Friday, November 2, 2012


Who's that writin?
John the Revelator
Who’s that wrtin?
John the Revelator?
Who’s that writin?
Jon the Revelator
He wrote the book of the seven seals....

                       * * * * 

A good pair of jeans and anew sweater....

Martin, his daughter and her boyfriend are here.  Seems that Nayelli’s house was split by a falling tree. The family dog was injured, everyone else safe. But the contract is on the shelf for the moment...

A sense of dejavu as the boiler is balking and a feeling of cold seeps into the church. Calls and some Internet work tell us that the boiler company is in a part of Brooklyn that was underwater. Their phone is not answering. Their server down. The plumbing company that secured the boiler company isn’t answering either. 

Danielle arrives accompanied by her husband Nate and RL meets Nate for the first time. 

We’re taking turns checking it out. Stephen, Teddy, Marc...all mystified. We call in Tony from Sanctuary and he’s mystified too. We search the Internet for manuals, anything that could help. Phone calls made to anyone who might be able to figure it out. Martin will get by with space heaters. We want to use kerosene heaters fro our sanctuary, but the fuel is gone.

Kimberley arrives. It’s time for our weekly supervisory session and preparing for tonight’s journey through Revelation. As we’re preparing,Karen comes in and plays her music. 

I step outside. An old man who looks like the  actor Stephen Mckinley Henderson looks at me, looks at the jeans and sweater, looks at me again. I nod. When I come back later, the sweater is gone. 

(The real life actors tend to show up next door at Barney Greengrass. On the first day of  post Sandy, Richard Kind of HBO’s Luck was there....)

Ramon is talking ballet with Martin. Wants to remove some rows of pews for his perfomance for the church. (’s for Sanctuary. West-Park is the church..)

Lilly and Glen are working on gathering clothes and other items for local relief. When someone had called and asked Teddy if we were doing anything, he'd said that we were broke. And I told him, even if we're broke, we still have to do what we can...

Kimberely has brought her colleague Ashley from Union to be anther reader. I”m happy to learn she’s not only Presbyterian but from Pittsburgh. And I know how hard that is. 

OK. Time for Revelation...The sanctuary is darkened except for candlelight. As people come to join the circle in the front, the sound of  Curtis Stigers and the Forest Rangers singing John the Revelator fills the sanctuary followed by Son House’s acapella original. Then from the four corners of the sanctuary, Kimberley, Ashley, Glen and I walk to the circle silently. We are wearing simple albs, carrying candles. 

Bob, Ashley
Ashley, Kimberley, John
We sit. And begin. Kimberley has prepared a script dividing the book for four readers. About halfway through, we take a break for cider, wine, cupcakes, cookies. Then with silence, begin again. As the book comes to a close...the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.... Government Mule’s version of John the Revelator fills the Sanctuary. 

It’s been a journey. Confession: I have never before in 36 years of ministry read this book through. To be honest, it comes across as flat out strange. A Facebook friend had posted objecting to our flyer, the scariest book of the Bible...Not he scariest, he wrote, the most beautiful...’s whirling, swirling hallucinogenic imagery is like a hurricane of words. It is clearly an anguished cry from  time of extreme persecution and oppression. Clearly a warning against being seduced by the trappings of empire. And yes, part violent revenge fantasy. You hear lines that have made their way into the Messiah, funeral liturgies, and culture high and low. From the Omen to Ingmar Bergman's Seventh Seal.  From the apocalyptic imagery of the  Battle Hymn of the Republic to Bob Marley and Chant down Babylon.  And of course Son House. And then from the whirlwind, the simple reassurance of :

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow or crying,neither shall there be any  more pain: for the former things are passed away....

Is it enough? Jamie has trouble getting past the violence, the misogyny,and what sounds like anti-Semitism. And those reactions are right. And shouldn’t be answered by apologetic. But every generation and every people  seems to have to live through its own apocalyptic moments. Genocides, wars, disasters. Apocalypse is always with us.

One of our audience members asks if this will be an annual event. Hmmmm....

Who’s that writin?
John the Revelator. 
He wrote the book of the seven seals. 

On my way home, the jeans are gone too.

                    * * * *
Big thanks to Kimberley De Bus for her creation of the reading script. The reading takes approximately 90 minutes. For more information on the script, write

Bob, Ashley, Kmberely, Glen

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