Saturday, June 29, 2019
Sermon Summary (6/16/19) “The Last Battle” (Rev 19-22)
We’re wrapping up our series on belief and hope. Not only belief in God, but belief in a God who loves us and wants a relationship with us. Hope, that in the midst of evil and a broken world that we have a future in the arms of God. That’s why we are finishing this series in the book of Revelation. It is the ultimate book of hope.
Admittedly, it is a strange book with beasts and symbols, the Dragon, Satan, the Beast, the Roman Empire; with numbers like 666 and 7 and 12 and 144,000 that we’ve heard whether we go to church or not; code like Babylon means Rome and “Ancient of Days” from the Old Testament; and end times, “A new heaven and a new earth.”
Most of all, it is all about hope: “Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more. For the first things have passed away.”
We too often miss hope because we make the interpretation of Revelation far too complicated. For example, the theology behind Tim Lehay’s “Left Behind” Series makes great story, yet it only came into being in 1830. For 18 centuries, the church did not consider it. The word “rapture” does not exist in Revelation or anywhere in the Bible. While we are debating tribulation, we miss hope.
What we find is that in chapter 18 Babylon (Rome) falls (you may also note that Revelation is not in chronological order which also confuses the theology from time to time), then in Chapter 19 we return to rejoicing in heaven; and then the rider on the white horse (Christ) appears to vanquish his enemies. He appears in a robe dipped in blood. Unlike other conquerors, the blood is not of his enemies, but of his own. He has won the battle with his own sacrifice. And he destroys his enemies not with the edge of his sword, but with the two edged sword from his mouth, the Word of God! (The think it was Abraham Lincoln who said, “We destroy our enemies by making them our friends.”) Jesus has won the battle with his sacrifice and destroyed his enemies with the Word of God. Jesus wins with love!
In a recent sermon, I heard the preacher say that Christianity offers two things that no of the religion does: “Salvation by grace through faith”; and “a personal relationship with God.” Jesus has won the battle for us, and Revelation tells us that “The home of God will be among mortals, he will dwell with us, we will be his people and he will be our God.” Hope: As CS Lewis has told us, we have only lived the title and the chapter page. The when we die we will begin chapter one of the Great Story which no one has ever read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before. Hope! Amen..
Sermon Summary (6/2/19) “Heavenly Hope” (Rev 13:1-8;16-18)
We need stories to give us hope. The original “Star Wars” was subtitled “A New Hope.” We may not be physically threatened living around Fulton, but there are times in everyone’s life when we need stories of hope.
Certainly it was true of the children of Israel and the early Christians with the exile to Babylon, the Greek and Roman oppressions, Nero’s invasion of Judea, killing a million Jews, enslaving a hundred thousand, and destroying the Temple. Then persecuting the Christians throughout the Roman Empire. Stories of hope were needed.
At the end of the first century, the vision of the Heavenly Christ to John that we know as “The Revelation” was such a story of hope. We miss the message of hope if you misinterpret the text. For most mainline theologians, It is mainly a story written to the people of John’s time in an apocalyptic genre with only the last four chapters as futuristic.
Chapter 13’s Dragon and beast were Satan and his disciple, the Roman Empire centered in Rome, code name “Babylon,” the previous city that destroyed the Temple. The mark of the beast, 666, the number of a person, using Hebrew letters as numbers points to Nero.
Revelation’s middle chapters alternate between heaven where God rules, and earth where Satan, the Dragon and the beast reigned. The vision presents us with choices, to choose heaven where choirs sang or earth where people wailed. The Kingdom of God, place or joy; or the empire, a place of pain. Heaven, a place of hope, or the empire, a place of despair. The story is calling us to choose hope!
We all need a story of hope. Everyone has a story and we need to shape it to be a story of hope. Part of my story is that “The worst thing is never the last thing and Easter changes everything.” God is real. It takes far more faith not to believe than to believe. And if God is real, it makes sense that He would want to reconcile his creation to himself, and it makes sense that he would do so by becoming like us and do so with the greatest act of love one can for another, and that is to give his life for me. And then demonstrate his glory through Easter. And if God would do that, then I can believe the promises that he has made through his Son Jesus Christ.
I can believe “because I live, you will live also”; “that I go to prepare a place for you.. And I will come again to take you to where I am.” We will be in the arms of Jesus. We will see our loved ones again. Just as Revelation is a story of hope, so is our Christ-Centered story.
Saturday, June 15, 2019
Sermon Summary (5/2619) “Letters of Hope” (Rev 1-3 (selected))
I first heard about Revelation in Mrs. Nashel’s Sunday School class. My Sunday School teachers were not purveyors of hope. Anything fun was sin and needed to be punished. The punishment was right there in Revelation: huge hail stones, vicious scorpion stings. As an 8 year old, I had too much baseball yet to play, too much fun to have.
Good news. I’ve come to understand the Book of Revelation to be a book of hope.
Many times misinterpreted, we look at the details and miss the big picture. It would be if we read Ezekiel’s dry bones by examining each bone instead of seeing it as God reconnecting and breathing new life into his children following their exile, we would miss the point It didn’t mean bone, ie it didn’t mean what it says, it means what it means. That’s the way we need to view the Heavenly Christ in Revelation 1 and the other visions in later chapters. We need to be looking for the picture rather than the words.
The message of the heavenly Christ is to the seven churches of Asia, seven a biblical number of completeness, all the churches. And as we will see, messages for us too.
The first letter is to Ephesus. “I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” Have we lost our passion, our enthusiasm for our faith, especially as we have gotten bogged down by the culture that surround us? Christ calls us to repent, and to do the works we did at first.
He does commend them for resisting the Nicolaitans. We can surmise that the Nicolaitans recommended compromise with the culture. A little temple worship, a little Christianity, a little placating the Emperor, and all would be well. In what ways might we have compromised with the culture?
The last letter is to Laodicea, a rich community that had rebuilt themselves following an earthquake, so rich that it refused outside help. They could fend for themselves. “15 “I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’ You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”
Wow! Pride. “I can do it myself.” Again, he calls them to repentance, then extends the hand of hope to all the churches and to us. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to them and dine with them and they with me.”
So may we hear and open the door. Amen.