April 29, 2019
April 29, 2019
In today’s readings, we see two exiles, isolated for their faith. Esther’s family and other Jews in exile had been freed by Cyrus, but some chose to stay in Persia. With a new king on the throne, the Jews were persecuted again. At first, Esther did not reveal her Jewish heritage, and now she has the precarious opportunity to save her people from annihilation. John, the writer of Revelation, is exiled to the lonely island of Patmos because he was an outspoken witness to “the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (Rev 1:9).
We think of Revelation as a strange book, full of obscure imagery and visions. Isolation from one’s community is a fearful thing, and those confined for their beliefs even today may report strange and fearful experiences or dreams.
Significantly, John’s vision comes on the Lord’s Day, Sunday—the time when back home he would have been at worship with his congregation. John was caught up “in the Spirit.” Later in Revelation, John remembers hymns and prayers familiar to his church; some of them have endured to our own time. One is the “Holy, holy, holy” we sing at communion (Rev 4:8-11) and another is “Come, Lord Jesus,” a prayer similar to one that we pray at Advent (Rev 20:22).
Former prisoners who were jailed for their beliefs have reported that what helped sustain them in their isolation is remembering fragments of their customary worship: Psalms, hymns, bits of the Book of Common Prayer. The church’s liturgy, the oft-repeated words, music, and acts of faith can help us withstand difficult circumstances.
The power of our communal acts of worship brings us into the community of love, formed by God to be the body of Christ. Remembering the community of believers at worship helps us know that we are not alone.
QUESTIONS FOR THE FIELD
- What do you have in your memory bank that would help sustain you if you were separated from the community you love?
- Do you know stories of prisoners like John today? “The Prisoner of Conscience Window” in Salisbury Cathedral honors biblical and modern martyrs and prisoners. At daily morning communion, worshipers gather near the window and include prayers for current prisoners of conscience.
FAMILY FIELD TALK
- What is your favorite song that we sing in church? Draw a picture to go with “Jesus Loves Me.”
- Select a hymn and a Bible verse or Psalm that you can say or sing every day and try to memorize by Pentecost (June 9).
Loving God, make us glad all week long for the joy of being in your house. Fill us with words of grace and songs of praise. Help all who are lonely and afraid. Keep us safe and bring us peace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.