Easter 3, 2016, Bunker Hill, Rev. 5:8-14
5:13 “To…the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and forever and ever!”
We’re only two weeks past celebrating Jesus’ resurrection, but what images of our Savior we still have. It was on Easter Sunday that our Lord broke out of a stone covered tomb, taking back his life and giving us the hope of resurrection. It was last Sunday that we heard of Jesus coming through wood and stone to stand in the midst of his frightened disciples. “Peace be with you,” he told them three times. This morning we read of Jesus encounter with Paul. Light flashed from heaven, knocking him to the ground. Jesus turned his chief opponent into his chief proponent of the Gospel. In the Gospel lesson, Jesus appeared on a lakeshore and invited them to a breakfast of grilled fish and freshly baked bread. But there is more, much more.
This morning our risen Lord entered the life of Dawson Hubbard in baptism. We sang of that event, “See this wonder in the making. Here we bring a child of nature; Home we take a newborn creature…born again by Word and water.”
But when we turn to today’s second reading from Revelation 5 we enter into a vision beyond wonder and marveling. We see Jesus standing in the very center of glory in the eternity of heaven, beyond the confines of space and time. One day we will be a part of that scene and along with every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea saying, “To the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever.”
Allow me to set the scene. Direct your attention, if you would, to the chancel. See there a throne and sitting on the throne is one who appears to shine with the red hued light of precious stones. Take note of a rainbow of bright green emerald arching over the scene. And encircling the thrones are the thrones of twenty- four elders, dressed in white robes; wearing crowns of gold. Lightning flashes, thunder crashes and earthquake like rumblings pulse from the throne. Seven torches of fire, the Sevenfold Spirit of God, the fullness of the Holy Spirit, blaze in front of the throne. Moving around the throne are four living creatures covered with eyes seeing all round without and within. The first of the creatures has a face of a lion, the second the face of an ox, a third a human face and the fourth the face like an eagle in flight. They address God with unceasing praise, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty who was and is and is to come.” And the elders fall down before the eternal God proclaiming, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God…for you created all things and by your will they were created.”
Empires come and empires go, politicians come and politicians go, nations rise and nations fall, but God is forever. Edicts are proclaimed, and laws are enacted, humans opine endlessly, words are written without end; all these will pass away, but the Word of the Lord remains forever. There is nothing a person can handle which God has not given us. Think of that when we work in our gardens and fields. Think of that when we cash our checks or set our spending priorities or fill our church envelopes. Consider that when we take a vacation, or go for a walk around the block or sing our songs in church. Think of it, the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen is made out things which are not seen. Consider that God through Jesus “upholds the universe by his word of power.” No wonder the elders threw down their crowns and worshipped the Lord as worthy to receive glory and power and honor.
Now that was a dangerous thing to do for Jesus’ followers in the first century. Domitian, the Roman Emperor was acclaimed as “Lord and God.” To fail to make that confession could mean arrest and imprisonment and perhaps death. It was because Christians refused to acknowledge that claim that they were persecuted and killed. Simply to call God, Lord and God was a triumphant confession of faith. Yes, God holds first place in the universe. God is king of the universe. Not Domitian or any other power.
Suddenly John witnesses a crisis developing in his heavenly vision. The one on the throne holds a scroll in his right hand. The scroll contains information as to what will happen to humanity and to the church in the future. But no one in all creation, neither the elders, nor angels, nor the living creatures, nor anyone on earth or under the earth is worthy to break the seven seals and read what is the complete plan for the future.
John’s revelation is addressed to the seven churches in what is now Turkey. And like all churches, these churches were not perfect, since churches are made up of imperfect people, living in a world which is by nature hostile to God. The question was what would become of the churches to whom John’s vision was addressed? Every congregation wonders about that from time to time, when we face adversity, when the future is clouded. What lies ahead? What will become of us?
John is so upset he begins to weep, until one of the elders says, “Look, there in front of the throne is a Lamb, who appears to have been slain, but now is alive. He has conquered. He is worthy to open and read the scroll.”
This is not just any lamb, but the one whom John the Baptist proclaimed as “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” This is the Lamb who, because we all have gone astray, was wounded for our transgressions; This is the lamb who was crushed for our iniquities; the chastisement that brought us peace was upon him; by his stripes we are healed. This is the lamb upon whom all our iniquities were laid. This is the Lamb who was sacrificed for our sins on the cross and rose the third day for our salvation. This is Jesus.
By his blood he has conquered death on our behalf. He has done this for everyone, regardless of blood relationships, language, history and political relations. When we are in Christ, we are part of a greater kingdom than one of race or nationality.
Suddenly the worshippers around the throne multiplies, our chancel is getting crowded as angels, ten thousand times ten thousand in number, loudly join their voices to those already worshipping, praising the Lamb, the resurrected and ascended Jesus, who has been given all power and authority and exaltation. However, it doesn’t stop there. Every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea join in the song of praise. The worshippers include not only you and me, but the greening woodland and bounding deer, gobbling turkeys and scampering squirrels; redbuds, dogwoods, and purple lilacs; soaring hawks and hooting owls; growing lettuce and leafing rhubarb, wheat and corn and soybeans as well; creatures who burrow, moles and earthworms, Goldfish in aquariums and whales in the oceans and the silent song of the universe. That is the future of all creation which groans while waiting with eager longing for Jesus to return. St. Paul writes that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Let us then come to our holy, almighty God and worship him with all the honor, glory and gifts due to him. And may God be with our worship that it might be worthy of the one who is worthy of our praise and prayers.