Crossing the Final River -- A River Crossings Reflection

Loreley and the Rhine


22 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. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more. 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 there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.  (Revelation 22:1-5)

*****

                Today I return from my sabbatical that began in September and ended this morning. Over the course of the past three months, I’ve read a few books that spoke of rivers and lakes and streams. Some of them spoke of fishing and others spoke of swimming. I spent time cruising the Rhine and visited several other rivers both in Europe and in the States. Now, I cross another river, one that takes me back to my responsibilities as a pastor. I return rested and ready to move toward the final river of my full-time pastoral ministry. I don’t know what the future holds in its entirety, but I trust that we as pastor and congregation will have an opportunity to envision a future that lies beyond my own ministry.

These are difficult times for religious bodies. Whether liberal or conservative, fewer members of the community are paying attention to our voices. I feel like we have something to offer, a vision of the Christian faith that is open and welcoming. We’re not perfect. We make mistakes. But we have embraced a set of core values that offer a word of healing, peace, and service to others. As I return to my ministry, I hope to take hold of these values and help the congregation envision a future that brings blessings to the community and beyond.

So, as I head back “to work” I share these words from the closing chapter of the Book of Revelation. It envisions the heavenly city, with the River of Life flowing from “the throne of God and of the Lamb.” And, “On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” Yes, the trees that line the river of life, bear fruit and its leaves will bring healing to the nations. It is a vision that goes back to Isaiah and other prophets.

That is my vision for the congregation and for my own ministry, that we might share in the water of life flowing from the throne of God, that brings sustenance in its due season and healing to the nations. Having spent part of my time during this sabbatical working on a book manuscript that draws upon the call of Abraham and Sarah, which includes a promise that through their descendants the nations would be blessed, it would seem that the promise of Revelation 22 is a completion of that promise. Blessing and healing. That is our calling as children of Abraham.

So, shall we gather at the river?
 Shall we gather at the river,
Where bright angel feet have trod,
With its crystal tide forever
Flowing by the throne of God?

Refrain:
Yes, we’ll gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God.


Salt Creek Falls, Oregon

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