God’s Circle of Hope
Revelation 1: 4b-8
Reign of Christ; November 25, 2018
Text: Revelation 1: 4b-8, 4b 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, 5 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, 6 and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 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. 8 "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
Reflection: Today, the last Sunday of Pentecost, is celebrated as the Reign of Christ. In our Church Calendar, today is the last Sunday of the year; next Sunday, the first Sunday in the new year, is the first Sunday in the season of Advent. Today is a day when the Church looks forward in hope to the time when, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
However, working for Jesus’ kin-dom, praying for “thy kin-dom [to] come” is a rather difficult endeavor in the face of the hate-filled violence in the U.S. against Jewish worshippers in Pittsburgh. In the face of sheer horror, peace seems impossible (Revelation 1:4). In the face of senseless violence, imagining the absence of terror seems hopeless. God’s kin-dom looks very far off on these kinds of days and in this kind of world. Working for God’s kin-dom feels like a rather futile determination. It’s not just an uphill battle – it’s unfeasible, even ridiculous to think that our efforts and energies can turn the world around into the world God sees it can be.
In times like this, how do we Christians respond to such violence and work to do our mission? How do we discern and fulfill our mission in this season of annual stewardship campaign?
One of our scripture readings is from the book of Revelation, a book not frequently mentioned in our pulpit. The book of Revelation stands at the end of the New Testament and thus at the end of the Christian Bible. However, it was not the last document of the New Testament to be written, nor did its author know that it would someday conclude the Christian Bible. Its placement at the end of the New Testament canon is due to its subject matter: “the end.” Revelation uses numerous symbols, codes and numbers because it is generally agreed by scholars that the author, said to be named John, wrote the book while in prison under the ruthless rule of the Roman Empire. He could not use plain language to address the Christian communities in seven cities in Asia Minor. Rather he had to use special language to encourage the first century Christians who lived amidst the conflict between competing lordships under the Roman Empire, Christ’s and Caesar’s. Is Caesar lord, or is God as known in Jesus Christ lord? Throughout the Book of Revelation, John answers clearly. In today’s scripture, John proclaims the exclusive lordship of God as he states, Jesus is “the ruler of the kings of the earth.” (1:5)
From his prison context, John uses a variety of images, symbols and codes known to those of his faith community to confess that Jesus is lord and that Caesar, who killed Jesus, is not. John encourages these first century Christians who are being forced to confess that Caesar is lord not to lose their faith in Jesus. John declares that Jesus Christ alone is lord. The Book of Revelation is not an old story relevant only to first-century Christians. Revelation cannot be read to predict the future or the end of the world; rather it is meant to affirm that Jesus Christ is lord and others are not. In our time Caesar can symbolize any system of domination like the Roman Empire of old. Any domination system tempts us to forget the lordship of Jesus Christ and to worship other gods who strengthen a web of political oppression, economic exploitation and environmental damage. We think of examples of such systems as militarism, consumerism, dependence on war and violence, individualism, indifference, and religious violence.
When we confess Jesus is our lord, it does not discount or demean other religious figures or faiths. It does not mean we dismiss other faiths in order to hold fast our faith in Jesus. The word, “lord,” can be understood as a language of love. It is a confessional language. In our human history when we come into a personal, intimacy relationship we use the love language expressed in this phrase “There is no other like you.” It denotes where my heart is. Two thousand years ago, when the Johannine community confessed its faith, it used love languages: “Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega.” “Jesus is our lord.”
We are in the middle of our annual stewardship campaign, a season of commitment. The stewardship campaign is a time of checking, checking where our heart is in terms of our commitment and loyalty. We commit to God’s mission through West Point Grey United to realize God’s vision for us. We commit to our resources, time and talent for God’s mission. About three months here at West Point Grey United I have been deeply moved by the people of this congregation for your passion and enthusiasm for caring for each other, building just relationship with the First Nations, doing intercultural ministry, remembering our mission relationship with China, exploring progressive theologies, etc.
With these enthusiasms and passions, we continue to do our ministry. At the beginning of our stewardship campaign, I presented the logo based on perichoresis in Greek to dance around. The logo represents present and future ministry of West Point Grey United. Just as God, Jesus and Holy Spirit dace together in love and respect, we at West Point Grey United dace together for celebrating God’s presence among us and for a common good.
In the logo there are four colours: white, red, yellow, black adopted from a medicine wheel. It is our ongoing effort that we seek just relationships with First Nations with reconciliation. We continue to pursue intercultural ministry. In our intercultural ministry where we actively participate in worship service with hymn sing with native tongues and meaningful relationships among different cultural heritages. We put our effort to rebuild children’s ministry. We will explore various theological themes and topics through bible studies.
In this between time, a time between the ending and the beginning, John is encouraging us to strengthen our faith in Jesus by living out our faith in his vision and spirit. Revelation is not a book about the end of the world; it is about the hope for the world. When we confess Jesus is “the ruler of the kings of the earth,” we live into hope of a new beginning as we journey into the season of Advent. We are not living in the end-times, we are living in the circle of hope by renewing our faith and building God’s church anew through our stewardship. In a time like meaning less shooting and in the face of fear in the politics - we extend our love to our neighbours who may have different faith and culture so that it is clear that our love for neighbours is for the sake of God’s reign. In a time like this, we practice God’s mission through our responses to stewardship campaign so that God’s circle of hope for the world is lived though our commitment. So, shall we dance into a new season? Thanks be to God for the encouragement! Amen.