Sunday School: The River of Life
We're so happy you decided to join us today!
Next week, we will not be meeting in person. Instead, we will be at Cross Creek Park in West Middletown for our picnic with Upper Buffalo. We hope to see you there!
When we meet in person, we share our joys and concerns together. Consider the last couple of weeks. What worries did you have, or what were you grateful for? If you would like, you can share prayer requests as a comment to this post. When you are ready, use this prayer (based on this one by Gill Le Fevre) to get started.
As trees are rocked and shaken by storms and strong winds, so we find ourselves challenged and tested. We bring before you now our worries and concerns that threaten to upend us.
Steadfast God, the Tree of Life is the breath of life. Sustain us, we pray, and give us peace.
The leaves of the Tree are for healing the nations. There are so many places today that need this help. Grant them all your peace and healing.
The branches of the Tree stretch out, sharing your abundance and love. We pray for the opportunities to stretch out in our lives and share your love with those around us. Guide and encourage each one of us as we strive to do your work in the world.
The Tree bears fruit, ripe each month, bringing food and reassurance. We pray for those around the world who do not have sufficient food, struggling in famine or poverty. We pray for those worrying about the resources they need, fearing or dealing with scarcity. Bring aid and support to all those in need.
The roots of the Tree give strength and endurance, fed by the water that flows from the sanctuary. Your love and teaching brings us the guidance and support we need. Thank you for leading us in our days and showing us how you would have us live. Thank you for the confidence we can have in your love for each one of us.
The Tree of Life stands tall in your creation. We give thanks for all the trees, beautiful in their diversity. Guide us to take better care of the natural world, and preserve and restore it for generations to come.
The Tree of Life is the breath of life. Sustain us, we pray, and give us peace.
This week's lesson is on Revelation 22:1-7.
A feature of the New Jerusalem drawn from the Old Testament is the tree of life. This mysterious tree is referred to in three books in the Bible. It first appears as an important part of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9; 3:22). A tree of life is also mentioned four times in the book of Proverbs as a metaphor for divine wisdom (3:18), the fruit of righteousness (11:30), desire fulfilled (13:12), and properly used tongue (15:4). We should note that this is a tree of life, not the tree of life. The tree of life mentioned in Revelation is a primary feature of “the paradise of God”. Some have referred to this paradise as Eden restored, as people eat the fruit of the tree with God’s blessing.
Water is closely associated with this tree in today’s lesson. The image of water is used in both physical and spiritual senses in the Bible. In a physical sense, fresh water has as its opposite water that is brackish (bitter). Fresh water sustains life, brackish water - or lack of water altogether - yields the opposite. The ultra-salty Dead Sea is aptly named! The prophets Ezekiel and Zechariah had visions that bear similarities to John’s vision of the New Jerusalem. A feature of the city foreseen by Ezekiel and Zechariah was a river flowing out off it. The water of this river is so refreshing that it not only nourish life; it changes the ultra-salty Dead Sea into a freshwater lake.
In revelation, the concept of spiritual water includes the property of eternal life. Such water is seen as a divine gift, and ever-flowing fountain that provides life to those who drink from it.
Many things have clearly defined beginnings and ends. Transcending all our starts and stops of life is the timelessness of God, who was there at the beginning and will be there at the end. He is the Alpha and Omega, with an enduring nature that stretches beyond the range of human understanding.
All this is illustrated by the New Jerusalem, a city to feature a physical size that is beyond our comprehension. It will be a city with unending day, an ever-flowing river of life, an ever-bearing tree of life, ceaseless worship and priceless building materials. It will be ever new.
Such will be our relationship with the Lord. That relationship will be eternally consistent, pure, and true. Yet this description fails to describe the relationship fully, for there is a limitlessness on God’s side. Nonetheless, we are blessed by John’s revelation to us of his visions. May we be faithful in keeping the lessons we learn.
Father, we barely understand the marvels of your promised holy city, a place where you will provide all the light we need for our eyes and hearts. May we hold these promises tightly so that when your son returns, he will find us faithful and ready. We pray this in his name. Amen.
Thought to Remember
Seek and share the living water now!
Our benediction this week is from the New Revised Standard Version.
Next week's lesson will be on Revelation 22:10-21.
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We are a small, rural Presbyterian church in southwestern Pennsylvania.