The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him, to show his servants what must happen soon. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who gives witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ by reporting what he saw.
Today, as we enter the last two weeks of the liturgical year and prepare to segue into the next, we begin a series of readings from the Book of Revelation. Abraham Lincoln may have been thinking of this book when he said, "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread." No one should dive into Revelation without some preparation, or at least a humble awareness of the lack of preparation. A good intro may be found on the Bishops' website.
The best advice I've heard for reading the book is reassurance. The mysterious author known as John of Patmos intended to comfort the several congregations with the good news of God's righteousness and Jesus' authority. As my preacher friend in Louisiana used to say, "God is still in charge."
This is not a book that intends to scare anyone. That's because: first, the Christians who read it will understand that God is protecting them from all harm; and secondly, the wicked whose doom is prophesied will not read the book! John intentionally wrote it with cryptic symbols that only the elect could understand. Non-believers need not apply. For the most part they still don't read it; and when they do they get angry at us for doing so.
We have a lovely song that begins with the seer's own words, "I heard the voice of Jesus say..." It goes on, "Come unto me and rest."
But I remember at least one occasion when a devout woman heard a reading from the scriptures and trembled with fear. I was speaking to a group about Psalm 37. Like the Book of Revelation, Psalm 37 draws a sharp line between wisdom and foolishness, good and evil. It aims to reassure the faithful of God's protection. Reading about certain dangerous persons or groups I have often recalled, "I saw the wicked triumphant, towering like a cedar of Lebanon. I passed by again, he was gone; he was no where to be found."
The woman had apparently suffered much abuse and could not believe that her tormentor -- whether her father, brother or husband I do not know -- did not speak with the authority of God. His violence was diabolical; he knew nothing of God. She needed a very deep healing.
The Book of Revelation also intends to heal the frightened Christian, but she must claim with no uncertainty her allegiance to the Lord. Entering the Heavenly Liturgy, she will follow in procession the Lamb wherever he goes. She will celebrate his Victory and delight in singing God's praises. Gratefully and eagerly she will eat his flesh and drink his blood. Lost in wonder at God's mercy, she will return to herself comforted, reassured and healed.