|Sunset light in Sabino Canyon out Tucson|
“Worthy are you to receive the scrolland break open its seals,for you were slain and with your Blood you purchased for Godthose from every tribe and tongue, people and nation.You made them a kingdom and priests for our God,and they will reign on earth.” Revelation 5:9-10The daily readings continue with passages from Revelation with its poetic and hard to understand verses. The above is the song that those surrounding the throne of the Divine One sing to the slain Lamb who has "purchased" us from"every tribe and tongue, people and nation." We have been transformed by the blood of Jesus into priests, a holy people. Further we are called to reign on or over the earth.
One understanding of these verses can easily lead to a conflation of religion and political power with all tis toxicity. Examples abound: Medieval Christianity, Islam, Israel. The framers of the United States constitution may not have been deeply religious but they clearly understood the dangers of combining religious belief with the coercive power of the state. They sought to definitively separate these two realms. There should be no intrusion by the state into the religious realm and at the same time there should be no intrusion of religion into the government realm. No matter how problematic this division might be in practice, it is clearly one of the enduring commitments of contemporary, developed life. What we gain from this separation is much more valuable than any losses. When the coercive force of government is used to enforce religious belief or morals, we all lose something of highest valuable.
But, of course, when we look at the macro context of the teachings of Jesus and the writers of the other books of the New Testament, it is clear that this passage cannot refer to setting up a kingdom or government ordained somehow by the Divine One. Jesus had strong words for the dysfunctions of government and society and of religion. Whenever these moved away from concern for the marginalized, they were strongly rebuked: institutions, their leaders and individual adherents.
We are called to be a holy people, made holy by the working of the spirit of the Divine One in us individually and together. This life will, almost by necessity, be in conflict with the way of the world. We are not called to take over the world and reform it through a divinely established secular state, but we are called to do the will of the Divine One, to love the Divine One and to love all people and things as we would like to be loved, as Jesus loved those he lived with.
We do live in a new reign that exists along side of, within, underneath and all around the world as we experience it. It is that new reign that leads to life eternal which we experience fully in our final and complete union with the Divine One.