Text: Revelation 5: 11-14
I suspect that many of us have read C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia books or perhaps we have read Maurice Sendak’s book Where the Wild Things Are or you are a fan of science fiction and enjoy stories of time travel and alternate dimensions. For myself I enjoy puzzling out the different realities presented in the movie the Matrix or Christopher Nolan’s movies Inception and Interstellar.
What I think is that stories of different timelines, alternate worlds and parallel universes seem to capture and captivate the human imagination. We find such stories littered throughout science fiction and fantasy literature. Many movies pick up on the theme. Some do so for sheer entertainment, others to explore idea’s and the best of them do both.
Science fiction and alternate realities: books like Narnia and Where the Wild Things Are, the Matrix, Star Trek, movies about time travel. We like to escape, we find alternate realities in the fiction we read and the movies we watch. We remain curious about the possibility that there is an alternate world or universe to our own. Our children’s imaginations create wonderful scenario’s in which they play, often the rules of these worlds look nothing like our own.
We like to escape and push the concerns of our day to day lives aside. To forget, for a time, about our responsibilities, worries and cares. We know that those responsibilities aren’t going anywhere, but maybe we can enjoy a light-hearted moment or exist within another realm for a time. If you follow new technologies at all then you might be aware that within the past few weeks Virtual Reality googles and equipment have just been released allowing people to escape into other worlds.
Revelation is a book in the Bible which speaks to many people of an alternate reality. It speaks to an apocalyptic future, in the sense that society understands the word apocalyptic. Grim, desolate and without hope. However, this is not the future that Revelation speaks to. As we discussed last week Revelation is not about predicting future events beyond the return of Jesus Christ and it is not about a future world which has a bleak outlook.
Revelation speaks about God and what God has revealed in the historical event of Jesus Christ, who was crucified and is risen. In this sense it tells us less about the future than we think. In fact the big apocalyptic event lies behind us, not in front of us. The revelation of Jesus Christ is that he died and is risen. Revelation reminds us that he will come again. The big apocalyptic event that changed the world is that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. That is the apocalyptic event! Which is to say God revealed his plans for creation in the resurrection of Jesus. The cross event reveals God’s heart.
Remember that the Greek word apocalypsis means to reveal something right now, not at some future date. When John wrote his letter to those seven churches he was revealing to them the truth found in Jesus Christ, who was crucified and rose from the dead, and what that meant for them as new followers of Christ.
To us the symbol of the cross is a reminder of Jesus’ death and his subsequent resurrection. However, you have to realize just how odd a symbol this is. The cross is an instrument of torture and execution. You put people on a cross who were supposed to die. It is the equivalent of an executioner’s axe or the guillotine.
The early followers of Christ took the cross, a symbol of the Roman Empire’s power and how it dealt with anyone who challenged their authority and they subvert that authority. Instead of allowing it to strip them of power, they look to the cross and the resurrection and present it as a symbol of defiance. That Christ was crucified turns on its head typical notions of power and sacrifice. God isn’t supposed to die and the revelation is that Christ rises from the dead and changes everything.
John writes to the future coming of Christ that will restore creation and us as the Kingdom of God is reconciled. We work towards that future event. One sign of the coming kingdom is how the message of Jesus draws people from all walks of life together. Issues of race, social class, sex don’t matter. We are all drawn towards Christ, here in this sanctuary and in sanctuaries around the world.
In our passage this morning we note that everyone and everything is worshipping God. On Earth, in heaven, in the sea and under the earth. What do we associate with under the Earth, hell. Everyone and everything in all of creation is worshipping God. What we find in our short passage from revelation today are two ancient hymns of praise.
In short our passage from Revelation this morning is a reminder to worship God at all times. That when we do so we lend our voices to all other creatures in creation in offering up worship. These hymns of worship remind us that God is might and worthy of praise.
The world has a different idea about who or what is worthy of worship. Celebrities, sport stars, politicians, all of these are held up for us to worship and idolize. However, John reminds us that the one who is worthy of being worshipped is the Lamb, who is Jesus Christ.
Theologian Neal Plantinga once preached a sermon with the curious title “The Wrath of the Lamb.” We don’t usually expect lambs to roar any more than we could anticipate being frightened by a puppy or getting beat up by a baby who had just been baptized in a church service. Lambs, puppies, and babies inspire us to coo, to make exclamations of “Awww, how cute, how adorable, how cuddly!” Yet John gives us a Lamb that has been to hell and back, and if those scars are not enough to take us aback, there is also a fire burning now in that Lamb’s eyes–a fire that lets you know that an all-powerful Lion is in there, too. (Reference).
Friends, we are invited to worship the lamb. The lamb who will fight for us, who will protect us and who does all this because the lamb loves us. We are asked to bring hymns of praise before God and to do so with all of creation.
Some may look at us and think that we are foolish for worshiping God. That we live in a dream world for believing the words we find in scripture. However, we know the truth. Like Jesus we are both of this world and of the Kingdom of God. We live in our present reality, firmly rooted in the problems, concerns and cares of the world. As Christians our hearts are moved and we are called to action. We work in the world because we know that it is a sign of the Kingdom of God. A kingdom which is already here and yet still arriving. We work and we care because these actions are also a form of worship.
Friends, the apocalyptic event is found in the revelation that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead. Where do we express the joy of this revelation? Where is the victory of Jesus over the grave found? It is found in worship, where we discover and experience that God’s reign is already occurring. Revelation is about God’s final word and that word is not about division. It is about praise and a future which includes the coming Kingdom. Remember friends we worship the one who was, who is and who is to come, the Almighty. Amen.