The River of Life Revelation 22:1-2 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
22 Then the angel[a] showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life[b] with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
This was the bit of the Bible we explored on the last Sunday of the Season of Creation, 28 September.
If you have ever noticed a tree just beginning to bud, or a flower rising up from a crack in the footpath, then you may have had a direct experience of what’s evoked by Revelation 22:1-3.
The vision of the book of Revelation is defiantly inaccessible, but the message it carries is very much to hand.
The vision of the great tree bearing fruit in all seasons, on the banks of a crystal river in the middle of the streets of the city, is grand. These experiences of budding trees in spring or flowers popping up in the footpath seem tiny by comparison.
But each carries the fullness of the same truth: we are but part of life…but we are part of life. At one and the same instant, the little bud we notice that makes us smile reveals both things we most need to know: something larger and more eternal encompasses us and all that is; and we are an integral, necessary part of this something larger and more eternal. It is at one and the same time diminishingly humbling and graciously affirming.
And when we are in that state of mind of realising that we are but part of life, but we are part of life…we are given access to the keys to the kin-dom of heaven. This is the mindset that allows us to care for ourselves and each other, indeed all of creation. If we are but part of the whole of life, then we must play our part and this part is conferred upon us because we are a part, because we are included and accepted and acceptable. We play our part because we have been given a part, because we are worthy of a part…because we are a part.
It feels like a circular argument when in truth it is in the shape of a spiral, drawing us outward towards care for one another, care for the earth and sharing the abundance of enough for all; starting with and always returning to the point of our belovedness.
The self-awareness provoked by nature directs us to other-awareness and indeed to an awareness of the whole cosmos.
A night sky can take us on this spiral journey. An image as immortal and grand as a great tree, always producing, healing the nations; next to a crystal river, flowing with life; in the midst of a golden city, thriving with hope…can take us on a grand journey, as well. But a little flower underfoot, breaking through the concrete of the dirty pavement? Can this, too, transport us – out of ourselves, to all that is, towards one another and then back to ourselves in relation to all else, that we might be of service to the world? It can, if we will but notice it.
Theologian Sallie McFague concludes her book Super, Natural Christians: How we should love nature with the following:
“We are energised by what we can touch, see, hear and know – nearby nature (as she calls it – a great term, I reckon). As we open ourselves to the bits and pieces of nature in the damaged lands of our cities, waking up for at least a few minutes each day to the presence of some particular earth other, we renew our acquaintance with our oppressed Brother Earth and Sister Water. (Here she is invoking the great canticle of the sun by St. Francis of Assisi).”
Be energised and renewed! In our midst lie the very keys to the kin-dom of heaven: trees and rivers, but also little buds and tiny flowers that remind us:
we are but part of life,
but we are part of life.
some poetic inspiration to be awake, attentive and a part of life:
i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
e.e. Cummings (1894-1962)
posted 03 Oct 2014 by Jana