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.