Friday, April 1, 2011

Nomad Church? Pilgrim Church?

Class, we have come to the last book of the Bible (please, don't cry), in which the last things are finally revealed. This book is called...Revelations? Yes. It was written by St. John, the only apostle who wasn't martyred. Among other things in this book, St. John explains what will happen at the end of the world. But to understand this last book, let's do a quick review of the Bible using the timeline on this handout:

Start on the left. This would be the beginning of the Bible...the first book....Genesis. Yes. Who were the first people we met in Genesis? Adam and Eve. Yes, Adam & Eve dwelled with God in Eden. And even though God the Father has no body, they still experienced him in some physical ways, such as hearing him moving around in the garden, and speaking to them. In the beginning, in Eden, Adam & Eve weren't separated from God. Why not? They hadn't eaten the apple yet! That's right, they hadn't sinned. Speaking of separation, what do we call it when souls separate from bodies? Death! And could souls separate from bodies in Eden? No! And why not? There was no sin there. Right. So nothing's dead in Eden.

But what messed this up? Sin! Yes. And after Adam & Eve sinned, how were they separated from God? The angel threw them out of Eden! And not only were they separated from God, they would eventually have their souls separate from their bodies, and die. Man was created to be with God, but since we left Eden, we've been separated. That's what we see next, the situation in the world before Jesus. Can people die? Yes. Do souls die? No they stay alive. Yes; can they go to Heaven? No. Why? Because it's before Jesus. Yes. So the souls of people such as Abraham go to...Sheol. Do souls in Sheol dwell there with God? I don't think so. Me neither. And peoples' bodies go...in the ground. Yes, they turn back into earth.

Now in the middle of the timeline there's B.C and A.D. What's B.C. mean? Before Christ. Yes, this is the situation before Jesus comes, as you said. And what's A.D.? After Death?  Wow, good guess, but no. It's Latin: Anno Domini [on the board]. Anno means "in year," like the ann- in annual; Domini means "of Lord" like the dom- in dominate. In English we say "In the Year of Our Lord," which means what? When Jesus was alive? Yes, the time after he was born; and what event is right on the line between B.C. and A.D.? When Jesus was born? Yes, Christmas. And after Jesus dies for our sins, where do happy souls go in the third part of the timeline? Heaven. Yes, which is wonderful, because who is there? God. Yes; our souls dwell with God, with Jesus. But where do happy bodies go? Well, they still go in the ground. Yes; even though Jesus redeemed us, our bodies don't share in the happiness of Heaven.

Now we come to the last part of our timeline; it's still in the future. Tell me, does Heaven go on forever? Yes!  Well, look again at the timeline. Umm...no? Right...what follows Heaven? New Jerusalem? And what about our dead bodies? They go up to be with the souls? Yes, so the whole person, bodynsoul, lives in the New Jerusalem. What is it, the New Jerusalem? A city? Yes, a pure, holy city, not like cities we know in the sinful world. Yes? How can there be a city instead of heaven? Good question, we'll find out.

But first, a new topic: what's a nomad? Somebody who wanders around. Do they live in houses? No, tents. Trick question: where do nomads start from? Nowhere, they just wander. Yes. There are still nomads on earth...think of some. Gypsies? Yes, good. Any more? Do y'all know about Lapps [on the board]...no? They're nomads up north of the Arctic Circle, they follow reindeer herds. There just aren't many wanderers anymore. Next trick question: where do nomads finish? They just wander, they don't start or finish! Yes.

Who were the Pilgrims, the Thanksgiving Pilgrims? They were people from England who came to America. Yes. And they came here on a schoolbus, right? Ha! They came on a boat, the Mayflower!  Yes, a ship. They were traveling; were they nomads? Sort of. And being sort of nomads, they just wandered around the ocean until they bumped into Massachusetts? No, they were coming here on purpose. I see...and when they arrived, did they grab tents and horses and take off for California? No, they stayed where the Mayflower dropped them off. Oh. They weren't wandering. Then what makes pilgrims different from nomads? They have a destination? Yes. So pilgrims aren't nomads; pilgrims don't wander.

