Uniform Lesson for August 7, 2022
Scripture passage and lesson focus: Revelation 21:1-9
The final unit of our Partners in a New Creation series is a four-part study on the book of Revelation. Though this book is full of fantastic creatures and mysterious signs, our lessons are re-creations of things closer at hand: a new home, a new city, a new river, a new relationship between God and the created order. Many readers and writers have gotten lost in this final book of the Bible — arguing over what’s past and what’s future and whether God’s rapture is going up or coming down. However, our greatest challenge in this run through Revelation may be more fundamental. How are we called to be partners in a re-creation where God alone seems to be in charge?
A new home
One might argue that the whole biblical story is God’s attempt to make a home with God’s creatures. It started off well in Genesis but ended with the expulsion of the first human family from the first garden. God tried again with the people of Israel, seeking to spread the blessing of God’s accompaniment to all the nations of the earth. Their venture ended up first in Egypt and then Babylon, followed by God’s decision to bring them back to Israel. God then began a new effort at tabernacling in the person of Jesus of Nazareth: a home that, through the resurrection, spread upon all flesh via the Holy Spirit. But even this project led to division within and persecution without until John of Patmos, the author of Revelation who was imprisoned by the Romans, heard and saw a new chapter opening in our world through the intervention of the Lamb. After many trials and tribulations, this final encounter culminates in our passage for today: God comes down to set up shop and make a home among mortals. “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; … and God himself will be with them.”
We might begin this series on Revelation by thinking about the meaning of “home” in our world. Surely there is some deep and mysterious truth to the fact that the whole human and creaturely journey is an attempt to find our way home. No, not everyone has had a constructive experience of home; and, yes, many creatures spend a great deal of time and energy making a home for themselves to the exclusion of others. But surely God’s dream and intention is to keep working toward a day when everyone might find a home with God and with one another. This home is what Israel embodied, at her best. This home is what Jesus lived out — in his life, in his death and in his resurrection. This home is what the church is called to make visible in its worship and in its service. Wherever and whenever such communion breaks forth, the hand of the God of Scripture is at work.
All things new
Many preachers and teachers have pointed out that John doesn’t say, “God makes all new things.” No, John hears the one who is seated on the throne declare: “See, I am making all things new.” In his 2009 book Revelation: A Commentary, Brian K. Blount attributes this insight to Eugene Boring and goes on to say: “God is taking what is old and transforming it. … The old will remain a constituent part of the new, but it will be fiercely transfigured.” I love that. “Fiercely transfigured.” God has made prior attempts to dwell with mortals; but one day, these former homes will be “fiercely transfigured.” Surely this transfiguration has already begun.
Those who conquer
So let’s tackle the question of how we are called to be partners in this radical re-creation. Here John is clear. This new home with God is not something we create but something we inherit. When God declares this homecoming to be done (that is, finished or accomplished), what follows immediately is an ascription of praise: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” This new home is not the work of our hands but is rather a present and growing reality which we receive as a gift.
However, John describes the requirement for this inheritance with the verb nikao, translated as “conquer.” Those who conquer the temptation to make their homes with those who stand in opposition to God’s dream of a home for all will be given this gift. Those who don’t conquer this temptation might find themselves in other households. So we’re left to wonder whether we’re called to be workers toward this homecoming seen by John or called to be witnesses to a homecoming God has already begun — or both!
How do we or do we not participate in the re-creation of the cosmos described by John in Revelation?
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