Graceful Living Week 8

O Almighty God, who has knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord; Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those unspeakable joys, which thou has prepared for them that unfeignedly love thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

(BCP, The Oxford Book of pRAYER PG 254)

Daily Readings

Day 1: Revelation 1:1-8
Day 2: Revelation 1:9-12
Day 3: Revelation 7:13-17
Day 4: Psalm 34:1-10
Day 5: Psalm 34:11-22
Day 6: I John 3:1-3
Day 7: Matthew 5:1-12

Weekly Reflection and Questions

Revelation and Hope

This week we are taking a break from using resources provided by our denomination because I want to take some time to reflect with all of you on what it means to confess a belief in the communion of saints and life ever lasting.

In the midst of a global pandemic we are going to be brave and bold and faithfully talk about death and the hope of resurrection. Our readings from Revelation for this week are perfect for this because apocalyptic literature is first and foremost about hope.

We’ll start with the introduction to Revelation (v. 1:1-8) [take some time to read it now if you haven’t]. There’s so much hope in these verses, and it isn’t hope of a rapture and tribulation, but of the resurrection. Don’t lose sight of that as we talk about this text and our faith; Revelation is about resurrection hope not hope that the world will end. It’s hope in what God has done through Jesus. Christ is the first born of the dead, and we are freed from sin have no reason to fear death.

Now let’s talk about the witnesses in Revelation. The text portrays this multitude of souls as wearing white and that they’ve gone through some sort of persecution. Modern heretical interpretations of this text argue that they are martyrs persecuted for their faith. There are a few problems with this:
1) Christian wasn’t wide spread when John was writing this letter. It wouldn’t be wide spread for another two centuries.

2) The Greek word that we translate as “martyr” means one who witnesses or testifies. It wouldn’t be later in Christian tradition that we would use it to refer to those persecuted and murdered for their faith.

3) It completely removes Revelation from its historical context. John was a bishop writing to his congregations. This letter is no different than a letter we would receive as a Synod from Bp. Dunlop or as a denomination from Bp. Eaton.

This letter of resurrection hope is meant to comfort the congregations, to help them keep confessing faith in Jesus, regardless of what their neighbors would say. These churches were located in Asia Minor which was known to be excessively loyal to the emperor. Confessing faith in Jesus could have cost Christians friendships and business deals, on very rare occasions it would lead to their death.

At it’s core Revelation is about having faith to confess our resurrection faith, which includes a belief in the communion of saints and life everlasting.

There are daily readings for this week, but if you have the time read Revelation and think about the saints, not only of Grace and in your life, but throughout the life of the church.

1. What does it mean for us to join the saints and the angles in their unending hymn?

2. How can faith in Jesus, the first born of the dead, give us hope during this time of global pandemic?

3. Where do you find hope in Revelation? In the confessions of the church?

Now for personal God Wink.
I was getting ready to start my final year of seminary. I had ordered my text books and I was looking forward to a semester of Greek, Latin, and a bunch of New Testament electives. On Friday afternoon I started seeing strange posts on some FaceBook wall’s of a few family members. I didn’t think much of it and went about my day. Later that day I learned that my Uncle Frank had died. I was shocked and devastated. I started every new semester of school by calling him in the morning and telling him what classes I had registered for and reassuring him that I had eaten breakfast. I asked what had happened and never got a response. Later on I learned that he had completed suicide. I was heart broken. My  big sister had completed suicide while I was in college and memories came flooding back. I was told that we weren’t talking about it publicly, if anyone asked it was natural causes. I went to Grace on Saturday night, mostly out of habit because I was on auto-pilot at that point. I don’t remember most of what happened during worship, but we did sing Around You O Lord Jesus. I sat in my seat in the back of the chapel crying, trying my hardest to not fall apart. At the end of service Cindy and Carol gave me big hugs and one of them handed me some tissues– in those moments I knew I would be ok. Ladies, if you are reading this, thank you for that night and everything else. This week I’m encouraging you to listen to a recording of Around You O Lord Jesus and think about those who have gone before us, and our hope in the one who has gone to the grave before all of us.

Around you, O Lord Jesus,
your own you gather still
to share the feast you give us
with grace our lives to fill.
You say to us so lovingly,
“Take, eat! This is my body!
Take, drink! This is my blood!”

We hear your invitation,
and heed, O Lord, your call;
your word of consolation
is spoken here to all.
It draws us to your loving heart;
it brings to us your blessing,
which never will depart.

We are your own forever;
until our final breath
we will be true and never
in joy, in grief, in death
depart from you, for you are still
among your people dwelling,
as you have said you will.