Sunday, 19 May 2013

Revelation 3 at Pentecost

Pentecost year C Sermon 

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name…the Spirit of Truth…
will teach you and remind you of everything I’ve said. [pause]

Jesus kept his promise.

On the day of Pentecost… those who gather in Jesus’ name for the Jewish festival of the Feast of Weeks
are visitedinspired …spiritually enflamed
right there in the Temple courts…in the sight and hearing
of every God fearing person present
And Peter…the forgiven betrayer
stands before the crowd…to preach...
to speak the truth… in the power of the Holy Spirit.

slide words
His exact words are…‘Let me speak freely to you’ [pause]

Now, it may seem a small thing…but in the course of
Peter’s first sermon on Pentecost
he’s inspired to choose his words very carefully…

when he asks the crowd to let him speak freely
he’s announcing a revolution is taking place…
a revolution empowered by the Holy Spirit.

The decisive Greek word that Peter uses …is parrhesia  And this word only ever appears…
once in all the Gospels…
But from the day of Pentecost
it suddenly flourishes right through the Acts of the Apostles.

This word ‘parrhesia’… is most often translated as "boldness," or "speaking openly," Guess what it means in the Roman Empire

Parrhesia signifies the right of Roman Citizens
to freedom of speech… in public places. It literally means
"the freedom to say anything."

So in Peter’s bold proclamation
the kingdom of God is asserting its sovereignty…over the powers and principalities of the world in which they stand.

Blank slide
And as the early church is established…the freedom….
to speak the truth in the face of power…
will be exercised… by those who follow Jesus’…
with or without… the permission of Caesar.

From the day of Pentecost
Jesus followers exercise the freedom given
in their experience of the resurrection.
The freedom of another kingdom…gifted by the Holy Spirit.

In the stories of Jesus life…the promise of the Holy Spirit
is almost always linked…to conflict, controversy,
and persecution — and the ability to speak bravely and clearly… in the courts and before the thrones of power.

Remember the promise in Luke
where Jesus uses the same word… parhessia?

Slide words
Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is concealed that won’t be disclosed,
nor hidden that won’t be made known.
What you now say in the darkwill be heard in the daylight …and what you whisper in the inner rooms…will be
freely spoken from the roof tops.

Slide words
I tell you, my friends…Jesus says…don’t be afraid of those
who kill the body…after that they can do no more
When you’re brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities…don’t worry about how you’ll defend yourselves or what to say…for at that time the Holy Spirit will teach you… what you should say.

Blank slide
This freedom isn’t the world’s to give or take away…
The freedom and the courage to speak freely in throne rooms and court rooms… and in the streets…
is imparted by the Holy Spirit of God

and the Sprit’s witness is to Jesus Christ and his good news.

And as we’re learning in our series on Revelation …
good news… is for everyone

You heard it in our reading this morning…I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches.
I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star. The Spirit and the bride the kingdom of God…the new Jerusalem... say, “Come!”

Slide words
And let the one who hears say, “Come!”
Let the one who’s thirsty come; and let the one who wishes …take the free gift of the water of life. [pause]
In the first century as for today…the truth…the message …the water of life… is Jesus Christ himself
God incarnate
who has announces the sovereignty of his Kingdom
over that of the Roman Empire… or Great Britain…
or the Taleban…over General Motors or Nike or Microsoft…

Blank slide
In all the boardrooms and courtrooms and parliament chambers… whether cosmic or created…
the Truth to which the Spirit testifies …
is that Jesus Christ is the way that leads to life… [pause]

And remember before his ascension…Jesus warns his friends please… do not attempt anything under your own steam…
but wait in Jerusalem
on the one who will help you speak the truth. [pause]

Now you may have been misled about all this…
you may have been taught…
that you can tell the difference between people who’ve received the Holy Spirit and those who haven’t…

you may have been told… those who have
will speak or pray in tongues…otherwise they’re not legit …but in fact the Bible speaks of nine gifts
given to Jesus followers by God… through the Holy Spirit.

