by Angel Figueroa
There are times when I look at the lectionary texts for the coming week and groan because I don’t see any possible way to make them apply to the modern day. And then there are the times when I look at the text and groan because I have no idea how to narrow it down because it applies to ALL THE THINGS. Today is one of the latter times. We are in a moment of crisis like few in the history of our country. We are in the midst of of a global pandemic that has taken hundreds of thousands of lives. The country is embroiled in a moment of racial reckoning; Philadelphia has erupted in protest after another black man, Walter Wallace, Jr., was murdered by police Monday night. And, of course, there is the elephant (and donkey) in the room, a contentious and polarized presidential election. It seems like almost too much to take in all at once.
I find it fitting that the first reading assigned is from the Revelation to John, perhaps the book of the Bible most prevalent in the popular imagination. Part of the reason it is so prevalent in the popular consciousness is because of how terrifying much of the imagery is. Yet it is passages like this one that are the heart of what was revealed to John at Patmos. The title of the book suggest one of it’s primary purposes. It reveals, or unveils, the true state of the world. To use the words of Martin Luther, it calls the thing what it is. It lays bare the demonic forces that rule over this word, using powerful visceral language to do so. The Book of Revelations is horrifying, but only because the depths of the evil it points to is just as horrifying.
While the Revelation to John is full of great horrors, that is not all there is to it. In the midst of all the horror and despair it shows, there is still hope. Death and destruction rule the world, but there is a savior who will be victorious over it. And that savior has a name, and it’s not Joe Biden, or Donald Trump or *insert your favorite politician here.* Only Jesus has the power to bring about the reign of God; a reign of justice, equity and the peace that passes all understanding. Only Jesus has the power to slay the beast that lays siege to this world. And only Jesus is the water of life, the source of life everlasting.
While we humans are not the source of life and salvation, that doesn’t mean we should sit on our asses and do nothing. Jesus might be the only one with the power to defeat evil and death, but we have our part as well. When we came to the font, when we were washed by word joined with water, we were washed with the water of life and we became part of the very Body of Christ. We are given the gift of life everlasting, but we also become part of Christ’s mission to bring about the end of death and chaos.
As Christians, especially in the American context, we do this several ways. We believe in a democratic society. We are members of a society where effectively, all citizens are rulers of the nation, and we rule most directly through our control of government officials. So we must examine our consciousness and vote for the person we believe will most likely advance Christ’s mission of justice and equity. And once we do that, we need to work to remind them of the reason we voted for them and to keep them accountable. But that is not our only work. We are also called to proclaim the reign of God, and fight back against the deceitful voice of the Devil.
For that is exactly what Jesus was doing at the Sermon on the Mount. The Beatitudes are often one of the most familiar parts of the Gospel for those who are not Christian. But within and outside of the Church they are all too often misused. They are treated as demands instead of the affirmations that they truly are. In a world where the poor, humble, and meek were considered cursed and abandoned by God for not being successful by the standards of the Empire, declaring them to instead be blessed was a radical act.
In the world we live in, declaring Black Lives Matter while society treats them as disposable is a radical act. In the world we live in, fighting for nobody to be hungry while society declares only the worthy deserve to eat is a radical act. In the world we live in, claiming our non-Christian neighbors as beloved cousins and fellow children of God is a radical act. In the world we live in, lifting up our female, trans, and non-binary siblings as leaders while society says that only cis-gender men’s voices matter is a radical act. In the world we live in, love and equity are radical values. But since we have been washed with the living water, it is because they are radical and against the ways of this world that they are our values.
This is the Revised Common Lectionary sermonizing archive.