Where did the Pilgrims start? England. And they stopped in...? America. Yes, in Massachusetts. Did they vacation there & then go back home to England? No, America was their new home. And if you live in one place, but journey to another place to live you aren't wandering, or vacationing either. So what do we call any group of people who journey from an old home to a new one? Pilgrims? Yes, the word doesn't refer only to the English Pilgrims who came to America. But those English people called themselves Pilgrims because they did not wander; they knew where they were headed, and when they got there, their journey was over.

Tell me, at Mass, have you ever heard the priest say, "Strengthen in faith and love your pilgrim Church on Earth?" Ehh...I think so...? Of course you heard it, but if you were daydreaming you wouldn't remember. Mass is more interesting when you pay attention and know what's going on.

So, the Church is a pilgrim Church...if it's a pilgrim Church, what is it doing...is it wandering? No. Right, it's not a nomad Church. So...if it's not wandering, what is the pilgrim church doing? It's going somewhere. Yes, it has...a destination. That's right...where's it going? No guesses? That's OK. Look at the back of the Bible again: this last book....is called....Revelations. Yes. Revelations tells us, reveals to us, where the Church is going. And are we part of the Church? Yes. Right, all the faithful make up the Church. So if we're part of the pilgrim church that means we are....? Pilgrims. Who are on a...? A trip! Yes, on a journey. Just like the American Pilgrims, we and the Pilgrim Church will end our journey at our...destination.  Yes. Let's see what Revelations says about that destination.

The first thing we'll look at is the Second Coming [on the board]. Tell me, who is coming the second time? Jesus. And when was the First Coming? What? When did he come the first time? Oh...Christmas? Yeah, at Christmas. And later, at the Ascension when Jesus rose up on a cloud, angels told the apostles, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." So, how do we know Jesus will come back? Well, the angels said so? Yes; just checking. And how is Jesus going to come the second time? C'mon, the same way he went up. He rose up to the sky on clouds, so...? Umm, down from the sky on clouds? Yes. Or something equally impressive; I expect everyone will know what's going on. St. John says, "Then I [saw] a white cloud, and seated on the cloud, one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head..." St. John is quoting Jesus and Daniel; y'all have heard "son of man coming on clouds" a few times this year. Who's the Son of Man? Jesus. Yes, and also the Son of God. Fully human and fully divine. By the way, in Revelations, Jesus is never called by his name; instead he's called the Lamb. Why? Because he's the Passover Lamb. Yes, the New Passover Lamb.

Now if I die tomorrow, the first thing I'll do once I'm dead is meet Jesus. We'll review all my sins, and I'll find out where I'm going. Let's be charitable and say heaven. This is called the Particular Judgment, when each person is judged individually right when he or she dies. On the timeline I'd be in the third spot: soul in Heaven, body in the ground. But that's not the end of me being judged.

The Second Coming will signal that it's time for the Last Judgment, when all the souls in Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory get their bodies back. People who are alive at this point are still bodynsouls. Yes? How does God do that if your body is all, you know...all decomposed all turned back in to earth? Yeah. Well, I don't know, but how'd God make Adam in the first place? From dirt! Yep, and remind me, why do we call that first man Adama in Hebrew? 'Cause it means dirt! Yes, earth. So whatever God did that first time with earth, he'll probably do it again. Then St. John says, "I saw a great white throne and him who sat upon it...And the dead were judged...by their works. And the sea gave up the dead in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead in them..."  This rising again of every dead person is what we mean when we recite the Creed on Sunday: "I believe in the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, forgiveness of sins, the...Res...Resurrection of the Body! That's it! Then St. John says again "all were judged by their works". St. John says it twice just to remind you, it matters what you do, not just what you believe. Now, what is every human made of?  A bodynsoul! Yes, and which part actually does the 'works'? The body! Yes, and if part of the Last Judgment involves what you did with your body, would it make sense to have just souls there? Huh? If a person is going to get judged by his faith and his works, then his soul and his body should both be judged. Imagine just my soul is at the Last Judgment, and I'm going to get in trouble because I did bad things while I was alive, but I say, "Oh dear, that sinful body, it's all rotten and laying in the ground somewhere, don't blame me for what that dirty old thing did. My soul never did a single bad thing, I swear!" A whole person is a bodynsoul, so if Jesus is going to judge the whole person....? the whole person needs to be there? Yes, genius!

