BLESSING AT THE GATE
1 And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. 4 They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. 5 There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.
6 Then he said to me, “These words are faithful and true.” And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place.
7 “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”
8 Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things.
9 Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.” 10 And he said to me, “Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand. 11 He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.”
12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”
14 Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. 15 But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.
16 “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”
17 And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.
“'Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have their power in the tree of life, and they may enter through the gates into the city.’ This symbolically means that eternal happiness awaits people who live in accordance with the Lord's commandments, in order that through love, and in His New Church through knowledge about Him, they may be in the Lord and have the Lord in them.
The 'blessed' symbolize people who have the happiness of eternal life. To ‛do His commandments’ means, symbolically to live in accordance with his commands. 'That they may have their power in the tree of life' means, symbolically, in order that through love, that is, for the Lord’s sake, that they may be in the Lord and the Lord. And ‛to enter in by the gates into the city' means, symbolically, that they may be in the Lord's New Church by means of knowledge about Him....That people who are in the Lord and have the Lord in them possess all the power needed to be able to do whatever they will, the Lord himself says in John: ‛He who abides in Me and I in him, bears much fruit, for without Me you cannot do anything....If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, you will ask whatever you will, and it shall it be done for you.’ (John 15:5, 7)
And in Matthew: ‛Jesus said, If you have faith, if you say to this mountain, Rise up, cast yourself into the sea, it will be done; indeed everything you ask, believing, you shall receive.’ (Matthew 21:21, 22)
This describes the power of people who are in the Lord. They do not wish for, and so do not ask for, anything, that does not come from the Lord; and whatever they wish for and ask from the Lord, this comes to pass, for the Lord says, 'Without Me you can do nothing. Abide in Me and I in you.' The angels in heaven have such power that they have only to wish for something in order to obtain it. But still the wish only for things that may be of useful service, wishing this as though of themselves, but in fact from the Lord.” Apocalypse Revealed §951
I was a young man when I was a student in my theological master of divinity program. I dutifully took all the required courses. So I learned enough Hebrew, Geek and Latin to be able to navigate my way through a dictionary and, more importantly, to have a deep appreciation for the beauty of language, AND an awe for the human process of communication.
I learned in school that across human cultures, through the whole history of language, that “blessing” means “happiness.” Indeed in our lesson this morning, you can find acceptable translations of both the Greek of the book of Revelation and the Latin of Apocalypse Revealed, that use both “blessing” and “happiness.” And, an important aside, we will also be talking about the Greek and Latin word that some translate as “authority,” and others as “power.”
And now, forty years later, I can say I have experienced “blessing” as “happiness.” There has been a transformation of the school lesson into a living experience. A notion, which I have carried with my on the journey I have taken, has become way of being, and a way of seeing the gate into the city, New Jerusalem. I invite you to reflect, this morning, on your notion of happiness, your journey to today, and so what you bring to appreciation of the city gate before you.
So first, relax your cogitating mind for a moment, and simply sit for a moment with the feeling you associate with the word “blessing.” [Pause] And now the feeling you associate with the word “happy.”
The Word describes the operation of the human spirit, mind and brain. Perhaps you noticed that your reflection when from deeper abstractions to more obvious concretions. My observation is this: It is a specifically human wish to do something loving, that not only makes sense to us, but is actually useful.
This nature of being for the human spirit begins as the divine wish for goodness in a form that can be experienced. The nature of God’s love is to love something other than itself, to abide in it, and to make it blessed, (or happy, depending on the translation!). So God created the human spirit, and all that supports that spirit, physically and spiritually. The human spirit is thus characterized by thinking and feeling, and free will. That is why, in an image of the divine love, and like it, we may wish for forms of goodness, for seeing goodness, for experiencing it as an emotion, as a thought and as a physiological feeling, and even as a physical sensation. We wish for an experience of blessing and happiness.
The Lord created, and now maintains creation by means of the flow of his love, which is the origin of life. We each live in a flow of life that brings us power because it originates in the infinite love and then reaches into the interstices of the human soul, spirit and mind, forming for itself the spiritual fibers that not only touch the divine love, (a la Michelangelo), but by creating successive boundaries, branch out into every cell of our brains, and muscles, and organs, and skin, and hair, and fingernails. That life flows out of our mouths by means of sounds, and out of our hands by means of deeds, and creates beautiful forms of that love for us and others to see and experience, completing the flow of life in a grand divine and human circle.
You have been and are part of that flow of love that produces blessing, happiness. You have learned concepts like worship, respect, priorities, seasons, kindness, honesty, justice, empathy, compassion, altruism, and peace. And you wish for them in your life, for your children and in the world. And the urging of those wishes for blessing have moved you along the path that has been your journey. It has been a rocky road. It has had more or less hidden holes we have fallen into. We look back at the mountains the Lord leveled and the valleys he has filled, but it felt like hard climbing at the time.
And every once in a while, we come to an enormous, magnificent, awesome, welcoming gate into what already feels like blessing, happiness. It is part and parcel of human life that we are confronted with the terrible beauty of the gateway to joy. It is not happenstance that every human comes to such a place. Some conclude that there is a determinism at work. That we have not had any free will. That we are genetically determined by evolutionary forces to have come to this precise natural and spiritual place.
I have relied on the Word to describe it otherwise. That, in fact, we feel responsible for, we have an ownership of, our presence before the gate, because our freely chosen path has brought us here. I am not always comfortable with it, but I remember that I relish the experience of the winding road with many forks. While I cannot see very far, and my thoughts are often dominated by where I have been rather than where I am or where I am going, I have a deeply held confidence that this road is leading to the gate into joy.
Notice how the human operates, and so how you have operated, more or less consciously. We have an idea of what we want. We have an idea of who can supply us our wants. The dream for joy we have, and the ideas we have developed about that joy, and the journey to the gate, have transformed us. We now know that all life is the Lord’s, that his idea of joy is true and forever, and that our power is the effect of his power abiding in every spiritual and natural fiber in our being.
And, because the Lord formed the human spirit the way he did, we are in fact able to ask for and receive the blessing – unbounded happiness. It is possible to abide in the Lord and have him abide in us, that is, have and use power that is love in action. And the deepest satisfaction possible to human beings is acquired when the flow of life is not so much sensed in our bodies, although that indeed happens and is powerful, but the flow of life is exquisitely experienced as goodness in the forms love for ourselves, love for other people (and thereby love of the Lord), and effective acts of kindness. All of which are the heart of useful purpose.
We are invited to go forth now, feeling blessed by the Lord is multiple levels of our life. For we can imagine ourselves, with many solid notions, and many good experiences in our life, standing at the gate, empowered to walk through, into a state of joy. It is our task to take the time and make the effort it pay attention to when and how we can step through the gate. It may be giving up something we thought and felt was precious. It may be letting go of an emotion – sadness, anger – that we thought gave us our life. It may be making an effort of will that we are not actually motivated to do. It may be saying something that is right and true and kind, but we have believed to be difficult in the past. All such actions are stepping through a gateway. Let us trust that the Lord knows what blessing really is, what happiness really is supposed to feel like. Step through the gate that you may have the power of the tree of life.