Daily Devotion 26 November 2020
Revelation 22: 1-7 ‘The River of Life’
1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 Nothing accursed will be found there anymore. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; 4 they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign for ever and ever. 6 And he said to me, ‘These words are trustworthy and true, for the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.’ 7 ‘See, I am coming soon!’
I took this picture at Cuckmere Haven earlier this year, looking east towards Beachy Head. I can never remember how many ‘Seven Sisters’ there are – I am sure I’ve heard that actually there are eight, the eighth gradually being created through erosion – though we’ll all have seen the footage of cliff falls when the landscape changes somewhat more rapidly.
I was a poor scientist in school – one of my teachers took the trouble to check with me that I was not going to take anything other than a single GCSE in science, and looked relieved when I affirmed this was the case. Consequently, the geological complexity of the make-up of these cliffs is something I struggle to comprehend. I’m told that the chalk is made up of skeletons of tiny sea creatures left over from about sixty million years ago, effectively all compressed together. I find this mind-boggling and find myself asking daft questions like: if the whole of the South Downs is like this, was this all underwater once? Why didn’t these little creatures get munched by bigger ones – shouldn’t there be just big skeletons lying around? In another sixty million years, what will the landscape look like then – will there be no cliffs because they’ll all have eroded, and over-fishing will mean no tiny skeletons of plankton left to make new ones?
The writer of Revelation had less access to scientific data, measurements, predictions and the like than we do, and Wikipedia was a long way off. Personally, I think you’re missing something if you’re trying to read science and literal physical descriptions in these words in Chapter 22 about God, time, life, and what’s to come. You’ll end up being disappointed, confused, and just wish they’d left Revelation out of the canon altogether. I would suggest instead, reading Revelation as poetry, image, as theology. The writer is saying something important about God’s nature: love, light, justice, the one above and beyond all time, all space, all creation, and all life. How do we best express the wonder, the mystery, the unknowable nature of God? Whether it’s geology, art, physics, image, maths, poetry, scripture, life or theology – thank God the language of all these help us.
Almighty God of power: where our words, descriptions, and definitions fail us,
then grant we pray, glimpses of knowledge and understanding of your being and nature.
Reveal something of your purpose for us in the here and now, and may we seek you, knowing that you hold all things – and even us – in your eternal embrace. Amen.
Reflection, Image & Prayer © 2020 Paul Tabraham.
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