Slide words
Word of Wisdom…Word of Knowledge …Faith …Gifts of Healing …Working of Miracles …Prophecy …Discerning of Spirits …Diverse kinds of Tongues …and the Interpretation of Tongues

You see… even Faith itself is a gift

if you’ve ever trusted in God…if you’ve ever believed in what Jesus accomplished in his life and death and resurrection…

then you have been touched by the Holy Spirit

And the Spirit’s gifts aren’t given… for the entertainment
of crowds…Nor the enrichment of televangelists…
they aren’t given so we’ll be dazzled by signs and wonders……they’re given as they were… at Pentecost…

To strengthen in us…the courage to testify to Jesus
and his way of love, compassion and mercy and forgiveness.


blank slide
And why do we need courage…why do we need
the help of the Holy Spirit…to speak this truth?
Because in some places… it’s just as dangerous today
as it was the 1st century…public witness to the truth of Jesus … can get you locked up and even killed.

Here in the land of the long white cloud
it’s not usually so dangerous? But to speak the truth
that God’s kingdom is open to everyone who’s thirsty…
to say God’s grace is sufficient for even the worst sinner
that God’s forgiveness is freely offered

To speak the Truth that in God’s kingdom
there must be freedom for those who are enslaved by oppressive political and economic systems
that in God’s kingdom the poor will be lifted
and the least will be great.

When Jesus preached…
the spirit of the sovereign Lord was on him
…and the truth he spoke…was for the poor and the broken-hearted…the captive and the prisoner

Today if you stood up in parliament…
in the power of the Holy Spirit…
to proclaim the day of the Lord’s favour
you might be kicked out of your party

in some businesses you’d be sacked…even in some churches you might be shown the door

But… that’s precisely the truth we will say my friends …when we speak in the power of the Holy Spirit
to the powers and principalities of our world…!

X factor Judges slide
Can you imagine a handsome young man… carrying his guitar on X Factor on TV…his talent is…
to display the gifts of the spirit…
can you imagine him introducing himself

I stand here before you… because my Lord has anointed me with his spirit…to preach good news to the poor.
I’m here because he’s sent me
to bind up the broken-hearted,
proclaim freedom for the captives
release from darkness for prisoners,
To proclaim the year of the Lord's favour
and the day of vengeance… of our God...

A young Christian man speaking the truth…
bearing witness to the truth…in prime time

I can just see the judges sitting there…stunned before they call security. [pause]

But sadly… most of us aren’t that bold…
and neither were the disciples on the night Jesus was betrayed…they always had an excuse…

In John’s Gospel today Philip says
"Lord, show us the Father…and then we’ll be satisfied."

Just one more wonder Jesus… that’s all we need
and then we’ll be satisfied enough to follow you…
brave enough to speak out your word and work for your kingdom…then we’ll have the confidence to proclaim your good news…

And you can just hear Jesus sigh…
slide words
Have I been with you all this time and you still don’t know me? Whoever’s seen mehas seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?

Slide words

Don’t you believe I’m in the Father and the Father’s in me? The words I say aren’t my own
but the Father who dwells in me does his works
If you don’t believe me… look at all the work I’ve done.

And Jesus promises those who believe in him
will do even greater things.

Slide words
I’ll ask… and the Father will give you another
to support and encourage your witness,
to be with you forever…the Spirit of Truth
And on my behalf…will teach you,
and remind you of everything I’ve said. And hey…

Slide words
I’m leaving you my peace… [pause]

And the upshot of all giving of the Holy Spirit
is the peace of Christ… Shalom…
wellbeing and justice for everyone.

A peace the world just doesn’t understand. So don’t let your hearts be troubled, and don’t let them be afraid. [pause]

Blank slide
Yes, some of us may pray in tongues…I sometimes pray in tongues… particularly when I’ve run out of words
but need to keep praying…

occasionally I might receive a word of knowledge or a prophetic vision…and I may have a gift of healing
at least emotional healing…

most of all I’m glad to say by the grace I God
I have the gift of faith

And I promise you it’s a joy…to seek and receive the gifts of the Spirit…I encourage you with all my heart to seek them …but none of these gifts matter at all…unless they enable you and me…to enlarge the circle around Jesus Christ and speak his truth… in our church, our community and our nation.

