Learning to Engage the Bible

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This past Sunday, Pastor Donnell described the culmination of John’s vision of the coming of the kingdom of God.  (John wrote the book of Revelation at the end of the Bible.)  In chapters 21 and 22, John sees the city of God coming down to earth from heaven.  John goes on to describe some of the features of that city and its life:

Revelation, chapter 21

[Chapter 21, verses 1-6 and 22-27, chapter 22, verses 1-5] Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life….

 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.  The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.  The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

In this vision, John sees the full coming of God’s kingdom and it’s blessings to its inhabitants.  This is the culmination of the story of humanity which began with the description in the book of Genesis of the creation of the world and the first humans.  The rest of the Bible tells the story of the ups and downs of humanity’s relationship with God and especially the many ways that God continued to work to restore his creation and repair His relationship with humanity.  

This week, I suggest that we meditate on this vision of a restored creation and humanity.  Try to imagine what such a world and life would be like.  What would this mean for us, for our family, our neighbors, our fellow human beings?  As you read this passage slowly, try to be aware of what God might be trying to say to you or simply where He might be having you focus your attention.  Does your reading raise your hopes?  Does it bring sadness related to the current state of the world?  Is God calling you to live your life any differently that might better reflect his kingdom?  Or do you feel called to pray that this new world would come soon?  If you experience any of these thoughts (or any other thought or feeling) during your reading, sit with them for awhile.  Invite God to join you as you ponder these questions or thoughts.  When it seems right, read the passages again, more slowly this time.  Recall your earlier experience, but be open to new or deeper ones, as well.  Again, sit with any experiences along with God.  When it seems right, thank God for this time with Him and write down any significant thoughts or feelings you may have had.

Feel free to share your experience with others who have also tried this prayer exercise by commenting below or emailing: spiritual.practices@annarborvineyard.org.

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