Posts tagged ‘Rainbow’

February 3, 2013

Worship is a way of life

Rainbow Panorama

Photo: A Rainbow from our garden, November 2010

Sermon for Sunday 3/2/13

Text – Revelation 4

I remember as a ten-year-old the mixture of fear and curiosity as I waited outside the headmaster’s study, I had been summoned to see him but I did not know what it was about.  He was Scottish, he had no sense of humour (at least as far as I could discern) and he had the temper of a hungry polar bear that had just been hit with a stick…

What’s the most important meeting to which you have ever been summoned?  Can you remember what it was like; the mixture of emotions that were going through your mind and how time seemed to pass by either so quickly or so slowly, depending upon how you felt?

In our second reading today, John, the disciple of Jesus has an important meeting, but it is not one that he had been expecting or could have planned for.  John was a prisoner on the Island of Patmos, about 35 miles off the coast of south-western Turkey.  The authorities put him there, in exile, as a punishment for being a follower of and such effective witness for Christ.  Of course, rather than stopping John from being effective for Christ, the exact opposite happens; he has the chance to pray and to reflect and he receives the most explosive vision of God’s power and love, written down in this incredible last book of the Bible called ‘Revelation’.[1]

John has a vision in which he sees a door, but it is no ordinary door, this one opens up into heaven!  No doubt John is aware of his surroundings, the sky is still blue (remember, this vision is not happening in Ireland), he can still hear the waves crashing on the shore nearby and he can still feel the wind on his face, but nevertheless there is a door that is clearly from a different realm and it is open.  And a voice, like a trumpet speaks to him saying,

‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’ (1)

The voice belongs to Jesus, John recognised the voice, it was loud, clear, penetrating, (like a trumpet), this was the voice of the risen Jesus.  Different but perhaps similar to Jesus’ voice with which John would have been so familiar from the three years they spent together during Jesus’ earthly ministry.

Once Jesus has spoken the vision becomes deeper, John now tells us that

‘at once I was in the spirit.’ (2)

What John sees next could not be seen with ordinary eyes, what he sees is the throne of God in heaven, yet he sees a highly symbolic view, perhaps an ‘actual’ or ‘real’ view of God’s throne would be too overwhelming to even approach, let alone describe.  He writes:

‘… and there in heaven stood a throne, with one seated on the throne!  And the one seated there looks like jasper and cornelian, and around the throne is a rainbow that looks like an emerald. (3)

Then in verse 5 we see that:

‘Coming from the throne are flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and in front of the throne burn seven flaming torches, which are the seven spirits of God;’

Last Wednesday night do you remember the thunder and lightning we had?  Together with the howling wind and driving rain it was quite a night of weather!  On Thursday morning I opened the back door and I could see that we had a visitor – it was next door’s dog, he’s quite an old fella and he was cowering in the corner of the porch looking frightened.  The cat was there too, looking quite pleased with himself, thinking that he was the cause of the dog’s terror, but no, the dog had escaped from his own enclosure during the night because of the thunder and lightning.

Why is it that as John looks at the place where God is, it is terrifying? Why is there lightning and thunder and flashes of fire?  Perhaps this is to remind us all that God is holy, He is powerful and mighty and awesome and scary – He is not some cuddly granddad figure floating on a cloud!  In the Old Testament for an Israelite to even touch the mountain where God had come down to meet Moses would mean certain death (Exodus 19:12,13,21).  God in all His glory is utterly unapproachable, He is so incomparably perfect in every way and we are so sinful and imperfect that the gulf between us is too big.  Yet His love for us is far greater than our sin.  He is determined that we should be able to approach Him and to know Him and love Him as our heavenly Father.  The good news is that He has made a way for us to approach Him and that is through Jesus.  As well as the thunder and lightning, John also tells us that there is a rainbow that looks like an emerald.  Perhaps the most famous rainbow in the Bible is the one God showed to Noah and his family when they came out of the Ark.  That rainbow was a promise from God that never again would there be a flood like the one Noah and all in the Ark had to be rescued from.  Every time a rainbow has appeared in the sky ever since it is a reminder to humankind that God always keeps His promises.  Yes we imperfect people will break promises and go back on our word, but God never has and He never will.  So the rainbow here in the vision that John is seeing in heaven is a reminder to us all of God’s faithfulness; He will never betray us and His love for us is perfect and holy and total and that love has been fully expressed to us in Jesus.  It is a love so great that it allowed His own Son to be nailed to a cross in our place, to die the death that we deserved (Isaiah 53:5).

There’s a lot more going on in this vision; we see that around God’s throne in the centre are twenty-four thrones and seated on those twenty-four thrones are twenty-four elders.  There were twelve tribes that made up the nation of Israel and there were twelve Apostles at the birth of the church, so put the two twelve’s together and you have ‘ta daa’ … twenty-four!  So this represents all God’s people through the ages; through the time of the Old Testament and through the age of the Church (which is where we are to this day).