If a group of you would like to pray for any of these gifts…
I’ll wait for you in the front pew after the service as others go to morning tea or continue to worship.
But for now let us all pray together…

Word slide
Create in us pure hearts, beloved God,
    Renew a steadfast spirit within us.
May we never find ourselves away from your presence
    or lacking the inspiration of your Holy Spirit.
Restore to us the joy of your salvation
    and grant us willing spirits, to sustain us.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Revelation Part 2

Easter 6 year C Sermon

Woah! John…it’s that kind of imagery… that gives the book of Revelation a bad name… we’ve never heard Jesus described like that…you must be tripping…you’ll write a book just perfect for heretics and fanatics…and the rest of us won’t be able to make… head nor tail of it.

But looking at the latest biblical scholarship… we can see in this book one of the clearest… sharpest visions…of God’s ultimate purpose. An incredibly important message for you and for me today…

In the book Revelation…I see the promise… that the powerful forces of evil at work in the world’s economic, political and religious systems… can be… and are being… over thrown…by the costly work of Jesus Christ
and his followers.

You see the world where you and I live… is no less complex and dangerous…than the late 1st century world… when the book of Revelation was written… and as Jesus followers today …we owe it to ourselves…to get our heads and hearts
around John’s glorious vision …as we try…
to bear faithful witness to Jesus and his message
in a violent… greedy and unjust world. [pause]

Last week I told you I feel strongly…God’s called me to
help unpack the book of Revelation for us as a church family…and we began…
what I hope will be… an exciting exploration And last week  we learned five things already…in just the first eight verses

Word slide reveal
One – this book ….is a four-stage revelation -
God the Father to Jesus the son passed on by an angel then to one of God’s servant in the church…
God, Jesus, Angel, servant

Two – the book takes the form of an extended letter, written in a form frequently used by ancient Jews… to communicate the vision of a seer…one gifted with insight into the purposes of God. The seer tells us his name is John.

Three – the book is also a prophesy…and much of its language and imagery comes from books of the prophets in Hebrew scripture

Four – Revelation is presented as witness and testimony…
in a great heavenly court of law…Where the testimonyof Jesus and his followers…is a key…
to the ultimate judgement and verdict. And there’s a warning for those who choose to bear witness…they may be called to suffer and die for what they say.

And the fifth thing we learned last week in eight short verses…by far and away the most important thing…

Everything that is to come…flows from the central figure …Jesus himself…and ultimately from God the father…
who was and is and is to come….God…the Alpha and Omega…the beginning and the end.

And because John’s introduction promises us a blessing when this letter is read aloud…let’s read together again…as we explore this weeks verses…
beginning with Chapter 1 verse nine

Patmos words slide
I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

Blank slide
As we learned already… John is on Patmos…an island 35 K west…. of what we know as Turkey. He’s possibly in exile …or in prison…for bearing public witness to Jesus…the Word of God and his message…but the authorities
can’t prevent John from writing letters…

Here again as in verse eight, John reinforces the link between suffering and the kingdom of God. And he goes on…read with me…

Slide words
On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”

Blank slide
John was ‘in the spirit’ on the Sabbath…and a voice…
not a still small voice…but a da ta da!’ voice…
instructs him to record for the churches across the sea
what he sees in his vision

Now…this might seem unusual to you…but don’t dismiss it …because it’s not really that uncommon…

You see…
many who practise the Christian discipline of prayerful listening in the presence of God… record what happens for them in this time of quiet…it’s called journaling.

We don’t use scrolls today of course…
My book slide
but here’s what mine looks like…

In this little handmade book… I try to illustrate what God might show me…in my time of quiet. Now I don’t get a vision like John’s every time… but I do get them
 …and when I do…. I draw them or write them down

So when John says he was ‘in the Spirit’… that’s what I think he means… so it’s important not to dismiss that phrase
if its outside your experience. Maybe you could view it as an invitation to go deeper… in your relationship with God.

So John tells us the voice…the very Word of God… instructs him to write on a scroll what he sees. Well…wouldn’t you?
Let’s read on together…

Slide words
I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me.
And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.

slide words
The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword.

Slide words
His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.

