Easter 3C - Revelation 5:11-14

Revelation 5:11–14 (NIV)

11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they were saying:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,

to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength

and honour and glory and praise!”

13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

“To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb

be praise and honour and glory and power,

for ever and ever!”

14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

          Imagine! Imagine you have the same glimpse of heaven given to John, who wrote the book of Revelation. And this is what you see:

  • A huge crowd of people, more than you’ve ever seen together before.  In the crowd you recognise people you knew.
  • There’s old uncle Fred who ripped everyone off – left, right and centre. 
  • There’s your cousin Jane – she was such a gossip and trouble maker.
  • There’s the family who whinged and argued about their father’s will – that argument ended in court. It was all about greed and envy. But they’re here in heaven.  We see them.
  • And there’s that pastor who had to leave the ministry – let’s not even remember what he did.
  • Oh, and there’s those people who argued selfishly and angrily at the congregational meetings.  It was almost as though they were ready to roll up their sleeves and slog it out. (This was known to have happened on more than one occasion.)

          Would you believe it, there’s a Presbyterian, a Roman Catholic and even a Greek Orthodox person alongside the Pentecostal.

          As you look through the gates of heaven, can it be possible that all these people are together in heaven?  Yes! They’re all there for the same reason you’ll be.  It’s where we all belong in the family of God.

          You won’t be there because of what we’ve done (or haven’t done), but because God is graceful and has forgiven all of you.  He’s brought you all into His family the Church - which is the communion of saints.

          Then as you look beyond the crowd you see there’s a drama going on – you can see it all – everyone can.  In the centre of the crowd there’s a throne – on the throne is Father God.

          You realise then, that the centre of everything Almighty God Himself.

          The book of Revelation gives us a glimpse of God and His people gathered around His throne – not for the sake of your eternal life but for your life here and now.  It’s all about worship – “On earth as in heaven!”

          John wrote Revelation for people who were persecuted and doing it tough – they were in big trouble – at the end of their wits – many facing death.  They needed comfort and encouragement.

          John comforts these suffering people with the amazing things he sees in heaven as recorded in Revelation. This text is talking about worship today – here and now – together in this life.

          Okay, use your imagination again.  You see the drama happen.  On the throne God holds a scroll.  The angel there asks, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?

No one answers – there is silence and John, the writer of Revelation, weeps.

          As you look, you too weep with John and then an amazing announcement is made.   “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”

          Then to your amazement you see,

a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain,

standing at the center of the throne,

And the Lamb takes the scroll and everyone sings a new song. 

“You are worthy to take the scroll

and to open its seals,

because you were slain,

and with your blood you purchased for God

persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.

10 You have made them to be a Kingdom and priests to serve our God,

and they will reign on the earth.”

          You’re all focused on the centre of our Christian faith – not the peripheral things – not the colour of the window frames or the instrument played in the church. We’re seeing the Lamb go to the throne, seated with God the Father on the throne at the right hand of Almighty God.

          You now see that your world is Christo-centric – Christ is the centre! Christ who suffered and died on the cross – who rose from the dead. He’s at the centre – He rules and reigns for your good.

          This is crucial for you today in every aspect of your lives.  But for now, let’s focus on when you come together as the family of God in worship.  Worship “on earth as in heaven.” Worship is described in Revelation as the presence of God’s people where you see God’s fantastic drama and revelation.

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,

to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength

and honour and glory and praise!”

And then later on:

“To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb

be praise and honour and glory and power,

for ever and ever!”

          And then:

14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

          Worship should always be Christ centred – focussed on Jesus and the salvation which is given to you - focussed on God serving you with the announcement of His plan of salvation for you and those who aren’t yet here with you in faith - focussed on God coming to people with all of His blessings.

          Former president of the Lutheran Church of New Zealand, the Rev Dr Lance Steicke once said our worship is often,

“Navel-gazing? Focused on ourselves? Focused on what we like and don't like? Focused on our grizzles and gripes over the lousy sermon, the poor choice of hymns, the discordant note coming from somewhere, the absence of something contemporary or something traditional?

          What do we expect and want from our worship?

          Very often a large dose of sentimentality laced with subjectivism and a 'make me feel good' desire.”

          Not much has changed since God spoke through the prophet Amos when He said, “I hate your worship.”

          We easily become so preoccupied with what we do or don’t like and forget God – making ourselves and our desires the focus of worship.  We have to ask ourselves, “Do we need to repent of this?

          Are we more concerned with the externals of worship than with the relationship God has with us in which He serves us?  It’s not about what you’ll do for the Lord but what the Lord has done for you.

          God serves you lovingly and graciously with His Word and Sacrament – making you His people in Baptism and nurturing you with His own body and blood in Holy Communion for your forgiveness.

          So you can now ask, “why does God give us this glimpse of heaven in Revelation?” It’s

  • For your good here on earth
  • For its application to worship
  • For your learning
  • For the enrichment of your worship
  • For your understanding of how you are to serve each other
  • For your understanding of how you serve those who are yet to know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.

          Seeing God and His gifts, being a beneficiary of them, how can you possibly hold a grudge against a fellow worshipper?  How can you, as you sit in worship, think about what’s for lunch today?  How can you want to keep Jesus to yourselves?

          Jesus is all that counts as He opens the scroll of our salvation. You worship God together with your fellow worshippers – the ones you like and those you don’t - after all, one day you’ll be worshipping together forever in heaven with them - so why not get used to this fact here on earth?

          You’re all forgiven sinners – saints because of the sacrifice of the Lamb. This is why confession and absolution is so important.  God announces your forgiveness: “Your sins are forgiven you!” 

          It’s not a matter of who you are, what you have or haven’t done, where you are, or what happened in your past.  It’s not a case of your: past failings and neglect of worship responsibilities, or your past grudges – your sins are forgiven you.  This is the greatest good news!

          So then, in the light of your forgiveness the rest of worship unfolds.  And then from worship you go to live the forgiven life – reconciled to God and to each other in the family of faith - working also to bring to faith those who do not yet have a personal relationship with Jesus.

          You live as peacemakers in the home, community, school and work place.  It’s all a result of what God has done for you in Christ and so you can sing together the hymn of praise:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,

to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength

and honour and glory and praise!”

 “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb

be praise and honour and glory and power,

for ever and ever!”

          Together with the Elders and the four living creatures described in Revelation we can worship and add our ‘Amen”.  May it be so!

          Amen.