The Book of Revelation — or more traditionally the Apocalypse of St. John (better highlighting the genre of apocalypse Fr. Justin spoke about last week) — is a brilliant book to be reading during the season of Easter. Moderns tend to read St. John's Apocalypse primarily as a prophecy about the “end times.” They aren't wrong, but to read Revelation and leave with only an urgency to be ready for Christ's return is to miss the point.
Revelation isn't a secret Christian decoder ring to know when Jesus is to return and claim his throne in Jerusalem.
But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. (Mark 13:32 KJV)
No, St. John's Apocalypse is about the risen, triumphant Lord of All Creation, Messiah Jesus. The gospels present us with the Incarnate Lord, living amongst humanity and marching towards humanity's end; death. The Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles show us the apostolic witness of Christ's Living Body, the Church, as she establishes herself as a witness to the resurrection life won through Christ on the cross. Revelation gives us a peak behind the veil to see the glory of Christ reigning. Revelation is for the Church. Not so we can decode when Christ will return, but so that we know where the Church will be. Jesus promised his Spirit to be always with us and in Revelation we can see where God's Spirit is taking us. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will be one with Christ's Bride! The Communion of Saints and the Host of Heaven will stand together on Holy Ground in a perfect communion of love!
Revelation puts Easter into the context. This is not just a cool miracle of a zombie prophet. This isn't just a resilient prophet who could not be crushed by Empire. No, when that stone was rolled away the entire cosmos was impacted. With his first breath laying on that cold stone slab, God the Son initiated a New Creation free from the permanence of death. Revelation should bring the Church to her knees not in fear, but in worship. Through the Holy Spirit's work in St. John's imagination God reveals to us in Revelation that our imaginations are too small for him. Our ideas of what a resurrected savior are cannot compare to the truth. Our minds cannot fathom the beauty, grandeur, and holiness of Christ's throne in the New Creation.
The 19th chapter of St. John's Apocalypse follows his vision of the fall of Babylon. Like Dorothy stepping into the color world of Oz for the first time, chapter 19 is a beautiful glimpse of the world to come. And yet, just like Dorothy's entrance into the world of color for the first time, it is a beginning to a journey, not the end. Ahead for us in St. John's Revelation is the great and final battle where St. Michael the Archangel leads God's armies to defeat Satan.
Do you not find it a little odd that we stop here, in the midst of the greatest drama of the cosmos, the middle of a three part series finale to have a wedding feast? It is odd, but in the context of God's interactions with his people, it is totally in character. Our God is all about food and feasting. Thanks be to God!
A jewish professor of mine once summarized all Jewish holidays as being some version of this: “God miraculously saved us from something (ourselves, captivity, invasion), let's eat and drink to give our thanks and forever remember his mercy.” From the temple (delicious roast animals as a form of worship), to manna, to Christ's first miracle of turning water into wine at a wedding feast, our God is all about food. It should be no surprise then, that our season finale here pauses for dinner.
As you will recall
On the night he was handed over to suffering and death, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread… (BCP 1979)
Before the great drama of the Passion, Jesus feeds his disciples. Before the great battle against Satan, Jesus feeds the Church.
Not to get too metaphysical, but God exists outside of time. He has no beginning and no end. He created time for us so that we could experience infinite love. Revelation is not the future, for God. The events of Revelation simply are. Babylon will fall. Babylon is falling. Babylon has fallen. Our slices of a time are but waiting for when they intersect with the full reality of God. In that true, uncreated, eternal reality, Satan is defeated and we join the enteral feast of the Triune God.
Before me stands a table. For our omnipresent God who is everywhere at once and is not bound by our material constraints, this table is the table in the Upper Room with Jesus. This table is the table of the marriage supper of the Lamb. This is the table of every Passover. At this table, our slice of time intersects with the reality of God. At this table we kneel before our Risen Lord. Here, outside of time inside God's reality the Saints and the whole hosts of Heaven kneel beside us to receive the grace of Jesus’ broken human body. Mary, Adam, Ruth, Abraham, the Easter child-martyrs of Indonesia, your dear Christian grandmother, and all the saints kneel here with us before God.
Today, as you kneel before this table, keep the words of the 145th Psalm in your heart.
The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. (Psalm 145:14 ESV)
We kneel here in worship, trusting our God raises us up. Do not forget. After Eucharist, we all stand, the consecrated elements — the body and blood of Jesus — remain on the table. He is with us. And yet, we stand. Freed from our sins, unified with his body and through his body to each other, the Father, and the Spirit, we stand. We stand because God has, will, and is raising us up as his adopted children. We feast not in the alleyways and from the leftovers as Roman peasants. We sit at the emperor's table and feast as princes and princesses of Heaven.
The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. (Psalm 145:15 ESV)
Jesus is the Bread of Life. Our God cares about us not just spiritually, but physically. He gave manna to his children in the dessert. He fed the hungry crowds gathering to learn from him with an abundance of fish. He left his Church with a meal. At this table God feeds us the grace we need to sustain us for another week working in his vineyard. He feeds us to survive our lives’ troubles. He feeds us to bear those who come against us. He feeds to sustain patience. He feeds us to show us love.
You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. (Psalm 145:16 ESV)
You open your hands before this table to receive that which the entire world is searching. The food at this table is the Bread of Life. A drink from this table ensures that one will never thirst again.
Eucharist is the focal point of our worship for a reason. It is here at this table that we intersect with God's reality. At this table, the created fragments of time are unified into God's reality and the Church exists as one. In one great moment, God feeds his children and prepares them for the journey ahead.
Here, we see what love truly is. We confess our many sins and are undeservingly forgiven. We are invited to sit at the King's table. Our dirty rags are exchanged for beautiful robes. We are given the best wine, the best bread. We feast on meat and all the finest things God can give us. We feast at the main table though we aren't even deserving of the servant's table.
In the greatest act of love, God allowed himself to be ripped by death into broken pieces across time and space. At Easter, death was defeated and Jesus was forever unified in his one body. Here, Jesus freely gives us his body and blood. This meal unifies us with him and draws us together with his Church across all time and space.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35 ESV)
On the cross and at this table God shows us his love. Our call is to take that Love and journey alongside him in the world each week calling his children back to this table. This is the table of the prodigal son's homecoming feast. This is the table where the Angel of Death passed us by. This is the table of the Church's unity with Christ. This is the table of the wedding feast before the great and final battle. May we leave this place understanding God's love for us and ready to prayerfully seek those hungry for the Bread of Life. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.