Feast of the Epiphany
By David Baumann
A Reading from Revelation 21:22-27
22 I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25 Its gates will never be shut by day — and there will be no night there. 26 People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practises abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Even in this age of confusion and weak hopes, and a Church that (let’s face it) is often unimpressive, most popular movies and books still end well. Evil is overcome. Goodness triumphs. Love conquers. This is because such desires are at the very heart of what it means to be human, and even today the Great Story holds its truth. It is what people really want, and what people are truly made for. Down deep, we know that we are broken and we long to be set right. Dystopian science fiction and stories that exalt “anti-heroes” might have their place, pointing out what’s wrong or where our sins might lead, but they don’t carry our imaginations to the ultimate end.
Today’s reading comes from the very end of the Bible. It describes the consummation of the great promises given throughout the entire canon of Scripture, but in few of them is that consummation presented with such transformative rapture. Here, at long last, is the opening of the door to eternal joy. The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb take the place of any transitional place of worship; the sun and moon are replaced by the true glory. Euphorically, the greatness of human culture will be purified, preserved, and included in the consummation: “the glory and honor of the nations will be brought into [the city]”; the city will have familiarities. The impurities, shames, and deceits of the fallen world will finally be utterly removed. Holiness will become normal, the order of the day.
A colleague told me that once a friend of his whom he hadn’t seen for years came through his door. The friend’s face glowed with the joy of long friendship, but also with the joy of a newly shared faith. His first words after years of separation were, “About Jesus! It’s all true!!” Today’s lesson tells us that all that we have ever wished for is “all true!”
David Baumann served for nearly 50 years as an Episcopal priest in the Dioceses of Los Angeles and Springfield; he retired last year. He has published nonfiction, science fiction, and short stories. Two exuberant small daughters make sure he never gets any rest.
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The Diocese of Northern Izon (Church of Nigeria)