Sunday’s Readings – Revelation 7: 9-17 and Matthew 5: 1-12

The reading from Revelation is one of those points in the story where – as it were – the camera pans up away from all that is happening on earth, and the reader sees with John this vast crowd, without number, as well as the 144,000 who are the fulfilment of the 12 tribes, the children of Israel, who he has already seen, in their ranks. This crowd is the fulfilment of the promise to Abraham of descendants like the sand of the seashore of the stars of the sky. Not sin, not human failing, not war and persecution, nothing can stop the promise of God coming true.

And in the second part of the passage we discover who is in this crowd. They are those who have believed, and in many cases have suffered for their faith. Their suffering and even death has not ended their relationship to the Good Shepherd, because the Shepherd leads us to springs of living water. In believing we too receive this gift and become part of the multitude.

[Notice all the allusions and partial references to John’s Gospel and to other parts of the Bible. Some have counted over 600 references to other parts of the Bible in Revelation.]

Our Gospel reading – the Beatitudes – is a very different piece of writing – a list of who is blessed, but couched in rather different terms, though the persecuted are common to both readings.

So if we wish to be blessed, if we are those who desire to be part of the vast multitude, we hear from Jesus how his followers should be. His gentleness, compassion, concern and love are so opposite to the ruthless powerful, power-seeking acquisitive and grasping ways of the world, and if we are honest there are acquisitive, grasping, power-seeking elements in our own hearts when self is put first. But what a promise from God of and from his generosity and grace.

Rev’d Peter Reiss: 30th Oct 2020