I have just discovered the United Reformed Church’s “Daily Devotion” page and decided to give it a try. The current topic is the book of Revelation and my first reaction was “Not a very promising start”. But I was immediately challenged by the opening words of today’s reflection by the Reverend Peter Moth. “John’s Revelation is a picture book in words. The Gospels tell stories, but Revelation paints pictures.”
I sometimes struggle with visual art – and poetry – because I have the kind of logical mind that demands meaning or interpretation where there is none to be found. Artists and poets will often tell us that their work is not about meaning, in the logical sense, but about mood: hope or fear, joy or sorrow, challenge or reassurance, and to struggle to understand it, to interpret it logically, is to destroy it.
Perhaps this is our problem with the book of Revelation. For 2000 years people have struggled – and argued – over its interpretation, its meaning, when its purpose is to challenge or inspire.
For me, the challenge lay in some words of this morning’s prayer “for the vision….to live the life of the faithful saints who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb” Logically the metaphor is abhorrent but as a challenge to life at the cost of a sharing – however small, in the suffering that Jesus suffered it is a striking image.
Compared to the sacrifices that many have made and are making in the cause of love the cost of my discipleship is trivial. What right have I to claim for myself the privilege of one of the band of “faithful saints who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb”? But isn’t that just the point? I have no such right, no-one has. I can only strive to live out my discipleship faithfully at such cost as it might involve thankful that it is enough for me to be included in that band.
So after 86 years of struggle with the theology of the atonement has the penny dropped at last? It’s not about the theology after all. It’s about the discipleship and the privilege.