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Christ The King Sunday B Sermon
Revelation 1: 4b-8
November
25, 2018

 

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Revelation 1:4-8

John to the seven churches that are in Asia:
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
Look! He is coming with the clouds;
every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him;
and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.
So it is to be. Amen.
‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father be with us, in the name of his risen son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; Amen.

When I first saw that one of the readings assigned for this Christ the King Sunday was from the book of Revelation, I kind of cringed. I know what the average Christian person thinks about the last book of the Bible – it is confusing … it is scary … and people have used it to intimidate non-believers for many years. But after I read the passage and some commentaries on it and discussed it with our Tuesday morning study group, I thought this might actually be a wonderful opportunity to share why I truly believe that Revelation is a wonderful and important part of our Holy Scriptures; as a matter of fact, I want to ask you to consider how it might just be a microcosm of the average Christian person’s life. Let me explain …

The first thing that you must remember about Revelation is that it is not, nor has it ever been intended to be a script for how the world is going to end. It is a specific kind of literature, written to a specific audience during a specific time in our history. The line just before our second lesson picks up goes, “John to the seven churches of Asia.” Tradition says that this John is the same one who was Jesus’ beloved disciple, while others say this John was a leader in the churches in Turkey whose actions and teachings got him exiled to the island of Patmos. Whichever it may be, he writes to the seven churches of Asia, located in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. The historical setting was the first century when Rome was exerting its power, demanding that all of their occupied people worship their Caesars as gods. Refusal to do this resulted in persecution – torture and often death by hideous means.

Revelation is also a different kind of literature than we might be used to. It is Apocalyptic Literature – it is a story written in code which the faithful Christians would understand, but the Romans would have read simply as strange science fiction. It conveyed a message to Christians while not exposing them to any more danger.
With that background information in mind, consider the words of our second lesson today. “I am the Alpha and the Omega says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. John is introducing his book by telling us who is really in charge of things. Others may claim power over our lives, but it is Jesus Christ – the faithful witness, firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth – who has ultimate authority in our lives. It is an encouragement to those who face the threats of torture and death, having family and livelihood taken away from them, that from the beginning of your life to the very end, God is with you. It doesn’t spare them from the threats of the Romans, but God is with them, blessing them through it all and redeeming their lives for a greater cause, which eventually brought down the earthly rulers from Rome.

Now, if we fast forward to the end of the book of Revelation, we read some more wonderful, comforting promises. In chapter 21 we read about the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. John also reminds his readers that God is the Alpha and the Omega, who gives water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. The renewed promise at the end of this book makes us think that God’s time is not our time, and that time limitations do not exist for the one who is the Alpha and Omega, the past, present and future. As a matter of fact, remembering that the last are first and the first are last, eternal life in Jesus Christ means that the Alpha is the Omega and the Omega is the Alpha. Our endings with Christ are new beginnings for us, whether it be the endings of our lives or of things in our lives that we think we cannot live without.

So we have these wonderful promises bookending the book of Revelation. But we all admit that in between, there is some pretty scary stuff: visions of beasts and dragons, of seals being opened and horsemen, of trumpets blowing, prostitutes and supernatural angels. It has caught the attention of people who want to read into it the events of current days and predict how our world will end. But when I read the words, I am reminded that in life there is and will always be scary stuff to threaten us. The picture language of beasts might be likened to cancer; the dragons could symbolize depression and the epidemic of suicide that seems to be spreading in our country; some trumpets might announce the reality of joblessness, homelessness, or divorce. Life has more than its share of things that threaten to undo us without us seeing literal beasts and dragons. As a matter of fact, the things that we face every day might be even scarier than the thought of those other fantastic beasts.

That is why I consider Revelation as a microcosm of the lives of all Christians, not a blueprint for the end of the world. It begins with the promises of God’s presence with us from beginning to end; it includes joys and sorrows, successes and failures, and some things that, without the presence of God with us would cause us to surrender to the powers of sin, death and the devil; finally, it ends with the original promise – that once again, God is the first and last, always with us now, in the past and into our future.

On Christ the King Sunday – the final Sunday of the church year – it is appropriate to hear a reading from the first chapter of the last book of our Bible. It reminds us that whatever strives to rule our lives – even our own governments and their leaders – nothing will be as lasting and as influential as the one who is, who was, and who is to come, the Alpha and the Omega. As we prepare for a new church year, and the preparations for celebrating the birth of the Word of God made flesh in Jesus, we look to the end – our end – but not God’s end. Because God’s time is not our time, and when we think something is over, God steps in to create a new and joyful opportunity for life. May God rule your hearts and minds as your king today, yesterday and tomorrow. Amen.