10th Sunday after Pentecost – August 13, 2017
Revelation 4:1-11 and John 17:1-5
There are so many things that bring us to a sense of awe and wonder, and these same things that fill us with awe and wonder are so often clearly created by God. Think of the northern lights, a pink sunrise, a brightly coloured lily, some lovely rugged mountains, a waterfall; they all speak of God’s splendour. Many God-like attributes can be found in human beings as well, even if obviously diminished. You see them in humans’ diverse and unique abilities, interests, inventions, love of beauty, art, design and science. One attribute is that, universally, no matter their culture or time, humans like to laugh; we are continuously seeking and creating humour.
Along these lines an atheist asked a preacher: “Do you honestly believe that Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish?”
Says the preacher: “I don’t know, sir, but when I get to heaven, I’ll ask him.”
Upon which the atheist replied: “But suppose Jonah isn’t in heaven?”
The preacher answered: “Then you ask him.”
Although Revelation is usually seen as a book of destruction, God’s fundamental identity is that of Creator. The scene in Revelation chapter four anticipates the outcome of the book, where God’s purposes culminate in new creation. The words “holy, holy, holy” and the images of casting down crowns by heaven’s glassy sea have inspired many of the hymns we use in worship. Revelation functions rightly when it invites us into worship too; which we do as we add our voices to the song.
As we venture into a four-part series on the Book of Revelation from today until September 3, I propose to strive towards instilling some renewed vision into our hearts and minds as Dayspringers, and I’m sure we are open to such a thing. It isn’t my vision, I believe it is God’s vision as the series will follow the key pieces that are built upon the gospel message that is to be found in the Book of Revelation.
We start off with “God the creator.” Everything was created perfect by God and we can only worship God for being the supreme and ultimate One from whom and to whom all honour and glory belongs. Then the Fall came, where the serpent tricked Adam and Eve into the mess that started right there for centuries. So the second part of the series will be about “Christ the Lamb” who redeemed this fallen creation to restore it into its orignal glory. So it’s first Creation, then the Fall and the subsequent Redemption, which the series will treat as one: Fall and Redemption through Christ. The third part is about “Orderliness under threat” which I’d prefer to call the fourth unnamed chapter out of five, a chapter that we are currently writing. Then in the fourth part we head right towards “Promise and Hope” described as the New Jerusalem.
But now, today…
Just before we focus on “God as the Creator”, the Book of Revelation has a significant background to bear in mind. It is written as “resistance literature.” The resistance is right in the middle of the Roman Empire. At it widest, the Roman Empire stretched from Britain to the Euphrates River (in Western Asia) and from the Danube to North Africa. The great problem was to get one unifying principle. That principle was found in Caesar worship. Christians knew Christ was Lord and would not accept the practice and were considered disloyal citizens. Christians were under attack. 1)
The Emperor Domitian ordered all official proclamations to begin with the formulae recognizing his deity ‘our lord and god orders this to be done.’ The aim was to consolidate the empire. To refuse to worship the emperor was treason. Patmos was used as a place of exile to which prisoners could be sent. 2)
Domitian, who ruled the Roman Empire from A.D. 81 to 91, was the first Roman emperor who tried to make Christians worship the emperor as a god. The struggle of the church begins against the enemies of God. 3)
It initially appears as if everything is being annihilated, as if the whole world is being destroyed. Nothing will be left. There were many believers who were living in complete oblivion and complacency, think that all is good. This is where John writes this letter of the Book of Revelation to shake the believers out of their comfort zone, and also to assure those who felt totally insecure, that there is one constant, and this is that God the Creator still rules. This is a solid promise which instills hope. It gives the Christ-follower a sense of hope.
Remember what I mentioned earlier. This is resistance literature. If the authorities knew what was being written here, it would put the believers in Christ at risk. This is why John uses coded language, leaning heavily on the Old Testament imagery. This was language that only the faith community would be able to understand. Picture language is used here, not to conceal, but to reveal. It discloses the character of God, the character of Christ, the character of the faith community and the character of the hope that is promised. This indeed is a book of hope!
This promise of hope is why it is so very important to bow down and to worship God. This is what we do every single Sunday. This is the beautiful work that our Worship Arts Coordinator, Gord as well as Binu and many more guide us towards. We are accompanied to be able to worship God! God is the source of our existence and we can’t do anything if it wasn’t for God.
Revelation chapter four inspires the believer to worship the God of yesterday, today and tomorrow. This is why the chapter culminates with the words:
“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honour and power,
for You created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.”
Let us know and be assured that amidst all the awful things that are going on in this world, like superpowers threatening each other with war, religions being at odds with one another, bullies making life impossible for others, there is eventually only One God and Creator of all things whom we are invited to worship.
All that we do here at Dayspring has so much more meaning when we know what our purpose is. Our Mission starts right within the four walls of this building when we educate our children and when we equip them in their faith. Our Mission goes further when we reach out and encourage the sick and the dying, the neeedy and the poor. Let us always remember our purpose. To God be the glory!
- The Men, The Meaning, The Message by William Barclay.
- The Cambridge Bible Commentary on The Revelation of John.
- The Learning Bible
Copyright 2017 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church
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