Revelation 5v11-14 Sermon 14

Revelation 7:9–14 (NIV84)
9 After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:
"Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb."
11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:
"Amen!
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honour
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
Amen!"
13 Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?"
14 I answered, "Sir, you know."
And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

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 Presbytarian, a Roman Catholic and even a Greek Orthodox person alongside the Pentecostal.

As we 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 we'll be. It's where we all belong in the family of God.

We won't be there because of what we've done, but because God is graceful and has forgiven all of us. He's brought us all into His family the church which is the communion of saints.

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

We 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 our eternal life but for our 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. We 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 we look, we 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 our amazement we 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. This is the prelude to today's 1st reading from Revelation:
"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."

We'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.

We now see that our 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 our good.

This is crucial for us today in every aspect of our lives. But for now, let's focus on when we 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 we 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 honor 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 us - focussed on God serving us with the announcement of His plan of salvation for us and those who aren't yet here with 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 I'll do for the Lord but what the Lord has done for us.

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

So we can now ask, why does God give us this glimpse of heaven in Revelation?
• For our good here on earth
• For its application to worship
• For our learning
• For the enrichment of our worship
• For our understanding of how we are to serve each other
• For our understanding of how we 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 we possibly hold a grudge against a fellow worshipper? How can we, as we sit in worship, think about what's for lunch today? How can we want to keep Jesus to ourselves?

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

We'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 we 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.

We live as peacemakers in the home, community, school and work place. It's all a result of what God has done for us in Christ and so we can sing together the hymn of praise:
"Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!"
"To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor 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.

Children's Message:

The Object: A copy of a highway sign:
"Wrong way – Go back (white lettering on red rectangle).

The lesson:
Most of you have travelled in a car on a trip – perhaps to a big city?
What are some of the road signs you might have seen?
Here's one you might have seen. Show sign.
Let's read it.
Where would you find a sign like this?

It tells people to stop and turn around.
It's painted brightly so people will notice it.
What could happen if people went the wrong way on a road?

Sometimes we go the wrong way in our life.
We don't go the way God wants us to go.
We call this wrong way "sin".
God warns us to stop and turn around.
Sometimes He warns us through the words of the Bible,
Or teachers, or parents, sometimes our conscience.

God loves us. He doesn't want us to go the wrong way,
because we'll end up getting hurt.
That's why He sent Jesus to show us His love and to turn us around
to go the right way.
But sometimes we still make a wrong turn and go the wrong way.
So God keeps on warning us: "Wrong way! Go back!"
And we need to listen so that we get back on the right way –
God's way.