[This is the ninth in a series of sermons in interpreting America in the 21st century in light of the Book of Revelation. The series will continue, monthly for about two years.]
Shalom Mennonite Congregation—September 16, 2012—Revelation 11:1–12:17
Welcome back to the wild and woolly world of the Book of Revelation! In these monthly sermons I try to wrest this most fascinating of biblical books from two different kinds of reading. One sees it as being a truthful account of the future, full of predictions and a set-in-concrete plan of God that will violently cleanse the earth of all those who oppose God—both rebellious human beings and the evil satanic powers. The second problematic reading sees Revelation as the paranoid ravings of a religious fanatic who projects onto God all his anger and envy and judgmentalism and gives us an unbelievable picture of future catastrophes and punishing tribulations.
Of course, though one view loves Revelation and the second hates it, both agree on many important details about its content—violence, judgment, future catastrophes.
A quixotic quest?
What I try to do, perhaps a quixotic or starry-eyed quest, is read Revelation instead as a book of peace, a book that intends to strengthen people of good will so that we might witness to peace in a violent world. A book that, by strengthening peacemakers will play a role in God’s work of healing—healing even for God’s human enemies.
Today, right in the middle of the book, we will look at two wondrous stories that, in all their bewildering detail, each essentially tells us the same thing. God is indeed work to heal God’s good creation—and a crucial role in this work is to be played by the human followers of the Lamb. The role these followers have to play asks of them two things—that they embrace a ministry amidst the nations of the world of telling the truth. And that, in embracing this ministry, they refuse to be deterred by suffering and even death. Continue reading