So what kind of music do you like? What is the song that your heart wants to sing? Singing reaches deep into our being. We sing when we are happy. We sing the anthem before a sporting event. We sing during a worship service. Songs of justice are sung by those enslaved to inspire hope. Singing does something to us. Singing enables us to express what comes from the heart. The Revelation reading is full of song. In particular, a new song.
John is still recording the revelation that is being given to him. The One who sits in glory on the throne has a scroll waiting to be opened and read. Who is worthy to do this? None in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll. Then came a Lamb looking like it had been slain appeared and took the scroll. All of heaven burst out in song.
The living creatures and the elders bowed down and began singing a new song. Angels numbering in the tens of thousands joined in the song. Every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the the sea, and all that is in them – all of creation – joined in the song. It was a new song to worship the Lamb.
The book of Revelation helps to refocus our attention upon the One who is worthy of worship. It wasn’t Rome or Caesar, or any other power at the time. The Lamb who was slain alone is worthy.
We are constantly being divided by identity. Our allegiance is demanded as Democrat or Republican, as liberal or conservative, as evangelical or none. The demand for identity doesn’t permit critical thought over who is worthy of our support, or allegiance or worship.
All of heaven and creation is singing a new song. The Lamb who was slain has done what none other can do. Jesus Christ is the Lamb. He unites us from every tribe and language and nation. His blood has given us a new identity as children of our God. He is our salvation from the sinful division. He has given us a new purpose and that is to serve God. He is worthy of our worship.
So as we find ourselves ever more divided for the sake of power. Remember who is worthy. Sing a new song.
The great declaration of the Christian faith is that Christ has died…Christ is risen…Christ will come again. This coming week is Holy Week and we look at the first part: Christ has died. I encourage all to attend Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services to grasp the depth of the Christian faith. This reading from Luke is long as it covers the passion from the Last Supper to his crucified death. The question is, “How could we?”
Following the Last Supper with his disciples, Jesus goes with them to the Mount of Olives to pray. Judas Iscariot is absent because he left to betray Jesus. Suddenly Judas arrives with a crowd to arrest Jesus. A kiss of friendship is given. A sword is drawn. Jesus announces that the power of darkness is at hand while he is taken away.
There has been an ongoing conflict between Jesus and the Kingdom of Heaven against the power of darkness. Now has come the time for the power of darkness to reveal itself. The next few hours the power of darkness reveals it’s true nature. Lies. Deceit. Violence. Normally rational people screaming for the death of an innocent man while leaders stir up emotions further. Their delirium has them demanding the release of a known murderer to see Jesus killed instead. Mockery. Kill. This is the power of darkness.
This is why Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and all of Holy Week are important. If we simply jump to Easter, then we excuse ourselves and sit like spectators watching a game to see who wins. We need to see the darkness. We need to recognize our involvement. We need to ask the question, “How could we allow ourselves to made pawns of the darkness?”
How could he? When this question is asked of Jesus, the answer is always ‘love.’ Yet the word is vague. There is a rare group of people willing to sacrifice their lives for someone else. We call them ‘heroes.’ Jesus gave of himself for a world lost in its darkness. This is why we call him, Savior. This is love.
For now the power of darkness seems unstoppable and Jesus is handed over. However, he takes his last breath on the cross in trust that the One who called light into existence will not let darkness prevail. Jesus took his last breath trusting that the One who created life will not let it be denied by the darkness.
This coming week, we take a long look at the darkness and ask “How could we?” We also ask, “How could he?”
Jesus really seems to mess things up in the lesson from Luke. He had his chance to unify his political base but it was lost instead. Politics. We have likely played the game at one time or another. We have also likely been played. Politics goes like this:
The right phrases or code words are used to get your base’s attention. Emotions are tugged at, especially fear. Fear is a good one. Fear of change. Fear of our neighbor. Fear of those with different ideas. Yes, fear is a good one to rally the base behind you. You need to say what will bring the people together.
Jesus was getting a lot of good attention from those in the synagogue. They spoke highly of Jesus and how gracious his words were that he spoke. The people were amazed at how far Jesus had come from being a simple carpenter’s son. The people were ready to follow but then Jesus messed up.
He announced the beginning of his ministry by quoting from Scripture. Did he quote Scripture that reinforced the feelings of nationalism and rebirth of the nation of Israel? Nope. Did he quote Scripture that emphasized God’s preference of Israel over the other nations, namely Rome? Nope. Instead, Jesus quoted from the prophet Isaiah of good news brought to the poor, freedom to the prisoner, oppressed were released and of the year of the Lord’s favor when society was rebooted and all debts were cancelled. The result of the widening gap between the rich and poor was made more level.
The people still were interested until Jesus told of God sending Elijah to a widow in Zarephath during a famine and not to Israel. Also of Elisha cleansing Naaman’s leprosy and none other. These two were Gentiles. The people were furious and tried to throw Jesus off a cliff to kill him.
Just before this Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. One of the big temptations was to have all the nations of the world if Jesus would only worship the devil. He could have had the people if he only played the game of politics. They would have lifted him up high if Jesus only would go for the power of the world. In the end, the people lifted him high on a cross but he was raised on the third day. The power of God is greater than our sin. The power of God is what can raise up new life from our passion for death.
Jesus came to announce good news to the poor, the oppressed and the prisoner. He came to announce the year of the Lord’s favor. He came to save us and make this world new. Jesus was a lousy politician. This is good news.