Peeling The Onion: Cutting into the Outer Layers

Last week was a slow start – we barely peeled back the dusty brown outer wrapper, the introduction, after we turned the whole thing over.

How big is the figure ‘like the Son of Man’ in your mental image? Astride Asia Minor, or like the Colossus of Rhodes, or ‘larger than life’ in other ways, shining face, gold sash, bronze legs?

Friday and Saturday, we began with the first two messages, to Ephesus and Smyrna. They set the pattern:

1. A salient feature of the figure addressing the angel of the church

2. Affirmations about the church being addressed

3. ‘But’ – qualification of the praise, or warning

4. ‘Nevertheless’ – encouraging hope for the ‘better angels’

What kind of church is each one, with its particular positive characteristics, and complementary flaws? Can you recognize congregations or denominations that share similar ‘DNA’?

This week begins with 5 more churches, culminating with Laodicea, the ‘lukewarm’ one most familiar to UCC congregations.

Refocus by midweek, ‘re-enchanting’ the universe with new set of images, an exaggerated Persian court repositioned beyond the clouds. We set the stage around a throne, with four beasts, 24 thrones with their own occupants, then hosts of angels, ‘myriads’ of figures, all with a stunning soundtrack.

What do you see and hear as this operatic scene is set? Take some time to get your own mental movie, with your own soundtrack, before others’ clips hijack your own. Did you prefer the book you read first, or the movie and its remakes that came later?

By the end of the week, the action begins. Into the midst steps the ‘lamb of God’ to take the scroll with the 7 seals. Each of the 4 beasts cries ‘Come’ and a horse and rider is released onto the earth. Yes, these are the ‘four horsemen of the apocalypse’:

1. White horse - conquering

2. Black horse

3. Red horse

4. Green horse

Remember last week I advocated for an ‘a-millennial’ or ‘typological’ reading of this poetic, dramatic, operatic sound-and-light show. There is something more powerful in this symbol structure to convey the shape of things ‘bigger than us, and smaller than God’.

How do we talk about the ‘battle of good and evil’ around us? After the ‘world wars’ of the 20th century, the ‘cold war’ turned to the ‘end of history’, before we were ambushed by the resurgence of nationalism and religion in new patterns of conflict. Try engaging this language!

On this second Sunday of Easter, beginning this second week of reflections, I’m inviting you to take some time with your own imagination, and listen to the first two weeks of audio, scanning the text if it helps. Try sketching as you listen – it’s a ‘right brain’ thing.