This evening's passage is from Revelation 1:9-16; we are reading the Common English Bible translation.
Christ appears to John9 I, John, your brother who shares with you in the hardship, kingdom, and endurance that we have in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and my witness about Jesus. 10 I was in a Spirit-inspired trance on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice that sounded like a trumpet. 11 It said, “Write down on a scroll whatever you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.”
12 I turned to see who was speaking to me, and when I turned, I saw seven oil lamps burning on top of seven gold stands. 13 In the middle of the lampstands I saw someone who looked like the Human One.[a] He wore a robe that stretched down to his feet, and he had a gold sash around his chest. 14 His head and hair were white as white wool—like snow—and his eyes were like a fiery flame. 15 His feet were like fine brass that has been purified in a furnace, and his voice sounded like rushing water. 16 He held seven stars in his right hand, and from his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword. His appearance was like the sun shining with all its power.
Those who wish to continue with Lectio Divina can click here, then return for the meditation and prayer.
One principle of Lectio Divina is, if God comes in the first verse, why go on to the second?
"I, John, your brother, who shares with you in the hardship, kingdom, and endurance that we have in Jesus..."
My ears prick up, because, this writer is telling me (or, more accurately, those for whom this writing is intended) that we have some powerful things in common.
We have a common hardship.
We have a common kingdom.
We have a common endurance.
The hardship for the writer and his or her first readers is probably not too terribly different from the hardship faced by so many today, in so many places. The hardship of persecution. The hardship of war and destruction. The hardship of displacement from the familiar, the loss of home.
I don't think it trivializes the situations of refugees and victims of war and terror to say that there are other kinds of hardship, and other kinds of loss, and that these too are real, even though they may not be making the headlines.
This is a message to people who know hardship.
The common kingdom is something else again.... what can the writer be referring to if not that thing named, variously, as seed scattered, or a woman searching for a lost coin, or a shepherd leaving 99 perfectly viable sheep behind to go search for the one careless enough to get lost? Also, the cranky wedding host, and the bridesmaid who thinks to stop for oil for her lamp. Also, buried treasure. Also, a pearl, costly and rare.
The kingdom of heaven is at once elusive and vivid, ethereal and tangible. And we have this in common, too.
This is a message to people who are drawn to the kingdom.
Now, endurance. There's something I'm not sure I have quite enough of. I, who love to swim, and make excuses not to go to the pool. I, who adore the smell of the fall air (not to mention the glory of a sunset), and fail to venture out for a walk. I who.... you get the gist.
Maybe the author is not speaking to me. (Then I can get out of this.)
Maybe the author is speaking directly to me. (Do I tend to underestimate what is possible?).
This is a message to people who may or may not have endurance.... perhaps said to them, in the way we might say to a child who has just fallen, "You are ok. Right?" And the very act of telling her she is ok, makes her ok.
Then: This is a message to people who have endurance.
"The hardship, kingdom, and endurance that we have in Jesus..."
We share this life of faith. We share what is hard and painful and embarrassing and exposes our limitations, and we share what is beautiful and uplifting and draws our hearts, our minds, even our strength, beyond ourselves. And we share it all in Jesus, the One who holds it-- and us-- together.
The Bright Wings Chorus, singing "Wester Caputh" by Brendan Taaffe
Bind us to you, Lord Christ. Bind us to one another-- not a bondage of hardship, but of trust and support. Not a bondage of oppression, but of the winsome summons of the kingdom. Not a bondage of frailty, but of strength, and endurance. Bind us to one another, and to you, Lord Christ. Amen, and Amen.