Lord over All

Message:  To remind us that God is Lord over all things, time & space – based on Psalm 148 & Revelation 21:1-6.

Introduction 

Blizzards, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes – we have recently been reminded how powerful nature is and how we are subject to that power.  As the song says, “We’re not as smart as we’d like to think we are!”

Exegesis:What is the Bible saying to us today?

Psalm 148.  We hear a hymn of praise.  All of creation, heaven and earth, is to join in.  Nothing and no one is left out: angels; sun, moon and stars; the sea and its creatures; the weather; the land; all plants and trees; wild and domestic animals, birds and insects; and all people – royalty and commoners, men and women, young and old.

Revelation 21:1-6.  These last chapters of the last book of the Bible, we see the final vision of the last things, the end of history.  In this passage, the seer invites us to share a vision of “a new heaven and a new earth” (v1). The old familiar things – and their limitations – are swept away by God and replaced by a heaven and earth, the like of which has never been seen before!  Think about that…scientists tell us that in the Big Bang, not only was the physical universe created, but time and space itself came into being.  At the end God will repeat and renew this creation (v5).  “It is done” (v6) God’s plan is completed.  God is “the Alpha and the Omega” (explain Greek alphabet). There is nothing outside of, or beyond, Him.

In these passages we could draw many lessons, but one that strikes me is God’s power is universal.  He is God over all creation, over earth and heaven, over all time and space.

Application: Lord over All?

What should be our response to these visions?

  • Some people want to exclude God from public life, because they don’t understand faith, for example, the desire to avoid ‘Christmas’ for fear of offending Muslims, when, in fact, they revere Jesus.
  • Some want to say that there is a conflict between science and religion – I don’t accept that.  I believed in evolution and the big bang theory before I believed in God.  Whatever the scientists discover about God’s creation, it doesn’t stop us having a relationship with Him.
  • We need to remember that we can pray for everyone everywhere – no one can stop us!  Praying for people is a great way to avoid the temptation of judging them, which – sadly – what many people expect from us. 
  • Just as we should not judge, no one can judge us.  We can wear our religious symbols and talk about God: let’s stop asking permission to do this and just get on with it. 
  • Perhaps most threatening of all though is that God wants to be Lord over every part of our lives.  Dare we surrender everything to Him?  Can we submit all to His scrutiny, for His approval and blessing? 
  • Do we have integrity? Are we consistent in our private thoughts and public words?

Conclusion

When those without faith look at natural disasters around the world they look at so many deaths and see only tragedy.  However, the faithful know that there is more to creation than this physical world. There is heaven, and death is not the end for those who accept Jesus as Lord.  For us this physical life is only part of the story, indeed there is no part of our outer or inner world where God doesn’t belong.  Without God life is incomplete and our individual lives and community life lack meaning.

Any Questions?

Any questions? A Sermon on Revelation 1:4b-8 (Proper 29 / Ordinary 34, Year B)

Introduction

Asked to cover the fifth Apprentice study on ‘Questioning’.

Scripture

Revelation: an odd choice?  John is expressing a revealed truth from a vision – surely no questions here?  I love its symbols and imagery, its faith, beauty and terror.  Have I blinded my intellect with emotion?  But this Book is not so crude, let’s look at this praise (doxology).

  • V4a. Personal testimony vs church tradition – safety in numbers, a moderating influence.
  • V4b. A personal Revelation from the Spirit – not to be kept to oneself, but tested.
  • V5.  The example of Jesus, whose credibility is his life, teaching, sacrifice and resurrection.
  • V6.  The experience, wisdom, witness and example of billions of people over 2,000 years.
  • V7.  Prophecy (this passage from Daniel, another apocalypse – literature).
  • V8.  God is sovereign over all time and space.  We can learn from creation and history.

Reason

  • Questioning is not looking for excuses not to commit,
  • Nor is questioning to win an argument (“are you asking me or telling me?”):
    • The emphasis on debate and winning arguments is a Western cultural obsession.
    • It comes from the Western Church – not God and our Eastern Religion!
  • It is not looking for a sign (Wood Allen quote, Desmond Tutu bio, naked men story).
  • Not to change God’s mind (or is it?), but to develop ours in His presence.
  • Not to get a perfect, rigid, unmerciful, human system of philosophy.
    • We are not looking for a neat theology that is divorced from a messy world.
    • God is perfectly holy and yet merciful, through the Trinity – our doctrine is not!

Practical/Application

Why ask Questions?

  • Rudyard Kipling (a journalist, writing a story for children) said:

“I keep six honest serving-men

(They taught me all I knew);

Their names are What and Why and When

And How and Where and Who.”

  • If we ask questions rather than accept received (imposed?) wisdom, we ‘own’ it.
  • If asked, I can probably deal with a question that I have asked and answered … or not?
  • We question to try and make us more complete – this implies change.  Ouch!
  • Paradox: we ask questions expecting to possess less knowledge, but more wisdom & trust.

Conclusion – Any Questions?

Let’s put some perspective on this.

  • Better to ask questions than to assume  = makes an ass of you and me!
  • Questions should not worry us – the motives of those asking the questions should!
  • Equally, we should not be worried about not getting neat answers.
    • It’s still worth asking the questions, for all sorts of reasons.
    • Knowledge will pass away but faith, hope and love are eternal.
  • Jesus’ mission was to show Himself to all people, so they can say “who is this?” and answer “Jesus is Lord.”

The Maker of the Jar

Introduction

I heard a story (again) yesterday.  A teacher takes out a jar, which is a life, and puts things in it:

  • 1st, Golf balls – your health, family & friends (is it full?);
  • 2nd, Marbles – your job, house, car, etc (is it full?);
  • 3rd, Sand – all the other stuff of life (is it full?).

They all fit if you put them in that order.  However, if you put the sand in first, then there is not enough room for everything.  The moral is to prioritise loving relationships first in life, otherwise, they suffer.

Now this story is fine on the surface, but it has always annoyed me, and yesterday I asked God ‘why is that?’  He answered straight away, showing me that this story is useless to people who lack:

  • Good health or a loving family;
  • A job or possessions; and
  • Everything else – if just staying alive is a struggle.

So this story only speaks to a privileged few.  It is only for those who are rich, in every sense of the word, those who have choice, who have to choose, because they have so much.

Scripture

Contrast that story with this image from Revelation Chap 21.  God speaks to the faithful, who have lost their jobs, possessions and loved ones, who have been tortured and even killed because of their loyalty to Him.  He promises a new universe, with a new Jerusalem, where God and His people will live together like never before.  There will be no more death, grief, crying or pain.  God declares that life, the universe & everything is completed, as he is the beginning and the end of history, the reason for it all.

Conclusion

God’s Revelation is greater than man’s wisdom.  He will satisfy those who have everything and nothing, the loved and unloved, the comfortable and the suffering.  He made all the golf balls, all the marbles and all the sand – every good thing comes from him.  He made the jar itself.  He is the creator and ultimate fulfilment of the universe and of everything in it.  He is love and life itself.  Amen.