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63. Caught in a crowd

Some years ago, on New Year’s Eve, Robert and I went down to Big Ben to join the celebrations in London. I have been in large crowds where you shuffle forward with your eyes fixed on the back of the person in front. Or I’ve stood behind tall people, moving my head in the opposite direction whenever they shifted theirs.

This was quite different. We were packed together tightly, standing still. By this time no one was going anywhere. The atmosphere was cheerful. There was a bit of jostling but nothing to worry about. The police presence was benevolent and watchful. No physical distancing to be enforced. No high terrorist alert. We had a good view of Big Ben as midnight struck, but did not see the fireworks – although we heard them. We left soon after. I was just slightly anxious about losing Robert in the throng.

This was so different from the crowds we saw on January 6th 2021 in the storming of the United States Capitol. This was a crowd that had come together for a purpose. They were ideologically motivated, as though this was their destiny to be there, they were ‘fighting’ for a cause. People were dressed and equipped for combat. Emotions were running high. Violence and frustration were in the air. The sounds of angry shouting, aggressive chanting, smashing of windows, banging on doors, even gunshot could be heard. There was nothing attractive about this. The world gazed in disbelief.

Contrast this with the beautiful ‘crowd’ of 200,000 flags in the National Mall, for the inauguration of President Biden, two weeks later. They represented the people who could not stand there to witness the ceremony because of the pandemic, but also because of security restrictions – utterly silent but waving in the wind.

These crowds are all so different from the picture of the vast crowd gathering around the throne and before the Lamb at the end of time as we read in Revelation chapter 7. As ever, the language is expansive and graphic, the images are hard to grasp. 

This crowd is a great multitude that no one can count. It is made up of people from every nation, every tribe, every people group, every language. They are all wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. The white robes have been washed in blood – these people have been caught in great suffering. The palm branches are not weapons or banners. They remind us of the welcome Jesus had as he rode into Jerusalem. The crowds are singing praises to God, so diverse that they sing in different languages.

Gallons of ink have been spilled and, more recently, millions of words typed onto a keyboard to explain John’s vision. At the very least we can allow our imaginations to see a vast international gathering, united with just one purpose, the worship of God and the Lamb. Here there is no discord, no fear, no discomfort, no ulterior motive and no time pressure, no silence but an indescribable chorus of beautifully raised voices. No one will be thinking of leaving.

Although we are told what these people are wearing, we do not know what they look like or what form they have taken. We don’t need to know. This is all beyond our grasp. But to wonder at all nations gathered in worship is to celebrate the life that awaits all those who die in Christ. Our experience of the worldwide church gives us just a whisper of what is to come. We are invited to gaze with our minds’ eye! And Robert is somehow already caught up in all this! To lose anyone in this crowd would not make me anxious. They are not lost.

This is my story and a work in progress. I wrote this on 23rd January 2021

7 thoughts on “63. Caught in a crowd

  1. Yes…I love that last sentence. People say to those left behind, ‘sorry for your loss’, because we do lose the physical presence of whoever died, we do lose the reminiscing, the continuing conversations, the opportunity to (if necessary) put things right. We have lost some things, but we have not lost someone. They are not lost, they are found. Much love, Sarah 

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    1. Thanks Sarah. I know it is playing with words but I don’t like associating the word ‘loss’ with death, but prefer ‘absence’. Those who have died in Christ are not losers but gainers or winners. But they clearly very absent from this life/

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  2. Yet another chapter of thoughts, this time bringing together so beautifully the events of heaven and earth. Thank you Ro, inspirational. With love Rachael

    On Mon, Jan 25, 2021, 11:53 AM Sudden death… then what? wrote:

    > rowilloughby posted: ” Some years ago, on New Year’s Eve, Robert and I > went down to Big Ben to join the celebrations in London. I have been in > large crowds where you shuffle forward with your eyes fixed on the back of > the person in front. Or I’ve stood behind tall people, mov” >

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  3. Thanks Ro; this is great! I love the imaginative connection between three crowds, and the confidence that Robert is already participating!

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  4. I love this mum! What beautiful biblical imagery you use so cleverly to contrast with the experiences of modern times.

    And yes, dad is caught up in that worshipful mix!

    Love you
    ________________________________

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