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Sunday, May 15, 2022
Today’s Scripture Reading | Revelation 21:1–6
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them and be their God;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. (NRSV)
The book of Revelation was written around the year 95 CE, a time when the early Christians were being severely tested and persecuted by officials of the Roman empire. We know very little about John, the author of the book of Revelation, or for whom he was writing this text for, but we do know that John and his readers were vastly outnumbered in the Roman Empire by those who believed in Roman and Greek gods. John and his readers were facing the wrath of the Roman authorities that insisted their gods be worshiped to preserve the empire, and anyone who did not worship their gods was seen as a threat to the survival of the empire. Hence, the violent persecution of the early Christians, a small minority group who refused to worship these Roman and Greek gods.
How did these early Christians react to these threats? To persevere they must have been committed and more faithful to the call of Jesus to love and serve their God with all their heart and to love their neighbor as themselves. They did this by worshiping with genuine authenticity and by caring for the needy, the sick, the homeless, the hungry. Even though they were the persecuted minority, they continued to truly seek to understand what God was calling them to believe and to do.
Today, American Christians are not persecuted as those living in 95 CE, but we are living in a time in which we are again the minority. Every national survey details a decline in church membership, in church attendance, and a decline in overall support for organized religion, with no sign of a change in the trend. More and more people no longer even consider themselves religious, a common phrase now is being “spiritual, but not religious.”
How should Christians today respond to being the new minority? We too should be more genuine, more faithful to the call of Jesus to love and serve God with all our heart and to love our neighbors as ourselves. It does not matter how many people call themselves Christian, how many Presbyterians there are, or how many people are sitting in the church pews each Sunday. What does matter is that each person that calls themself a Christian is genuine in their love of God, that they worship with wholeness and integrity and love and care for their neighbor in every way possible. As the hymn puts it, “They will know we are Christians by our love."
Loving and faithful God, help me to be a true Christian by loving you and serving my neighbor with all my heart, mind, and soul. Amen.
Written by John W. W. Sherer, Organist and Director of Music
Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church
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