Excerpt from Revelation 7:9-17
"After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands….Then [the elder] said to me, 'These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.'"
Quinn G. Caldwell
You can't blame John for getting it a little wrong. I think it must be because he lived so long ago. I mean, they didn't have mylar back when he was writing, so you can't blame him for mistaking what he saw.
How could he have known he was looking at the finish line of the Boston Marathon? He lived so long ago, and he got just a glimpse. So you can't blame him for not knowing that the great throng was all wrapped up in the mylar blankets they give out when you've finished the race, the light bounding blinding white off of them. You can't blame him for thinking they were holding palm branches instead of what they were really holding: victors' wreaths—every single one of them.
But he got one thing right: They had striven peacefully for so long, worked so hard at something that ennobles bodies and minds, and they had passed through a great ordeal. And their clothes had indeed been washed in the blood of the innocent. So God granted John a vision he did not understand and told him to pass it on to us.
And then I looked, and I saw them with their sneakers and their racing chairs, the Nigerians and the Americans, the fast and the slow, the runners and the spectators, all wrapped in the symbols of their victory. And Krystle, and Martin, and Lu Lingzi were there, whole and sound. And they were standing on the New Boylston Street, paved in gold as pure as glass and running straight through the heart of the New Boston, where mourning and crying and pain and bombs in backpacks were no more. And God had wiped every tear from every eye.
God, I don't know how you're going to do it, but you promised you would. You promised. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is Pastor and Teacher at Plymouth Congregational Church, UCC, in Syracuse, New York, and co-editor, with Curtis J. Preston, of the Unofficial Handbook of the United Church of Christ, published by The Pilgrim Press.