(Interestingly, the Greek word for witness is martyrion, such that it took a while for some people in the class to grasp that 1) to be a martyr in the present does not necessarily mean that one should get oneself killed, but that one bears witness both in actions and words, and 2) that the 2nd century saying that the church was built on the blood of the martyrs implies something important about Christian faith.)
While Days 1 through 4 were great explorations of the text and effectively made me less frightened of the text's
First, the passage, which is Revelation 22:1-3b:
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. And nothing accursed will exist there any longer.The scene opens up in the middle of John of Patmos (the name given to the narrator) describing the New Jerusalem, the meshing of God's realm and the human realm. The picture that John paints with his words about the brilliance, joy, and abundant life of the city is a counter-image to the oppressive, exploitative, and nihilistic Babylon (i.e. Rome and any other such system). The words that brought the music video to mine were the last few phrases about the healing of the nations and the absence of anything accursed. The Book of Revelation is a condemnation of the forces of empire and exploitation that have taken over the world, but it is also contains traces of lament for those who are caught up in those systems and those who are crushed by them. Like many religious texts, Revelation contains contradictory images that reveal both the complexity of reality and an ancient unconcern for systematic theology. While in other places John doesn't show "the nations" much concern as Babylon is destroyed, in this passage and the one immediately preceding it he describes a universal gathering of worship in the new city, one which can be healed from the abuses of empire and evil by the leaves of the tree of life.
"Year of the Rat" was passed along to me by my friend Big Sam Thompson, who will forget more about indie music and bands than I will ever know. I'll let the video speak for itself, and one will probably be able to tell why the leaves of healing brought it to mind.
This video brings up so much for me, but most of all: This is what I want to be when I grow up. It's part of the central message of Revelation, what it means to be witnesses to God and Jesus, the frightening element as well as the promise of healing. If I mentally substitute "God" for "the rat," the chorus echoes the encouragement that John gave to the churches: "Everybody needs to know it's the year of the rat. Every day we need to hold on, 'cause if we hold on we can find some new energy." Hold on, folks, because now is the time for the transformation of the world.