Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne. When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. They sing a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation; you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on earth.” 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.

Revelation 5:6-14

Pastor Marc's sermon on the Third Sunday of Easter (April 10, 216) on Revelation 5:6-14. Listen to the recording here or read my manuscript below. 


A few years ago, two Lutheran pastors I knew were setting off on a new adventure. At the invitation of the Lutheran Church in Romania, they were leaving the United States to start a brand new English-speaking church in the town of Cluj. They were leaving everything they knew to be part of what God is doing on the other side of the world. As the date for their departure neared, a little church service was held to commission them as missionaries. Now, I don’t remember a lot of the service but I do remember the singing. I was sitting in a pew with a few friends and there was someone behind me who I didn’t know well. I knew they were a pastor - and they were kind, tall, boisterous, and very fun to be around. But I didn’t know that they could sing. And by sing, I mean sing loud. And this was great because the worship service was filled with hymns I didn’t know. When these kinds of hymns showed up, I was...quiet because I didn’t know how they went. But not this other guy. Even if he didn’t know the tune, he sang. He sang loud. His voice is so large and deep, that even without a mic, you could still hear him in the parking lot outside. He was so loud that I couldn’t hear myself sing. And that... was incredibly freeing. So what if I didn’t know the tune? No one could hear me anyways so I just sang out, as loud as I could. I wasn’t singing well - but I could sing loud because my voice was being overpowered by the larger voice behind me. Supported by that largeness, that fullness, I was empowered. With some new found gumption, that large voice let me sing boldly and loudly. 

Singing and song - so much of our life as a church revolves around those two things. When we gather together to worship, there’s just something that makes us sing. Ever our order of worship reflects that. It doesn’t matter if we can’t carry a tune. One of the first things we do each Sunday morning is sing. When we’re in God’s presence - surrounded by God’s people - the only thing we can do is sing. And we see that in our reading from the book of Revelation today. All of heaven is gathered around God. There are too many angels and creatures and divine beings to even count. Everybody is there - gathered around the throne of God. And all they can do is sing. 

Last week, when we started this journey through Revelation, I mentioned that we should keep an eye on our image of Jesus and what Jesus looks like in the book of Revelation. This book is really a letter, written by a man named John, directed towards seven churches located in what is today Turkey. Last week, we heard the very start of the letter. But today, we’re in chapter 5, at the start of John’s vision of what’s to come. In the text between last Sunday and today, John has been offering a word of advice and a word of comfort to these seven churches. It seems they are under great pressure and are being attacked in someway. These communities are wondering what’s going on, where’s God, and what are they to do next. So after some words of comfort, John moves immediately into the next part of his letter, the part that is filled with fantastic images, epic scenes, and over-the-top experiences. It’s in this part of the letter that some Christians see a roadmap or a playbook about how the end of the world comes. These giant battles and imaginative scenes are so big, that even Peter Jackson, director of the Lord of the Rings film series, even he couldn’t showcase everything Revelation has to offer. But before the battles and the so-called end of the world, John describes the first thing he sees in his vision. He sees God’s throne room. If God was located in only one place, and God had a palace or a mansion or a penthouse apartment on 5th avenue, this - chapter 4 and 5 - is what that place would look and sound like. The Father is there, so is the Son, as well as angels and other divine beings. And what are they doing? They’re singing. And the text today doesn’t say if they sang well. I mean, I guess we can assume that if anyone can sing well, it’s probably angels. But the text doesn’t talk about the beauty of their singing. The text focuses on the fullness - the loudness - how every nook and cranny in that space is filled with song and there’s no spot that is silent. And after Jesus, this lamb who was slaughtered, is acknowledged and pointed to - that’s when John notices others singing as well. The songs around Jesus - around this one who was killed but who triumphed because God’s love can’t be defeated - when Jesus is around, everything - “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea:” everything sings. This massive song isn’t a song only for tomorrow. John isn’t describing what’s going to happen next, what’s only going to happen in the future. John is describing what’s going on, right now, in God’s reality. Jesus was born. Jesus lived. Jesus loved. And Jesus was killed. And now, this lamb who was slaughtered, he’s in charge. He’s in control. And that’s why everyone sings. God’s son appeared so powerless on the cross but in his death, and through God’s love, he rose, promising all of us that we are part of something bigger. Our story and God’s story are linked. Our story and Jesus’ story are the same. The life he lives is the life we now have. Revelation isn’t a book that’s only about the future. Revelation is a book about the victory Jesus has already won. Our salvation, our relationship, through Jesus and in faith, is secure. And there’s no authority on earth that can change that. God’s love for us can’t be overturn by those around us - no matter how hard they try. God gave us that love - and, in our baptism, we’re part of how God is loving the world. No matter what others do or say - we are part of how God is reconciling the world to Godself. The story ends in God’s love and that’s why God sent Jesus into the world and why God sends us too. So how can we love like Jesus loved? And just what does that look like?

Those questions - that discovery of love - is how God transforms us into a song for the world. [And It’s what God is doing today for Riley too. Riley is being added to God’s song] [God’s song is our song] - a song that is sung through our words and our voices, a song that is sung through our acts of love and acts of kindness, a song that is sung when we are a Christ for our neighbors even when we don’t have a dog in their fight. And even when we don’t know the words, even if the tune we hear isn’t like anything we’ve experienced before, we sing it with confidence and boldness because Christ loves us. And this love isn’t just louder than ours, it also empowers us, to love each other, and the world. The lamb who was slaughtered is teaching us a new song. This Jesus who lives is teaching us to sing. We, like the myriads of myriads who came before us and who will come after us and who are singing, right now, around God’s throne, we are here to love - and to sing God’s love song to the entire world.