May 19, 2023
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING:
“And I saw the seven angels who stand before God. Seven trumpets were given to them. Then another angel, this one had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, along with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the Throne. The smoke of the incense, along with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand.” (Revelation 8.2-4)
TODAY’S REFLECTION ON GOD’S WORD:
Most of us have been exposed to the statement from Aristotle which said, “Nature abhors a vacuum but nature does not know it.” For those who haven’t, I would offer it now to you to be considered in light of the world’s culture and climate and more especially (at this time) in context to the Revelation 8.1 which we reflected on yesterday. In review, John remembered that when the seventh seal (of the seventh scroll?) was broken and the Word contained beneath it was about to be revealed, there was thirty minutes of silence. While the chaos of the world and the universe which contained it raged in apostasy, hypocrisy and anarchy, all Heaven fell silent. That meant: no wings whirred; no crowns were tossed to ring to a stop before the throne; no chorus sang praise; no Word was spoken. It was as if not even the breath of God moved throughout the “whole court of heaven.” Nothing moved. Nothing dared move. Imagine that! For thirty minutes there existed a complete silence. So quiet was it that “if,” parenthetically speaking, the proverbial pin would drop everyone and everything would hear it. Of course, there would be no dropping of a pin nor a pen in that moment. All focus of attention and intention was upon the Lamb of God who alone was given the permission, authority and capability of opening the scroll(s). Already, we had been exposed to the clamoring of activity which followed the first six seals being broken and, in the words of Captain James T. Kirk, “the word is given.” In light of what had already been revealed to all those in Heaven, including John, there was much anticipation. What would be the judgment? What would be the blessing? What would be the justice? What would be the outcome? Most of all “What would come next?”
If you will remember in my first reflections on the word of Revelation from Jesus to John, I mentioned that it was a template for worship of, prayer to and service for God. Collectively, I might say that The Book of Revelation, was a “prayerful service of worship” extended as the invitation to the most significant wedding of flesh and spirit, humanity and divinity, truth and justice ever conducted. Without reviewing the traditional practices of the ancient Middle Eastern wedding, let me simply say “there was a lot to be done to make all things ready!” In terms of our worship services in today’s Church (local congregations, house churches and wayside gatherings along the highways, biways, alleyways and street corners), there is a lot to be done to make all things and everyone ready for this spectacular experience. What if we took to heart, mind and soul the assimilation of this “heavenly wedding” as the template for our “worship” services. I dare say, via discernment not judgment, that modern worship services have us more in mind than they have God in mind. The appeal is to draw people in and then minister to them instead of drawing people in who have been prepared to worship God. To worship God would be to revel in the blessing of His promised presence “high and lifted up with His train filling the temple/sanctuary/auditorium/ family room/street corner/migrant shelter/designated space of recognizing “I AM the Lord your God, a jealous God, and you should have no other gods before Me.” Try as we “might,” I dare say we do not have this goal in sight as far and wide and as near and dear as would serve us, others, the neighbor, the enemy and God best. I say this with that very first verse of chapter 8 in mind. How dare we create that holy silence of anticipation for “what comes next” in our fifty-five minutes of worship each Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday or Saturday! How would we get all the “business” of the Church done in only twenty-five minutes? There are singers who need to present their latest production. There are deacons who need to collect the “tithes and offerings.” There are the attendants who must distribute, for those who still do this due to Covid-19, the elements of communion. What about the announcements? What about the various “special person” recognition (singular and plural)? What about the sermon, most of which address some (at least hopefully doing so) scripture to the most concerning self-help need? And then there is that infamous meet and greet, as well as acknowledging guests and visitors, which usually happens as some sort of “halftime entertainment” for the purpose of promoting the “relationship over religion” identity. What about all of that? That surely can’t happen in twenty-five minutes, can it? So, what do we do? We enable and promote “chaos.” We promote “Nature abhors a vacuum and doesn’t even know it.” What does that mean anyway? Just try and create a quiet moment and see how long you last in it. What is that scripture, “A thousand years is as a blink of an eye.” Time seems to pass more slowly in those moments of silence. Ever think that it is because we are not quiet in our spirit? Have we considered that we are uncomfortable with the concept of “Immanuel, God with us”? We are more like Martha in that line of thinking than Mary. It highlights the very root of the issues we face in today’s world. We do not believe we are capable of choosing a singular focus on the presence and the will of God for our lives. We are too captivated with our own agendas that taking time to absorb God’s plan and expectation almost seems unreasonable. We stop following God’s lead and soon we are wandering in a wilderness of sin. In a parable perspective, we were so consumed with our own light that we were not ready for when the true “Light of the World” came calling. Unprepared, He passed us by, closed the door and went on without us. Mighty ones of God, the Book of Revelation presents a strong indictment of the modern secular and non-secular world. It can be a call to repentance or a sentence of “final judgment not in our favor.” The choice is ours and always has been. The measure was established before the foundations of the world were set and the opportunity to measure ourselves by it for the good of One and all was offered freely. What shall we do now? That is the question of “What comes next?”
A PRAYER FOR TODAY:
You are our God and we shall be Your people in spirit and in truth. Continue to dwell among us. Let the revelation by Your Holy Spirit inspire us to greater service in a more refined identity. We do not live as ourselves for ourselves. Rather, we live in Christ as He lives in us. We declare it with all the elders and angels in Heaven, saying “Holy, holy, holy is He who was and is and is to come.” In Jesus’ name we live, serve and pray. AMEN.