Beyond the Lectionary Text: Revelation 12:1-17

by Marc Nelesen

Special Handling Instructions: Revelation’s Imagery

Older preaching audiences are going to be more challenged by Revelation’s images than younger ones. Younger audiences have been shaped by apocalyptic television and movie images which include tsunamis higher than skyscrapers, seismic yawns that swallow whole cities, and asteroids whose impact effectively uncreate creation. Younger hearers have had an early childhood curriculum that has made them spectators to airplanes flying into towers, school massacres, and precision drone strikes. They have had a front-row seat on apocalyptic events and need no explanation. Meaning is found over time by the slow absorption that comes through lingering. They are familiar with the script of taking time to interpret; that interpretation is much different than another generation’s need to have something explained. Wise preachers might even choose to make this observation prior to reading the text.

Multigenerational congregations will not hear this text in the same ways, so you must be aware and address those differences. One of those differences may very well be that the preacher enacts the text in ways where hearers can hear it, see it, and experience it. Others in the listening audience may not care about the text’s images other than wanting those pictures translated into meaning. Those congregants who have more mileage often want to know what each image and symbol means, and might presume that each image has a specific and particular reference point. Those who preach and teach this text would be wise to know the tendencies of their hearers.

Entry points to the text and sermon

Introduction of important themes – teeing up the text

This sounds familiar, sort of…

God and politics

Closed and then opened

Illustration Idea