The theological significance of Ed Balls Day

ED Balls

Slow start this morning.  Still recovering from Ed Balls Day.

It didn’t help with 28 April being on a Thursday this year but this didn’t stop thousands taking to the streets in celebration.

Left to myself I would keep the festival relatively low key but the rest of my family insist on giving it the full works.  And it’s exhausting.

It’s hard to believe that it was just five years ago when the then Shadow Chancellor managed to tweet his own name. Legend has it that Ed made a mistake – he thought he was simply searching for an article written about him.

At the time it seemed just like any other day.  Little did he know that his simple mistweet was to change the world.

And today the world is watching.

The New York Times for one:  “On Ed Balls Day, Britain Comes Together for an Unofficial Holiday” is the striking headline.

(You may need to read the article if for some strange reason Ed Balls day has past you by.

For at the risk of explaining humour, this is one huge in-joke, impenetrable to those outside our culture and no doubt to future generations.

For as the Daily Mirror observes: It’s the most joyous day of the political calendar – proving once and for all that the internet CAN be funny without being mean spirited.”

At the present my Bible reading notes (BRF Guidelines) are taking me through the last book in the Bible

It’s very difficult to get a handle on “the Revelation to John.”  Over the centuries it has been mined for all kinds of extravagant predictions and lurid claims.

The problem is that we don’t get it style of writing called apocalyptic, found here and in just a few passages in the Gospels.

As the BRF commentator writes:  “Jesus and his first followers were clearly familiar with the conventions and meanings of this kind of symbolic language, which was common in their world.”   All the references, for example, to the seven stars and seven golden lamp stands will have been obvious to them – but not to us.

The BRF notes continue:  “Unlike other apocalyptic writing, Revelation is written to a very specific situation – and the details of this are lost to many readers.  Although some parts of the book have very general application, other parts (especially the seven messages) make very particular references which John’s first readers would have easily understood.”

So this morning I read again John’s condemnation of the Nicolaitans, in his messages to both the churches at Ephesus and Pergamum.   Now we have no idea who these Nicolaitans were and what they taught.  And there is simply no way of working this out.

Except whoever they were, avoid them.

So we read the book of Revelation with humility and an awareness that we may not readily get it, like those wondering about all the fuss surrounding Ed Balls Day.

However, what this wonderful book offers is a ‘worked example’ of what it means to live out the gospel in a hostile environment.  Here we have what it means to be “a faithful witness to Jesus in a cultural and ideological context that resists his claims.”

For many of these early Christians had reached a tipping point in their relationship with the might of the Roman Empire.   As long as they stayed within the Jewish community they were relatively safe for the Romans had reluctantly given the Jews certain privileges which exempted them from Emperor worship.  But once they stepped outside the synagogue, they were on their own.

Except they weren’t.  For Jesus is with us – “he walks among the seven golden lamp stands.”  And he is our security – “he holds the seven stars in his right hand.” (2:1)

So this book is a great resource as we seek to be authentic disciples in a fast-changing culture in which God is increasingly sidelined and Jesus domesticated.
And of course, it culminates in John’s wonderful vision of God’s glorious future, of a new heaven and a new earth.   There is no way that our minds can grasp this.  Words can no longer convey this truth; it is way beyond the reach of our furthest imagination.  All we can do is anticipate in joy and wonder

For we serve the Jesus who says:  “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 22:13)