9After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
13Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. 16They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; 17for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Reading Scripture to Know:
- What is happening/being said?
- Why is this happening/being said?
- What does the rest of Scripture say about it?
- What does it mean?
- What does it mean for us?
Reading Scripture to Grow:
- What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
- Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
Reflection: Above you see the United Methodist symbol of the cross and flame. But something has been changed. Usually the flames are red. However, in this picture the flames display many different colors and are made up of many differently shaped pieces. In this way, the cross and flame symbol resembles a mosaic. A mosaic is a beautiful, colorful piece of art made from combining many unique and individual pieces of stone, glass, or other materials. Alone, the pieces might appear jagged or dull or commonplace. Yet, when they are put together they producing a stunning and cohesive image. In this picture we are invited to see not only little puzzle pieces of color, but a unified symbol of the church – the flames which represent both the Holy Spirit and the two Churches from which the United Methodist Church was formed (the Evangelical United Brethren Church and the Methodist Church). We are reminded that the Spirit of God works in many different people, people of different shapes, cultures, colors, and personalities, to build the Church. In the Scripture for this week, we are reminded that the throne room of God will resemble a mosaic when the kingdom comes in its fullness. There will be sons and daughters of God “from all tribes and peoples and languages” present and praising God together. Take some time this week to consider the diversity of the Church and thank God for bringing us all together under the love, grace, and teachings of Jesus Christ.
Prayer Focus: What is it that brings tears to your eyes in our world? What moves your heart toward justice and compassion? God is not waiting until the end times to heal our hurts and wipe away our tears, though the work will be complete only when the kingdom comes in its fullness. This week, pray for those for whom God has given you a great burden. If you long to see hunger eradicated, pray for the hungry. If you are deeply concerned about human trafficking, pray for those who are objectified and used by others. If you are moved by those suffering from addiction, pray for God to break their chains. Pray, trusting that God is in the business of wiping away tears and making us whole.
Meditation Focus: What is it about John’s vision of the throne room of God that promises comfort and the elimination of sorrow? Of course, being in the unfiltered presence of God will change us. However, there is also something healing about having all the different peoples of the world gathered together in unity under God’s reign. Think about how many problems have arisen when different cultures have confronted one another in the history of our world. There will be no more nationalistic wars or prejudice or clamoring for superiority in the presence of the God who sits on the throne of all heaven and earth. Ask God to send his Spirit to you to search your heart and reveal any prejudice or hate within you. Then imagine how out of place those things will be when we stand in front of God’s throne. May the sound of the praises of the throne room of God, in all their many voices, filter into your heart and pour love for your neighbor into your soul. Allow God to open your eyes to show you that every person you look upon, no matter how similar to you or different from you they might be, is a person of sacred importance to God. God loves you and God loves those who are different from you. Allow that truth to take root within your heart and mind and watch as God changes your perspective and your behavior toward others.
Journaling Focus: When have you had a firsthand experience of a different culture? Perhaps you traveled somewhere far away or talked with someone from an exotic place. Or perhaps you simply spent time with someone from your culture, but who came from a different generation or background. How were you and the other person (or persons) different? How were you similar? How could you see God working in the life, culture, and experience of the other? How might you commit yourself to recognizing the presence and work of God in those who are different than you? How might this change or enhance how you experience God?
Breath Prayer: Father, give me (us) love for one another.