So everyone goes to Heaven or Hell with their bodies & souls no longer separated. Adam & Eve's sin caused body & soul to separate, but in the end they become one again. And those who go to Heaven are no longer separated from God by Adam and Eve's sin, but are reunited with Him. Ever since Genesis, people have suffered separation, but in Revelations, everything good is reunited: Creation, Man, and God are all together again, just as they were in Eden. Everything bad is thrown into a "lake of fire," which would be...Hell. Yes, a physical Hell.

Because all the saints, who will dwell with God, have their bodies back, they'll have to live somewhere physical. But not on Earth as it is now, with hurricanes, earthquakes, and diseases. Could weather kill people in Eden? No, there wasn't any bad weather. Why not? Because there was no sin. Yes. Sin doesn't just mess up the spiritual world, but the physical world, too.

And here's what St. John says about this physical place: "I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.... " So we'll have a new home. And not only will Earth be new, but heaven as well, and they will comprise one perfect place like Eden had been. What's comprise? It means to put together: a human being is comprised of a bodynsoul. Should body and soul be separated? No. Right. Well, heaven and Earth shouldn't be separated either, with God dwelling in one place and people dwelling somewhere else.

Then John says, "I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband." And I know exactly what John means. I remember how beautiful my wife was when she was walking down the aisle to marry me. Why, let's look at my wedding picture [I show the wedding]. She looks like she came down out of heaven just like the New Jerusalem. So, where are we going to live? The New Jerusalem! Yes. Then John says, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God." Does anyone remember another time when God told someone "you will be my people, and I will be your God"? OK, this is from Exodus: "I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. I will bring you out of Egypt and to the land I promised to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob." Who was God talking to? Moses? Yes, Moses and the Israelites. But when God says it in Revelations, it means more. God brings us out of a land of sin, and brings us to a perfect land, a perfect home. And when God says, "you will be my people, and I will be your God," It's like marriage, when the man and wife give themselves to each other...not a contract...a covenant! Yes! It's very romantic.

Here's a question: Jews worshiped God in a temple in Jerusalem; where do Christians worship? In a church! Yes. Now about the New Jerusalem, John says, "I did not see a temple in the city." Why wouldn't there be temple or a church there? .....That's a hard question, tell me this: in Eden did Adam & Eve go to church to visit with God? No. Why not? They were with God already. Yes. But after they got thrown out of Eden, we had the Temple and the Church as ways to stay connected to God, even though sin had separated us from Him. In the New Jerusalem will we be separated from God? No. So why won't there be a temple or a church? Because we'll be with God again. Yes, not separated.....like another place a long time ago which would be....? Eden! Yes. Imagine we're in the New Jerusalem...I need a volunteer, get up here Jesus! I'm with Jesus, we both have our bodies'n'souls. It's just wonderful being here with you Lord, with my arm around your shoulder. But it's Sunday so I have to go to church now, see you in a hour or so. What's wrong with that? Well, you're already with Jesus! Yes.

