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When high school students decide which college to attend, one of the first things they do is to purchase a shirt or sweatshirt with the name of the institution emblazoned on the front. They wear this brand proudly, proclaiming to the world: “I’m a student at USC” or “I belong to UCLA.” They are glad to be associated with their college and want the whole world to know.
In my experience, one of the hardest things about having a relationship with God is the fact that I can’t actually see God. Oh, I believe I can see evidence of God in the world. And I know that God makes himself known to us in all sorts of ways, through Scripture, through the community of his people, etc. I also believe that God was once visible on earth through the person of Jesus Christ. But, of course, Jesus is not physically present in that way anymore. So, when it comes to our relationship with God, we confront the problem of God’s invisibility to us.
At first glance, the heading of this devotion doesn’t seem to be good news. If you’re working in an organization, I expect you wouldn’t mind getting a promotion. But a promotion to the role of servant? That seems more like a demotion, doesn’t it? Yet, in light of Revelation 22, I would suggest that becoming a servant could actually be a fine thing.
If you’ve ever done any gardening, I expect you know a couple of things for sure. First, no matter how much you try to prevent it, weeds will grow in your garden. Second, getting rid of the weeds is not fun. Many actions associated with gardening, such as preparing the soil, can be fairly pleasant, even though they require significant effort. But weeding is not one of these, at least not in my experience. I’ve never known anyone who said with joyful expectation: “Oh, I’m so excited I get to weed my garden today.” (Photo: my son, Nathan, gleaning in a bean field in Irvine, California, many years ago.)
Those of us who know and serve God can, in some small and incomplete measure, extend the healing of God into our world. We can act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God in the place to which God has sent us as his royal agents.
In Revelation 22 there is a tree that produces plentiful fruit, not just once a year or even several times a year, but every single month of the year. It’s a little hard to figure out whether John envisions one very large and unusual tree that somehow grows on both sides of the river of life, or whether he sees a collection of trees. But we don’t have to get hung up in the details. The point is that the tree (or grove of trees) provides an abundant harvest throughout the year. Talk about exceptional fruitfulness!
The beginning of Revelation 22 reminds me of an experience I had last summer. With some friends, I went fly fishing in Montana. In addition to lake fishing, we tried our luck on the picturesque Madison River. On the first day, we fished from boats floating downstream. The second day, we donned our waders and fished while standing thigh-deep in the fairly fast moving water.
Before you reject this devotion as downright silly on the basis of its title, hang in there with me for a few moments. I believe there is a serious argument to be made for the notion that the Brandenburg Concertos, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the iPhone are candidates for the New Jerusalem.
I expect that the title of this devotion, “Christian Faith and Politics from an Unusual Perspective” will impress my readers in a variety of ways. Some of you are probably eager to read on while others of you have already dumped this devotion in the trash because, frankly, you’re sick of politics and the Christians who try to combine it with faith.
When the Kings Come Marching In examines a stunning prophecy found in Isaiah 60. In this vision of the future, Isaiah says to God’s people, “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn” (Isa 60:3). A few verses later the prophet adds, “Foreigners will rebuild your walls, and their kings will serve you” (60:10). The gates of the New Jerusalem will always be open, “so that people may bring you the wealth of the nations – their kings led in triumphal procession” (60:11).
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