Weekly Reflections

Below you will find the most recent Weekly Reflection from the clergy with a link to the week's readings.

May 22nd, 2022

Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year C

Visions and Signs of the Times

Our readings for this week include two very clear accounts of visions from the New Testament. In Acts, Paul receives a vision of a man pleading for him to come and preach in a new land. He and his followers act on that vision and find themselves in Philippi; their trust in the Lord is confirmed. In Revelation (a whole book of visions), John of Patmos describes the Spirit’s revealing to him of the New Jerusalem – the coming of God’s kingdom in a heavenly city whose only authority is the Lamb of God.

There are differences between these two examples but both are sensory revelations by God to the faithful and both deal with things-to-come. But, how are we, who inherit these and other visionary texts (see Daniel), called upon to read them? Is Revelation, for instance, a code for understanding the “signs of the times” in our age?

The short answer to that question is “no.”

Christians living in calamitous times have for centuries found parallels between Biblical revelation and their own circumstances. Often this leads to the conclusion that the end is nigh. Often this conclusion leads to extreme responses.

I have personally read the journal entries of Puritan leaders who migrated from England to the colonies in the 16th and 17th centuries, who engaged in this exact speculation. They saw violence around them, comets in the sky, strange weather events, and a government persecuting their faith. In King Charles I, they saw the Beast. With his beheading and the ascendancy of Oliver Cromwell, they saw the army of God on the move. Many of them left the colonies and returned to England to fight in Cromwell’s army – part of the host of God. But, it was not the coming of Christ and the end of human history. It was a tumultuous period of that history to be sure, but no more. And, despite the sincerity of their faith, so many fought, killed, and died – spreading destruction rather than the love of Christ.

We too live in calamitous times, but we cannot let the voices of apocalyptic rhetoric drown out the call of Christ. In both subtle ways and overt ones, we are inundated with voices of division and demands of choosing sides. Existential fears lead to annihilating acts. Our faith teaches that perfect love casts out that fear.

We can uphold the Truth of scripture without losing sight of its context. Does God speak to God’s people? Yes! The visions of Paul and of John are situated firmly in the context of their world and their witness. The question is not whether the Book of Revelation is playing out in our lifetimes, but what God is saying to God’s people today.