And in the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. (Revelation 21:10)
On Sunday morning we will be reading again from John’s vision of the day when all things are made new, when the new Jerusalem dawns upon the earth.
Empires in the ancient world were not empires of nations but of cities: cities that rise in wealth and power and become cities of expansion and conquest, growing ever richer and stronger by the booty of the cities they conquer, and the “tribute” of the cities that surrender. The treasures of the first temple were carried off by the Empire of Babylon. Rome plundered the second temple and with its treasures built the great Coliseum where they entertained the crowds with the wars of enslaved gladiators and the feeding of Rome’s enemies to wild beasts and tortures.
Jesus announced God’s kingdom, God’s empire, God’s city. In his healing of the sick, feeding of the hungry, and heralding of good news to the poor, he brought that reign of Grace. His death seemed to belie the promise – but Easter declared it anew, and Jesus sent his followers into the world as heralds of God’s new and everlasting “empire”.
In our text the prophet is granted a vision of that new Jerusalem dawning in its fullness, radiant and shining like a bride adorned, a city that does not feed on its enemies but is a source of life for the world.
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 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. (Revelation 22:1-2)
We come on Sunday to hear again this promise and drink deeply of the water of life.