A sermon given at Choral Evensong on the Third Sunday of Easter by The Reverend Peter Jin, Assistant Priest
Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
From last Sunday, the second Sunday Easter, the lectionary sets the book of Revelation as a reading for the next 6 Sundays until Pentecost Sunday, both at the Eucharist and Evensong.
It is the final book of the Bible. At one point the Bible was compiled from all the texts that were around at the time, both the Hebrew texts and the Greek texts. At a certain point the Church put them in a particular order. The book of Revelation was put last.
Anyone with a literary sensibility knows that what comes last in a poem or a novel or a play is very important.
I am not denying the importance of the beginning of the story. Of course, it is crucial. Otherwise people will have no motivation to keep reading. But the way the story ends is extraordinarily significant.
That is why the Church decided the entire biblical revelation would end with the book of Revelation. So now during this holiest of seasons the Church asks us to focus our attention on it.
In this last book, there a lot of violence and upheaval and there are descriptions of stars falling from the sky, and earthquakes and floods and disease and famine. So some people are wondering whether Jesus is coming soon. I mean soon in a literal sense, can be tomorrow or next week and very soon. Some people say you see, diseases like covid 19 rampant everywhere, earthquakes here and there, big floods in Brisbane, bush fires on Kangaroo Island and in the Adelaide hills two years ago, war in Ukraine, etc etc. It certainly sounds like the end of the world if we read this book literally.
This evening, I am going to share some of my thoughts on this fascinating book through the lens of mainstream Christianity.
The English word Revelation comes from the Latin word Revalatio, which in turn translates the Greek Apokalypsis. Apocalypse in English usually means the end of the world. It means the whole world falling apart. But the word Apokalypsis in Greek means unveiling. Taking away the veil.
Friends, so it is not about the end of the physical world. It is a more of a symbolic language. Rather something is being revealed in this text. Something that was hidden is being unveiled to us. Something that every generation of Christians needs to see. To see a new world.
I am convinced that what is being described in this book in very evocative language is what it is like when an old world is giving way, and a new world is being born.
The old world is full of violence and oppression and cruelty and so on. The new world is being unveiled. It is being revealed to us, this new world. This new world brings storms, upheaval, and yes, things like earthquakes. It means that the old world is giving way and the new world is being born.
What is the new world? The new world is born of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. I talked last Sunday about this strange and radical claim. Jesus rising from the dead means that the whole order of the world is shaken. It unveils something. It reveals something about the world that God wants to rebuild out of the ruins of the old.
As we say in Easter Preface at the Eucharist, “By his victory over death, the reign of sin is ended, a new day has dawned, a broken world is restored and we are made whole once more.” Alleluia! Amen!