The Revelation to John, like much of the Bible, is considered “literature of the oppressed.” It is a collection of sayings and visions that flip the script of history. Instead of Caesar, Herod, and other leaders having taking center stage, St. John defers to Jesus, the one whom he describes as both lion and lamb. The one whom Jerusalem’s elites wrote off as a bygone trend. The one whose followers Rome was bent upon crushing. And yet, in the middle of exile, John crafts this haunting piece of literature: a letter that assures its various audiences that despite persecution, isolation, and other pending forms of violence, the crucified and risen, broken and mended, executed and resurrected Christ is the first and last word in history.
For John, the risen and ascended Jesus is the, “the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” And while the Roman Empire and the broader world may not perceive it, Jesus is God’s way of saying that terror, persecution, and oppression do not have the final word. In John’s apocalyptic imagination, the martyrs and the faithful dead - not soldiers and emperors - are the heroes, heroines, and stars of the drama.
And then it happens: the Bible ends. If we were to read this passage from a copy of the Bible, we’d see that these are its final words and that the grand story of our origin and meaning has reached its conclusion. And yet, like any good story, it’s not really over because it ends with an invitation, not a statement; a comma, not a period. “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let everyone who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.” The weight of history’s Alpha and Omega, history’s A and Z, history’s beginning, middle, and end now rests with us, that body of people nourished and sustained by bread and wine, washed and nurtured in the waters of baptism.
This drama, this great flipping and inverting of history continues in our own day, as we join the saints, living and dead, around this Table, saying, “Come. Just be thirsty.” Amen.
Seventh Sunday of Easter
Grace-St. Luke’s Church