If it’s truth you’re interested in, Dr. Tyree’s philosophy class is right down the hall.”

Ok, so, that was actually Dr. Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but Harrison Ford was right. Even for a movie-archaeologist. There is a difference between fact and truth, and there are differences between kinds of truth.

We talk about facts as those empirically verifiable objective things. Facts exist in reality. They can be observed and proved by the senses. If I have two apples and add two more, I have four apples. If I mix hydrogen with oxygen and then light it with a match, I’m going to get a really big explosion…and water.

Truth is, seemingly, a little more difficult to nail down. Truth can have the quality of being more subjective than objective, it can be relative or universal. Truth is sometimes defined as what an individual person has come to believe about the state of something or someone. That’s relative truth, and it’s not the same for everyone. My wife and I still disagree about the temperature. In summer, she’s fine with scorching heat in the house so long as it’s not too humid, so I roast. But, in winter, she’s like an arctic fox who needs to feel the cold, so I freeze.

On the other hand, logic requires us to admit that universal and absolute truths exist. After all, if anyone who believes that all truth is relative and thus states, All truth is relative, there is no such thing as absolute truth, then that person has already contradicted themselves by stating the absolute truth that there is no absolute truth.

John’s theme of truth is a central point in this text. When Jesus encounters Pontius Pilate, it’s an encounter between an intellectual understanding of truth, which we find in Pilate, and truth as divine revelation, which we find in Jesus. Years after this encounter, one of the early Christian Fathers named Tertullian would ask one of the most enduring questions in Christianity: “What, indeed, has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” (Prescription Against Heretics, 7). Athens represented philosophy and empirical truth. Jerusalem represented the truth of divine revelation. John tells us that Jesus is identified with God’s truth (c.f. 1:9, 14), and is, himself, the truth (c.f. 14:6).

God’s truth speaks of God’s reign and rule over all creation. It points to an authority that is above all earthly authorities, powers, and political entities. For those who belong to this truth, it speaks to a way of life that is different from the way the rest of the world lives, and values that are different from what the human world values. This truth requires us to look beyond what we believe so that we can hear what God has declared.

This truth is absolutely transforming if we seek it through discerning obedience. But discerning obedience is difficult because it means we must try to live—beyond our individual selves—into something that isn’t necessarily comfortable for us. This truth asks us to look deeply into ourselves: who we are and what we have become, in order that we might live into what we can and ought to be as citizens of God’s dominion. If Jesus Christ is our king, if the reign of God is a truth above all truths, then Christians bow only to Christ. We give our allegiance to Christ above and before any other person, nation, party, power, politic, or authority. And, we seek to understand what God values and requires even as these earthly persons, nations, parties, powers, politics, and authorities are clamoring for our attention and our allegiance.

 

One of the difficulties for American Christians who read this text is that our very mindset is so different from the people of the Ancient Near East. American culture values the idea of individualism. And not just individualism, but rugged individualism. We tend to think of ourselves wholly as individuals, apart and distinct from other individuals to the point that the idea of community, itself, is almost thought of as a weakness or, at best, an appendage that’s nice to have on occasion, but we like that it’s something that we can easily cut off—at least temporarily—so we can be our true individual selves. Especially if things get too deep or too real for our rugged individual comfort.

We United Methodists have largely forgotten that the glue that held Methodism together from the earliest days was Christian community. Methodists were organized into small groups which met weekly where the members encountered each other in community that was authentic and life-giving. In those small community-groups, they shared their lives with each other: their faith, their struggles, their hopes, their prayers. That kind of thing scares the snot out of most Americans because we’re so deeply trapped in the cultural value of rugged individualism that we can’t allow ourselves to experience the vulnerability of community. We don’t want other people to see our true selves because they might see that we’re not so rugged or so individualistic after all. They might see that we need them, and that’s terrifying for an American.

Maybe that’s the challenge for us, because another theme that’s central to this text is that of belonging. Jesus told Pilate, “You say that I am a king. I was born and came into the world for this reason: to testify to the truth. Whoever accepts the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37b CEB).

The reign of God is larger than any individual. The reign of God creates a new community. John the Seer wrote of Jesus, “…by your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe, language, people, and nation. You made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will rule on earth” (Revelation 5:9-10 CEB).

