Martin Luther wanted the book of James left out...I happen to like the book of James. If I had one book that I could leave out it would be the Book of Revelation (and just for the record it is Revelation, not Revelations. Just sayin). It's not that it's not a good read, especially if you're into stuff like "The Lord of the Rings," which I am. I mean, there are monsters everywhere...swords, death, and plagues are found on most of the pages, and it scares the living daylight out of most folks. But it doesn't have to.
Ok, let me crawdad a bit. I think I would like the book of Revelation taken out with the exception of Chapter 20, Verse 12. It says, "And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books."
I'm assuming, and this is just a guess, that the other books that were opened contained all of the things we had done during our lives. And I'm assuming that what was written in those books determined whether or not our name was written in THE book.
(OPINION ALERT) Now, let me stop for a second and say that I am not a literalist, and that for me, Revelation is not a description of some future, apocalyptic event bringing the end of the world as we know it. For me, Revelation is a commentary on the early church, trying to exist under the power of something that was seeking to destroy it. But that's just me, and I really don't want to argue with anyone over it. It's just my opinion.
But...whether it is or isn't, the fact remains that we are in some way, at some time, and by somebody judged for what we do. It happens everyday. Folks watch us, whether we want to admit it or not, and they are taking notes about the things we do. They are watching to see what we stand for, how we treat others, and what is important to us. They're watching how we spend our money and our time, and subconsciously, we are being judged.
Here's the kicker for me. I'm not at all about works righteousness, which simply means that you work to earn your way through those pearly gates. Some folks are, and that's cool. It just doesn't work for me. But...I do what I do, I stand up for who I stand up for, I say what I say, not to earn a pass through the gates, but because of the love and grace that was shown me by the One holding the pen over THE book.
Which means, that because He loved me, I'm going to love THEM, and if there was only one message I could preach for the rest of my life, that would be it. Because of that, every time I'm given the opportunity to decide whether I am going to reach out to them, or reach in to self, I hope that I can choose to reach out to them.
Here's the big "so what" for us as a group of disciples. I'm afraid that any church which puts its own needs above the needs of the folks around them has missed the whole picture. But it happens all the time. We turn inward, and we stop doing for others. And if you read Revelation literally that is going to keep a lot of names from being written down. We spend our energy on us. We spend our time on us. And in some places, we spend our money on us. (Big shout out to the apportionment system in the UMC. Through those dollars, real ministry is taking place all over the world. I get giddy when I think about it.) And in the end, we want our pastors to focus on us. Which leaves a whole lot of folks never getting the opportunity to hear about this guy Jesus and how much they really are loved.
I guess this is where it lands for me this morning. When I get a chance to look back through my book, if I get a chance to look back through my book, I want to see things written down that will make God proud. I want to be able to stand with folks who spent their lives ministering with the poor, sick, orphaned, and outcast. Not to get patted on the back, but because, so many times, they get totally left out. Maybe, just maybe, through some little something that I, or you, have done with them, or for them, they will get the chance to find their name written down too.
Hey, a guy can dream can't he?