The Seventh Sunday of Easter
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Scripture Reading: Revelation 22:12-21
12 “See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
14 Blessed are those who wash their robes,[a] so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
16 “It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”
And let everyone who hears say, “Come.”
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.
18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book; 19 if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
20 The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.[b]
- Revelation 22:14 Other ancient authorities read do his commandments
- Revelation 22:21 Other ancient authorities lack all; others lack the saints; others lack Amen
Sermon: “The Bright Morning Star”
Folks have had a field day slicing and dicing Revelation’s symbolism and imagery. That’s led to a raft of end of the world predictions, all of them wrong―at least so far. Here are a few of my favorites.
- On February 1, 1524, London astrologers predicted the world would end with a flood. 20,000 Londoners left their homes and headed for higher ground.
- In 1806, a hen in Leeds, England started laying eggs with “Christ is Coming” written on them. Turns out that her owner, Mary Bateman, had etched the eggs with corrosive ink, and then put them back into her poor hen so she could “lay” the eggs again.
- Some folks are from the “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again” school of end of the world predicting. The king of them all is probably Herbert W. Armstrong. He first predicted that the rapture would take place in 1936…then in 1943…then 1972…and, last of all, in 1975.
I could go on, but you get the idea. Why the delay? Is God a procrastinator? You and I surely can be. Here are just a few everyday examples sent in by visitors to the website Cracked.com.
- I won’t go from couch to bed, even if would take a minute… Until, of course, I wake up at four in the morning with a crick in my neck and a stiff back.
- Going to the bathroom doesn’t take that long, but I usually “hold it” until I can’t stand it anymore.
- That microwave spill would have been so easy to clean up―right after it happened, two months ago.
- My phone says it needs to be charged, but I don’t want to mess with it now. I’ll just wait until it goes dead and whine.
God isn’t a procrastinator. God is gracious. There’s a big difference, the writer of Second Peter said:
The Lord isn’t slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
The end is coming, 2 Peter says, but not just yet. There’s still time to get our collective act together. That same message was at the heart of a film about, aptly enough, the would-be end of the world. Here’s a clip from The Day the Earth Stood Still, the original 1951 version.
“The choice is up to you.” In some ways, that’s Revelation’s message, too. There’s still time, John says. How you use it is up to you. Follow God’s way or the Emperor’s. Make the wrong choice, and the consequences are dire.
Many scholars date Revelation to somewhere near the end of the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian, in the mid-90’s. At that time there were on again, off again, scattered waves of persecution aimed at Christians.
Others date Revelation earlier, after the death of Nero in 68 CE. Four different people tried to claim the throne that year. While they and their armies duked it out, the Roman Empire turned into a lawless, violent mess.
Either way, Revelation comes from troubled times. Why make Christians targets, though? Paul’s letter to the Philippians helps answer that question.
For starters, Paul called Jesus Lord and Savior, two terms reserved only for the emperor himself. That choice of words was no accident, but an act of civil disobedience.
Paul made that clear enough in Philippians 2: 9-10.
God…highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
All creation, all people, and all nations will confess that Jesus, not Caesar, is Lord. Whatever authority empire or emperor thought they had was hollow and empty. Now you know what had the Romans all riled up.
Like Philippians, Revelation is a political as well as a theological vison. Take the side of Rome, with its pagan politics and abusive economy, John says, and you forever separate yourself from God.
None of this was pie in the sky theology. John knew that people could die for their faith. But their suffering and faithfulness would show that the One Rome thought safely dead and buried is risen and powerfully present. Each martyr’s death would tell the world’s empires and tyrants, no matter how powerful, that they were on their way out.
Revelation’s vision should make a difference in how we see the world as well as in how we live our lives.
The third verse in chapter 1 makes that plain enough. “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what’s written in it; for the time is near.” (Revelation 1:3)
Hearing and keeping Revelation’s message of community, hope, and, yes, of protest and resistance, is where the rubber of faith hits the road of discipleship.
Our actions are just as, if not more, important than our words, Colossians says. “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)
We need to treat others with compassion. We need to be patient. We need to let go of our pride and embrace humility. We need to let go of our grudges and offer forgiveness. We need to take a stand for justice whenever, wherever, and however it’s threatened. We need to reflect the image of the God we see in Jesus in our words as well as in our actions.
The God Jesus shows us is the kind of God who throws a party for a kid who wasted the family fortune, and who won’t condemn a woman caught in the act of adultery. Jesus’ God tears down walls of nationality and gender to heal, forgive, and welcome. That same God accepts a criminal into his Kingdom even as the man spits out his last dying breaths on a Roman cross. The God we see in Jesus embraced his closest disciples even though they walked out on him and said they never knew him.
The last page of the Bible speaks to that same kind of God. After all the frightening imagery, Revelation ends, not by scaring people to death, but by reminding us that God’s gifts are for everyone, no matter what empires and emperors may say.
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let everyone who hears say, “Come.” And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes, take the water of life as a gift. (Revelation 22:17)