I saw another angel come up from the rising of the sun, holding the seal of the God of life… I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal, one hundred and forty-four thousand marked from every tribe of the Israelites… Revelations 7:3-4
A second time the angel of the NAME called to Abraham from heaven: “I swear by my very self, oracle of the NAME. Because you acted as you did in not withholding from me your son, your only one, I will bless you and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore.” Genesis 22:15-18
Our Second reading for Fourth Sunday of Easter comes from Revelation 7 and comes after the first quote above. Many have tried to interpret the 144,000. It is twelve thousand, a perfect number multiplied twelve times. This is what Revelation goes on to say. 144,000 is countable. Football stadiums do it all the time, especially during college games. God tells Abraham how his descendants will be as the stars of the sky and the sands of the sea, not countable.
Our reading for today? “After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.”
Our Gospels take great pains to point out what they think of groups who argue you have to be a member of their group to go to heaven. Jesus tells the Samaritan Woman, “You will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem… Salvation/Joshua/Jesus is from the Jews. Luke 9:47-50, “Whoever is not against me is for me.” John condemns someone for casting out demons in Jesus’ name. They are not in his group. John thinks he must stop them. Jesus tells them people do not have to be in Jesus’ club to be for Jesus.
“Worship” is an old English word, coming from “Worth,” and “Ship.” “Ship,” comes from a cut out log, like the Native American canoes. Someone worthy of worship is someone cut out of the common lot. Only God meets this description.
We worship God from the nave of our Cathedral. “Nave,” relates to our word, “Navy.” The Sacristy is the place we should only go when necessary. It relates to the Quarterdeck of a navy ship/ sacred space.
“One of the elders told me, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb/Omer. Therefore, they stand before God’s throne and worship him day and night in his temple.” Should we not spend time with our living temple, Jesus Christ, in our Cathedral?
John 1 tells us the meaning of Lamb/Omer. “In the beginning was the Word/Omer, and the Word/Omer was with God, and the Word/Omer was God.” John uses a pun to describe Jesus as the Lamb and the very word of God. The Lamb is about sacrifice for others, to fulfil God’s word. We value God as worthy. Why? “I saw another angel come up from the rising of the sun, holding the seal of the God of life.” “God of Life,” is in what scholars call the construct case. It can mean, “Living God,” or “God of Life.”
John 1 also tells us, “He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. To those who did accept him he gave authority to become children of God.” Some argue from the story of the prodigal son, was his repentance real, or was it something else. There are two kinds of penance, the real and the something else. Those who repent as Jesus implies the prodigal son did, for a meal, or to avoid punishment, such as going hungry, are not real penitents. Those who repent out of love receive the living water, but where do they fit into God’s reign?
“I saw their ways, but I will heal them. I will lead them and restore full comfort to them and to those who mourn for them, creating words of comfort. Peace! Peace to those who are far and near, says the NAME; and I will heal them.” Isaiah 57:18-19 God is everywhere; there is no place physically far off for him. All is near for him. The reference must be to the spiritually far off. God mentions the far off before those who are near, meaning they take precedence. The master of penance is closer to God than cradle believers. They have seen the other way, the way of hunger, the temptations to deviate from God’s will, the poverty and the suffering. The wine of the Piña Colada is tastier than it is for those who never went without, as the bridegroom says in the wedding at Cana.
God gives the truly repentant authority to become children of God, that is, the ability to be family. We act in love toward The Father and toward each other. We become loving family. God gives us the authority to drink this wine of Piña Colada. We must make the choice to love, to be family.
Jewish tradition as the Passover tradition of the four sons. The first is the wise son who asks why ‘we,’ do these things, in relation to Passover liturgy. The second is “Russia,” thinking himself first. He asks why ‘you,’ do these things. The third is the simple one who asks, “What is this.” The fourth son does not know how to ask. In the Prodigal Son story, the elder son is the Russia one. He excludes his brother from the family, and in the process, the only person excluded is himself. The fourth is clever; he knows to keep his mouth shut and hold outsiders in contempt in his heart.
Our Gospel comes from John 10 and follows the Good Shepherd Discourse. Jesus tells us, he is the Good Shepherd and comes to give life to its fullest, for all his sheep. Our God is the God of life. He comes to bring life to all people. As in our Second Reading, John 10 tells us, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold….”
The sheep who are not of this fold are the myriads of folk to whom Revelation refers. Psalm 118 tells us, “The stone/Eben which the builders/Ben rejected has become the Rosh Piña. “Piña,” means a radical movement in a new direction. “Rosh Piña is not “Rosh Piña Eben. The Rosh Piña is not a stone. It is the living altar, Jesus Christ. He is the center of our lives, or should be. We need not wait to get to heaven to put the living altar at the center of our lives. In ancient days, the temple was the center of Jewish life. Shouldn’t the living temple be the center of our lives? Shouldn’t we worship God by recognizing all the sheep in our fold, not just the 144,000? Shouldn’t we prepare for the day when we all worship the One True God from his mountain, bringing all to the life giving waters?