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Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5

Easter Season: Marked By Absence

The liturgical season of Easter begins and ends with absence. At the beginning, we mark the absence of Jesus’s body from the tomb. At the end, we mark the absence of his body from the earth after his ascension. At both of these bookends to the Easter season, this absence is not a simple case of a missing object. Rather, it is the kind of absence, the kind of missing element, that causes us to revisit and redefine everything we though we knew about everything. The fact that Jesus’s body is no longer in a tomb outside of Jerusalem means that God’s good (new) creation has slipped out of death’s cold, icy grasp. We must rethink everything we thought we knew about death’s finality over everything, and this can be startling.[1] The fact that Jesus’s body is no longer immediately present to us post-Ascension means that he has ascended to be enthroned at God’s right hand. Though he no longer walks the earth, he rules in righteousness over both heaven and earth (see Heb 2:8-9). The fact that Jesus reigns over heaven and earth means his way is supreme, and calls into question all the other ways we are tempted to organize our lives and communities here on earth.

This week’s reading from Revelation, then, is a perfect choice for the Easter season, for it brings to our attention a series of absences in the New Jerusalem that, if we have ears to hear, causes us to re-evaluate the way we live in the here and now. All throughout the Book of Revelation, just as with the resurrection, things become a bit unglued—certainties of our world and our era start to shake at the foundations. This is good, gospel work. After all, the resurrection was accompanied by an earthquake (Matt 28:2), and in Revelation, the presence of God in creation is pictured in terms of world-shattering earthquakes (Rev 8:5; 11:19; 16:18; see also Heb 12:26-28).

“The First Things Have Passed Away”

While there have been absences hinted at throughout the last third of the book (see Rev 16:20; 18:21-24; 21:1-4), it is in this Sunday’s lectionary reading that the absences really pile up. A cursory glance reveals this list of things that won’t exist in the new