One of the first things we might want to do as we are studying Revelation 22:1-7 for Sunday, August 21 is just try to get clearly in our minds, in some detail, the scene that is being described. Notice the details the text uses. Notice what details might need to be, or would be, added in experience. For instance, what are we seeing when we see a river clear as crystal? Does it look like the Ohio River (the one I see most often, so the one I think of), only clear to the riverbed? Or are we picturing something different? What? Do we hear it? Can we feel it – put our hands in it, for instance? Is it cold, or warm, or what? Can we taste it? Does it smell like anything to us?
Likewise with the trees: tall? Big? More like birch or more like chestnut or … ? The leaves … spring green, deep green, smooth, round, ruffly … ? If we were walking through it, what would we see? If we were artists, what would we paint? How does the light … look? Early morning? Noon? Different?
This is reading as if the words on the page are meant to communicate an experience, and recognizing that “experience” is an extremely dense word: sensory, and lots of senses simultaneously. It’s also a first step in recognizing what the text is communicating to us – what it’s bringing to our minds eyes, and to our hearts. Then, we could think about what all that means to us, and why that is. For instance, are there any details that surprise us? What are they? What do they say to us?
The details we fill in come from somewhere in our own experience, of course – we might want to notice from where, and what that says to us about what we are bringing to the meaning of this text.
[For instance, when I think of the clear river, I realize that I think of the water in the fountain in the central court of Bullock’s department store that we used to see on those special occasions when we want downtown to shop when I was a child. Which sounds mundane, but … now that I remember it … that wasn’t how it felt. How it felt was wondrous.]
Some notes on the text are here. Here are a couple of additional questions we might want to think about or discuss:
We also might want to think about what some of the evocative words in the text communicate at an “abstract” or metaphorical level. For instance, what does “clear” mean to us? [Pure? Clean? Beautiful? What … ?] What about “water”? What about “life”? That is – when we look at it, what are all the things that the text is saying to us in this way?
What are our thoughts and feelings about this message? Why?
There are three important verbs that apply to the servants of God in the text: “worship,” “see [God’s face],” and “reign.” What actions are normally involved in those verbs? What seems to be different about them in this new setting? What are our thoughts and feelings about each of those? Why?
[More personal] Does one of those verbs appeal to us more than the rest? Which one? Why is that, do we think? What would that mean to us? What do we learn about ourselves from noticing all this?
[Also more personal, but also about language] What is verse 7 telling us to do? Are we doing it? Why, or why not?
Overall, we probably want to spend some time looking at how this text affects us, and why it affects us that way. And then thinking about what impact that seems meant to have on our thinking, feeling, and acting here and now. We could also spend some time thinking about what it means to us and for us that this text is an image of the greatest imaginable good. Looking at our responses to that image may also show us something good to know about ourselves.