Welcome back to week two of our sermon series called Dream Big where we are making our way through the book of the Revelation, that weird wild and wacky book at the back of the Bible that nobody reads because it’s just a little too strange, or scary, or incomprehensible.
But it’s not those things, ok maybe it’s some of those things, but that’s part of the fun of reading it right.
As a quick aside, we can’t possibly cover all 22 books of Revelation in 7 weeks. So we’ve been selective in what we’re reading to worship to give you exposure to both the promises and the warnings present in this book. Even if you’re able to be here each week, I encourage you to return to the website to read the sermons you miss and visit some supplemental resources that will help you go deeper into this exciting book of rich images and visions.
To recap where we’ve been so far, most scholars think this book was written somewhere toward the end of the 1st Century. It’s written to seven churches who are experiencing the full range of what it means to be church. Some were being persecuted. Some were getting too comfortable. Some were losing hope. John writes this letter and shares this vision with them to encourage them to remain faithful.
It’s helpful to mention that far too often people imagine that the book of Revelation is a playbook for the end of the world. When instead it’s really a story that points to what God has done and continues to do for God’s people so that they can live confidently in the present, knowing that their future is secure.
Or to draw from Mary’s wonderful sermon last week, “We don’t know what the future may hold, but we know who holds the future.”
So if John’s Revelation wants to make the case that God holds our past, present and our future. Then it would make sense to wonder with John, who is God?
As we turn our attention to today’s reading from chapter 4, John lays his cards one the table. Who is God? God is the creator. In verse 11, the 24 elders (we’ll come back to them) sing, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
Maybe that’s anti-climatic. Doctrinal statements and sermons, hymnody, liturgy and creeds have long asserted God’s centrality creating the world. The book of Genesis got there much earlier than Revelation.
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth…
For Revelation to claim first and foremost that God is the creator, well I wouldn’t be surprised if that elicited a yawn from most of you. You know that. God made us, this world and all that’s in it. That’s old news, it’s ancient news.
And it’s pretty broadly accepted. Most people, even if they’re more inclined to describe themselves as agnostics are willing to concede that there was probably something, somewhere who put this whole thing in motion.
So what’s with this weird throne room scene, the multi winged singing animals, and 24 elders throwing their crowns around? Is it really simply to drive home this widely accepted point that God made the world?
Yes, but it’s more than that.
This passage puts before us two truths that demand our attention. First, this God who creates is at the center of all things. There are all kinds of people and things that demand our fealty. There are all kinds of people in whom we place our trust. There are all kinds ways in which we think the crowns that we have fashioned for ourselves give us the right to rule, to be in charge, to chart the way forward. But they are not God, they are not at the center of things, they are not the one who was and is and still is to come. These things that seek to rule our lives or to whom we give our allegiance will ultimately fall away.
God is God and we are not.
Second, to claim that God is the creator of all things, to say that all of the created order exists because of God’s will and desire, is a powerful statement. It means that God is still creating. It means that God is still bring life and newness into existence. Too often we live as though God is set it and forget kind of God. We live as though God wound up this great circus called life, put it in motion and is just watching to see what happens.
But that is not the picture of God that we encounter in the book of Revelation, or in the Bible more broadly. The God of the Bible, the God that we have come to know through the person of Jesus Christ – God in flesh – is very much invested in this world. God created the world, God is renewing the world and one day, God will make all things new.
To claim that God is the creator, is to believe and trust in a God who creates new ways forward. We aren’t doing this alone. Brothers and sisters, our present and our future belongs to God. We entrust our lives, our church, our world to the hands of the God who made heaven and earth and is still creating right now in our midst. God isn’t done here.
Amidst all of calamity of life in this world, the uncertainty, the conflict, the pain and suffering – God is still at work. God is still creating. God hasn’t gotten another job, the God who made heaven and earth and all that is in it is still making good and beautiful things, things worth celebrating.
That’s the final piece of this funny but profoundly powerful vision that Revelation shares with us today, we’re called to celebrate, to sing, to praise.
For a long time I struggled with the notion of praise. Why should we praise God? Is God a needy deity who needs to hear nice things about himself? Is that why we worship, to give God a little ego stroke. Then in seminary, I had a psalms class with Rolf Jacobson, who teaches that praise is not principally for me, nor is it really for God. We praise God for our neighbor.
In a sermon, Rolf once said,
The praise of God is not for God, but it is for mission, for evangelism, for the mutual edification of the community. I am to praise God so that you might know of what God has done for me and so grow in your own faith. And you are to praise God that I might know of what God has done for you and so grow in my own faith.
We praise God so that this world might know, believe, and live the truth that God isn’t done with us yet, that out of our darkest and most difficult days God is always creating something new. For that we give thanks and praise to God, this days and always Amen.
 from a sermon delivered for Luther Seminary Daily chapel