Blank slide
Now you may be someone for whom Jesus is just a very nice loving man… who lived in the 1st century…and died horribly at the hands of the Roman’s…or you may think of Jesus
as someone with whom… you have a close relationship of loving intimacy…and right up till that moment…John probably fell into in the second camp…

But from then on…John is warning us…
that to see Jesus as he is… might just blow us away. [pause]

Soaked in scripture…every prophetic image John’s ever heard…for the building up and encouragement of the people of God…is now made visible to him…in this vision
where Jesus words emerge like a sword

remember in Isaiah 49 and 11 He made my mouth like a sharpened sword,
with righteousness he’ll judge the needy,
    with justice  give decisions for the poor 
He’ll strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
    with the breath of his lips he’ll slay the wicked.

Now read with me again…

slide words
Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Don’t be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One;
I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever!
And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

Slide words
Write, therefore, what you’ve seen, what is now and what will take place later. The mystery of the seven stars you saw in my right hand and the seven golden lampstands is this:
The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches,
and the seven lampstands are the seven churches themselves.

Clouds slide
Just as in the dream in the book of Daniel…John sees one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.
He approaches the Ancient of Days and is led into God’s presence. He’s given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worship him.
His dominion is everlasting and will not pass away,
and his kingdom will never be destroyed.

As the suffering of God’s people reaches its peak in the persecution of the early church and the worship of Caesar… Daniel’s ancient dream is made real in Johns vision…
the Ancient of Day’s… the alpha and the omega…
merges with one like a son of man…in human form…

what is made visible…when we are looking at Jesus…is God.

blank slide
My favourite biblical scholar, Tom Wright, suggests we just sit for a moment… with John’s image…

Let those eyes of flame… search us in and out.
Hear the voice like the roaring of a waterfall or sustained thunder…echo around the mountains…and around our minds

imagine Jesus reaching out… to touch you…


Now just thinking about his might have brought you a rush of adrenaline…fear might be your natural reaction…
but don’t you remember…once again…Jesus says …
Don’t be afraid…it’s alright
yes you’re suffering and your people are suffering
yes the times are strange and hard
cruel severe rulers are running the world
imposing their will on city after city. [pause]

Jesus slide
But John’s vision reveals…Jesus himself is standing in our midst. And in John’s cultural world the number seven
stands for perfection …the seven churches listed in verse eleven stand for all churches…in all places and all times…

they stand for us…and we need to know as they did…that Jesus is standing in our midst…and the angel who represents us and looks after us…is held in Jesus’ right hand. Here…the spoken word flashes and pierces like a sword…we might know it’s Christ who speaks…saying I was dead…now I’m alive forever… and ever. [pause]

And should we be imprisoned as John was…
by fear or violence or oppression…
well then Jesus has the key’s to get us out…
even… out of death and Hades. [pause]

Hand slide
Of course to grasp all this… requires three things…
Word slide
Faith and courage and spiritual imagination…
and maybe that’s why John’s instructed to write it down
and send it out…or the churches and for generations to come…even to the ends of the earth.

Alpha and Omega slide
You know…some parts of our culture are starved of imagination… others are over-stimulated with fantastic digital effects which change at a rate of fifty per second.

And today in reading the book of Revelation…you and I are asked to use our spiritual imagination…
what would it look like… were the curtain between heaven and earth suddenly to be pulled up…

revealing the Jesus who’d been there all along…
but who we’d managed… either to ignore or cut down to  size in our imaginations…so we could handle him

In reading Revelation we’re asked to conceive of a Jesus who is mind-blowing…dramatically powerful…but gentle and caring…

a Jesus… in and through whom… we see God the creator…
a Jesus who has spoken and still speaks words
that cut like swords… through all the fog and obfuscation
the world produces… to explain what’s really going on.

and warn what will happen in the future.

A Jesus who reveals to us… how the sovereign rule of God can sit together with suffering and patient endurance…
so we can see that through suffering…he won the ultimate victory over powers of darkness…and so might we.

Postscript, again I am grateful for the insights of NT Wright in his book Revelation for Everyone, 2011, Westminster John Knox Press.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Sermon Series on Revelation 1

Easter 5 year C Sermon 
On the very first occasion… someone stood up in public … inspired by the Holy Spirit… to tell people about Jesus
they made it very clear…this message is for everyone.