When Jesus uses the word king and kingdom, here, he gives them new definitions. Belonging to the community of God’s dominion, a community over which Jesus Christ reigns, means we belong to a truth that is not bound to earth. Yet, this kingdom-community is not some esoteric, imaginary thing, either. Jesus came from and belongs to a different kind of kingdom: the dominion of God.

There are times when we test our belonging to community. Children test their belonging to family. I vaguely remember when I got mad at my parents and decided to run away. I climbed a tree behind our house and sat there until I got cold and hungry enough to decide that, whether I liked my family or not, whether I wanted to belong with my family or not, I really did need them.

Communities of faith are no different. Members and non-member constituents test their belonging to our congregation. Sometimes they deliver ultimatums. Sometimes they drift away quietly to see if anyone will notice. Others talk it out with church leadership or other persons and decide whether to stay or leave based on the response they get. All these tests of belonging are based on each individual’s own decision-making. Yet, in the Ancient Near Eastern sense, belonging isn’t really up to each one of us alone. We belong because we belong. We belong because the community knows us, loves us, and claims us. When Jesus tells Pilate, “Whoever accepts the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37b CEB), Jesus is offering Pilate an invitation to be a part of this community that transcends the individual self.

 

But, how do we listen to the voice of Jesus? It requires a relationship with Jesus in which we constantly look beyond ourselves. When I do premarital counseling with couples, I use a tool called a Marriage Covenant which has all kinds of questions that are designed to force communication to happen. I remind couples that sometimes marriage is work—hard work—precisely because it’s a relationship. And relationships transcend individualism. Relationships require constant communication about everything. So, working through the Marriage Covenant is practice for the kind of constant communication that will foster growth and depth in their relationship as a couple.

When Joy and I were in our first ministry appointment in Terre Haute, we met this couple named Herb and Jerri Redman. They were the sweetest, kindest people you could ever know. Each of them, in their own way, was just a hoot. When you settled yourself on the couch or glider across the living room from Herb and Jerri and started chatting with them, you quickly found out that Jerri did all the talking. Those two loved each other so deeply, knew each other so intimately, that only one of them ever needed to talk.

Now, Herb usually got one or two words in on the edges of the conversation, but Jerri would even answer questions that you asked to Herb. And if you looked over at Herb when Jerry was answering for him, he would just get this big knowing grin on his face and nod his head. And Jerri knew full-well she was talking for Herb. She would even occasionally preface her comments by saying, “Now, I’m going to answer for him.”

Jerri was like the main character carrying on the dialogue of a story. Herb was like the narrator, occasionally throwing in little tidbits of background or corrective information. That’s how I hope my relationship with Joy is when I’m 80. When we have visitors I’ll just sit back and let her go, confident that she’ll say what I would have said anyway because she knows me that well.

Building up that kind of relationship doesn’t happen overnight. Like the couples I counsel before their marriage, like Herb and Jerri Redman practiced for 65 years, all of our relationships require commitment, work, constant attention, and accepting the possibility that there’s still room to grow, that we don’t yet know it all. The way we listen to the voice of Jesus is by getting to know him so well that you could almost say he lives in you. In fact, when we enter into that kind of loving relationship with Jesus Second John, reminds us that the truth “abides in us and will be with us forever” (2 John 1:2, my trans.). When we accept the truth and listen to the voice of Jesus, we cannot help but follow the truth that takes up residence inside of us.

There’s another aspect to being in relationship with Jesus that we might overlook. You see, having a relationship with Jesus is not a one-on-one, individual thing. It requires community. Jesus had disciples, and Jesus founded this thing called the church. The church isn’t a building, though that’s often how we think of it. The church is a community of people who are in a relationship with Jesus and with each other. Look around you. We who belong to Jesus belong to one another.

In this new community of God’s dominion, we don’t so much follow in the footsteps of Jesus as we live a life infused with his presence, in sync with the Holy Spirit, and governed by the truth Jesus reveals to us. I think that’s what it means for followers to follow truth. We follow by living Jesus-infused lives, by living in such communion with Jesus—and each other—that he lives in us and we in him.

We have the invitation. But we must be willing to listen to the voice of Jesus and look deeply into ourselves. Followers follow truth, even with the truth tells us we need to change our hearts and minds in order to live more fully into the dominion of God.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen!

