This summer, my family and I visited the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington D.C. To escape the constant thunderstorms, we took shelter in a fake structure designed to look like a cave. One side was made up of a large piece of glass. Half of the glass was submerged under water, showing us animals swimming inside. We stood there for awhile, watching two sea lions dart around the water tank in circles. They would swim by us quickly, as if they were saying hello to us. They then swam as fast as they could to the other side of the tank and we could no longer see them. They circled like this over and over again. We were mesmerized by their speed, agility, and grace. My kids loved that they seemed to know we were there. We watched them. They played around with us. And, for a moment, our perceptions, viewpoints, and realities danced with each other.
When the bible mentions seals, I instantly think of these kinds of animals. But I’m always wrong. In the bible, seals were emblems and symbols used to mark letters, packages, and other containers as being authentic and true. Vases were marked with a seal representing the ruler who owned it. A letter would have a little ball of melted wax shaped by a specific mold to show it came from a specific person. If the letter was opened, the seal would break. A seal was a sign that something (or someone) was authentic, unbroken, and tied to a specific lord or ruler. A seal showed who this item was from and who it belonged to.
Our reading from Revelation 7:9-17 today is a vision of what it looks like to be sealed by Christ. In our baptism, our forehead is marked with the sign of the cross. We are declared, in a very public way, as being someone who is authentically and materially part of Jesus Christ. We cannot earn this kind of declaration. None of us can ever be as perfect we should be. Instead, we are sealed in this way as a gift from Jesus himself. This seal is a promise that we do not live this life alone. Instead, we carry Christ with us no matter what. Like watching a seal swimming in a zoo, there are times when we cannot see Jesus. He might be on the otherwise of the tank that is our life. But he is never as far as we think he is. He is always just around the corner. He will meet us, challenge us, and change us with a love that can never be undone. And that love is a love that even death cannot break.
Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for All Saints’ Sunday, 11/05/2017.