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Revelation 1: 1-8 “Ain’t Gonna Change” 11/25/2018

Rev. Jerry W. Krueger Christ the King Sunday Boardman UMC

 

I asked my 96 year old Dad, what has been one of the most difficult things he has dealt with. He replied, “ CHANGE.”

Life is full of change. Births, baptisms, marriage, illness, relocations, downsizing, health issues, death. Change is a constant around us, And we can be so overwhelmed by change, we begin to long for “the way it used to be.”

 

The Monopoly board game manufacturer, Parker Brothers, replaced Atlantic City street names with new ones. Boardwalk became Montreal; Illinois Avenue became London, and Water Works became Solar and Wind Farms. Players spend Monos, not dollars, and don’t buy with cash; it’s done with calculator-like personal banking units. What happened to the roll of the dice, and the game piece of the top hat, the shoe, or race car?
We used to pay for groceries by cash or check. Now it’s debit cards or apps on our phone.

Change has impacted how we encounter the Bible. In early Judaism, Scripture was memorized and passed on orally. Later the Hebrews wrote on papyrus scrolls, then parchment, then we migrated to book- like codices. 15th century printing presses revolutionized the world by making it feasible for Bibles to be placed in the hands of nonclergy. Today we beam texts onto PowerPoint slides, and people bring Bibles to church on their cellphone. Anyone here have a Bible phone app?

Rare is the handwritten letter via post office. But common are texts, emails, Zoom or Skype videoconversations.

The issue is not fighting change, it’s our being willing to acknowledge that change surrounding us.

The cowboys who worshiped in my church in Albany, Texas, still rode horses at work, but communicated on the ranches with Nextel phones on horseback. And branding had been replaced by bar coded ear tags for each animal.

A couple years ago on a visit to another congregation, I saw a perfect model of church from the 1940’s. No change had occurred there, in an unhealthy way. In some people’s lives, change never occurs. Partners marry and after 20 years or so, wonder why there is not much excitement in their marriage. Maybe because change is locked out of the marriage. They’ve not grown in their love life, faith life, emotional life. Sometimes life and relationships get stuck and stale.

Some folks feel trapped in a job, grinding away with little hope of a breath of change on the horizon. Others change jobs like socks, because of the economy. Some people cycle through relationships like the Flavor of the Month. What we need, is an anchor in the storm, and other times we desperately need the wind to fill our sails. Change is constant and a reality.

Today’s text offers us hope. Hope focused on the unchanging — Triune God. The Book of Revelation has strange, sometimes frightening imagery may seem unreal or fantastic.

But today’s reading is a classic with NO winged creatures, fire or dragons. John, the author of Revelation, is imprisoned on the island of Patmos, 60 miles southwest of Turkey, for his unrelenting spreading of the Good News of Christ, and records his God breathed visions.

The first-century social and political context in which John writes, is to, and about the Jewish-rooted church, emerging in the world. Its history was one of theocracy — God as commander in chief of culture and country. But the new Roman order is about control, occupation, and demanding all accept Rome’s pagan religion, and claim Caesar as god.

Thus Revelation gives pointed descriptors of our Triune God, to the seven churches receiving this pastoral apocalyptic letter. Remember “apocalyptic” - means end of an era, or significant change coming, or revealed mysteries.
In this persecuted time, John explains who Father, Spirit and Son are: givers of “grace and peace” (v. 4) — entities entirely opposite of those being forced by Rome, on its conquered peoples. Each person of the Godhead has an aspect of eternality and constancy to him, unlike Roman laws, and its strict obedience.

Father: God is the one “who is and who was and who is to come” (v. 4). Like alpha and omega in the Greek alphabet, he is before and after all else (v. 8). This is references to the divine name “Yahweh,” defined in Exodus 3 as “I am who I am.”

John voices a classic apocalyptic message: This God controls the past, present and future, and is your source of comfort. God, unlike life and events around you, God is eternal, and unchanging. The same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Spirit: “seven spirits” in v.4 as a reference to the symbolism of “seven” as a reference for completeness and perfection. Like Zechariah 4:10, the Holy Spirit ranges through the earth and sees all things. The persecution of John’s audience does not go unnoticed by God.
Son: John describes Jesus in three important ways for a persecuted people:
• A “faithful witness” who modeled perseverance and martyrdom,
• The “firstborn of the dead” — Lord over death, and a promise to those who will be raised with him,
• One who ruled earthly leaders like Caesar.

This passage preaches hope in an unchanging God who can redeem all. But what if life is changing way too much — or if it isn’t changing like we need it to?

God who is unchanging serves as an anchor point for us.
Christ established a throne in the middle of humanity’s sin. Our sin doesn’t surprise Jesus, and He can still forgive us. With Christ, we haven’t just been redeemed from sin. We have been redeemed to a right relationship with God.

The Wesleyan Quadrilateral of Scripture, Experience, Reason, Tradition, includes Christian Experience as part of our theological ethos. Like Reason and Tradition, Experience always remains subservient to Scripture, as the primary truth about God and reality.

If our own experience in life has been full of disappointment, isolation or loss, we might hesitate to accept Jesus “loves us and freed us,” and believers can lose hope.

But God doesn’t change his position of grace and peace. God loves us, frees us from sins, saves, and calls us to serve him.

So from this day forward, let us focus on the beauty and steadfastness of a God through the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who redeems us, loves us, saves us, embraces us, because God’s steadfast love, endures forever. Say that with me. God’s steadfast loves endures forever. Know that you are deeply loved by the unchanging God in the persons of the Father, the Son Jesus, and the powerful Holy Spirit.

And God’s people proclaimed, Amen.