~Pastopher

Advertisements

A Penny | Proper 27

Mark 12:38-44

38 As he was teaching, he said, “Watch out for the legal experts. They like to walk around in long robes. They want to be greeted with honor in the markets. 39 They long for places of honor in the synagogues and at banquets. 40 They are the ones who cheat widows out of their homes, and to show off they say long prayers. They will be judged most harshly.”

41 Jesus sat across from the collection box for the temple treasury and observed how the crowd gave their money. Many rich people were throwing in lots of money. 42 One poor widow came forward and put in two small copper coins worth a penny. 43 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I assure you that this poor widow has put in more than everyone who’s been putting money in the treasury. 44 All of them are giving out of their spare change. But she from her hopeless poverty has given everything she had, even what she needed to live on.”

A Penny

Our Gospel reading for today includes two parts of a larger story. After entering Jerusalem, Jesus hung out near the Temple, teaching people and his Disciples, arguing and discussing issues with religious leaders such as the Scribes. In verses 38-40, Jesus speaks harshly against the Scribes, or legal experts as the Common English Bible translates the word. But he didn’t suggest that all legal experts were bad. In fact, just a few verses earlier, Jesus commended a Scribe, saying, “You aren’t far from God’s kingdom” (Mark 12:34 CEB).

Yet, there are always those in every profession and walk of life who think they’re honest even as they act dishonestly, who think they’re righteous even as they act in ways that are unrighteous, and who think they’re ethical, moral, and just even as they act in ways that are unethical, immoral, and unjust. Self-delusion is possible in every profession, even amongst religious and legal professionals. In fact, I read once that the two kinds of academic libraries that have the most books stolen are seminary and law school libraries. Apparently, we religious and legal leaders-in-training can rationalize why we need a certain book, so we delude ourselves into thinking that it’s not really stealing.

It’s not exactly a vote of confidence in pastors and lawyers.

It’s important for us to note that the local language spoken in Judea and Galilee when Jesus lived was not Hebrew, but Aramaic. Most people spoke Greek, too, but Aramaic would have been the language used in people’s homes. Mary, the mother of Jesus, would have sung her baby to sleep in Aramaic lullabies. Greek was the language of commerce. Hebrew was the original language of the Holy Scriptures, though there was a Greek translation called the Septuagint, and there were Aramaic paraphrases and explanations of the Hebrew text called the Targumim. But few, if any, spoke Hebrew in conversational language.

It’s also important for us to note that the literacy rate in the ancient world was dismally low. Scribes, or legal experts, were the people in Ancient Israel who could read and write. That made Scribes both the legal and religious experts. Why? Because they read it and wrote it by making copies. When there was a question about a religious or legal matter, it was the Scribes who searched the Scriptures for the answer. They knew the Hebrew Scriptures because they handled them on a daily basis.

Because they could read and write, the Scribes were also the ones who kept the ledgers in the Temple and other areas of life. They recorded financial transactions, kept inventories, documented legal agreements and suits, and logged political policy. The work of Scribes was important and necessary.

Another thing we should note is that, in Ancient Israel, there was little—if any—separation between religious and legal or political matters. In the United States, we insist on keeping religion separate from law and politics—even to the point that some people think their religious leaders shouldn’t comment on legal or political matters. That kind of separation was unknown in Ancient Israel where the law was religion because the law was God’s Law. Scribes were the interpreters and teachers of God’s Law. Because of that, Scribes were respected members of society. But, as with any profession, not all Scribes were faithful in the ways that mattered most to God.

Jesus warned the people to watch out for the legal experts—the Scribes—because some of them weren’t living faithfully. Those who liked to walk around in their long robes, who dressed to impress, liked to do so to gain attention from others. Their fine clothes left no doubt in anyone’s mind that they were important people. They liked to be greeted with honor in the marketplace. They longed for places of honor in the synagogues and at banquets. The marketplaces were public, secular areas. The synagogues were places of worship. And banquets often took place in people’s homes. So, Jesus suggested that, for some Scribes, the desire for honor covered all arenas of Jewish life: public, religious, and private.

Honor and shame shaped Jewish culture in ways that our broader modern American culture can’t really understand. Honor and shame still shape many Near, Middle, and Far Eastern cultures. So, for Jesus to accuse them of cheating and showing off would have shamed any Scribe. Not only were they accused of cheating, but they cheated widows out of their homes. They cheated the most vulnerable among them so they could continue to wear their long robes.

