“It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand” – Mark Twain
We can sympathize a little with Mark Twain in his view of the Bible. There are parts that seem pretty hard to figure out – and others that are all too clear!
I must admit, for a very long time, Revelation was a book I avoided. It seemed just too hard to understand and the parts I thought I might understand were actually kind of scary.
Maybe you have felt the same. Yet how much I missed by that avoidance! We have been given this book, full of some of the deepest and most glorious songs of praise and worship. It is written for our encouragement in times of trouble and to give us hints about a future that is beyond the capability of words to express.
The reading from Revelation this week (scroll to the bottom for the reading if you don’t have your Bible handy) is stunning. Imagine all the hosts of heaven, and all those who have ever, and will ever, be followers of Jesus and all the created beings and all the angels and the renewed creation all joining in a song of praise to Jesus. Imagine all of us together, standing in awe before him, in bodies full of health and vigour, with sweet and clear voices, arms uplifted, hands held high and faces glowing with heavenly radiance, singing with every cell of our beings. Shut your eyes for a moment and let yourself be there. “Worthy is the Lamb . . .”
When we come together as a church, we bring a tiny bit of that to our present reality. Worship is not something we observe, nor is it a performance of “professionals” touching our emotions or something someone brings to us. Worship is the bringing of our whole selves to God, in humility and thankfulness and awe. We worship with our bodies, singing and kneeling and standing and being silent by times. We join others in prayers and creeds and singing in anticipation of the time when all our voices will sound as one in the great and glorious worship of the One who gave himself for us. We worship with our minds as we hear the scripture read and the Word proclaimed. We worship with our emotions as we respond in ways that sometimes surprise us. And as we do, we join all of those who have gone before us.
We bring every part of ourselves to the God who created us, and as we do, we bless and are blessed. As we do, we come to know our best selves, the selves we were created to be. And more importantly, as we do, we come to know the God who delights in our worship and in knowing that God, we are transformed.
Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, singing with full voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing,
“To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the elders fell down and worshiped.