I, John, your brother who share with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. (Rev 1:9 NRSV)
Our Daily Office NT readings are, in this second week of Advent, from Revelation. This morning I was struck by a phrase in verse 9. The Apostle John writing to the 7 churches in Asia (modern day Turkey) identifies himself as brother or partner with the churches in The Persecution, Kingdom, and Endurance. I bolded "The" because the Greek uses a single definite article. A word by word translation of the phrase is "The affliction and kingdom and patience in Jesus". In essence the three words create a single thought. They reflect the shared reality of the churches in Asia and John in captivity.
Affliction, Kingdom, Endurance. When I read this phrase I immediately thought of the reality we live in as Christians in the Bay Area. Of course we are not persecuted but the task of spreading the Good News is more difficult here than elsewhere in the country. I was recently in Austin for a weekend and the spiritual climate there is so different I felt refreshed and encouraged when I came home. It was like being on a spiritual retreat. Of course our "affliction" is rather light weight compared to that of our brothers and sisters in Christ who face active persecution.
Who can forget Iraqi Christian Refugees who celebrated their hope in Christ by carrying with them a Nativity Set as they fled persecution and erecting it in the midst of their camp. Life in the Kingdom in the midst of persecution. How poignant.
Living in the Kingdom is the best response to "affliction". We lean into our hope, increase in endurance, and grow more Christlike.
This is the truth of our life in Christ whether our affliction is unemployment, disease, trauma, or religious persecution. The loss of a job or underemployment, as an example, pushes us into a personal wilderness where we can lean into our faith and grow in endurance.
John makes two basic points in this verse. One that is the Affliction, Kingdom, and Endurance should be held together in a single thought. If we face affliction without kingdom or endurance the affairs of this world can overwhelm us. Facing affliction in whatever form it comes while rooted firmly in our kingdom hope will grow our faith.
The second point is that we like the Apostle John, we are together in this reality. He could have described himself as an Apostle here but chose to identify as a brother, a co laborer, a colleague if you will. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. Affliction comes to all of us. We are together in this.