“26 I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. 27 My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I the Lord make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.’” — The LORD (as recorded in Ezekiel 37)
Who would have thought it, but Revelation is not all that revelatory this week. “In saying that the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them;” (Rev 21:3) all that John is seeing and writing is that God is, once again, keeping old promises, old as the exile in Babylon, one of John of Patmos’ favorite villain.
We considered Rev 7 last Sunday, the throng of Saints, Angels, and Martyrs before the throne of the Lamb. Praises were sung to the Most High God there and at the end of the vision, John reports, tears were cleared from all eyes (Rev 7:17) and then there was silence! (Rev 8:1)
Our lectionary omits the cycles of tribulation that the visions of John of Patmos tell. John seems to see these as unavoidable. But in spite of their gruesomeness the seventh event, be it scroll, bowl or trumpet, always bring everything back to the throne of God. There praises are sung to the Most High. There things are somehow set right by the simple presence of God.
The human participants, both living and in their glory, for the elders and saints, the angels, powerful enough to cast down kingdoms, the forces clearly above any power of prince of the world, there seems to be no question that it is their right, duty, and delight to bow before the throne of the Lamb and to give praise. But those visions remain in heaven, reports John. Until the end of the book where we are asked to read today. The most gruesome of scenes have just passed. A feast has been prepared for the vultures. (19:17) Babylon, there it is again, has been judged and all who have aligned themselves with Babylon are condemned.
Babylon is Rome, in a certain way, but, really, Babylon is power personified. Power sought, ceased, executed, and protected by the so called great of the world. John’s message to them is simple: “You who seek such things are the bridegrooms of Babylon and she is a prostitute. You rely on a power that gladly, wildly, and unpredictably chooses to throw itself to someone else. Your power is your condemnation.
Meanwhile, a feast has also been prepared for the Lamb, a wedding feast. There the Faithful One gathers the faithful ones. (Rev 19:6ff) There will be judgement and then, the powers of this world will come to an end by making an end of power itself.
“And he will wipe away every area from every eye.” “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” This new commandment is not trivial or smarmy. It is the replacement of a definition. Power has been replaced. In its place God has given a new force: Love and it can solve problems that all the power and authority on earth cannot and will not and, probably, does not even want to solve.
The opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is power. Note Jesus: He is the Lord who raises Lazarus from death. He is the one whom they call Lord who then ties a towel around his waist to wash feet like a servant. Later he will say to them: I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (Jn 15:15) Here is the one who is beyond power to the extent that all things shut up for 30 minutes in heaven. (Rev 8:1) The force at work is not mere power. If it were, God would merely be the best tyrant. No, it is power’s opposite, the stuff that washes feet and wipes away every tear from every eye: Love.
So, vote and root for who ever you please. Keep them away from Babylon if you can but know that Babylon will find them easily enough just as the tempter sought out the Lord in the wilderness. But know this: Their doings will never even come close to the results here on earth that God wishes. Only Love and only you can make that wish come present . . .