Lectionary Sermon for November 21, 2021

Revelation 1:4-8   We Believe

Fear is a very powerful emotion.  Fear is a response to a perceived or actual emotional or physical danger.  It is one of the emotions we human beings develop as a consequence of our being separated from God by sin.  We fear because we know bad things can happen.  We fear because we know we can be hurt.  We fear because we know we can die. 

A few years back people wore clothing with the words “no fear” in big letters across the front in a cultural craze.  Such thinking is whistling in the dark, it is an illusion.  We all have fears, even the fear of having fears.  Advertisers know this.  Politicians know this.  Terrorists know this and use it to their advantage. 

However, fear has a fear.  Fear has an enemy.  Fear can be defeated with understanding, confidence, trust, and assurance. 

There is a song but a Christian band, the Newsboys, that begins with the line, “In this time of desperation, When all we know is doubt and fear, there is only One Foundation,  We believe, We believe”. The song is filled with elements of the Apostle’s Creed.

What do we believe?  Some of us believe strongly what we stated in the Apostles’ Creed.  Ok, but how does this help us overcome fear?

Some Christian groups have no purpose for creeds. I believe this is because they do not really understand what a creed like the Apostle’s Creed all is about. Yes, in the past creeds have been misused. In reality, a creed is a statement of faith that gives us the foundational core tenets of the faith.  What the creed tells us is who God is, what God has done, and what we can trust in no matter what.

The next verse of the Newsboys’ song states, “In this broken generation, When all is dark, You help us see There is only One Salvation, We believe, We believe.

And what do we believe? We believe in God the Father. We believe in Jesus Christ. We believe in the Holy Spirit, And He’s given us new life.  We believe in the crucifixion.  We believe that He conquered death. We believe in the resurrection, And He’s comin’ back again, we believe!

The book of Revelation is one of the most profound, confusing, troubling, books in the Bible.  There is a joke about two people who are discussing the Bible.  One says to the other, “I used to think I was an expert on the book of Revelation, and then I met someone who has actually read it.” 

The book of Revelation is a book I have given a lot of study in my ministry career.  The book of Revelation is a book of the Bible that God promises to bless those who study it.  Revelation 1:3 promises, “Favored (blessed) is the one who reads the words of this prophecy out loud, and favored are those who listen to it being read, and keep what is written in it, for the time is near.”

And yes, the Book of Revelation has a lot of symbols, images, and visions that are very difficult and hard to understand.  But if you understand the purpose of the Book, you can be blessed even if you do not grasp all the visions and scenes it describes.

The Book of Revelation was likely written between 64 and 81 A.D., almost 5 to 6 decades after the ascension of Jesus into heaven.  Most Christians at the time that Jesus ascended believed that when Jesus said he would return, he would be coming back in a few weeks or maybe months at the latest.   But Jesus did not come back.  The time when on.  Year after year the church looked for Jesus’s return, but it did not happen. 

What did happen was that persecution of the church increased.  Also, as can happen, when Jesus did not come back immediately, some of the zeal and anticipation began to be replaced by complacency and a lack of commitment. 

John, the author of Revelation, was a bishop, likely the pastor of Ephesus, and was worried about the persecution his flock was facing.  John was aware difficult times were coming.  John, himself was arrested for being a Christian.  This lead to his exile on the island of Patmos.  On the island of Patmos, Jesus comes to John and gives him this vision. 

The vision tells of a difficult future.  The vision warns the church of the difficulties that will come.  The vision warns that the challenges the church will face will not only come from without but also from within due to our love growing cold or experiencing misdirection by the things of this world.  The vision warns days are coming in which Christians will need to have a strong faith.  Christians will need to know and hold tightly to what they believe. 

The verses we read today, are verses that give us the foundation for what we need to understand.  These verses proclaim to us who Jesus is, what Jesus has done, and what Jesus most certainly will accomplish in the future.  These verses remind us God is in control.  God knows what is going on. The purpose of these verses is not just informational, but transformational.

These verses state very directly not only who Jesus is, but what Jesus wants us to be.  Jesus has made us a kingdom.  Jesus has made us priests.  Jesus will come for us if we are the ones who truly believe.

It has been very close to two thousand years since Jesus ascended into heaven.  That is a long time.  Why has it been this long?  I don’t know.  But I am glad. 

Why am I glad, because I was not born in Jesus’s day.  I am here today, as are you because God has not yet decided this world will end.  And while I am looking forward to the time of being with Jesus, I understand that if Jesus waits another 1000 years, 10,000 years or 100,00 years it means there will be more people to be part of the eternity that God has planned.  That means there will be more people to love and to love us. 

It also means we must be diligent in doing our job.  We are Jesus’s priests.  We are responsible to intercede and to instruct.  We are the instruments of the one we call Lord.  What a privilege.  What an opportunity.  However, this responsibility is something we will be accountable.  This too, we believe.

Another verse in the Newsboys’ song cries out to us about this responsibility, “Let the lost be found and the dead be raised!  In the here and now, let love invade!  Let the church live loud, our God we’ll say We believe, We believe!

I started this sermon by talking about fear.  Our world is full of things to fear.  There is the fear of terrorists.  There is the fear of disease, cancer, the damage done to the environment, and fear of Covid-19.  There is the fear of failing relationships.  The fear good parents have for what will happen to their children and grandchildren. 

John understood fear.  As a disciple, he saw Jesus crucified and wondered if he would be next.  He saw the hatred toward those who followed Jesus and the young, growing church.  He heard the words our Lord proclaimed about how Satan would want to sift us. 

However, John understood something else.  John knew Jesus was in charge.  John knew just how much Jesus loves us.  John knew and writes to us in 1 Jn. 4:18-19, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love. We love because God first loved us.”

John had the confidence, assurance, trust, and experience in a living, active relationship with the Lord.  John knew Jesus is the beginning and the end.  John knows and wants us to know that evil will not win, fear can be overcome, and in the grace and love of God, there is nothing that we cannot stand against. 

Again, I want to quote the lyrics of the Newsboys’, “And the gates of hell will not prevail!  For the power of God Has torn the veil!  Now we know Your love will never fail! We believe, We believe!

So, let our faith be more than anthems, Greater than the songs we sing, And in our weakness and temptations, We believe, We believe!

Jesus has promised to be with us always.  Jesus has promised to never forsake us or abandon us.  Jesus has made it clear; he loves us and desires us to have the kind of faith that grows deep and more committed until he returns.

We call him Lord.  Let us live in anticipation of our being in his presence, unashamed and faithful because we believe. 

We believe in God the Father. We believe in Jesus Christ. We believe in the Holy Spirit, And He’s given us new life.  We believe in the crucifixion.  We believe that He conquered death. We believe in the resurrection, And He’s comin’ back again, we believe!