So back to pilgrims. When the pilgrims were sitting at home in England were they pilgrims yet? No. Right, they were at home, not going anywhere. When they got on the Mayflower were they pilgrims? Yes! Once they settled down in their new home, were they still pilgrims? Not really. OK. Were Adam & Eve at home with God in Eden? Yes. But then they had to leave. We know from St. John that they and their children, that's us, will someday have a new home with God, the New Jerusalem. Right now we're on a long journey from our old home, Eden, to where? Our new home! Which is called...? The New Jerusalem! And when people are on a journey from an old home to a new home they are called...? Pilgrims! Yes, and that makes us...? Pilgrims, too.

Did the English Pilgrims swim to America? Ha! We already said they took the Mayflower. Oh yeah....I forgot. Swimming is cheaper- why did they take a ship? 'cause it's safe. Yes, to have a safe ocean journey you need a sturdy ship. There's an Italian saint named John Bosco who once dreamed about a ship on a dangerous ocean. The ship is called the Bark of Peter. It wasn't a dog or a tree: the Italian (and Spanish) word for 'boat' is 'barco.' The captain was the Pope. What did the ship represent in the dream? A hard question? OK, What's the Pope in charge of in the world? The Church. And in the dream he's in charge of the ship, so what's the ship? The Church? Yes...the Church is our Mayflower. It carries us safely from our old home to our new one. Is it a wandering Church, a nomad Church? No, a pilgrim Church. Yes, just like we hear at Mass.

So, look again at the Bible. One book in the front...Genesis, yes, about the old home before the journey became necessary, and one in the back about the new home, and all the middle books are about the pilgrims' progress along the way. A pilgrim's journey is called a pilgrimage; we're on a pilgrimage. We know where we're going, and when we arrive, our journey will be over.

When the pilgrims arrive in the New Jerusalem, they become united with God. Like in Eden, there won't be a Church or Temple...once the pilgrims arrived in America, they didn't need the Mayflower anymore, either. St. John explains why the New Jerusalem had no temple. He says, "the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple."

Revelations is the end of the Bible, and it marks the end of our pilgrimage. All the things that were messed up and separated by sin are healed and made whole: Man's body and soul are one; God and man are united; even Heaven and Earth are joined forever. John says, "there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. And he who sat upon the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new...I am the Alpha and the Omega." What are Alpha and Omega? The first and last letters in the Greek alphabet. Yes, genius! What does Jesus mean? That he's the beginning and the end. Yes, as we pray, "As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end." Is that "world without end" this world? No it's heaven. Is it? It's...the New Jerusalem! Yes, genius! By the way, what's the second letter in the Greek "alpha-bet"? Beta! Yes!

Hey, next time y'all are in church, look at the big stained glass windows in front [I do a rough outline of the window below]:


See these two little triangles of glass? They have an Alpha and an Omega in them; you have to look closely. They are there to remind you of this passage in Revelations. By the way, most people haven't noticed the Alpha & Omega windows, so point them out to your parents.

And there will be a big celebration in the New Jerusalem. An angel said to John, "Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb. And in the Spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel...clear as crystal." So...who's the Lamb? Jesus. Yes, and his Bride is..the New Jerusalem? 
Yes, which St. John said was as beautiful as ....? as....? My wife when we got married! He didn't say that! Yes, but he didn't know my wife either. But I thought Jesus marries the Church. Yes, but the Church isn't a building, right? It's... people, yes. And the people are in the pilgrim Church until it reaches its...destination. Yes, and the people then live in the holy city...the New Jerusalem. Yes. So the Lamb isn't marrying a church or a city so much as he's marrying...the people? Yes, the saints.

And we know from the Marriage at Cana that after a wedding, there's a... party! Yes, Revelations would say a feast.

Speaking of wedding feasts, next week we'll start learning about the Mass. Yes? Mass isn't the same as a wedding. Well...let's worry about it next week.

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Now and forever!

Class over!

2 comments:

Barb Schoeneberger said...

Delightful explanation of our final home.

Colleen said...

I went to a bible study on Revelation once. I enjoyed it and learned a lot.
Thanks for visiting on my post!