Revelation: For Progressive Christians

REVELATION –
For Progressive Christians
A Seven Session Study Guide
by 
Donald Schmidt
Wood Lake Books, Kelowna, BC
June, 2018. 98 pages. $15.00 CAD.
$9.67 CAD Kindle ISBN #978-1-77343-150-5
Publisher’s Promo:
More material has probably been written about the
biblical book of Revelation than the rest of the Bible
combined – or at least it can seem that way. What’s
more, people who write or talk about Revelation
often have a passion that defies all logic.
They speak vividly and forcefully about plagues, and
judgements, and the end of the world. All interesting
themes – but are they the real concern or message
of Revelation?
Revelation is a powerful book that was written a long
time ago to express a powerful message. Unfortunately,
so many people have played with it and interpreted it
and have found in it only the things they wanted to find,
it’s difficult to “hear” the original intent through all the
interpretation.
Yet, when we set aside the nonsense and speculation,
we find a story of God’s presence with a fractured and
frightened community, with a church that had no idea
what the future might hold, and with a people who
wondered if it was time to give up and abandon what
they believed – all of which makes Revelation a perfect
book to study in our own time and place, because so
many church communities today and so many of the
people who inhabit them are all of those things:
fractured and frightened, uncertain of what the future
might hold, wondering if we should just give up.
Revelation… for Progressive Christians is a seven-
session study guide that invites readers to explore
Revelation as a fun, hope-filled book that contains
a lot of fanciful imagery and symbolic references,
to be sure, but that, at its core, offers words of
assurance and hope to the church and its people today.
 
Author’s Bio:
Whenever he can choose what to do, Donald Schmidt
likes to spin wool, knit, and weave. In his spare time,
he also works in ministry in a variety of settings. He
has served parishes in Quebec, New York, Vermont,
Washington, and Hawai‘i. He has also worked as an
Associate Conference Minister with the United Church
of Christ, and is a retired United Methodist minister.
Perhaps his favorite ministry has been as an editor and
writer of church resources, for worship, education, and
church revitalization.
 
He has published 3 books, and has had a few pieces
of music appear in various collections around the world.
He also loves to travel, finding that visiting anywhere new
and different can open us up to learn new things about
others and, in the process, ourselves. He is a grandfather
of 8, and father of 3.

Author’s Words:

The book of Revelation is a powerful document that was
written a long time ago to express a powerful message.
Unfortunately, so many people have played with it,
interpreted it, and found in it the things they wanted to
find that it’s a little difficult to “hear” the original text
through all the noise of interpretation.

Sometimes, it seems like more material has been written
about Revelation than about the rest of the Bible combined!
What’s more, people who write or talk about Revelation do
so with a passion that defies all logic. They speak vividly
about plagues… and judgement, and the end of the world.
All impressive, but are they as dominant that many of those
people would have us believe?…

Whenever I have led study groups on Revelation in
progressive churches, they have been well attended.
People seem genuinely eager to know what this book is
“really” all about. When I led the study recently at my
church in Kelowna, British Columbia, we anticipated
about a dozen people, but over 30 showed up the first
week.

One of the attendees quipped, “I wonder if there would
be as many people here if Donald Trump hadn’t been
elected.”

We all laughed. But the comment says a lot about our
general perception of Revelation. We have all heard
stories about the end of the world, about some mythical
beast, or Antichrist with an odd number, about an abyss,
and about some people being chosen while others are
“left behind.”

In this study, I invite you to think about the possible
meanings of Revelation within the context in which it
was written. In other words, what did it mean to the
first people who read it? And what might it mean for us
today?

When we set aside much of the nonsense and speculation
from the last several decades, we find a story of God’s
presence with a fractured and frightened community,
with a church that had no idea about what the future
might hold, and with a people who wondered if it was
time to give up and abandon what they believed.

Against this reality, Revelation assures these people
that God will never abandon them… The overarching
message is about the presence of Christ as one who
will heal the problems of the earth and its peoples,
and who will offer a new age of inclusion.

In other words, Revelation is not about the end of the
world at some future date… It is possible to see
Revelation as a fun, hope-filled book… The bottom
line is that it was written at a time when it was
extremely dangerous to be a Christian… It was written
to provide hope and encouragement to people who
really needed it, and maybe it can still offer these
things today, as well as challenge us to reflect on how
we live now, as God’s people.

…You will always be encouraged to think for yourself.
So don’t be afraid of Revelation. Come with an open
mind and open heart, and listen to what God might be
saying to you.

Review by Dr. Wayne Holst

My Thoughts:

Eight years ago, our Monday Night Study at St. David’s focused
on Elaine Pagels’ book “Revelations – Visions, Prophecy and
Politics in the Book of Revelation.”

The study was well attended, and it was particularly satisfying
to see that even when I was unable to be there to co-lead the
group (due to cancer surgery and recovery) there was a lot of
enthusiasm and participation.

(see the design of that study from our ACTS Study web page)https://tinyurl.com/y9yl9hceOne lesson I learned from dropping in on the class when I could, was that Revelation is too good and important a book to ignore because of biblical literalists, noisy evangelists, and the havoc they sow!The study guide is divided into an introduction and seven sessions, with several appendices explaining symbolic language and a helpful bibliography. There is a lot of good information contained in less than 100 pages.This study can be adapted to small and larger group discussion, depending on circumstance. To my mind, the greatest value of a book like this is that it serves to provide an intelligent and serious approach to a biblical text that has not been treated very well over the centuries, and especially the last several decades.

         
Buy the book from Woodlake Books:
https://tinyurl.com/yd2c7twk

Buy the book from Amazon.ca:
https://tinyurl.com/yc93xjhn

 

Dr. Wayne Holst teaches religion and culture at the University of Calgary and  helps  to co-ordinate Adult Spiritual Development  at St. David’s United Church in that city.

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Colleagues List, Vol XIV. No.2. July 8, 2018

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