God’s Law consistently speaks about widows in ways that demand empathy and care from others (c.f. Deuteronomy 10:18-19; 14:29). Widows, along with immigrants and orphans, are constantly listed together as people for whom God is especially concerned. The Scriptures also consistently declare God’s immense displeasure with anyone who harms, neglects, or oppresses widows, immigrants, or orphans. Through the prophet Ezekiel, God indicted Jerusalem for failing to care for widows, immigrants, and orphans (c.f. Ezekiel 22:6-8, 25, 29). There is no exception to this rule.

Psalm 94 even speaks of God as an avenger and, regarding those who fail to follow God’s Law on this matter, the Psalmist says, “They kill widows and immigrants; they murder orphans, saying all the while, ‘The LORD can’t see it; Jacob’s God doesn’t know what’s going on!’ You ignorant people better learn quickly. You fools—when will you get some sense?” (Ps. 94:6-8 CEB). To defraud, cheat, oppress, or neglect widows, immigrants, or orphans is the same as murdering them because such a person makes already dire circumstances impossible worse.

To cheat widows out of their homes in order to maintain a system that provides wealth and privilege is the height of hypocrisy. It doesn’t matter how many long prayers we can say, what finery we’re wearing, or what honor we receive in public, religious, or private settings; those who cheat the vulnerable instead of providing care for them—as the Law requires—will be judged with exceeding harshness.

Then, Jesus sat across from the collection box for the Temple treasury and did some people watching. He observed how the crowd gave their money. He noticed that many rich people were giving lots of money. But he also noticed how a poor widow gave two half-pennies. So, he called his disciples together and said, “I assure you that this poor widow has put in more than everyone who’s been putting money in the treasury. All of them are giving out of their spare change. But she from her hopeless poverty has given everything she had, even what she needed to live on” (Mk. 12:43-44 CEB).

Now, some interpreters have lifted this widow up as someone to emulate as an example of truly faithful and sacrificial giving. Such an interpretation suggests that we should give until it hurts, no matter how poor we are. However, there are a few clues in the text which suggest that Jesus’ message is more complicated than that.

Firstly, Jesus had just criticized people in positions of power who, under the guise of religion, cheat widows by taking their homes. In light of that criticism, it doesn’t seem likely that Jesus would commend a widow for giving her last penny to a Temple system that supported those Scribes and provided them with enough income that they could strut about in their long robes while she remained poor.

Secondly, even if all the widow had was a penny, there wasn’t much she could have bought for herself with those two coppers anyway. I have a jar of pennies at home that I haven’t bothered counting or depositing in the bank because it takes a LOT of pennies to count for anything, and it would almost be more work that it’s worth to bother with them.

While we can’t know the widow’s intention in giving, there are a few ways to look at it. One way of looking at her gift is one of true faithfulness in which she entrusted herself wholly to God. Another viewpoint might be that she was trying to buy a little divine favor, as if such favor could be purchased. Afterall, desperate circumstances can lead people to try desperate schemes and hold fast to desperate hope. A third way of looking at her gift is one of indictment. The Temple system should have been helping her, but all she had were two mostly-worthless coppers that wouldn’t buy her a crumb of bread. Maybe her gift was the widow’s way of saying, Thanks for nothing. Here. You can have your coppers back.

The second view of the widow’s giving probably would not have earned a commendation from Jesus. The third one, maybe, since it would have been a very prophetic thing to do. And, while the first one might have earned a commendation, the scenario—as a whole—still highlights that the Temple utterly failed this woman.

Perhaps that’s aiming nearer to the point. Maybe this widow and her small-yet-mighty gift point out the nature of integrity in the face of hypocrisy. While we can’t know the intentions of the wealthy givers: whether they gave for the sake of notoriety or out of a sense of true devotion, we do have Jesus’ words warning the people about the hypocrisy of the Scribes who should have known the Law better than anyone, yet they cheated widows out of their houses and showed off with long prayers.

A system that would allow a widow to give her last penny; a system that would allow her to walk away hopelessly poor; a system that would fail to take care of someone so desperately in need: that’s not merely a system that has failed, but a community of faith that has failed.

