Any questions? A Sermon on Revelation 1:4b-8 (Proper 29 / Ordinary 34, Year B)
Asked to cover the fifth Apprentice study on ‘Questioning’.
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.
- 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!
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.”