Summary: Worship is our call in good times and bad
Revelation 4:1-11 November 23, 2003
Worship In Heaven
Jesus has just dictated 7 letters to 7 churches that were in deep distress. Some were being persecuted to the point of death, some were being attacked by false teaching and evil actions, others needed to wake up from their boredom induced slumber, most needed to repent. You would think Jesus would give these letters to John and then said, all right, now get to work on fixing these places. Since John was imprisoned on the Island of Patmos, he could at least get to some serious praying for the churches, maybe some administrative changes – move the leadership around to fix the problems. Get up and do something before everything fell apart. But that is not what Jesus does. He dictates the letters, and then says Come here I’ve got something to Show you….
I spent a summer working with a ministry that was always on the verge of collapse, and on the wall of the office was a picture of this sailor in the midst of this horrendous storm, the caption on the bottom said “bail first, pray latter!” When I used to run a drop-in Basketball program up at Humber, the guys would often use the Lord’s name in vain, so I would say to them, “Guys, it’s no time to be praying, we’ve got a game to play.” It was funny, but it was dead wrong – maybe we need to bail and pray at the same time, play and pray at the same time, but it is always time to pray and worship.
When we sing “Come, Now Is The Time To Worship” no matter where we are, no matter how good or bad things are going, no matter if our world is falling apart, or building up, Now is the time to worship.
Day and night they never stop saying:
"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,
who was, and is, and is to come."
St. John’s Churches are in deep trouble and Jesus invites him to a worship service.
Why? Because, worship is what we are made for, and everything that we do right flows out of worship.
Westminster Shorter Catechism’s first question is “What is the chief end of man?” “What is the first purpose of humanity?”
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy him forever.
Eugene Peterson writes in his book on Revelations “Reversed Thunder;”
“In worship God gathers his people to himself as center. Worship is a meeting at the center so that our lives are centered in God and not lived eccentrically. We worship so that we live in response to and from this center, the living God. Failure to worship consigns us to a life of spasms and jerks, at the mercy of every advertisement, every seduction, every siren. Without worship we live manipulated and manipulating lives. We move in either frightened panic or deluded lethargy as we are, in turn, alarmed by specters and soothed by placebos. If there is no center, there is no circumference. People who do not worship are swept into a vast restlessness, epidemic in the world, with no steady direction and no sustaining purpose.
Israel was plagued for centuries by Baal worship - portable centres for worship set up on every hill and under every green tree. But they were not true centers; they were arbitrary locations, similar to the sites for emperor worship in the Roman first century. In Israel, Jeremiah called for a return to the center; some of the people listened and responded. "Behold, we come to thee; for thou art the lord our God. Truly the hills are a delusion, the orgies on the mountains. Truly in the lord our God is the salvation of Israel" (Jer. 3:22-23) .The hills are a delusion, and so is every casual or pompous way station at which people seek easy and instant centering. People who do not worship live in a vast shopping mall where they go from shop to shop, expending enormous suns of energy and making endless trips to meet first this need and then that appetite, this whim and that fancy. Life lurches from one partial satisfaction to another, interrupted by ditches of disappointment. Motion is fueled by the successive illusions that purchasing this wardrobe, driving that car, eating this meal, drinking that beverage will center life and give it coherence.
Over against these false places of worship, Jeremiah declares "a glorious throne, set on high from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary" (Jer. 17:12). This is the throne that St. John sees in his vision. "The throne of God - the fact of the throne, and the fact of God enthroned – is the revelation of the Bible.”
- Eugene Peterson