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At Cross of Glory we are intentional about our efforts to include the “outsider” in all we do. We try to give directions clearly so that even someone who is not “one of us” can participate. We try to remove barriers that might let someone feel excluded, use inclusive language, etc.
This devotion was written by Austin Newberry as he was “awaiting call.” meaning that he had graduated from seminary and was interviewing congregations to be called as a pastor.
I hope you’ll be blessed by his reflection on Revelation 22:12-16, which says:
12 “See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
14 Blessed are those who wash their robes,[a] so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
16 “It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
Christians have often made the mistake of dividing up the world into those who are in and those who are out. Today’s passage from Revelation seems to support that kind of thinking. Our assumption as Christians is, of course, that we are the insiders who have come in by the gates, wearing clean robes and sitting at ease under the tree of life. Isn’t it great that we aren’t like all those sorcerers, fornicators, murderers, idolaters, and lovers of falsehood left outside?
The bad news is that, as it turns out, we are on the outside with everyone else. Who among us can claim the right, based on our good works, to the tree of life? Like sorcerers, we manipulate others and use the gifts of the earth for our own selfish ends. Like fornicators, we use others and are dishonest in even our closest relationships. We use words to lash out, cut, and destroy like murders. Falsehoods find their way into everything from our facebook posts to our expense reports.
The good news is that the text is not really about us. It is not ultimately a treatise on who is in and who is out. The subject of this text is Jesus, the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Yes, we are all most certainly subject to the judgment of the one who is coming soon but we are, thanks be to God, all the more subject to his grace and mercy. Through baptism, the one who is the beginning gave us our beginning as well. And the one who is the end, brings what was begun in baptism to its completion by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Our lives, then, are caught up in the one who holds space and time together, and who makes all things new. The knowledge of this gracious gift gives us the freedom to live more selfless, loving, life-affirming, truth-telling lives.
The bright morning star of this advent day, points to that day which is already but not yet, the day on which the root of David will spring forth into the tree of life with healing in its branches for the entire world. This is our Advent hope.
O God of time, in your goodness you order the days and seasons. Bring the good work you have begun in us in baptism to completion. By your grace, draw us ever closer to that great day when Jesus will throw open the gates of the holy city, clothe us in robes of mercy and forgiveness, and lead us to the tree of life. We ask this and all things through the same Jesus Christ whose advent is certain. Maranatha. Come Lord Jesus. Amen.