It is not surprising to find oneself drawn to “the Revelation from Jesus Christ … to his servant John” (Rev 1:1) at a time such as this. To be sure, the Revelation is a strange book with bizarre creatures and indecipherable episodes re-imagined and re-purposed from an ancient vault of Biblical apocalyptic imagery. And, as GK Chesterton so aptly put it; “Though St. John the Evangelist saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw no creatures so wild as one of his own commentators.” Yet instinctively we sense, if the reader would “heed” (1:3) the words in this book, navigational directives will emerge by which to surmount tumultuous times. Herein lies the allure of the apocalyptic.
On this third Sunday of Advent, in keeping with the Advent theme of longing and waiting, or promise and fulfilment to use the Biblical categories, our main text for reflection is 2 Samuel 7:1-17, the account of David’s desire to build God a “house.” Our New Testament counterpart is a slightly unusual choice, Romans 1:1-7, as it gives peculiar expression to the ultimate fulfilment of God’s response to David through the prophet Nathan, that he instead would be the one to build David a “dynasty.”
Culture is thus both human achievement and divine gift. It is, to stay with our metaphor, the performance of our ultimate beliefs and values—the inevitable staging of our religion. If this is so, it is the task of theology pre-eminently to interpret and articulate the meaning of the cultures we inhabit; and to suggest the way of (biblical) wisdom throughout the stages of life.
The dinner spectacle John describes for us in his gospel, even though remote, still manages to offend us (though not as much as the original guests), but, we’re not quite sure how—or, why, we are offended. We can determine this however, that the story gives us a picture of extravagant devotion.