Then we come to what are called four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind’. (6) Often when you talk to someone who has a group of rowdy children to look after they will say something like ‘you need eyes in the back of your head with this lot’!  Of course, what they mean is that it is really difficult to see everything that is going on and they are afraid that they might miss something, such as a child injuring themselves or another child during the course of play.  So these four living creatures being covered in eyes is symbolic of the fact that they see everything, there is no pulling the wool over their eyes, they don’t miss a trick!  As well as all the eyes, each creature has a different appearance; the first one has the appearance of a lion, the king of the untamed animals and who represents power.  The second creature has the appearance of an ox, the greatest of the tamed animals, representing strength.  The third creature has the face of a human, representing intelligence and showing the importance of the human race in God’s creation.  The fourth creature is like a flying eagle, the undisputed king of the birds, representing swiftness.  These creatures appear elsewhere in the Bible (Ezekiel 1, Isaiah 6) and they are called Seraphim, high ranking Angelic beings, they are the ones who surround the throne of God and who lead worship – and what worship it is!

I’ve sometimes heard grumpy people complain that in some other churches they sing too much (indeed I know I have sometimes moaned about it too); whether it be charismatic praise lasting twenty minutes or more, or choral evensong in a Cathedral taking far longer than we think it should.  If we think that is bad we might be in for a bit of a shock in heaven, where in this vision of John, the four angels around the throne of God never stop singing, day and night!  Of course this would be no ordinary singing; this would be the most beautiful noise and well beyond the scope of our earthly ears to fully appreciate… and what do they sing?

‘Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come.’ (8)

The thing that happens next is so beautiful that I had tears in my eyes as I was typing the words at the computer – the twenty-four elders join in the worship too.  We as the church of God are included; the day will come when we are around the throne of God, there are absolutely no words to describe what that will be like; it will be beyond spine-tingling, it will be the most beautiful and awesome thing beyond what we could ever imagine and with countless numbers of others we will join in the worship and we will sing, with beautiful new voices:

‘You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.’ (11)

All Creation exists because of God the Creator and all creation exists to worship Him.  God made us as the pinnacle of His Creation and the whole point and meaning of our lives now and that new life which is to come finds its purpose and meaning only in worshipping Him who made us.  Let us worship him now and never let us stop worshiping Him in the way that we live our lives for Him who gave His life for us.  Worship is indeed a way of life and we will never be fully content or find peace and joy until we realise that God is worthy, more than worthy of our worship, not just singing worship but to worship Him with all of our lives, every moment, with all that we are and everything that we have… Amen.

Bibliography:

Tom Wright, ‘Revelation for Everyone’, SPCK 2011 (Kindle edition)
William Hendriksen “More than Conquerors”, Tyndale Press, 1962
John Richardson, “Revelation Unwrapped”, MPA Books, 1996


[1] Tom Wright, ‘Revelation for Everyone’, SPCK 2011 (Kindle) Location 315

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January 17, 2012

Random Light No.5

Some photos from the last few weeks…

Rose B&W

The Rose bush outside our Kitchen window is a never ending source of inspiration.
Gullanes Sunset (again)!

Taken one evening from the back garden.

Kilkenny window

“And now we shall look through the Round Window…”

Kilkenny rainbow

Rainbow over the rooftops of Kilkenny.

Mini wedding car

A “Mini” wedding.

'Here doggy doggy...'

A couple of the Residents at Hayfield Manor, Cork.

Curracloe grass

Marram grass, at Curracloe, Co. Wexford.

November 28, 2010

In the days of Noah.

rainbow_Panorama b&w
Today’s Sermon.  Text Matthew 24:36-44

Even just a short time ago hardly anyone would have predicted the enormity of what is now happening to our country. The thought that we would be plunged into a recession so low and debt levels so high that we will never be able to afford even the interest on the loans let alone the loans themselves would have been laughed off. In the midst of the ‘Celtic Tiger’, whilst the Property Bubble was still expanding, no one predicted how great the fall that we are now experiencing would be. Anytime an economist came on the radio and said that the whole thing was unsustainable, they were laughed at and not taken seriously. The mentality of so many was ‘eat drink and be merry’; with no thought to the consequences of endless spending and borrowing of money that was not ours. It turns out that predicting the future is a hard thing to do.

When I was a boy, I was fortunate enough to go with my parents on a holiday to Italy. My favourite part was when we visited the ancient city of Pompeii. This city in Roman times was full of life and home to 18,000 people. They were just living their lives when, out of the blue, there was an enormous volcanic eruption which rained down hot ash on the city. Many managed to escape, but 2000 people didn’t, they were buried alive. Today you can walk through the city streets and see ancient shop signs, houses, and theatres and it’s not hard to imagine that the people there had no idea when they woke up that morning on August 24th AD 79 that it would be their last day on earth.

