Revelation 22:1-5 - Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His servants will worship Him. They will see His face, and His Name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
This devotion pairs with this weekend's Lutheran Hour sermon, which can be found at lutheranhour.org.
As a child I was mesmerized by a photo my grandfather had brought with him to America when he emigrated from Hungary. The photo was taken around the year 1900 and pictured the ruins of a medieval castle. Many times Grandpa showed me that photo and proudly said, "This is our castle, the Nadasdy Castle!" Imagine that, a castle with our name on it! I did exactly that. As a boy, I imagined myself as a princely knight in shining armor living in that castle, defending goodness and truth. I have yet to see those castle ruins in person, if they are still there, but I still have the photo, now preserved, framed, and treasured.
Our imagination is an amazing gift of God. Our Creator has programmed us to imagine ourselves in a different place and at a different time from here and now. With that photo in hand as a boy, I could picture myself in Europe 400 years earlier. I could also, though, without much work, picture myself off in the future, after I had grown up. I sometimes imagined myself growing up to be a soldier, a veterinarian, a teacher, a ball player, maybe even a pastor.
As Christians, our imagination is always at work, envisioning the heroes and storylines of biblical history, the poetic imagery of the prophets, and a parade of pictures presented by the Jesus stories in the Gospels. Our Christian imagination works overtime and helps us grow in our faith and our witness. Every sermon we hear brings with it a series of images suggested by the preacher's words. With both head and heart engaged, we "see" these images by faith, and we are sometimes brought low and at other times built up and encouraged.
Perhaps our Christian imagination is nowhere more engaged than in the visions given John in Revelation. What John saw and wrote, we imagine. In Revelation 22:1-7, for example, we can imagine at least five vivid images: a crystal-clear river; the throne of God and the Lamb; a brilliant city; the tree of life; and the face of God. One after another these images come, and it can be overwhelming. Each image has its own roots in God's salvation history and its own message of hope for the ultimate future that God has in store for us. That, after all, is what John gives us to imagine, the ultimate end game, where it all goes, this life we live in Christ. So in effect, we move in Revelation from John's inspired words to imagining the images carried by his words to still more words giving us the meaning of those images. Word and image work together to bring us truth and hope for our future.
Just as I cherished the image of that old castle, we cling to these images of our future in John's Revelation. As a boy I had to trust my grandfather's words about the photo. They are what gave the image value, his words. Underneath the images we see in Revelation is the Word of God. This marks their value. It is, after all, the same Word which has carried to us the history and proclamation of our salvation. Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again. Underneath the images are the words of our salvation, and that makes all the difference.
No wonder Jesus says, "Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book" (Revelation 22:7b).
WE PRAY: Lord, for my imagination's eyes of faith that give me hope I give You thanks. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Rev. Dr. Dean Nadasdy, guest speaker for The Lutheran Hour.
1. If in your imagination you could travel to any particular place or time, where and when would you land?
2. Of the five vivid images in this Scripture text (a crystal-clear river; the throne of God and the Lamb; a brilliant city; the tree of life; and the face of God), which intrigues you the most, and why?
3. What three descriptive words capture your emotions when you imagine life with Christ in the new heaven and the new earth?