In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
There are passages in Holy Scripture that simply boggle the mind -- in today’s reading from the Book of the Revelation to Saint John 7:9-17 we are blessed with three of them in nine verses. Did you notice the wildly poetic vision in verse 17, “the Lamb in the midst of the Throne shall be their Shepherd…?” Mind-boggling… which is quite all right. Boggling benefits the mind and can work wonders to stir the soul – a depth of perception we too often miss because our Western ersatz-Aristotelian mind-sets prefer data to Truth, and confuse facts with reality. Please know this: Reality is usually much more complex than ‘facts’ seem to indicate.
As Christians we are invited, we are called, to the awareness, contemplation, and finally to the service of Reality with a capital R… but our data-stunted minds too often prefer counting trees to perceiving forests. Lack of imagination makes us fear the risks of assessing quality (where the essence of Life lies) so we lapse into banal quantity-counting with a grossly inadequate notion of “safety in numbers” because our insecurity presses us to agree with and conform to those around us whose commonest (in every sense) language is quantity. God, on the other hand, in Jesus Christ wants to give us richer quality of life, now.
Deep waters? Of course, for truth is deep as well as high, and great Truth is indeed pro fundus, profound, of the depths. If we dare plunge mind or soul into any one of the profound Truths we utter in such a service as Holy Baptism or the Holy Communion we will encounter mysteries of the Faith which lie deep and move beneath the thin layer of our intellectual rationality just as… picture ice-skating on Lake Superior: just as the great depths and mighty currents of that vast lake both uphold and continually move under the feet of a skater on the frail film of ice which is so tiny a percentage of the stirring depths beneath… in Holy Baptism what can words and tap water do for a mortal infant? In the Holy Communion what happens in, with, to, through, that plain bread, that common wine?
And how can we know? How can I, how can you, perceive, feel, touch, measure God’s mighty actions? Too often our thinking just skates over the surface of the ‘facts,’ unaware of the realities of the Reality beneath. Our minds, hearts, souls, our very selves can only begin to grow toward their full God-given potential after we realize – real-ize – that everything, every thing we can see, touch, count, quantify, represents much much less of Truth than a few superficial inches of ice can tell us about the thousand-foot depths of that great Lake aptly called Superior. Facts can be of use in everyday life, certainly, but they’re most of value when they point us toward Reality.
But, how? How can we break loose from mere data in order to begin to grow, learn, mature in and into Truth? Well, mind-boggling can help: one way is to this morning open up our minds by simply loosing them to play – yes, set them free to play – with such transcendent profundities as verse 17, “the Lamb in the midst of the Throne shall be their Shepherd.”
There’s two mind-boggles in one declaration: visualize that… and open wider, please: this same passage verse 10 speaks of “God who sits upon the Throne…” Now, if God the Father is seated on the Throne, what on earth can it mean six verses later that the Lamb is “in the midst of the Throne?”
Indeed, ‘what on earth…’ Maybe this picture is un-imaginable to our data-limited spatially-locked ‘earth’ thinking – but contemplation thereof can now (on earth) start breaking up the log-jams in our minds to free their latent God-given power for God, toward God… especially if we include John’s chapter 5 verse 6 first sight of the Lamb “standing as though it had been slain.” Another mind-boggle! “Slain” lambs don’t “stand,” yet here is Jesus-as-Lamb-of-God “standing as though it had been slain.” Why the deliberate ambiguity of ‘as though?’ Standing? Where? In the midst of the Throne whereon the Father sits? Is the slain and presumably bloody Lamb standing in the midst of the lap of the Father?
My mind can’t visualize this – especially trying to picture that the slain-ness of this Lamb benefits those souls who in verse 14 “have washed their robes, and made them white, in the Blood of the Lamb.”
Boggle boggle! How many boggles is this now? Do souls wear robes? Washable robes? Does anyone go to ‘wash’ anything in blood? Can blood, of all sticky gummy staining liquids, make anything white? Which washing was apparently done before earthly death, making one wonder how these souls knew to wash their robes when they didn’t yet know they would have robes? Boggle boggle…
Mysterious? Certainly. Truth is mysterious, but be very careful of the good New Testament Greek word ‘mystery’ when some people morph it into mystic: true Christian mysticism leads into God, human fantasies work away from God – yet any final hope we may entertain lies deep in the heart of precisely so wild a mystery, for our only hope lies in what the apostle John the writer of this passage wrote in one of his letters, that “God is love” – and love, even we who do it, seek it, love it, admit that love is a mystery.
Who can quantify love? Who hath measured it, with what? Love, we know from our personal experience and from observation of others, is a mystery with (and indeed for) which we live, with the human fallibility of which we struggle in this fallen world, in the divine perfections of which we can live forever – forever – and now, starting now, if we would but dare to envisage beyond our next round of obligations to Life itself, capital L. The Source of all life invites us to grow beyond our counting quantifying selves into Life and Love itself: think on His invitation, to every one of us, to you, when we utter such mysteries as “by His death hath destroyed death” – or in the Angus Dei ‘O Lamb of God that takest away the sins of the world’ – or ‘the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, shed for you’ – or the Lamb standing as if it had been slain, in the midst of the Throne, in whose Blood robes are washed white, the Lamb who is also the Shepherd… Yes, it boggles the mind… but boggling is good for our minds, to shake us out of banal complacency, to teach us the humility with which we must and can only come before God, and our best hope to expand our minds and hearts and souls as God urges us to do,
in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.