The second coming seems all a bit like something from a Hollywood movie, something fantastic and theatrical. I think it’s one of those times when the Bible uses metaphorical (or picture) language to convey to us what it will be like.

The most important thing about chapter 24 in Mathew’s Gospel is to remember that it is primarily about the end of the world’s history. History is in a real sense “His Story”. The Kingdom of God came with Jesus’ Incarnation; when He lived among us. The Lord’s disciples, both then and now are citizens of two countries; we belong to this age and in the age to come. As Micheal Green puts it “”We are not what we were, but equally, we are not yet what we shall be”(1). History is steadily moving to the day when God’s Kingdom will be “Consummated”, that is achieved and fully realised. Jesus’ return will settle forever the destiny of all people. There will be no sitting on the fence, either we are with Him or we are against Him (cf. Matthew 12:30)

Our reading begins with the Lord saying:

‘But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father…’ (36)

Only the Father knows when the end will come, not even the Lord Jesus in His human nature knew, nor should we give any heed to anyone who claims they know when it will be either! There have over the centuries been many people who have tried to predict when the second coming would be. One of the most famous was a chap called John Napier, a sixteenth-century mathematician. He applied logarithms and all sorts of clever formulae he had invented and applied it to the book of Revelation (the last book of the New Testament). He then calculated that Jesus would return sometime between 1688 and 1700. His book sold like hot cakes and went into twenty-three editions – until 1701, when sales unaccountably plummeted!(2)

To help His disciples understand what His second coming would be like, the Lord Jesus then says:

For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. (37-39).

The people In Noah’s day would have had a hard time believing the warnings that a great cataclysmic flood was going to sweep them away, even though Noah was building a great big Ark (as a more than subtle hint)! If they really suspected that the end was coming they would have asked Noah if they could get on board. The people in Noah’s day were just getting on with their lives, just like we do today, they were eating and drinking and marrying right up until the end. The warnings are there for us too, though we have something much greater than an Ark to find safety in, we have the Lord Jesus Christ; He is our Ark, it is through believing and trusting in Him as our Lord and Saviour that we find eternal safety and salvation.

We do not know when the end will come but the door of the Ark is still open and there is still time to get on board, why wait, we do not know how long we have, it may be tomorrow for all we know?

The Lord Jesus explains things further when He says:

Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. (40-42)

It is clear that once the final day arrives, all opportunity for repentance will be gone, the door is shut. These are very sobering verses which act as a clear warning to us. If we are not on board the Ark of Christ we shall be left behind, lost forever, there will be no second chance.
Jesus is pleading with us – ‘get on board, take my hand, quickly, now before it is too late.’

He continues:

But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. (43-44)

Anyone that has had their house broken into will be able to relate to this. It happened to Sonja and I once, in our previous Rectory. We came back one evening to see a couple of windows broken open and saw that they had tried to break into the very strong filing cabinet in the study, making quite a mess of it in the process. Of course, if we had known what time the burglar was coming we would have been ready, we would have had all the lights on in the house and let it be obvious that we were there, so the burglar would not have bothered trying to break in. The Lord Jesus urges us to live lives of constant readiness for His return, to live in joyful hope and expectation that He is coming at an unexpected hour.

Probably most of you have heard of or read some of John Grisham’s novels, such as The Firm, Pelican Brief, and The Client. Despite his fame and wealth, Grisham makes a concerted effort to focus on things that have lasting meaning, including his faith in God. Grisham remembers, as a young law student, the remarkable advice of a friend:
“One of my best friends in college died when he was 25, just a few years after we graduated from Mississippi State University. I was in law school, and he called me one day and wanted to get together. So we had lunch, and he told me he had cancer. I couldn’t believe it.
“What do you do when you realize you are about to die?” I asked.
“It’s real simple,” he said. “You get things right with God, and you spend as much time with those you love as you can. Then you settle up with everybody else.”
Finally he said, “You know, really, you ought to live every day like you have only a few more days to live.”
Grisham concludes: ‘I haven’t forgotten those words’”.
Will Norton, Jr., in Christianity Today.Christian Reader, Vol. 32, no. 6.(3)

Let us make the very best use of the time we have left, because no matter who we are the time is short and will go very quickly. Let us make sure that we know Christ as our Lord and Saviour and let us make sure that we are living lives of readiness and expectancy: What would we like Jesus to find us doing when He returns? Then let us be doing that thing. Amen.

———————————————————————–
(1) Matthew for Today, Michael Green, Hodder & Stoughton, 1999, p.229
(2) From Scripture Union Bible Notes “Closer to God”, No.12, 2001.
(3) http://preachingtoday.com/search/?type=scripture&query=Matthew%2024:36-44&start=21

February 28, 2010

Hope

Nikon D70s, 1/250 sec, f8, ISO 200, 105mm equivalent (Bigger)

“Hope is anticipation of good not yet here, or as yet unseen.”

(Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart)