“The Revelation Process”
Text: I John 3: 1-2
See what love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.
If you travel to the desert southwest part of this country you will begin to see some unique rock formations and geologic wonders that are fairly common in that particular region. There are a large number of National Parks that celebrate some of these formations, many of them in Utah and Arizona and some in Colorado. You probably could identify many of them on your own, but to refresh your memory, let me mention just a few places; we have Zion, Arches, Bryce, Canyonlands, Grand Canyon and Cedar Breaks National Parks and there are a host of National Monuments, state parks and regional attractions as well.
These are a few images from Bryce Canyon National Park and some of the formations in Bryce are, in my opinion, some of the most interesting in all the region. If you read about the geology of the region, you will discover that hundreds of millions of years ago the area was all under water. This accounts for the vast amounts of sandstone you find in the area. But before the water, there were forests and animals and other forms of life all forming organic material that mixed with the mud and formed some layers of sedimentary rock. This rock is much harder than the predominant sandstone that you find almost everywhere.
Once the water receded and the land dried out some of the land tilted up to form the mountains and hills and valleys we see today. Among all those major land upheavals came some of the sedimentary rock that is much harder than the sandstone around it. Over the years as some natural erosion has taken place, the sandstone is washed away rather easily, while the sedimentary rock which is much harder, is also more resistant to erosion. The mixture of the sandstone and the sedimentary rock accounts for some of the odd rock formations you will see in a place like Bryce Canyon National Park.
I have gone into some detail about this process because I believe that it is a great example of what happens to us as human beings and it is a great example of what the text I read a few minutes ago is talking about.
Let’s talk about the text first. In this text the author tells us that we are already children of God, but what we will become has not yet been revealed. I think the choice of the word revealed is very interesting. It has interesting implications in the English language, but those same implications were also present in the original Greek. The Greek word for revealed is “Apokalupto” and most definitions define this word to mean uncover or to make visible, that sort of thing; about what you would expect. But what I think is really interesting is that apokalupto has a root that is used in many different ways. For example the Greek word used to describe the process of peeling an orange or cracking open a nut have the same root, as does the term used to describe the events in the book of Revelation, which is the apocalypse.
If we begin to think about the use of this word as it applies to our human experience, we may discover that not all of these things are entirely pleasant. As a matter of fact, some of these experiences sound a little frightening. Think about the peeling of an orange for example; I’m not sure how that translates into a human experience, but it doesn’t seem very pleasant. What about cracking a nut open? Same idea. One other definition of apokalupto that I read was to be without covering – which in a human experience can be a little intimidating to say the least!
One of the things which I take away from this text and the example of the rock formations in Bryce Canyon is that the revealing which the text says is on its way, is already in process and it is a process. In other words, I don’t think it happens all at once. One day you wake up and what you are to become is suddenly revealed. I don’t think it works that way, I think that what we become as children of God is revealed to us slowly over the decades as we are formed into who we are called to be. This process is not much different than the erosion that takes place in Bryce Canyon.
Let me explain. If you remember part of the secret to the beautiful rock formations in Bryce Canyon is the fact that not everything erodes at the same pace. The sedimentary rock erodes much slower than the sand stone. If you remember what Jesus said about the man who built his house on the rock rather than the sand, you might get a glimpse of where I’m headed. But it’s not that simple. Sometimes the erosion is difficult, sometimes it is painful and sometimes it is downright confusing.
Just a couple of years ago I was in High School. OK, so more than a couple. But when I was in high school one of the activities of choice for me was to be involved in athletics. I generally played a sport almost every season, but the sport of track I think was my favorite. Within the many opportunities in Track and Field as it is called, my favorite was the low hurdles. Seems I was built to excel at the low hurdles. Turns out being close to the ground helps you in that regard; in case you missed it that was a euphemism for being short. You don’t find many tall guys that ran the low hurdles. Of course all that changed when the topic of the high hurdles came up, but that is another story.
If you want to be fast in the low hurdles you want to spend as little time as possible in the air. You can’t run or accelerate at all when you are in the air. So the time spent getting over the hurdle needs to be kept to a minimum. My legs were just the right length to accomplish this. The more I practiced, the better I got. Back in that time, track and field events were measured in yards, not meters, like they are today and my event was the 180 yard low hurdles. By my junior year in high school I had equaled the school record in the 180-yard low hurdles and I was certain I could break the record in my senior year.
One thing you may not know about the hurdles. There are a specific number of steps you can take in between hurdles; if you take one less or one more you get out of rhythm with which leg you lead with as you step over each hurdle. My magic number was nine. This allowed me to always lead with my right leg and trail with my left leg. It couldn’t be eight and it couldn’t be ten, it had to be nine. When I was a junior I could sprint at top speed and nine steps always came out just right. By the time I was a senior, I had grown just a tiny bit. All of the sudden the rhythm was wrong. When I was at top speed I would cover the distance in between hurdles in about 8 steps. This meant that I had to try to learn how to alternate lead legs; first the right leg goes first, then the left leg and so on. It never worked and I never broke the record. This was one of my first memories of having something in my life erode away.
It doesn’t seem like a big deal now. But it sort of was at that time. My point is that kind of thing happens to us all the time. Sometimes it just happens, but sometimes it is a matter of choice. I have a friend who made the decision to leave the United Methodist Church because he didn’t think the church was on the right side of some issues. That part of his life was allowed to erode away because another part of his life was stronger.
If you think about it in almost every conflict or disagreement there is a process of erosion taking place. Whatever side of an issue you are on, you allow the other side to erode away, because you feel stronger about the side you are on. This happened during the Civil War among family members and during the Civil Rights marches in the 1960’s. It happened when women sought the vote or wished to be ordained as clergy. What you believe to be true or noble or on the right side of history determines what you allow to erode away in your life and what remains to be revealed as the person you truly are.
What the text says is that because we are children of God, what will be revealed, that is what we will allow to be eroded away, will eventually transform us into the likeness of Jesus. For me, this really adds a lot of credence to the familiar saying “what would Jesus do?” When we ask the question, we are essentially asking what would Jesus determine to be the stronger side of an issue. What would Jesus allow to erode from his character and what would Jesus maintain as part of his character? When faced with a question or an issue, what would Jesus determine to be sedimentary rock and what would he consider to be sandstone?
The interesting thing is that not all of us answer these questions in exactly the same way. A little over 100 years ago, some said that Jesus would allow us to own slaves, others said that Jesus would say that owning another human being was an abomination. There has been some erosion that has taken place on that topic. At times it has been painful and not that pleasant. Erosion is a fact of life and it reveals who we are to become. What parts of your life are solid rock and what parts may need to be eroded away?
It’s different for each of us but it is also a necessary part of our Christian journey; and that is food for thought. Amen.