The passage from Revelation brought back a distinct memory for me from when I was on internship in Dallas, Texas. My supervising pastor went on a sabbatical for three months, and so I was left with fulfilling some additional duties to what I anticipated originally, including taking part in this National Day of Prayer service.
Churches from all over the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex were invited to gather together to pray for the city. So at least for one day a year we could join in unity: Lutherans, Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, and so on. And each minister would be assigned a particular group or part of the city to pray for that night, as well as read a related portion of Scripture. All of these seasoned professional clergy obviously had no problem whatsoever. They had been doing this whole praying and Bible-studying thing for quite a while. I, on the other hand, was a nervous wreck for the service. I had zero experience in comparison to their decades’ worth.
Nevertheless, I was asked to pray for the workers of the city: not just for public servants of police officers, fire-fighters, and paramedics, but for the people who picked up our garbage; the people who made the city of Dallas all the more beautiful. So naturally I placed more pressure on myself than what was needed. I wanted to make sure through the prayer, through the Scripture, that we would not only avoid taking them for granted that night; but that, if somehow I could say just the right words in the prayer, if I could pick the absolutely perfect Scripture and read it with the best emotional intensity, we would never forget the sacrifice of any city worker ever again. I was most certainly naïve then. I did not have the power to do anything of the sort. Only God has that kind of power. Only God can love each and every person throughout an entire gargantuan monstrosity of Dallas, Texas, and never take what they do for granted.
The passage we heard from Revelation this morning is the one I picked, and even though I’m sure I didn’t dramatically alter the people’s attitudes for the rest of their life that night, I’m still glad I chose it. Because it offers the absolutely perfect, just the right beauty of hope; that the home of God can be among us mere mortals, that this God of a heavenly realm can consider this place where humanity ruins each other and the land, God can still want to dwell with us right in the thick of it.
Now granted, Revelation has a future outlook: that at some point in time God will choose to bring the city of God, to bring heaven to earth, to recreate into a new earth exactly as God envisioned it from the beginning. But I like to think God has already given us a glimpse of that. God has already made the choice to come down to us through Jesus Christ. God has already made the earth new again through the cross and the empty tomb. And yet God continues to make all things new each and every day, continues to inspire us with hope that we often fail to see, including through the workers we often take for granted, public servants in the midst of our communities day in and day out.
Yes, there is controversy still in this country in regards to how we treat those servants, especially those who wear a uniform trying to protect the places we call home. The cross and the empty tomb did bring a newness of joy and triumph to earth, but plenty of work still remains for all of God’s children. It was the case several years ago when we gathered that night in Dallas to pray for the city, when for one night we shattered denominational lines and prayed to God not just for the public servants, but for those in poverty, those in battered women’s shelters, those in rehab centers, nursing homes, college students, teachers, not to mention the Creation surrounding us. It felt as if we did pray for everyone, even if it was for millions of people; because, after all, we are in this together. We are in this to care for one another, to improve the places we call home. We do so together.
And so I go back to those public servants I prayed for that night, plenty of whom are still serving the monstrosity of Dallas, not to mention those in our own communities today. For the police officers, fire-fighters, paramedics, garbage people and on and on: the one thing that ties them all together beyond a sense of duty and dedication to their neighbors, is that they don’t check to see what faith expression the person they serve is, how much money they make, or whether or not they still have a job; they just go to work. They run into a home no matter what the family story is that night. The person is cared for just the same in the ambulance regardless of the patient’s background.
That’s what we Lutherans, Catholics, Presbyterians, Baptists, and on and on, are supposed to do not just one night a year, but each and every day; because that’s what God has been doing since the beginning of time too. This God loves too much to do anything less. This Jesus Christ came to us with no conditions: simply to serve absolutely every child of God, no questions asked. He made all things new by doing exactly that, all the way to a cross and an empty tomb, setting up a home of life everlasting in the midst of this broken earth. But the best part is still yet to come. And for that ultimate hope that unites us all through our Risen Lord, we give thanks to God indeed! Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Nan Dehnke, Pastor
Office: Mon - Thu: 9 a.m. - Noon