Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The second part of the prayer

There is a transition in that prayer.

To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood.

I love this image of salvation. It begins not with the judgment of God, but it begins with the love of God. God is not damning us, but is freeing us. For John who was incarcerated by the local authorities, hated and despised. He shows the King of Kings to be one who loves his people not fears them. Instead of enslaving people, he frees them.

Personally, I think we all walk through a lot of hell on earth. There are folks who struggle with addictions. People who are abused. Some of us are just wired in such a way that we get in our own way. So, life becomes hell. To suffer on earth and to suffer in heaven seems a little harsh. So, God's coming into earth is done out of love. As we read the rest of Revelation remember it begins with that line of prayer. "To him who loves us and frees us from our sins by his blood."

made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God

Our call as Christians is not just individual. It is to be a Kingdom. Kingdoms are made up of people. We are called to be a Kingdom. Not full of soldiers, police, politicians, or slaves. No priests. We are priests.

We are connected fully with God. You know at times, I feel a tremendous disconnect with God. There is a hole in my heart and it is consuming. On this side of life, heaven, the second coming, I am disconnected from God. I am a servant, but not a priest. Not one who stands before the holy of holies, but one who works in the fields. I do not tend the coals of the sacred fire, but work in the chaff. There will be a day when that separation will be reversed, and I with you will stand before God.

With that anticipation so wet upon his lips, John says.

"Look he is coming"

So, I wait and I pray a simple prayer "Come Lord Jesus."


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Walking through Revelation

I put down my prayer book today. I am having a hard time getting into the mode of prayer and I had put a long stretch through my prayer book, "A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants." So, I picked up my Bible and sought to read something. I thought about Isaiah, Samuel, and even read the first chapter of Colossians. Good stuff Paul has to say.

However, I finally decided to go to Revelation. I don't know why, but I just wound up in the back.

I read this great prayer in Chapter 1.

John Prays...
"Grace to you and peace from 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.

That caught me as powerful.
John was in exile and the church was being persecuted. Not exactly how severe, but it was severe enough that people were beginning to feel a little pain. Some folks were questioning their faith. So, John writes this letter to these churches to give them strength.

As Christians we look to Christ as our example and strength.

As a Christian, I hear John say Jesus was the faithful witness.
Faithful witness means that Jesus' life that I am to imitate in some way, aspire to at times, and find direction in always has this truth. Jesus was faithful and he was not faithful in secret, but publicly. Jesus' faithfulness could be seen. John is encouraging those churches and me to be faithful even when it may become uneasy. So often it is easy to take the shortcut. To not speak the truth when the truth needs to be said. I can think of countless times when I have been easy on folks when I needed to press an issue. When somebody is making a bad lifestyle choice, I will at times keep quiet, because I prefer to be nice instead of truthful. There was a couple who came to be married and they ask me to perform the service. At the church I was serving, we were using weddings as a money maker. This couple met at a conference where they both struck up a relationship. Unfortunately, both were married and got divorced to pursue this marriage. This was disclosed after I was deep into the process of putting the wedding together. So, I bit my tongue instead of saying, "You two met when married, how are you going to trust one another? What will stop you from cheating again." I kept quiet, because I lacked confidence. Being a faithful witness is hard. John encourages us to be faithful as Christ.

Firstborn of the Dead:
Christ was the firstborn of all creation and that means that he was going to die. If you are created, you will die. Sorry. So, Christ died and he was raised from the dead. So, we who are going to die will be raised like Christ. Faith was a life and death issue for John. To hear these words, that Christ has suffered and now reigns mean that I will survive ultimately. Pain is only temporary. That is good news.

Ruler of the kings of the earth
So often I forget my allegiance. Am I an American or a Christian. I define my citizenship so often by nationality, instead of by the water of my baptism. John reminds us that Jesus is the Lord of the earth and the kings, the Presidents, the dictators, the drug lords, the slum lords, and all those who exert power are not all powerful. Jesus rules over them. Our church does not have the American flag in the sanctuary which is a powerful statement. If this church was in South America, Asia or the United States...our Lord would be the same. That Lord is Jesus. Nothing on this earth is outside the rule of Christ.
Now here is the brass tack. That ultimately means that myself, the greatest god I know, is under the authority of Christ. Life stays good when I remember that and really gets screwed up when I forget.

So today hear what John has to say.
Jesus Christ who is beyond time brings grace and peace to you.
He was a faithful witness, so you be one. Fear not death or pain, because Christ over came it, and let Jesus rule your life, not governments and not yourself. For a first century Christian beaten by the city officials, these were words of hope. For me a 21st century Christian sitting in my office they are words of assurance.

Grace and Peace,