It was a great day – sometimes called the birthday of the church. In two weeks’ time Lucy Davey and I will lead you in the celebration we all know as Pentecost.

The resurrected Christ had told his followers to wait
before taking any action…wait for the one I’ll send…he said …  and so at Pentecost the great wind of God’s Spirit swept through Jesus’ followers… and filled them with a new confidence and joy…and a sense of God’s presence and power.

Their leader, Peter…who only a few weeks before…
denied even knowing Jesus…found himself on his feet
in Jerusalem…telling to a huge crowd with great authority
that something had happened which changed the world forever.
What God has done for Peter…God’s beginning to do
for the whole world.

New lifeforgiveness…new hope
and powerdunamis…as Aung Mang said last week.
The explosion of God’s new thing had begun.
And Peter tells everyone within hearing
slide words
‘This promise is for you…and for your children
and for everyone who is far away.’ [pause]
And within a remarkably short time
Map slide
this promise came true to such an extent…that the young movement of Jesus followers had spread
throughout much of the known world.

One way the promise spread… was through the writing of early Christian leaders. Short letters and stories about Jesus
were widely circulated… and eagerly read
thanks to those excellent Roman roads.

These writings were never intended…
for a religious or intellectual elite .
The good news they carried was meant to go out to everyone

Revelation slide
And that’s even true for the very last book of the Bible…the book of Revelation
a book we hear so much from… in these weeks after Easter

Many of us regard Revelation as the hardest book in the New Testament. Most of us don’t even get the name right: it’s Revelation singular… not Revelations plural. It’s full of strange, shocking, bizarre and sometimes violent imagery.

Maybe that’s why it took 400 years…for the church to allow it …to be part of the official canon of the New Testament.
Maybe that’s why we tiptoe ‘round the book of Revelation
why we worry so much about what it really means! [pause]

Most of us say…well… I can’t make head nor tail of it …
We worry the book is a happy hunting ground for heretics and fanatics…It seems to be full of rambling fantasies
and dark threats

But my favourite Biblical scholar Tom Wright… observes
the book of Revelation offers one of the
clearest… sharpest visions…of God’s ultimate purpose for the whole of creation… and reveals how powerful forces of evil…
are at work in a thousand ways…not the least…
in idolatrous and tyrannous political systems…and how these can be… and are being over thrown
through the victory of Jesus the Messiah…
and the consequent… costly victory…of Jesus’ followers.

The world you and I live in is no less complex and dangerous …than the late 1st century world when the book of Revelation was written
and as Jesus followers today…we owe it to ourselves
to get our heads and our hearts around John’s glorious vision …as we try to bear faithful witness to God’s love…in a world of violence and greed and indifference to injustice… [pause]

I feel strongly God’s called me to help us unpack the book of Revelation as a church family… over the next wee while beginning today…and I hope for three things

One that it will be an exciting adventure for all of us
Two…that we’ll be better equipped…not only in our understanding of scripture…but in the confidence of our witness to other Christians and our non-Christian friends.

And three… that by the power of the Holy Spirit
we’ll be able to hear what God is saying to the church today through the words of this book.

So let us begin…by reading prologue the greeting and the ancient doxology of the first eight verses of the book of Revelation… out loud together.
Word slide
The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Change slide
Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.

And now the greeting
change slide
John, to the seven churches in the province of Asia:
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, 

Change slide
and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—

Change slide
to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

And then John quotes from Daniel 7:13 and Zech. 12:10
Lets read…

Change slide

Look, he is coming with the clouds,
    and every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him;
    and all peoples on earth will mourn because of him.
So shall it be! Amen.

Change slide
I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.

Ok…lets unpack this… starting with the very first word.
Slide words
Revelation… in the Greek apocalypse. apocalypse.

people are tempted… to insert their own understanding
of this word… and imagine it’s what John meant…
some kind of earth shattering apocalyptic event

But John the author… is picking up a way of writing
that was well known in the Jewish world at the time.
A way writing designed to communicate and make available
the visions and revelations… seen by holy prayerful people
who were wrestling with the question…
of God’s divine purpose.

