This is Part 2 of Worthy to Open the Scroll: Sacraments, Politics, and Empire
When the eyes of the disciples of Emmaus were opened, it was by the breaking of His body, so too the eucharist commands the center of our ability to see the world rightly. It is the fruit of the tree of Life which allows our eyes to be opened to a proper understanding of the world we find ourselves in.
Without the centrality of this event, we will not long remain the Church. We will forget the promise. Israel’s liturgy was all about remembering the promise, so too the Catholic Church is not mistaken in remembering the forward looking orientation centered in the promise of the resurrected and glorified flesh of Jesus Himself.
This glorified flesh in our midst, if it is what the Church says it is, is our politics. It’s our sign to the world that we have overcome death in Him, and our statement to the world about the absurdities of its weapons. We fear neither death, nor the powers that be because we know that God has issued a public proclamation about the nature of reality centered in this man Jesus, and His glorified body which remains at the heart of the church and her worship. The Church’s worship of this man Jesus and His body is our rebellion against the powers of sin and death, adhering to the worldview it creates establishes a people constituted by the new creation that is already inaugurated in their midst.
It is this slain lamb who shows the empire of Caesar and the dominion of America, the Oppression of China, and the Violence of the Middle East to be a farce, a mere parody of what the world’s rightful king intends and establishes. Jesus’s having been slain isn’t just a historical fact about a rabbi from Nazareth, it is the power of God unto the reconciliation of all things. It inaugurates the cosmic shaking that throws all things into question, and leaves only the unshakable, the enduring truth of new creation.
The Early Church saw Jesus not just as a threat to the religious powers, but to Caesar, not just to Judaism’s cultic worship order, but as a threat to Rome. What Paul affirms over and over in his letters, what the Apocalypse affirms over and over in its structure and what the New Testament as a whole is pointing towards is the coming kingdom.
The One Who Created the world will one day put it right, and establish the order that belongs to creation. The power systems of the world, and their violence are called into question by this Jesus, the rightful king of the world who has already conquered the power of tyranny, and inaugurated a new kingdom where death no longer has the ultimate power.
A proper theology of Revelation needs this apocalyptic edge to remind us of the temporality of the power structures of the earth, and how they are all called into question, without appropriating meaningfully the political power of the gospel, founded in the theology of revelation, we’ll either submerge ourselves into quietism, or take up arms and equate political revolution with the gospel.
Looking to the Crucified Lamb for the source of our political theology centers our critique of the empires that be in and with the church, instead of playing by the power systems of the world. We are a people of the promise that the world will be set right, and when we speak of revelation, it is not without this promise shaping the way we think, act and speak. This promise has already been granted vision to us in Jesus Himself, but continues on until the day of completion.