Any discussion of ‘the cross’ in the Book of Revelation immediately faces a substantial challenge: in contrast with almost every other book in the New Testament, it is barely mentioned at all overtly. Its solitary explicit appearance comes in an extended prophetic narrative in chapter 11: the bodies of the ‘two witnesses’ will ‘lie in the public square of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified’ (11.8). The identification of the place in this way has led some to suppose that ‘the great city’ was John’s oblique way of referring to Jerusalem. But it is very hard to think of Jerusalem as the city that ‘rules over the kings of the earth’ (17.18) who made all the merchants of the world rich (18.19). Identifying it as a place of sin and debauchery (‘Sodom’) and a place of slavery for God’s people from which they would be liberated in exodus (‘Egypt’) points to it as being the jurisdiction of Rome—by whose power Jesus was put on the cross. The crucifixion is therefore here described as exemplary: just as Jesus suffered and died on the cross, so his faithful followers, bearing prophetic witness after the pattern of Moses and Elijah, will also suffer and be killed. But like their Lord, they too will experience the victory of resurrection life in defiance of their enemies, and this will lead some to repentance (11.11–12).
In the previous post, I explored how the language of vocation is used in contemporary discourse, (expressing individuation, interiorisation, stratification, self-actualisation and marginalisation) and then began to reflect on the rather different description in scripture. God calls creation into being; his disruptive call to Abraham both completed the past and opened the future; God’s call … Continue Reading
Vocation has always been an important term for the Church of England as it thinks about patterns of ministry, and it has recently been hitting the headlines as the ‘number of vocations’ has been increasing, particularly amongst the young. But ‘vocation’ is also a common term in wider culture; once you are aware of it, … Continue Reading
Ed Shaw writes: Today there is so much confusion over questions of identity – especially for the younger generations the church is struggling to reach. When, for instance, it comes to our experiences of gender or sexuality the options used to be binary: “I’m a man!” or “I’m a woman!”, “I’m straight!” or “I’m gay!” – … Continue Reading
Despite not preaching at Christmas services this year, for some reason I have found myself thinking about the meaning of Christmas more this year than most. To stimulate your thinking this Christmas Day, I simply offer two things—one ancient, the other modern, neither mine. The ancient focuses on the meaning of Christmas—or rather the incarnation—for … Continue Reading