I had the privilege of delivering a sermon titled "The Honour and Glory of the Ethnicities" at a local church. Witnessing the positive reception from the congregation, I am sharing the essence of that message on this platform, hoping that it will be of value to some of our readers.
In Revelation 21:22-27, we encounter a profound and captivating image. The New Jerusalem, the city of the future, is depicted without a temple, for its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb. There's no need for the sun or the moon to provide light, as the glory of God itself illuminates the city, and the Lamb serves as its lamp. The nations will walk by this divine light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Its gates will never be closed, and there will be perpetual light.
At first glance, one might focus on the kings and people entering this new city. However, upon closer examination, we realize that these individuals are not empty-handed; they bring their own glory. This particular aspect of the passage is intriguing. In the Bible, the terms "glory" and "honour" are often associated with God. Yet here, we see mention of "the glory and the honour of the nations." This compelled me to delve into the meaning of this concept.
First and foremost, it's important to acknowledge that in the original Greek version of the passage, John uses the word "ethnicity" rather than "nation." Therefore, for greater accuracy, it should read: "the glory and the honour of the ethnicities." In the first-century Palestinian world, the concept of a nation-state as we understand it today did not exist.
While material wealth is certainly part of "the glory and the honour," these phrases primarily refer to the cultural richness of each ethnicity. This includes their cultural practices, wisdom, and knowledge. Each ethnic group contributes their cultural practices and perspectives as they enter the New Jerusalem, glorifying God through their cultural gifts. They enter the city not as culture-less entities, but as fully cultural beings, and their cultural contributions are recognized as glory and honour – essential elements that enhance the city's richness and bring glory to God. Of course, any negative or harmful cultural practices are left behind, and no practices of abomination or falsehood are allowed into the new city.
It's important to recognize that we are all cultural beings, and those most exposed to their own cultural group sometimes believe that their practices and perspectives are universal. Some even consider only their practices as truthful and biblical. Consequently, they may view the cultural practices of other ethnic groups negatively and even as sinful. However, those exposed to diverse ethnic groups tend to have greater tolerance for different cultural practices. Nonetheless, they may not always see these practices as gifts that can enrich and transform them.
In this context, Revelation 21's vision is both profound and powerful. It welcomes and celebrates the best cultural practices of all ethnicities, recognizing them as glory and honour. In this new city, these practices enrich the community and bring glory to God. The New Jerusalem becomes a place of intercultural worship, where people praise God as fully cultural beings.
I hope our church communities embrace this powerful vision, becoming places of intercultural worship where people's cultural practices are seen as gifts that enrich everyone. Imagine the beauty of Dutch CRC members appreciating the art, dance, music, and cultural practices of various Indigenous communities as glory and honour. Consider the profound encounters where Canadian Korean CRC members ask African descent Canadians to share their experiences so that they can deepen their understanding of God. Envision gatherings where each CRC ethnic group shares their glory and honour, enriching and transforming one another, and glorifying God.
So, regardless of your cultural background, bring your full cultural self and practices to our churches. You don't need to leave them at the door; rather, bring them to enrich all of us.