Murals are images that tell the story of a community. They communicate the experiences, identity and hopes of the people. Those of us that live in communities that mirror the constant images of hurting families, migrants fleeing, young people gunning one another down, conflict in war-torn countries, need those murals to point us to another reality. A theological reality that is and has not yet come in its fullness.
Scripture gives us images as well. In Revelation 21, we see the mural of the new heaven and the new earth. This renewal of all things is a reality that has come, but not yet. Or as I like to call it, the yes but not so much. There is still death, crying, and mourning. There are still so many tears. The new has come and is coming, but it is not fully here. We believe that things are new; but experientially, we know things are not.
This can be especially pronounced in and through the church which is often complicit in the pain. Our native brothers and sisters mourn the history of violence from the church. The church in the Middle East is in pain. Our sisters caravan, fleeing from violence, only to be turned away at our borders. Mothers are losing their babies to gun violence, and churches do nothing but blame the youth. There are tears! The new has come, but not so much!
God is making all things new. Until that day, our worship is more than praying and singing. Worship is formation because the practices we participate in shape us. What might it look like for us to stand with people in prayer and worship. To pray prayers for the whole church as well as the needs of others. To confess our complicity in the injustice in the world and to repent and change? To mobilize others towards repentance and the work of compassion and justice?
The church is a mural that tells a story. We are an image to the people who will never pick up a bible. We could be a foretaste of heaven. A pointer to the new heaven and earth. We help people to see the nature of who God is and what God’s about when we stand with one another in worship and solidarity. We are heaven on earth. We have assurance that in the end God will reconcile all things to God’s self will make wrong things right. We point to the coming kingdom with our actions and lives. We confess together, repent together, and hope together for a church that has been transformed and is being changed.
*This litany along with many others can be found in the book Rally: Communal Prayers for Lovers of Justice and Jesus