“No More Night”

Rev 21-1/Jn14

In the Name of God: Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. Amen.

Today is Mexican Independence Day. By this evening, New York bars will be packed with folks who will be keen to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Even Murray Hill—formerly a sedate neighborhood of retirees from the Garment District—even our neighborhood will be attracting revelers to our numerous watering holes.

Of course, in ancient times, there was no such thing as “nightlife.” Indeed, for most of human history, the few sources of light that were available – like oil lamps – were expensive and not very effective.

No wonder ancient peoples feared the night. City gates were locked at sundown to prevent thieves and marauders from entering. When the sun set, people locked their doors and went to bed.

We have to appreciate the conditions of life in pre-electric times if we want to understand a portion of today’s reading from the Revelation of St. John the Divine. The lesson describes John’s vision of heaven.

In his vision, John sees a heavenly Jerusalem. This Jerusalem is different from the earthly city. For one thing, it has no temple, because in Heaven, God can be perceived directly, without any need for an intermediary house of worship.

As for illumination when the sun goes down, John writes that, “the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Its gates will never be shut by day–and there will be no night there.”

Today, we inevitably read this passage differently. Electricity allows us to combat natural darkness. Streetlamps can be turned on, and people can walk on the streets whenever they want.

Yet, even for us modern people, night and day can remain as different as—well, as different as night and day! Nights are still times for risky behavior. Emergency room personnel dread Saturday nights because they know that they’ll have to treat victims of bar fights.

Even the well-behaved may dread the nocturnal hours. We are afraid that we’ll wake up in the middle of the night—and we fear that when we do wake up, our thoughts will be as dark as the sky.

Night can also be a test of faith. We don’t have the usual distractions of work and chores to occupy our minds. We start to brood about our problems.

This is, I think, the main reason why the first readers of the Book of Revelation were so struck by John’s vision of the heavenly Jerusalem. If they could live in a city where there was no night, they would be free from night thoughts!

And this freedom wouldn’t just come courtesy of the celestial lighting! In Heaven, we will be able to discern God’s presence and the troubling darkness of night on earth will be replaced by divine assurance.

What, then, does John’s vision have to say to us? Recall that reassuring advice that you might have heard from your parents when you were a child and you woke up in the middle of the night after having a bad dream.

Your parents would say, “It’s alright—just go back to sleep. Things always look better in the morning.”

Here is where John’s vision can govern our own personal visions. Our goal as Christians can be to let the heavenly light counter-balance our night thoughts.

Easier said than done, you might say. One result of living in a city that never sleeps is that night thoughts seem all the more intrusive.

We sometimes deceive ourselves into thinking that we can get rid of them simply by flipping a light switch or turning on the TV.

But this distraction doesn’t always work. There are times in this life when the sun rises and we find that things don’t look better.

But, after all, St. John’s vision isn’t about earthly light. In fact, we might infer from the vision that worries only disappear when our souls are inspired by the divine.

But how to we do this? What’s the key to unlock the door of the Celestial City?

One way to proceed is by means of what we might call, “spiritual light therapy.” Recent research indicates that people who feel down when autumn comes and the days get shorter are sometimes helped by sitting under strong lamps. The extra doses of light trick their bodies into thinking that it’s summertime.

By analogy, spiritual light therapy tries to counter inner darkness by an extra shot of religion!

We don’t need to be mechanical about this; going to church ten times a day won’t help your spiritual problems.

But in general, we’re most likely to find divine light in church or in prayer. These times, we can direct our problems to God instead of letting them spin endlessly inside our heads.

As a token gesture toward that end, I will offer to any of you who wants one a free copy of the Episcopal publication Forward Day By Day. Take one on your way out this morning. Forward Day by Day is a devotional guide that provides a verse from Scripture, and a brief meditation on the text written by various authors, for every day of the year. Try this dose of religion, if you like—at least, it’s something to read if you can’t sleep!

“There will be no night” in Heaven. But we’re not in Heaven yet, and even the marvels of technology can’t eliminate times of darkness.

Still the Lord who is the light of Heaven can help us on earth. As the Psalm says, the Lord “neither slumbers nor sleeps.” God is always with us, and because he is with us, we may find that things do look better in the morning!

And now unto that same God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be ascribed as is most justly due all might, majesty, power, dominion, and praise, now and forever. Amen.


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