Far from keeping its nose out of law and politics, the church must come to understand that the ministry we do and the care we provide for others—especially ministry with the poor: these are spiritual disciplines that flow out of our worship of the God who loves the vulnerable and marginalized, and who consistently sides with widows, immigrants, and orphans over the well-to-do. Through our ministry and service alongside the marginalized and vulnerable, the church emphasizes a different kind of politic and a different kind of law: a politic that is, itself, righteousness, and a law that is love.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen!

Rev. Christopher Millay

Home | All Saints’ Sunday

Revelation 21:1-6a

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look! I’m making all things new.” He also said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 Then he said to me, “All is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.

Home

The book of Revelation can unnerve even the most mature of Christians. The wild and frightful imagery has inspired much doom and gloom among some interpreters of its words. Many have approached Revelation as a roadmap of the future, a foretelling of horrors to come, especially for those who are “left behind” in the rapture and are subjected to the scheming of the antichrist.

So let me clarify a few misguided assumptions and misinterpretations about Revelation.

There is no antichrist in this book.

There is no rapture in this book.

These are things that certain sects of Christianity, including Darbyism, Dispensationalism, and Christian Fundamentalism, have wrongly imported into Revelation through bad Biblical interpretation.

They are not in Revelation.

Antichrist is only found five times in the Bible, and they’re all in First and Second John (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 1:7). And antichrist is not just one person who is coming, but many persons who have already come (c.f. 1 John 2:18). And what John means by antichrist is clearly defined in three ways: Firstly, as someone who denies that Jesus is the Christ; Secondly, as someone who denies the Father and the Son; or Thirdly, as someone who denies that Jesus came in human flesh.

Rapture is a whole other kind of misinterpretation of something Paul mentions in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. It is definitely NOT rapture as the sects I mentioned describe it.

The powerful imagery of Revelation is actually a common feature the genre of apocalyptic literature. All apocalyptic works contain strange and wild imagery and symbolic numbers and colors. But when we understand how to properly interpret apocalyptic literature, it’s really not so scary. In fact, Revelation was written as a book of consolation to Christians who were under persecution by the Roman state. Revelation is meant to console and reassure us, not cause us to be afraid or worried. It’s meant to strengthen our faith in the present so we can live into God’s future, not to make us afraid of our faith nor afraid of the future.

When Emperor Diocletian tried to enforce worship of the state cult, it was a matter of state control over the populace. John the Seer wrote Revelation to remind his flock that, what was at stake for Christians was their inmost identity. He encouraged Christian not to bow to the Roman state, despite the brutality that state inflicted upon its own people for control of their loyalties: even their souls. Revelation reminded persecuted Christians who and whose they are: where they came from and where they would finally end up whether they died a natural death or were killed in the persecution.

Yet, Revelation has been coopted and misused by some so-called “Christians” to support their hatred of Jews and Catholics, among other groups (as have many other Scripture texts). This misuse of Scripture to support hate is nothing new to Christianity. In light of recent events, including the mass-murder at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, I think it’s important that we pay attention to these undercurrents in in our national culture, within the broader church, and do some self-examination within ourselves.

Hateful thoughts lead to hateful speech, which leads to hateful action. Jesus taught, “You have heard that it was said to those who lived long ago, Don’t commit murder, and all who commit murder will be in danger of judgment. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with their brother or sister will be in danger of judgment. If they say to their brother or sister, ‘You idiot,’ they will be in danger of being condemned by the governing council. And if they say, ‘You fool,’ they will be in danger of fiery hell” (Matthew 5:21-22 CEB). Why would Jesus say something that sounds so harsh for mere spoken words? Because angry thoughts lead to angry speech, and angry speech quickly leads to angry action. Another wise sage once said, “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering” (Yoda, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace).

When we’re told in Revelation that God will wipe every tear from our eyes, that death will be no more. That mourning and crying and pain will be no more, we need to decide what values we want to live into: those of God’s dominion or those of our culture? We need to decide what we’ll allow our thoughts, our speech, and our actions to be. Will we think, speak, and act in ways that cause tears, or will we think, speak, and act in ways that dry them? Will we think, speak, and act in ways that cause death and mourning and pain, or will we think, speak, and act in ways that show our love—Christ’s love; God’s love—for the whole of humanity, and our hope for a future that includes everyone?

