11/20/2006

Revelation, the Book



Since the next three weeks of the lectionary include readings from the Revelation to John and because the Rector of all Lewes has decreed that I will preach this coming Sunday (The last Sunday of Pentecost) I offer for our consideration the following from the “Author’s Note” in Hunter S. Thompson’s
Generation of Swine. ( Simon & Schuster)

(that's HST to the left)



“"And I will give him the morning star."


"That is from Revelation – once again. I have stolen more quotes and thoughts and purely elegant little starbursts of writing from the Book of Revelation than anything else in the English language – and it is not because I am a biblical scholar, or because of any religious faith, but because I love the wild power of the language and the purity of the madness that governs it and makes it music…

"It’s a strange world. Some people get rich and others eat shit and die … Who knows? If there is, in fact, a Heaven and a Hell, all we know for sure is that Hell will be a viciously overcrowded version of Phoenix – a clean well-lighted place full of sunshine and bromides and fast cars where almost everybody seems vaguely happy, expect for the ones who know in their hearts what is missing… And being driven slowly and quietly into the kind of terminal craziness that comes with finally understanding that the one think you want is not there. Missing. Back-ordered. No tengo. Vaya con Dios. Grow up! Small is better. Take what you can get…

"Heaven is a bit harder to figure. And there are some things that not even a smart boy can tell you for sure… But I can guess. Or wonder. Or maybe just think like a gambler or a fool or some kind of atavistic rock & roll lunatic and make it about 8-1 that Heaven wil be a place where the swine will be sorted out at the gate and sent off like rats.”

The Great Gonzo is dead and gone, but he still points in the right direction at times and much of his pointing is to the visionary world that arises from what God put into the head of John for him to write about.

The next line after “I will give him the morning star,” quoted by HST as he begins the “Tales of Shame and Degradation in the ‘80’s, (Rev. 2.28) contains the phrase now used at times to end a reading during a service, namely, “Hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.It is perhaps of some value to remember that the effort to “here what the Spirit is saying to the churches” is a REVELATION affair.


The masterminds of every reforming ideal in the life of the church has been torn between wanting to experience the Bible as a Holy thing to which we are meant to conform and wanting to experience the Word of God, that strange mixture of the person of Jesus Christ, the biblical witness, the thundering judgment and the peace of the crystal sea, as something that draws us on into a vision not yet fully known even in the biblical material, but guessed at, witnessed to.

To hear what the Spirit is saying to the Churches requires both the willingness to listen to the biblical word and the desire to live into the Word of God. Too often we confuse the two – “listening” and “living into” – just as we often confuse the Holy Scriptures with the Word of God.

That is, I suppose, why the best way to read The Revelation is to take it as a whole – to read the whole thing all in a rush, with the rip-roaring toppling of Babylon and the river that runs through the city with trees on its banks, the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations, the death of one in three, and the final homecoming when we are indeed able to have that which we always missed in Phoenix, or wherever else our hell is found, but what was promised. If one reads Revelation this way – “cover to cover” – the promise is filled, provided we have ears to hear. To that one “I will give the Morning Star.”


If the lonely and the strange are reading The Revelation from Gideon Bibles in the night hours in cheap motels, why not you and I?


Time to put down the latest returns on the Shame and Degradation of the new Century and pick up a Bible. There, at the end of the book, is The Revelation and a chance to practice poetic revolutionary vision making. It will chew us up and spit us out and we can go to Niniva, or whereever else the city of our compromise is to be found. With a little luck they will have been waiting for us to come for quite a while.

1 comment:

  1. Etienne Charpentier in "How to Read The Bible: the Old and New Testaments" (still my favorite 2 in 1 volume of this genre) says "The Book of Revelation, the Apocalypse, is a book of fire and blood in the image of our world. We find it disconcerting. Here everything seems strange: the style, the imagery, the logic. But confronted with a painting which is not figurative, we should not ask, 'What does it represent?' but rather, 'What impression does that make on me?' That is also true of apocalyptic books." He goes one to give some keys to finding one's way through the book but essentially reminds us it is like no-representational or "modern" art. It is about painting a feeling and senses rather than a photograph.

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