The Four Horsemen: Conflict, War, Famine, Death
In my church, over the great/main entrance doors, there is a triptych window of the Revelation of John. At the base of that image, center panel, is an image of a lamb bearing the standard of God. It is seated on a book/scroll from which seven gold seals hang from seven red ribbons. I see it every Sunday, each time I lift my eyes up from the congregation. It's there. All the time.
I used to see this chapter as one to dread. The four living creatures call out for the lamb, in John's visions, to break the seals. This is the beginning of the end of things, at least that is how I grew up understanding this book of the Bible. With so many friends from more fundamentalist traditions, the concept of end-times and the imagery associated with the signs expected to accompany them were ever-present in our imaginations. How terrifying to be around in that moment, when the scroll that the One on the throne is holding is taken be the worthy lamb, Lion of Judah and Scion of David, and in the breaking of seals....well....you get the picture, right? Here is comes....all we need now is that heavy, soul-shaking trumpet sound that Hollywood likes to add to the soundtrack to indicate peril on a global scale and none of us will ever be able to sleep soundly again!
It was not until much later that I was invited to see this vision of John's as something that was not so much a foreshadowing of end-times so much as a recognition that all of this is happening in the here and now. Look around us and see...is there Conflict? War? Famine? Death? These horsemen are always in our midst, cantering alongside humanity as we stumble through life seeking meaning, hope and reconciliation with God. What John sees is the sign, with all senses alert, that God continues to be the One who is worthy, as well as the One who offers us time and space to see, mark, learn and inwardly digest amendment of life and adherence to the Divine Will. There is less to fear wit regard to the end-time that lies just beyond our perception and reason. What we are to be mindful of, and connected to, is the call to action as the horsemen ride in our midst. What are we doing to confront them? To take them on and prevail for life and hope in the face of their mission to break down and erode?
We are called, as we are soon to learn, to step up. We are called to challenge the status quo of the world and to strive for God's justice. We are called to care for those afflicted by the work of the four, recognize our participation in their agency and act to ensure that there is a counter to their presence in the world. Conflict will be undone by reconciliation. War will be undone by forging peace. Famine will be tamed when we feed the hungry from the bounty ever at our fingertips and seldom shared. Death has been overcome in the resurrection of the Christ.
I used to fear the time when those four grim beings would ride across the world, the time when the end was near. Now I realize, they are signs that we as the Church are still blessed with work to do, people to serve and a witness to make. In the name of Christ, Amen.....