Revelation 1:4-8 (NIV)
To the seven churches in the province of Asia:
Grace and peace to you from Him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before His throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, 6 and has made us to be a Kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father—to Him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
7 “Look, He is coming with the clouds,”
and “every eye will see Him,
even those who pierced Him”;
and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of Him.”
So shall it be! Amen.
8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
If we want to know what we look like the best thing to do is to look in the mirror to see our various features and any changes since we last looked.
God has given us a spiritual mirror – His Law, the ten commandments or Ten Words as they are sometimes called. These help us to realise what our spiritual condition is.
Then in Revelation 1:4-8 Jesus gives us His Word – first to grant us peace, to reassure us in our faith and then to declare to us who we are in the light of the Easter resurrection of Jesus.
Jesus is the “faithful witness”, the first fruit of those raised from the dead to rule over all the earth – to be the “King of kings”.
This same Jesus loves us so much that He gave up His life on the cross only to take it up again when He was raised to be our King. The King of kings to whom all of us owe our fealty and obedience – this because He has “freed us by His blood”
Jesus has declared us to be a “kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father”. As a result it is us who are to ascribe to Him glory and power for eternity.
So what does it mean and what does it look like to be a “kingdom and priests”?
John writes, “To serve His God and Father…”
It’s interesting as we look back into God’s Word, the Old Testament, where we find a prophesy from God given to Moses to give to all God’s rescued people in Exodus 19:6a (ESV) 6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’
This prophesy is given to us too. In 1 Peter 2:9 (ESV) 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, … So what does this mean for us? Peter tells us …that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light.
We know that a priest is someone who speaks for, or intercedes for another person or people to God. The Levitical priesthood of the Old Testament also had the task of acting on behalf of individual citizens of God’s economy in offering sacrifices in the Temple.
The Jerusalem Temple doesn’t exist for us now and is no longer needed as Jesus was the last sacrifice – the once for all. God has made all of you who believe in Jesus as Lord, “a temple of the Holy Spirit” as God tells you through St Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:19 (ESV) 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, …
Then going on to what that means for our daily life in this world 1 Corinthians 6:20 (ESV) 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
John, the writer of the letter of Revelation, also tells you that as a kingdom and priests you are to serve God the Father – acknowledging Him to be deserving of all glory and power – that means you don’t live for yourselves – to please yourselves about how you live and serve Him.
This means that we are to be like the Old Testament priests who stand between God and His people. You, as Baptized children of God stand between God and those who have little or no faith – you are to act as priests to the world.
You who are Christians have been set aside by God for service, for witness and for prayer. When Jesus perfectly mediates between you who are sinners and God, you who are declared forgiven sinners – that is, active members of His Church. As such you are to intercede between Jesus and unbelievers.
Martin Luther says, “Do not despair after sin, but lift yourselves on high to where Christ intercedes for us. He is the Advocate.” You have been raised to be advocates for those who are far from God, who have so far failed to receive Jesus.
Your task is to bring those who are far off close to Jesus – you are to introduce them to Jesus so you can, through the Holy Spirit working in you help them to see Jesus and hear His Word and then believe. Faith comes by hearing which results in them becoming priests too, and with you part of the Kingdom of God.
As I mentioned earlier, you are to serve God – But how? There are many ways to serve God – too many to list here today.
To put this calling to serve into some perspective God expects you to serve where you are with the gifts He has given you: with the gifts of time – time for corporate worship, for personal devotion and time for service within the life of corporate body – the Church and also in the wider community.
You are to serve within the life of the Church so that you help each other hear and receive Jesus’ benefits of Word and Sacrament.
This means that you can commit yourself to such things as attending the Divine Services of the Church each Sunday, keeping the Church facilities neat and tidy – whether it be serving as a church cleaner or simply picking up rubbish in the church or church yard, wiping up a dirty benchtop or fingermarks on the wall when you see the need.
Likewise when we see that someone hasn’t turned up to fulfil their rostered tasks you willingly step in and help – (I thank God this usually happens).
If you have a voice and can read aloud you can, if you don’t already, volunteer to participate in the Bible reading roster for Sunday services so that your fellow Christians can be encouraged by hearing the life giving Word.
When on the reading roster it means you prepare the reading by giving your best – practicing reading the texts aloud so you don’t get tripped up by difficult names or phrases and can put some emphasis in the appropriate places during the reading in the service.
Your service to God also includes your witness to the Gospel – perhaps sharing your faith journey with someone when opportunity arises. To do this you mustn’t be ashamed of your faith (don’t “hide it under a bushel” as the children’s song say’s).
You need to be prepared to identify with Christ in His suffering as you may be ridiculed with Jesus by those who know no better – this is part of what you were baptized into – the suffering and death of Christ.
By your example of patient endurance and faithful sharing of your faith you witness to the truth – when you deny Christ by pretending not to know Him you dishonour Him.
So, it is important to acknowledge Christ’s power and glory – remember He rose from the dead – how much more will you rise up with Him to say with Thomas, “My Lord and my God!”
This is where we need prayer – for each other, for our congregation and for the wider Church. Table grace, participation in formal prayer (e.g. The prayer of the Church during the Divine Service), prayer vigils and the like enable us to hear God speaking and respond to Him.
Like any good relationship there is two way communication. God initiates a conversation and hearing the Word of the Lord and responding with prayer is your participation in the conversation.
By acknowledging the power and glory of God He helps you to see how Jesus can help you in your weaknesses and build on your strengths. To help with prayer there are models of prayer for the conversation with God to provide a balanced prayer which gives God the glory and power which is rightly due to Him and not merely your selfish requests or demands.
There’s always the model of the Lord’s Prayer – this is where Luther’s Small Catechism is helpful with the explanations of what each part of Jesus’ prayer is about which can then inspire us to pray this prayer into particular situations and needs.
Then there’s the JOY model of prayer –
- · the “J” is praying and acknowledging all Jesus has done, is doing and will do –
- · the “O” is praying for the needs of others, thanking God for them and seeking God’s blessing on their wellbeing.
- · the “Y” is yourself and your personal needs – thanking God for His provision and asking for His continued care and blessing.
There’s also the ACTS prayer model –
- · the “A” is for Adoration as we adore our Lord for all He has done, is doing and will continue to do
- · The “C” is for Confession - of the faith you hold and also your confession and repentance for sin committed or service omitted.
- · The “T” is for Thanksgiving – all that you are thankful for – this is the count your blessings and name them one by one”.
- · The “S is for Supplication – that is asking God for all that is needed by others and yourself.
It is said that we make time for what is important in our lives. How much time, effort and energy do you expend in your participation and sharing what God has blessed you with?
How important are your encounters with Almighty God and your fellow saints? He “who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood and has made us to be a Kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father … He is coming …”
Are you ready for His coming or are you just thinking: “…perhaps if nothing better is happening” or “…maybe if I have time, …”
Don’t be one of those who “…will mourn because of Him” on the day Jesus returns. But like His Disciples who met Him in the locked room “…stop doubting and believe.” When you believe you take your faith seriously and make Jesus and His will your priority in life and service.
What are you seeing when you look in the mirror of Jesus Word to you today?