Because God’s Dominion will include everyone. Revelation describes this more than once by saying, “by your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe, language, people, and nation” (5:9 CEB) and “there was a great crowd that no one could number. They were from every nation, tribe, people, and language” (7:9 CEB). The gathered host of God’s saints includes people that our culture—and even our government leadership—tells us to fear enough to hate.

Today is All Saints’ Day. In one sense, this is our day of remembrance: our Memorial Day. On this day we remember God’s holy people who have gone before us: those whose names we know and those whose names are known only to God. We remember the saints—the holy ones—because of their noble deeds, their faithful witness, and their martyrdom. These people, fellow members of the body of Christ, have influenced us in many ways whether we know it or not.

It has been said that if we forget the past we’re doomed to repeat it. We know that our world is full of painful and terrible atrocities that we desperately need to remember so that we don’t repeat them. We need to remember them so that we can permanently change our hearts and minds, which is the definition of repentance.

When Joy and I lived in Terre Haute, there was a Holocaust museum called CANDLES. It’s an acronym that stands for Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors. The museum was dedicated to remembering what happened to the children at Auschwitz who were tortured in the experiments of Dr. Josef Mengele. In December of 2003, arsonists burned the museum in an attempt to destroy the memory of the Nazi atrocities that the museum existed to preserve, and to silence the stories of both those who were murdered and those who survived Auschwitz.

The burning of the museum outraged many people in Terre Haute, me included. A protest rally was formed, and we marched in silence, holding lighted candles, from the local synagogue to the burned-out museum where we all prayed for an end to violence and hatred.

I remember that, on the way, a little boy ran out of the front door of his house and asked what we were doing. A Jewish man I was walking behind stopped to say, “We are marching because some people have decided to act out in hatred toward others, and all of these marchers are here to say that those who hate and use violence against others will not win. We will not let them win. We are marching because we love peace.” His words stuck with me because he articulated the reason for our silent march so well.

I remember the boy’s reaction, too. He sat down quietly on his porch in the cold December air and watched us walk by. He took it all in, and, though I can’t be sure, I think watching those hundreds of protesters walk silently by his house is something that he’ll always remember: hundreds of people who were marching for peace.

It’s also significant, in light of the Tree of Life Synagogue murders, that November 9th and 10th is the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht. It’s important for us to remember. And it’s important for us to recognize that God’s dominion is one of love. Fear of others and hatred for others will not be tolerated in the future that awaits us. Anti-Semitism cannot exist in the minds or hearts of people who follow a Jewish savior. Hatred for any peoples cannot exist in the minds or hearts of those who follow a Savior who will bring together people from every nation, tribe, language, and people.

As much as All Saints’ Sunday is about remembrance, it’s also about looking forward to where we’re going. “In my beginning is my end,” T.S. Elliot wrote (East Coker in Four Quartets). God is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. Just as we came from God, God is our final destination. The book of Revelation is eschatology. It’s about the end, but not an end that’s necessarily restricted to chronological or temporal finality. It’s also about the end in the sense of our purpose and goal as people who belong to God.

In that future are a new heaven and a new earth: perhaps pointing to a resurrected heaven and earth since the former heaven and earth will pass away. The sea, which represents the chaos from which evil comes, will be no more. And in John’s vision he saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. In early Jewish apocalyptic literature, a heavenly Jerusalem was thought to preexist the earthly Jerusalem (c.f. 4 Ezra 7:26; 8:52, 2 Baruch 4:2-6). Here, John sees New Jerusalem coming down from a restored heaven to a restored earth, where God will dwell among us.

The name of this very Jewish city means city of peace. As a people whose beginning is our end, I encourage us to consider whether peace is truly guiding our hearts. The words of Revelation are trustworthy and true. If we are, indeed, saints—if we are God’s holy ones—then the way we live our everyday lives must be rooted in God’s love and compassion for every human life, not the majority, nor the power-brokers, but every human life: even the most vulnerable and marginalized. Our future home is God’s dominion, and God’s dominion is perfectly cosmopolitan. How we think about other people, how we talk about other people, how we act toward other people: these things matter a great deal. To choose fear, anger, and hatred is to risk finding ourselves on the outside looking in when God’s new reality comes.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen!

Rev. Christopher Millay