Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Who Tramples Whom Underfoot?

I recently preached from Revelation 11, and as is the case all over that prophecy, this chapter offered a powerfully vivid metaphor to describe the church:
Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, "Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months" (vv. 1-2).
Some points of note: (1) The command to "measure the temple" involves measuring people, meaning the temple is not a literal structure; (2) The outer court is to be left unmeasured, and therefore unprotected; (3) The unprotected outer court is called "the holy city," a designation that elsewhere in Revelation refers to the Lamb's wife, the New Jerusalem (21:2; 22:19).

So according to this picture, the church is portrayed as partly measured and invincible, and partly unmeasured and vulnerable. As with the two witnesses in this chapter, who are hated by all and yet protected by God until their mission is complete, at which time their martyred bodies are raised and ascend to heaven, so the church is illustrated in an ironic and paradoxical fashion in order to demonstrate the bittersweetness of her earthly existence.

Now in continuing our Babylonian theme of late, I find it interesting that the divine description of the church, in the thinking of many sincere believers today, fits better when applied to the good ol' U.S. of A.

Our God-fearing nation, we are assured, is hated by infidels, A-rabs, the French, and other unsavory types because our light on the hill is shining brightly upon their culturally backward societies, exposing their lack of megachurches and WalMarts (which are one and the same, really).

Well, I would humbly suggest that "the Gentiles" who "trample the holy city" are not Muslims who fly planes into our skyscrapers, but the very aspects of our society (yes, ours) that turn our churches into strip malls, our worshipers into consumers, and our God into a commodity beholden to the ebb and flow of the Market.