I pack up a notebook, a bottle of water, my Bible, and the study I work on daily (or sort of), wave goodbye to my husband and drive off to a small town about 20 minutes away, crossing my fingers hoping I don’t get stuck behind a school bus. Being late to any destination makes me anxious.
Yesterday, after the fog lifted, I arrived a touch early, parked in an already half full parking lot, and greeted the gaggle of women milling around before time to get it together for worship and study.
The study this year is the Book of Revelation. We spent the first two Wednesdays not studying the Book, but warming up to it. A kind of prep time for the coming work had many of us chomping at the bit. Finally, the past week was spent answering the study questions, getting to it.
The questions range from ridiculously easy to mind bendingly hard. What is being asked? What do they want? Did I get the answer, sort of, or maybe or not so much, or right on? It’s not about being right, but about how the passages speak to me.
I usually sit in my bed, the work before me, surrounded by three or four Bibles, chewing on my pen cap, thinking, struggling, challenged. I read the referenced verses over and over, chase the Bible notes all over the book, trying to get my head around what I think is wanted. The work is divided up into six days. I always begin that way, one day at a time, but before I know it, I move through it all in one or two days, steeped in the Word and digesting the allegory, the poetry, the purpose of this challenging Book.
Revelation is a full on writing of hope. John, the favorite of Jesus, has been confined to the island of Patmos, off the coast of Turkey and Greece about thirty five miles. John is ninety years old, living in this penal colony where prisoners cut marble. He is there until his death, for following and preaching Jesus. It is on Patmos that John writes his Revelation.
It is said that even in the United States persecution of Christians is highest now than ever in our whole history of freedom to worship. No one is locking our churches, arresting us for our beliefs, or threatening us physically yet. But the derisive attitude by many, fueled by the power of the media, and driven to remove the Ten Commandments from the walls of the courts and public buildings across the land, where they have stood for decades, is on.
Like it or not, this nation is premised on the basic tenants of Christian belief. As we welcome and tolerate many others of far different faiths, what we must stop doing is surrendering those tenants because others find our beliefs uncomfortable, untrue, or intolerable because they are at odds with them.
As we continue to give ourselves away on many fronts, on many issues, Americans find it hard to stand up for who we say we are because somehow we “offend” those we have welcomed with open arms.
Have you ever read the Constitution? Dial it up online to discover who you are as an American. Understand who America is in the world. Read the minds of our founding fathers and marvel at their vision. This document rises above all others in the world that purport to represent their people. Pride in who we are as a nation has its roots here. Don’t let others with no stake in our future dilute it.
We are an amazingly generous people. We can afford to be. Those principles got us to that possibility. But welcoming hordes who do not buy in, who make no contribution, who insist on remaining separate, has a consequence: we will not remain who we have been.
Revelation tells us of hope in the Lord Jesus and in our ultimate future. We are a nation blessed beyond anything else or any place else in the world. Our hands are always open. I would not have it any other way. But I expect those who have struggled to get here to contribute what talent they bring. Taking is not a contribution. Put your oar in the water and row!