They were called Seers…because every once in a while…someone would come along… who could see the wood for the trees… someone whose understanding
seemed to reveal what God was really up to…

So the book of Revelation is based on the ancient Jewish belief that God’s dimension…merges and melds…with our human dimension… in all kinds of ways.

Now I preached on that recently…remember…
that for the ancient Hebrew people… the ultimate place this intersecting happened… was the Temple in Jerusalem…

but we know the early Christians believed Jesus of Nazareth had become… in person…
the place where heaven and earth meet. A walking…talking Temple…remember?

Looking at Jesus…the early Christians… who of course grown up in the Jewish faith…looking at Jesus
and remembering his death and resurrection…the early Christians believed they could see right into God’s own sphere of operation…
Looking at Jesus….they could understand things about
God’s purposes …that nobody ever imagined before!

Map slide
But late in the first century…
as the Christian community grew and developed momentum, more questions emerged about God’s purposes…
like what is God up to now. What are God’s plans for the little churches dotted around the Mediterranean world.
Where’s it all going?

And they asked these questions because in many places it was getting tough to be a follower of Jesus…persecution and public ridicule was rampant especially in the arenas of Rome. Jesus followers wondered what line should they take
in the face of the fastest growing religion at the time…
the worship of Caesar…it was risky to resist.

New map slide
On the Island of Patmos…where John says he’s based…
40 K off the coast of Turkey... early Christians would have been mostly poor… right through what he calls the seven churches of Asia…

Jesus message of equality…was good news particularly
to slaves and to women…and rich or poor the early Christian’s met and worship in each other’s homes…while all around them…local politicians are building huge expensive temples… to Caesar and his family…to show Rome how loyal they are.

Christians had to keep asking… what Jesus would have said about all this. And again and again the same question would come up…Were they wasting their time… following a crucified Jew… rather than the one who known as the Lord of this world? Rather than Caesar.
Well…my friends… the book of revelation is written to say
a very loud and resounding no to that question. [pause]

Alpha and Omega slide
One day while praying on the island of Patmos…
his heart and head full of Israel’s scriptures
the author of this book finds himself face to face with the Christ.

And what is unveiled for him in his vision… is a beautiful and fresh revelation of Jesus… the Messiah.
And we’ll talk about that… next week.

But for now… we’ve dealt with John’s prologue, his greeting and his early confession of faith…and even in eight short verses…we already know five important things
about what sort of book this is… and how we are to read it.

Word slide reveal
One – this book is a four-stage revelation. It’s about something God revealed to Jesus himself…which Jesus is passing on…through an angel…to his servants…one in particular…John. God Jesus angel John and the churches…the framework for the book.

Two – the book takes the form of an extended letter. There are particular letters to particular churches within the book, but the whole thing is a ltter from John the seer…to all the churches…telling them what he’s seen.
Three – the book is a prophesy [verse 3] And like many prophets in ancient Israel John draws freely on earlier biblical traditions…which were seen to be revelations of God and God’s purposes.
Four – the book functions as a witness and testimony…
both words used… both words invoke the image of a great heavenly lawcourt where the witness bourne by Jesus and his followers is a key to the ultimate judgement and verdict. And both words carry the sense of martyrdom…those who bear this testimony may well be called to suffer and die for what they have said.

And the fifth thing we have already learned in eight short verses…by far and away the most important thing…

Everything that is to come…flows from the central figure…Jesus himself…and ultimately from God the father…who is and who was and who is to come….

God…the Alpha and Omega [first and last letters of the Greek alphabet] Gods title at the beginning and at the end of Revelation.

Jesus… through his life death and resurrection has accomplished God’s purpose. Jesus love for his people…his liberation for them by his self-sacrifice…his purpose not just to rescue them but to put them to work in his service. All stated right there in verse six…

Word slide
To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father

Word slide
These five magnificent things we learn already today about the book of Revelation…insights to help us as we ask the same questions they did at the end of the first century.

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My prayer is that you will find this journey through the book…exciting…that you’ll read it at home in anticipation of each weeks fresh revelation…and that will build you and our church in faith and ability to witness and bear testimony
to Jesus Christ in our time.

I'm indebted to NT Wright for his book Revelation for Everyone, Westminster John Knox Press, 2011.