Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | April 18, 2010

Sermon on Revelation 5:11-14

You’re In the Choir Already

In the name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

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.  In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

This Easter season we’re spending significant time in the book of Revelation.  It’s a book that pulls us in at the same time as it pushes us away.  Hardly anyone is unaware of Revelation and its contents.  Books – both fiction and non-fiction – and films – both documentary and Hollywood – use Revelation.  It fascinates us.  It terrifies us.  Congregations beg their pastors and teachers to study it.  But at the same time, we’d rather not get into it too deeply, because it’s scary – because of its interpretational challenges and its apocalyptic content.

Yet, here we are, diving into Revelation.  Last week we heard Christ’s commission, Write down what you see. And what John sees is a series of visions concerning what must soon take place. You know these images.  Jesus shows John the four horsemen, riding out to conquer, to make war, to bring famine and pestilence, and then death.  Jesus shows John the martyrs begging for vengeance; the sun, moon, and stars falling from their assigned places; the vast multitudes fleeing from the coming Christ.  He shows John 144,000 sealed, angels blowing their trumpets, seas turning to blood, the Abyss opening up.  He shows John two witnesses testifying about God murdered.  He shows John a dragon trying to devour Jesus, then the Church, then individual Christians.  He shows John two beasts assaulting the Church.  He shows John flying angels and the harvest of the earth.  He shows John bowls of God’s wrath.  He shows John a prostitute riding a beast and the fall of Babylon.  He shows John the Rider on the White Horse destroying the beast in the blink of an eye.  He shows John the 1,000 years and the release of Satan.  He shows John the New Jerusalem.  He shows John the end times, from Christ’s ascension until Christ’s return.

But before the horsemen, before the martyred souls, before the sun, moon, and stars crash, before all people beg to have mountains fall on them, before the rumblings and peals of thunder, is this:  a vision of the Lamb who had been slain, but who lives.  John see’s the palace of our God.  He sees God’s entourage – those 24 elders, the four living beasts, the uncountable ranks of angels.  And we remember who’s opening the seals, who’s revealing history, who’s controlling history.  Before the final battle, before the confrontation to end all confrontations, there’s a peaceful moment, a powerful moment, an exultant moment.  And not just for John.  It’s for us.  John sees choir after choir praising God and the Lamb who was slain.  He sees the four living creatures sing to God.  He sees the twenty-four elders sing to God.  He sees them bow before Jesus proclaiming:  You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood your purchased men for God! And John sees more.  He sees hundreds of millions of angels join the chorus.  He sees every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea and all that is in them praising the Lamb who was slain.  This choir gets bigger and bigger and bigger.  Until finally you realize that you’re a part of it.  You aren’t waiting to join.  You’re in the choir already.

You’re in this choir because the Lamb was slain.  When John entered the throne-room of God, He saw God’s throne and God seated upon it.  And God showed him a scroll.  But there was no one to open it.  And so John wept.  Until one of the elders said, 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 then John saw the Lamb, looking as if it had been slain. He saw Jesus.  He saw the resurrected Lord.  He saw the Lamb of God who took away the world’s sins by sacrificing Himself, but who took up His life again.  He saw the Lord who still bore the marks of His murder, as He showed to Thomas, now sitting on His throne in exaltation.  He saw Jesus who has the power, who has the wealth, who has the wisdom, who has the strength, who has the honor, who has the glory, and who has the praise.  It’s hidden no longer.  He did what He came to do.  God fulfilled His divine purpose for history.  Christ triumphed and now all is His.

And do I let Him have it?  Do I sing my songs to Him?  Or do I reserve some for others?  This is the choir I’m supposed to be singing in as a believer.  This is the only song to sing, the song of heaven and eternity.  But so often I sing my songs to other things.  I weep and weep and weep, hopeless and despairing, until my government swoops in and solves all my problems; until my doctor swoops in and solves all my problems; until science swoops in and solves all my problems; until my education swoops in and solves all my problems.  And I sing their praises, as if they are the answer, as if they opened the scrolls and revealed the future, as if they cleared the path to success and comfort, as if they created heaven on earth.  But the Lamb who was slain did that.  The Lamb who was slain ended your weeping, not by giving you tax deductions, not by prescribing wonder drugs, not by putting a diploma on your wall and so many zeros on your check (though He’s certainly responsible for that, the Lamb who was slain provides all things for you).  He ended your weeping, He gave you a song to sing by being slain, for no other reason than to take away the sins of the world.  He ended your weeping by rising up with those marks of sacrifice upon Him and saying, believe in me and live!

Adjust your tune.  This is the choir to be in, a choir you’re already part of.  You’re already in the choir because you’re part of the liberated creation through faith.  Did you see yourself in our verses today?  It was that mass choir of all creation – Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea and all that is in them singing…. There you are!  By the gift of faith in Christ, you’re in this Revelation choir already.  Because the Lamb was slain.  Even though heaven is a not yet, it’s an already for the believer.  Even though the seals are opening and we see war, conquest, death and destruction.  Even though the love of most grows cold.  Even though it doesn’t seem like it could possibly get any worse.  Even though it doesn’t seem like Jesus is using His authority in constructive ways to help me.  He is.  And with Paul we say:  I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.  We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Let nothing take that hope from you.  Let the resurrected Lord comfort you.  He’s of a mind to do it.  It’s what He’s doing when He teaches you heaven’s songs.

And so you can sing, “Amen!”  Nothing holds you back from saying that word.  And yet, is this how you worship – with bold songs, with confident Amens?  Does your body follow your heart?  I know there aren’t hundreds of millions of us here, there aren’t even hundreds of us here, and so we can’t hope to match the volume of their praise, but nonetheless, we can match their quality, our voices can certainly sing our hymns with joy and excitement.  Our voices can certainly respond with enthusiasm, Praise be to you, O Christ! They must.  Because the Lamb who was slain is dead no more.  He has triumphed.  Every Word of Scripture sings this song.  Every Baptism is a victory.  Every taste of the Holy Communion is a taste of the heavenly feast that awaits us.  He’s sitting on the throne – Jesus, the Lamb who was slain is slain no more.  He’s surrounded by His choir.  And you’re already a member.  In this choir, you don’t just know how the empty tomb turns out, you know how all of history turns out.  Do not weep.  Rejoice!  Sing!  Shout!  To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!  Amen!  Come, Lord Jesus!  Amen!

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