Scripture: Revelation 21:22-22:5
Key verse: (22:2) “On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”
Reflection: Happy Thanksgiving! The daily lectionary offers us a reading from the end of Revelation — nothing like an apocalyptic vision to get the juices flowing for today’s feasts.
John’s vision describes the City of God, our destiny as God’s people. It is a glorious vision. There is no Temple in the city — good news for us pastors, our work is done! It is not needed, for we will all dwell within God. There’s no dreary darkness; God’s glory is the only light needed. It’s gates are always open, and the nations stream in with all their resources for all to enjoy. Evil is not allowed, but since it was destroyed in chapter 20, we need not worry about that. There’s a beautiful river flowing through the middle of the city, with a great tree providing abundant fruit twelve months a year with leaves that heal the world.
This painting by James Janknegt is no doubt inspired by John’s vision. This beautiful tree, with a river around it, abundant fruit provided for all to eat, big beautiful leaves —surely they hold healing powers. Underneath the tree a family enjoys a feast. It looks like Thanksgiving. Yet the painting is incongruent. Around the tree there is a different picture. Sawing, burning, trees being felled. And beneath the table, furniture making. In North Carolina, that would surely be hopeful. It’s entitled, “Furniture Making During Drought Time.” It seems to show prosperity in the midst of struggle, or perhaps illumines the incongruity of prosperity and struggle.
That’s what Revelation is in its original context. It is a vision of hope in the midst of a world where Christians were struggling; enduring great persecution. It’s a vision of victory for God in a world where it seems evil too often wins.
So it is with Thanksgiving. This day we embody life as it is supposed to be lived, orienting our lives around thanksgiving to God and to one another. Embodying this thanksgiving through love in a world too often defined by division and hate.
Perhaps the reading from Revelation is perfect for today. In a world where religion too often divides us, where darkness seems to define the day, where wars devastate nations and produce refugees who flee only to find locked gates, where abominations define most headlines and homepages, where the vast majority of the world never knows a day of feasting like Thanksgiving, may God’s vision of tomorrow pour into our Thanksgiving Day, inspiring us to join God’s transforming work in the world.
Prayer: “Thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.”
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].